Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One Pot Meals

Some of my favorite cookbooks were handed-down (or "forcibly borrowed" really) from industrious cooks who happen to be my in-laws: "The Settlement Cookbook: The Way to a Man's Heart" from Great-Grandma, "The Art of French Cooking" from Grandma, and "One Pot Meals" from Great-Grandpa, who came to cooking only after his wife died in the early 1980s. Each cookbook seems to signify an era. The first is a classic 1903 encyclopedia of American dishes from Mrs. Lizzie Kander and Mrs. Schoenfeld, which aimed to teach Jewish and German immigrants how to cook American-style. With its straight-forward style and easy directions, it was a huge success and remained a staple in the many kitchens until the 1950s. Next is Julia Child's inspiration to tackle French cuisine in the 1960s: rewarding, but challenging. Lastly, the most humble one represents 1970s-style cooking which sought to combine ease with new multicultural flavors. These one-pot recipes perfectly suited our eat-on-the-cheap college days, which was one reason we pinched this book. Favorite dishes included Mulligatawny, Chicken with Olives, and Braised Oxtail (well, this is really just a favorite of my husband's).
"If the pot is big enough, you can feed as many guests as you like."
One Pot Column, NYT
I was reminded of our old "One Pot Meals" by Margaret Gin because the New York Times has recently added a One Pot column, by Elaine Louie, which celebrates a different cuisine and one-pot recipe every week in the Wednesday food section. Last week, she had a recipe for Iron Pot Chicken which cooks in 12 minutes (!). This week, it's a 3-hour affair to make an ancient Spanish dish called Cocido. As is typical for one-pot cooking, though, much of the time is spent simmering on the stove. So it's possible to start it early and have it ready for a weeknight family dinner. There are, of course, many new and updated one pot meal cookbooks.

We haven't done too much one-pot cooking recently, but I'm inspired to try out some new things for weeknight dinners. In wintertime, the notion of a warm pot brewing dinner is appealing. Plus, it's always helpful to reduce the number of dishes you have to do afterward!

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