One Pan, One Dish

One pan, one dish cooking used to be the domain of super bachelors and college students only. Granted, I went to culinary school so I have no idea how to assuage hunger in a dorm room, but I do know about being a super bachelor. Believe me, the meals can be uninspiring: cold pizza and a beer, or macaroni and cheese at midnight. Chefs hate to cook at home anyway, especially when it’s only for themselves. Nine out of 10 will tell you that a bowl of cereal and an episode of Bourdain is a great way to wind down after pulling 400 covers on a busy night in the restaurant.

But possibilities do exist for a gourmet meal that uses only one knife, one cutting board and one pan if you stick with three basic techniques: searing, seasoning and finishing. Adding ingredients in sequence is also very important, and timing means a lot.

Searing is the initial contact between the meat and the pan. Heat your pan before you add the oil so the oil can surpass the smoke point and get “smoking” hot. Lay the generously seasoned meat or protein into the hot oil and sear it vigorously until golden brown. Flip it and repeat on the other side.

When you rub protein with flavor, you’re seasoning it. I’m a go-to kosher-salt-and-fresh-cracked-pepper type of guy. Since most of the premixed seasonings in your cupboard contain mostly salt and pepper anyway, try to use fresh herbs that you can dry throughout the winter. Either tie them in bunches and hang them upside down, or lay them flat on a screen or rack to dry overnight, up to a week. Store dried herbs in airtight containers for the rest of the winter.

Finishing your dish, or “popping the sauce” as we call it in the restaurant biz, means adding a touch of flavor at the end without using salt. Try a combination of Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce – just a splash of each does the trick. You’re not really looking for heat here, just a pop of flavor. A splash of very nice wine vinegar works well, white wine for a white sauce and red wine for a red sauce. Monter au beurre, or thickening the sauce with butter also finishes a dish.

Here are a few dishes to try.

Chicken and Chorizo Paella
6 to 8 boneless chicken thighs
2 links chorizo sausage
2 cups long grain rice
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped herbs: oregano, coriander and cumin
4 cups chicken stock, warm and simmering
1 pinch saffron
1 cup peas and roasted red peppers
Finish with kosher salt,
fresh cracked pepper,
Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce to taste.

Heat oil in the bottom of a large pan. Season the chicken with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Brown the chicken, skin side down until it is golden brown. Add the sausage and cook until golden brown. Add the herbs and spices, and toast with the chicken and sausage. Remove the chicken and sausage to a sheet tray or plate. Add the rice to the pan and toast until golden brown. Toss in the onions, mushrooms, garlic and tomatoes. Cook the vegetables and rice until the vegetables are soft. Add the hot chicken stock. Return the chicken and sausage to the pan. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in peas and roasted red peppers. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 more minutes until rice is cooked through.

Beef and Three-Cheese Penne Bake
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic crushed and chopped
1 16-oz can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
1 cup of your favorite New York State red wine
1 bay leaf
1 pound penne; whole wheat if desired
4 cups water
2 cups shredded cheese – cheddar, jack or mozzarella
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 cup ricotta

Preheat oven to 450°F. Heat a pan until very hot, then add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Drop the beef in a few little pieces at a time and brown until golden. Toss in the onions and carrots, and then cook until soft. Add the garlic and tomatoes. When the tomato starts to thicken, add the red wine and reduce the liquid until thick. When the red wine thickens add the penne, bay leaf and water. Bring the entire concoction to a rapid boil and boil for 5 to 6 minutes. Fold in the ricotta in large clumps. Don’t stir very much.

Cover with the shredded cheese and Parmesan. Then place into a 450°F oven and cook until the cheese is brown and the pasta is cooked through.

Try these recipes with Chef Eric at
The New York State Wine and Culinary Center, Canandaigua
800 South Main Street, Canandaigua
December 14, 6-8:30 p.m.
To register:
or call 585-394-7070

by Chef Eric K. Smith

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