One-pot wonders

TV chefs toss pots here, skillets there. Saucepans bubble up on several burners. It’s drama! It’s intense! It’s the foodie equivalent of “24.”

It’s not your reality. You don’t need all those dishes, all that drama, all those pans to scrub.

You need a great one-pot meal. Most require nothing more than a knife, a cutting board and a good-size pot with a lid, perhaps a Dutch oven of enamelglazed iron or a deep skillet. And with one pot, you’ll use only one burner on the stove (less energy) and have fewer dishes to do (less soap and water).

Quite a few classic dishes are one-pot wonders, from beef stew and its winekissed sibling boeuf bourguignon on through cioppino, jambalaya and sancocho.

A good one-pot meal has several elements: a protein (meat, fish, tofu), aromatics (onions, garlic, herbs, spices), vegetables and a starch (potatoes, rice, grains, pasta).

Well made, it boasts balanced flavors and a variety of textures. To get there, maximize flavors, minimize effort and don’t overcook the vegetables.

The Food Network’s Daisy Martinez maximizes the flavors of ingredients by gently browning elements of a dish before combining them.

“I always brown the protein first because that coaxes out flavor,” she said. “The caramelization on the surface adds another nuance of flavor to whatever it is that you’re cooking.”

That initial browning of elements such as proteins and aromatics also is the way restaurateur and lifestyle maven Barbara Smith begins a one-pot meal, even when she starts with tofu.

“Tofu doesn’t have much flavor, but you can crisp it up a bit, then take it out of the pot before adding your other flavors,” she said. She then returns the tofu at the end of cooking time.

The starch element, whether potatoes, rice or a grain, is important not only for the body it adds to the dish but also, when the starch is released, for providing “a nice glossiness and a nice satin feel,” said Martinez.

And vegetables? They deliver color and texture. Smith likes to add chopped kale to a one-pot meal, letting it steam on top of the other simmering ingredients before stirring it in. “It’s OK to have a little crunch.”

A one-pot meal is also, she said, “about creativity and not being afraid to try things.”

Chicken With Rice (Arroz Con Pollo)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 chickens, cut up

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup prepared sofrito (see recipe, below)

1/2cup chopped pimiento-stuffed olives

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch ground cloves

4 cups long-grain white rice

6 cups chicken broth, as needed

2 large bottled roasted red peppers, cut in 1/4-inch strips


2 medium green peppers, seeds removed

1 red sweet pepper, seeds removed

2 large tomatoes

2 medium onions, peeled

10 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 bunch cilantro leaves

1/2 bunch parsley leaves

Make sofrito: Chop and blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Makes about 1 quart. Refrigerate in a glass container for up to two weeks, or freeze in one-cup portions.

Make chicken: Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with half of the salt and pepper to taste. Place chicken pieces, in batches, skin-side down in the Dutch oven; cook, turning as needed, until well browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a platter.

Add sofrito and olives to pot. Season with remaining salt and pepper to taste. Raise heat to medium high; cook until liquid has evaporated. Stir in cumin, cloves and rice. Return chicken to pot. Pour in broth to cover rice by 1 inch. Heat to a boil; cook over high heat until liquid level reaches top of the rice, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Cover; cook until liquid is absorbed, rice is tender but firm and chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff rice with fork. Garnish with roasted pepper strips. Makes 10 servings.

Adapted from Daisy Martinez's "Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night."

Nutrition information: Per serving: 721 calories, 36 percent of calories from fat, 28 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 114 mg cholesterol, 67 g carbohydrates, 46 g protein, 868 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

-- The Wichita Eagle—05/05/10

Tex-Mex Chorizo Strata

3 lbs. chorizo sausage

2 green bell peppers, diced

2 medium onions, diced

1 small can diced green chilies

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 slices Texas toast (grilled garlic bread)

2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

12 eggs, beaten

2 cups half-and-half

Garnishes: salsa, sour cream and chopped scallions

Brown chorizo sausage in 10-inch iron skillet. Remove sausage from pan; drain all but two tablespoons fat. Saute green peppers, onions, chilies and garlic in skillet; remove from pan.

Place Texas toast in bottom of skillet, layer vegetables and chorizo sausage over bread, and top with grated cheeses. Beat eggs and half-and-half together. Pour into skillet, covering all ingredients.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until firm. Allow to cool 30 minutes. Slice into 8 wedges. Garnish with salsa, sour cream and chopped scallions. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

-- The Wichita Eagle—05/05/10

Frogmore Stew

2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

2 lbs. small red potatoes

1 lb. kielbasa or other smoked link sausage cut into 1 1/2-inch slices

3 ears of corn, halved

2 lbs. unpeeled large shrimp

Additional Old Bay seasoning

Cocktail sauce

Fill a large pot half way with water. Add 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes and return to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Add sausage and corn, return to a boil and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add shrimp and cook 3-5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Remove all with a slotted spoon onto a serving platter or newspaper lined table. Serve with additional Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce. Makes 6 servings.

-- The Wichita Eagle—05/05/10