Insider asked Michelin-starred chefs to share their favorite 20-minute dinner recipes, along with tips to easily recreate them.
Californios head chef Val Cantu loves to make an easy teriyaki sauce for his chicken, and it only needs four simple ingredients.
Andrew Zimmerman, the executive chef at Sepia, poaches his eggs in a quick, spicy tomato sauce reminiscent of a shakshuka.
And then there are those dinners when we’re exhausted and can’t bear to spend too much time in the kitchen.
But minimizing cooking time doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor. That’s why we asked Michelin-starred chefs to share their favorite 20-minute dinners, plus their tips and tricks so you can recreate them at home.
From a comforting bowl of vodka rigatoni to an impressive steak, these easy recipes are perfect for those nights when you need a quick and delicious meal.
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a French quesadilla will fill you up in no time.
Nicolas Abello, the executive chef of L’Appart in New York City, told Insider that he loves whipping up his French quesadilla whenever he’s at home.
“This is so easy to make and can be done anytime during the day,” he said. “It’s barely any preparation, and it takes 20 minutes at the most to do.”
Abello uses eggs, sweet onions, bell peppers, butter, milk or cream, a tortilla, and plenty of cheese for his French quesadilla.
“The secret is when you cook the eggs,” he said. “Start by melting some butter, add your chopped onions, and then, before coloration, add your mix of eggs, seasoned salt and pepper, a little bit of cream or milk, and cook them at a high temperature.”
Constantly stir the eggs with a spatula while they’re cooking. Then, once they’re done, just assemble and enjoy!
You don’t need to spend a long time in the kitchen to whip up a great steak.
Chefs Curtis Stone and Joe Flamm both often turn to steak when they don’t have a lot of time to spend on dinner.
“I love cooking steak, obviously — I have a butcher shop,” Stone, who runs Maude and Gwen in Los Angeles, told Insider. “Steak on the grill is super simple. You can cook a great steak in 10 minutes, and it doesn’t need much in terms of a sauce or dry rub if you have good-quality meat. And the world is your oyster in terms of accompaniments.”
Stone likes to pair his steak with mushrooms, which he cooks with shallots, garlic, and some sherry vinegar.
“Top Chef” winner Flamm, who was most recently the executive chef at Spiaggia in Chicago, likes to serve his strip steak with green beans.
“I’ll just do salt and pepper on my New York strip, slice it thin, drizzle with some nice olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar,” he told Insider.
For his green beans, Flamm will brown some butter in a pan, throw garlic in, then add his green beans, slivered almonds, and a little lemon juice at the end.
Upgrade your quick pasta dinner with a delicious bowl of vodka rigatoni.
Chris Morgan, who recently opened Bammy’s in Washington, DC, told Insider that his favorite 20-minute recipe is courtesy of his wife.
“This vodka rigatoni is the best I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “I can’t make it as good as her, and I’ve tried. Her mom makes it, her mom’s mom made it, it’s the real deal. And you can make it in 15 minutes.”
Morgan’s wife uses prosciutto and penne for her vodka rigatoni, along with the usual tomato sauce, heavy cream, and vodka.
“It’s just outrageous,” he said. “That and some good bread. It puts you in a coma afterwards, but it’s real good.”
You can make a simple but delicious teriyaki sauce for your chicken in just a matter of minutes.
“Chicken teriyaki is one of the fastest things you can make,” Val Cantu, the head chef at Californios in San Francisco, told Insider.
When he’s making chicken teriyaki at home, Cantu will always get his rice cooker going on the quick setting and then whip up the teriyaki sauce.
“It’s so easy to make,” he said. “It’s just soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic. Let that simmer, let those flavors develop.”
Cantu will then take either chicken thighs or chicken breasts and sear them in a pan so that they can get crispy, before slicing them up and serving with the teriyaki sauce.
If you don’t feel like rice, Cantu also recommends serving chicken teriyaki with iceberg lettuce and an easy ginger and carrot dressing.
To make the dressing, microplane or grate your carrots, then add a little ginger, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and some honey or agave.
“That’s just super delicious,” Cantu said. “And fast and easy.”
Upgrade your poached eggs by turning them into a shakshuka.
“Poached eggs are just a good idea period,” Andrew Zimmerman, the executive chef of Sepia in Chicago, told Insider.
Zimmerman poaches his eggs in a “quick and spicy tomato sauce” with onions, garlic, olive oil, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and some Calabrian chilis or chili flakes.
“If you wanna get fancier, add cumin and a little harissa to take it into more of a shakshuka direction,” he said.
And Zimmerman recommends serving the dish with grilled or toasted sourdough bread.
“It’s very quick, very easy, and very satisfying,” he added.
Vietnamese noodle bowls pack a ton of flavor without a lot of prep.
Zimmerman also loves whipping up these bowls when he needs a quick dinner at home.
First, he takes thinly-sliced pork loin and rubs it with a Thai red curry paste, then quickly grills or sears it in a pan.
He’ll then add the pork right on top of a bowl filled with vermicelli rice noodles, thinly-sliced lettuce, julienned carrots and cucumbers, plus crushed toasted peanuts, along with some cilantro, Thai basil, and Nước chấm sauce, a Vietnamese dipping sauce that typically combines fish sauce with lime juice, sugar, and chilis.
“You’ve got this big flavor protein with this light, high acid, spicy sort of noodle bowl,” Zimmerman said. “You can throw that together in 20 minutes no problem.”
Korean steamed eggs only take five minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook.
Beverly Kim, who runs Parachute in Chicago with her husband Johnny Clark, told Insider that Korean steamed eggs — also known as Gyeran-jjim — is one of her favorite family recipes.
To prep the dish, Kim mixes her eggs with an anchovy stock that she makes with water and an anchovy-flavored dashi powder, which is a seasoning blend made from seaweed-based fish broth.
“Add a little bit of salted shrimp juice, a little fish sauce, a little salt, minced onions, scallions and carrots sliced really thin, toasted sesame seeds, and a little sesame oil,” Kim said.
“With a mandoline, you could do this really fast,” she added. “And if you don’t have salted shrimp juice you can still use salt, or just a combination of fish stock and salt. It doesn’t taste fishy, it just tastes umami rich.”
Kim mixes everything until it’s combined and then steams her egg mixture for 15 minutes.
“It’s best served right then and there with rice,” she said. “It’s super fast, and it’s my go-to.”
And when you need something quick, you can never go wrong with fish.
“I’d say the ultimate fast food is fish,” Brad Carter, of Carters of Moseley in Birmingham, England, told Insider. “When people ask, ‘What’s your favorite fast food?’ they think I’m going to say McDonald’s or something, but that’s not the case. I say fish.”
And Carter recommends grilling mackerel when you need to whip up dinner in a pinch.
“You can have dinner in under six minutes,” he said. “Cook it over charcoal and it gets cooked really evenly and perfectly.”
Carter said he loves the versatility of mackerel, which he often pairs with cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer, or artichokes, horseradish, and beetroot in the fall and winter.
“Mackerel lends itself all the way through the year and it’s always available,” he added.
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