5 Kitchen Shortcuts for Faster Family Dinners

Yes, we love working new recipes into the weekly menu, but sometimes we just want to get dinner on the table IN A HURRY, with little or no thought. On nights when we’re feeling lazy or uninspired, we’re looking to streamline the food-making process with a no-brainer recipe or a tool to get prep work done faster. Here are a few things we turn to again and again to speed up the dinner train with minimal effort.


Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce from The Ginger People

sweet ginger chili sauce

Bottled sauces often suck, but this one doesn’t — and it packs TONS of flavor. Sweet and hot, it makes a perfect, ginger-y 30-minute marinade for salmon (I add a little soy sauce and lime juice, too, and think it would be equally delish with pork or poultry). If your kids are spice-freaks (lucky you!), let them enjoy it as well, but I think it’s probably too strong for most young palates. What I recommend instead is that you marinate yours and do the kids’ salmon fillets with EVOO and a little S & P; then arrange all on a lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes or until done to taste. The whole fam can “pretend to be hungry bears, arrrrrhhh!” — this enticement actually works with our kids — and eat salmon for dinner. Look for it at specialty foods stores; in Brooklyn, you can find it at Union Market.

Rotisserie Chicken (We’re partial to the antibiotic-free Rosa Mexicano version available from Fresh Direct)


Talk about a meal in a hurry. But don’t just think of a rotisserie chicken as a bird on a cutting board that you carve and serve with predictable sides — you can do so much more! Sped-up chicken, cheese, and spinach quesadillas, chicken tacos with chipotle cream, Thai chicken salad. It’s a dialed-in dinner we love.

Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Vinaigrette

lemon vinaigrette

As previously mentioned, bottled sauces and dressings are often lame, but you don’t always have time to whip up a homemade vinaigrette showcasing chopped shallots or a fancy Champagne vinegar. This is a minimalist version that anyone can love — but if lemon is your thing, as it is mine, you’ll really like it. We make it ALL THE TIME. All you need is olive oil, lemon juice, and S & P. (Ina Garten uses the dressing with her Parmesan Chicken over greens, which is also very good — scroll down when you hop to the link for the super-simple recipe.)

Large Kitchen Tongs

kitchen tongs

If you don’t have a 12-inch pair of locking tongs in your kitchen, you need to get one ASAP. Seriously. Once you have them, you’ll be amazed at how often you use them to speed up food prep: Snatch a piece of pasta from boiling water to test for done-ness, pick up sliced steak off the cutting board, grab chicken breasts from a baking sheet to plate them, use them to quickly toss a salad. They help you work faster and more efficiently. You’ll see.

Tony’s Flank Steak Marinade via Dinner: A Love Story

toasted sesame oil

As you know, we use Chrissy’s mom’s marinade for steak all the time — an old fave. But this new fave has taken hold in a big way — the secret ingredient, to my mind? Toasted sesame oil. It adds a real depth of flavor. Plus lots of chopped scallions and a dash of hot sauce. There’s tons of spice and flavor, but not too much for the kids — they gobble it up whether we use it on flank or skirt steak. And it’s such a staple, now, that I have the recipe pretty much down pat — though I do always consult Dinner: A Love Story just to make certain I’m not forgetting an ingredient. Simple, fast, always delicious.

What are your go-to kitchen shortcuts? C’mon, tell me!


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