The best dishes are those made from memory. You don't need to crack open a cookbook because the staple ingredients and simple steps are already imprinted in your mind (and your pantry). They just work.
TODAY senior food stylist, Ashley Holt, and TODAY senior producer, Debbie Kosofsky, are teaming up (virtually) to share their dishes that are easy to memorize (and customize!) so you don't need to keep referring back to a recipe while you're cooking. Starting with some their comfort-food favorites — oven-fried chicken breaded with Ritz crackers, pulled pork slow-cooked in ginger ale and fudgy brownies made with chocolate syrup — these recipes all have surprising (and therefore memorable) ingredients.
"These are foolproof successes with 'make it again' approval ratings from family and friends," said Kosofsky. "Make them once and you’ll come back to them over and over again."
"Each one comes together fast with minimal prep, minimal cooking, minimal ingredients, minimal clean up, minimal cost and maximum results," added Holt.
This extra crispy oven-fried chicken is the ultimate dish for all the fried chicken lovers out there. The cracker crust provides a salty-yet-sweet flavor that's hard to resist.
"Fifteen years ago, the senior producer in the TODAY Washington Bureau, Susan LaSalla, shared this recipe when I was desperate for a quick family dinner," said Kosofsky. "It quickly became known as 'Susan’s magic chicken.' TODAY producer Kerry Byrnes, who admits that if it were up to her, popcorn and cereal would be dinner staples, scored big with her four kids when she made this recipe, and to this day, challenges anyone to make a better chicken tender."
Holt noted that these chicken tenders remind her of childhood. Her mom would make a very similar recipe for her family on a weekly basis. "Put the crackers in a bag and crush!" she said.
Who knew that ginger ale and tomato paste make a great substitute for spice rub? This pulled pork recipe is easy, feeds an entire family and makes enough for leftovers! It's truly a 6-ingredient wonder that yields an incredibly tender and flavorful result.
"Making pulled pork can be intimidating because so many recipes require spice rubs with lots of ingredients," said Holt. "But this recipe is so simple that you’ll never miss a rub and you can memorize it in a second. The ginger ale and tomato paste combined together create an unbelievable flavor and you’ll be amazed how seasoned it turns out.
"It’s such a versatile recipe and can be used to make multiple meals — everything from sandwiches to tacos to salads and nachos — there’s so many possibilities!"
Finally, a worthy use (other than chocolate milk, of course) for that chocolate syrup that's been hanging in your fridge for what seems like an eternity! These brownies satisfy chocolate cravings — fast. By cutting out the cocoa powder and adding in chocolate syrup, they also help keep kitchen mess to a minimum.