Shit! What’s for Dinner?

What to Cook This Week

Big-on-flavor dishes include carrot coconut soup, chicken escabeche, and chipotle pozole

Photo: Aya Brackett

For those times you find yourself saying, “Shit! What’s for dinner?” — we’re here to help. For our third installment of what to eat this week, we’ve got a trio with the potential for bold flavor — with two fast dishes and one that requires more commitment, largely unattended.

The carrot coconut soup marries coconut milk, Southeast Asian flavors, and a little heat for an unbeatable combination; it’s also a reminder that creamy soups are equally good without cream. The escabeche takes cues from cooks in Spain, the Caribbean, and some South American countries who often marinate food after cooking. For the last recommendation, this chipotle pozole is a hearty Mexican classic — and we’ve got 10 garnishes to mix things up. Sure, it’s not fast, but it’s not hard — and you’ll have leftovers you’ll want to eat for days.

Carrot Coconut Soup

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes

Carrot coconut soup.
Carrot coconut soup.
Photo: Burcu Avsar and Zach DeSart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts separated and chopped
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, bruised, and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 or more small fresh hot chiles (like Thai or jalapeño), chopped
  • About 1 pound carrots, chopped
  • Salt
  • 4 cups coconut milk, or 2 14-ounce cans plus a little water
  • 2 limes: 1 zested and juiced, 1 quartered for serving
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Instructions

  1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the white parts of the scallions along with the lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and chiles. Cook, stirring and turning occasionally with a spatula until the garlic is golden and the scallions and chiles begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots and a large pinch of salt and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk, lime zest and juice, and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat so it bubbles gently but steadily. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the pieces of lemongrass, then use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot. Or let the soup cool a little, carefully purée it in a blender (working in batches if necessary), and return it to the pot. (You can make the soup in advance up to this point. Cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) Reheat the soup until it’s hot without letting it come to a boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding the sugar if you think the tanginess and heat need balancing. Garnish with cilantro and green parts of the scallions, and serve with lime wedges.

Curried Carrot-Coconut Soup

This seasoning turns the soup from light and bright to deep and haunting, so I like to play that up with hefty garnishes: When the aromatics are ready in Step 1, add 2 tablespoons sweet or hot curry powder. Cook, stirring, until it darkens and becomes fragrant, no more than a minute. Serve the soup topped with toasted coconut and chopped pistachios along with the other garnishes.

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Chicken Escabeche

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Photo: Aya Brackett

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large red onion, halved and sliced
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded if you like less heat and chopped, or to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat a grill over moderate heat or turn on the broiler and position the rack 4 inches below the heat source. Halve the chicken breasts horizontally to make 2 thin cutlets each. Flatten each by pressing with your hand.
  2. Rub the cutlets with 2 tablespoons oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill or broil until they begin to firm and turn golden, 2 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook the other side until the center is white or only slightly pink, another 2 to 5 minutes. (The chicken might cook through before it starts to color; be careful not to let it overcook.) Transfer to a cutting board to rest.
  3. Put the remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the orange juice, vinegar, jalapeño, and ¼ cup water and bring to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Slice the chicken and transfer it to a shallow serving bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the chicken. Let it marinate for as long as you can, then serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with cilantro.

— Recipe from Dinner for Everyone

Chipotle Pozole

Makes: At least 8 servings
Time: 4 to 5 hours, largely unattended; 1½ hours with cooked hominy

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups dried hominy, or 4 cups cooked or canned hominy (liquid reserved if you cooked it yourself)
  • 1½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 canned chipotle chile, mashed with 1 tablespoon of the adobo or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. If you’re using cooked or canned hominy, skip to Step 2. Put the dried hominy in a large pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the liquid bubbles gently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary to keep the hominy covered, until the hominy has burst and is tender, 3 to 4 hours. Drain, reserving the liquid. Measure 4 cups and refrigerate any remaining hominy, covered, for up to several days, or freeze up to several months.
  2. Combine the 4 cups hominy, pork, onion, garlic, chipotle, and adobo, oregano, and cumin in a large pot. Add enough water or hominy cooking liquid to cover by about an inch, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles steadily but not violently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender, about 1½ hours; add more cooking liquid or water if necessary. The pozole should be soupy.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add more mashed chile and adobo if you like; continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so. You can cool and refrigerate the pozole for up to several days. Reheat gently before proceeding. Serve in bowls, garnished with any or all of the suggestions from the list that follows.

10 Garnishes for Chipotle Pozole

  1. Chopped fresh cilantro
  2. Crumbled queso fresco, farmer cheese, or goat cheese
  3. Diced avocado
  4. Crumbled bacon or pork rinds
  5. Chopped scallions, radishes, and/or cabbage
  6. Lime wedges
  7. Minced jalapeño or other fresh chile
  8. Ground or crumbled guajillo or other dried chile
  9. Any fresh or cooked salsa or hot sauce
  10. Mexican crema or sour cream

Recipe from How to Cook Everything, the Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at markbittman.com.

Sign up for Heated with Mark Bittman

By Heated

Food from every angle. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store