HERE’S HOW is a series where we share the best useful tips from our cooking adventures. We’ll answer questions before you have them and illuminate food mysteries with a blend of science and legend.
Making your whole supper in one pot can lead to extreme feelings of accomplishment. Not only can you brag, “I made that!” you’ll be able to say, “I made that all in one pot.” The after-dinner realization that you have only one dirty vessel to scour will also enhance the deliciousness of the meal you devoured.
Cooking in one pot has another perk as well. With each ingredient that you sauté, sear, or braise, you build up–and keep–tons of flavor. Rather than washing away the little brown bits that accumulate in the bottom of a pan as you brown chicken or onions, you incorporate those bits–known as sucs–into the finished product. And, did we mention you only have one pot to clean?
Next week’s Arroz Con Pollo is a prime example of the type of incredible flavor that results from mastering the one-pot format. Here’s how.
The very first ingredient should usually be the meat, chicken, or other protein. The idea here is that searing the chicken keeps the flavor of the meat inside while everything else cooks. Plus, the little bits of browning chicken that get stuck to the pan are the first step in building up the flavor.
After that, add ingredients by what cooks the longest. We actually remove the chicken to make space for the next bunch of ingredients, usually flavor-enhancing vegetables like onion, garlic, celery, or carrots. After that, it’s best to throw in any seasonings like spices or tomato paste or salt, then any grain being used with the liquid you’ll use to cook it. Finally, the protein goes back in and we pop a lid on it and cook everything until it’s done.
In a one-pot meals, dinner is only as fast as its slowest ingredient. That timing establishes a baseline for when dinner will be done. Any tender but fast-cooking ingredients that should not be overcooked have to be stirred in towards the end. In the case of Arroz Con Pollo, the rice is the ingredient that takes the longest to cook through. But most of the vegetables here–carrots and onions–don’t suffer from being cooked for a while. Likewise, chicken thighs have moist meat that won’t dry out.
On the other hand, the peas, olives, and oregano are more delicate. We wait until only 5 minutes before the dish is done to throw them in. That way, they retain their flavor, freshness, and texture.
Many one-pot meals look best right when they’re finished cooking. This means you don’t have to worry about arranging your casserole, stew, or hash in a serving platter, meaning this isn’t “one pot, one serving dish,” but really just one pot. You can set the pot right on the table for a rustic presentation (put it on a trivet or potholder so you don’t leave a burn mark). Garnish with some fresh torn herbs. Then dole our portions into your plates or bowls from there. Enjoy every bite knowing how few dishes await.
Got questions about any of the techniques in our recipes? Leave a comment or shoot us a tweet and we’ll answer your question in an upcoming post.