The 10 Greatest Main Courses of All Time

Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

We’ve already had a great time compiling the best way to start your meal, so now it’s time for the headline acts. The hearty treats worth risking your arteries for, listed below in reverse order, from tenth best, to Lasagne. Shit sorry, I should probably have said SPOILER ALERT.

Quick shout out to the ones that didn’t quite make it: spare ribs, roast dinners, Irish Stew, a good carbonara, kebabs, lobsters, katsu curries, rotisserie chicken, noodles, and of course, sausage chips and beans (just missed out).

10. Duck Confit – or confit de canard, depending on if you’re French or not. Like so many great dishes – including all the pickles and ferments we love so much these days – this came about via a preservation process to stop the duck from rotting. That meant salting it, slowly cooking it in its own fat, then imprisoning it in a jar so it can keep for months at a time. As tinned foods go, this has to be the best one imaginable, the world heavyweight champ, the cream of the cream.

9. Fish n Chips – a very British staple, a national dish, so entrenched in daily life that it used to come wrapped in yesterday’s paper. So British that our most beloved writer Charles Dickens essentially christened both components, coining “fried fish warehouses” in Oliver Twist, then “chips” in A Tale of Two Cities. So important to our diet/morale that it wasn’t rationed during the war. So ubiquitous that even Britain’s greatest director, Alfred Hitchcock, was brought up in a chippy. So, big thanks to the Jewish refugees who brought it to us. Toda, guys, we’re lucky to have you.

8. Enchilada – everything that’s great about Mexican food, with corn tortillas, meat, cheese, spice, then either a red or a green sauce. Assembled correctly by a deft Mexican (or non-Mexican) hand, this’ll proverbially blow your proverbial socks off.

7. Cheeseburger – it’s not the biggest shock in the world to find that the cheeseburger was invented by a teenage boy – the child genius being a lad called Lionel, who was working in a Californian restaurant in 1924 when a light-bulb moment found him popping a slice of cheese on a hamburger. Classic tomfoolery, you’d expect. 1924 was also the year that John Logie Baird first sent ‘television’ images over a short distance. And now look at us, almost 100 years later, scoffing cheeseburgers and staring at the telly. What a time to be alive.   

6. Spaghetti alle vongole – like so many things exploding from Southern Italy (Mount Vesuvius, Diego Maradona) this one came of age in Naples, and it’s all about balance. Offsetting garlic with white wine acidity, ensuring the seaside flavour of the clams doesn’t overpower proceedings by chucking in a generous handful of parsley from the back garden – kind of a poor man’s surf and turf in that sense.

5. Lamb Biryani – most cultures have a knockout rice dish in their arsenal. In Spain you’ve got paella, Nigeria and Ghana will argue until the end of time over who owns the rights to Jollof rice, Italy do a lovely risotto, the Chinese have egg fried rice, there’s sushi from Japan, about a billion incredible rice dishes from the Middle East, rice pudding which is French (and also a pudding), Jambalaya which is like a US Cajun paella, but the king of all of them is our old pal Biryani, which made its way from Persia to North India via traders and adventurers. You’ve also got Rice Crispy Cakes which are great if you’re stoned or a toddler.

4. Margherita Pizza – it’d been floating around in one way or another since the mid-1800s but was officially christened a little later when Queen Margherita of Savoy decided that she liked it, so it should probably be named after her. That’s classic royal behaviour, but even when you’re biting down into a piping hot totem of entitlement, you can’t argue that there’s something pretty majestic going on.

3. Jerk Chicken – the art of jerking (stop it) has enjoyed a fairly lengthy evolution, from early forays using underground pits, to cooking as you would now on a drum barbecue in the back garden. Slightly bitter, spicy, the tang of a scotch bonnet. If this hits all of the right notes, it should invigorate the palate and completely clear the sinuses.

2. Steak Frites – home to three whole languages, famous for strong Flemish beers and the stunning brushwork of Jan van Eyck, yet still the greatest Belgium export (including Van Damme and De Bruyne) is their national dish of Steak Frites. Not to be confused with their other national dish of Moules Frites. A brasserie staple, the cut ideally needs to be ribeye, the frites (or chips) need to be thin, and the yellow blob on the side needs to be béarnaise.

1. Lasagne – when a dish has alternate spellings but the same pronunciation (lasagna, lasagne) you know it’s been around the block a few times. Hence this, a baked pasta pie that stretches back into the Middle Ages. That’s literally medieval times, when you had such things as Barbarians and Byzantine Empires, and extreme overreactions to fornicators (they’re just trying to have sex, guys, chill out). Point being, the history books are probably smudged with the stains of a million glorious lasagnes, and rightly so because they’re fantastic. There’s literally no greater extravagance than teaming one up with chips and a salad.

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