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One Sauce for Two Dinners Is the Kind of Cooking Math We Love

Contrary to common wisdom, two is not always better than one. A duo of dueling squirrels raising hell on your window ledge? Nah. Two literal goblins haunting your basement? Thanks, we're fine with just the one.

But plenty of other things are simply better in pairs, including shoes, turtle doves, and recipes that have the magical ability to become two related but totally distinct dinners. As folks in the beauty industry say of eyebrows: They're sisters not twins.

That's our concept for this quartet (or octet, really) of as-you-like-it dinner options that aren't exactly meal prepping but just happen to accomplish the same goal. You'll start with a double batch of a base sauce; use half for one dish, and then turn the remainder into a radically different meal the following night. Take Epi associate food editor Rachel Gurjar's umami-rich miso-butternut squash soup as an example. It's easy enough to prepare postwork on a weeknight or during a lazy weekend day-simply cook cubed butternut squash with shallot, garlic, and ginger, along with some sweet white miso and a dash of maple syrup, and blend it into a bright orange, silky smooth soup.

If you double the batch, you'll have plenty to eat the following day. (You don't really need us to tell you how to do that part.) But this soup also transforms into a sauce in which you can poach filets of buttery cod. The fish flakes beautifully in the bowl, and its subtle flavor pairs wonderfully with the salty-sweet soup. Don't forget the chili crisp.

If you like that trick, we've got a few others for you. Epi associate food editor Kendra Vaculin turns to her go-to pairing of green olives and jarred roasted red peppers, which mingle in a thick, rich tomato sauce that's equally sweet, smoky, and briny. It's exactly what you'd want with pasta-specifically baked pasta, smothered with melty mozzarella, because wintertime calls for rib-sticking fare.

Alternatively, you can use the same sauce recipe for an easy AF one-pot shrimp and rice dinner. It takes a slightly different tack than the baked pasta with the addition of cumin and turmeric, which give the dish an extra dimension of spice that plays well with sweet, fresh-tasting shrimp.

Don't eat meat? Vegan friends (and friends of vegans), we're not leaving you out. For her take on the sauce-two-ways technique, Epi contributor Jocelyn Ramirez starts with a potent chile sauce that calls for two varieties of dried chiles: fruity, spicy guajillos and roasty, sweet anchos or pasillas. This forms the base for a platter of enchiladas that get stuffed with mashed potatoes, flavored with roasted garlic, umami-rich nutritional yeast, and mushroom powder for an extra savory bite.

The next night, that same smoky-sweet chile sauce becomes the foundation of a vegan menudo. Since the traditional tripe in menudo is not exactly plant-based, Ramirez turns to dried, frilly snow mushrooms, which are pleasantly chewy once they've plumped up, and soak up the sauce nicely along with the hominy.

Want one more? We got you. Rachel Gurjar's paneer bhurji-inspired sauce is the easiest of them all. First, you'll sear some slabs of paneer in hot oil until they go all brown and crispy on the outside. Remove them from the pan and add a handful of aromatics and warm spices-onion, garlic, jalapeño, ginger, cumin, mustard, coriander, cayenne, turmeric-and a can of tomatoes before returning the paneer, now crumbled, back into the sauce. The resulting chunky gravy is an excellent filling for roasted bell peppers, especially when they take on a touch of char in the heat of the oven.

But for an excellent anytime snack, spoon a thick layer of the sauce on some bread-crusty country or simple white or whatever you've got. Top it with shredded cheddar or mozzarella, sliced onion, and cilantro, and pan-fry that big boy in butter until golden and crackly all over. Dip the sandwich in a swipe of ketchup between bites to take it up yet another level.

With these base recipes in your back pocket, you've got an entire week's supper situation sorted. And sure, eight dinners from four sauces might almost seem like too much food-but remember, you've got all those basement goblin mouths to feed, too.


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