Cooking at home once again has become a daily routine. Fixing three meals per day at home is something most of us don’t do in better times. Some of my “I very rarely cook” friends have told me they’re actually finding time spent in the kitchen relaxing, now that they largely are at home and don’t have to rush to be somewhere. Some don’t like to cook because of the mess and cleanup, but they’re realizing that with simple and “one-pot” recipes, the dreaded cleanup is minimalized and, therefore, tolerable.
The Facebook posts and other online feeds I’ve been reading these days share some extremely creative, and oftentimes strange, dishes home cooks have put together using the ingredients they have on hand. Many are one-pot recipes.
A recipe is a starting point and never is set in stone. I think of a recipe as a variation on a theme, similar to classical music when a composer changes the original melody in several ways. When preparing a recipe, don’t worry about straying from the original — don’t have golden raisins? Use dark raisins. Don’t have semi-sweet chocolate chips? Use milk chocolate. Don’t have lemons? Use limes. If you don’t have allspice, make your own with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Here is a handy herb, spice and seasoning substitution chart, I have found helpful: https://bit.ly/2R4Vly8.
My past two weeks’ columns have been focused on cooking amid these turbulent times. Continuing to share easy recipes is appropriate as we are hunkered down and left with few options others than to cook at home. The interest in one-pot cooking has surged. I checked titles devoted to this and I have been amazed to see the plethora of books with “one-pot” in the title: “One-Pot Cakes,” “One Pot Feeds All,” “One Pot Gluten-Free Cooking,” “One Pot Diabetes Cookbook,” “Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook,” “One Pot Pastas,” “LeCreuset One Pot Cuisine” and on and on. Celebrity chef Ming Tsai even wrote a cookbook devoted to this easy cooking method, “Simply Ming One-Pot Meals.”
New to my collection is “Incredible One-Pot Cooking: Easy, Delicious Recipes for Exciting Meals — Without the Mess,” by Megan Marlowe (2020, Page Street Publishing, $21.99).
Marlowe’s book will help you from scrambling for more than one cooking vessel, while preparing delicious meals. Those of you who have been “forced” to cook at home will appreciate the many creative recipes requiring 30 minutes or less to come together.
Creative not only applies to the recipes, but also to the chapter titles. In chapter one, “Coop’d up in One Pan,” Marlowe takes classic chicken recipes and has given them a flavorful twist. Her Buffalo Chicken Walking Tacos is a mash-up. Kids will enjoy eating straight from corn chip bags. She upgraded the fun taco meal with chicken simmered in buffalo sauce and topped with blue cheese, cilantro, a drizzle of ranch dressing and a few slices of jalapeno — and prepared in only one pan. She said, “Don’t save chicken cordon bleu for a special occasion.” The recipe below for Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatloaf is a comforting dish, packed with tangy Swiss cheese, sharp Dijon mustard and smoky ham.
Another chapter, “Comfort from the Docks,” includes Mexican Street Corn Shrimp Pasta (recipe below). She writes, “Street corn is by far one of the best things on earth. But who would have thought to pair it with shrimp?”
Who didn’t grow up eating tuna casserole? Now, be honest. True, it is not a culinary masterpiece or haute cuisine, however, it is comforting, requires a few inexpensive ingredients and is easy to prepare. For those growing up during the 1950s and ’60s, it was probably a standard in mom’s repertoire of meals. Below is the recipe for Marlowe’s twist on this nostalgic dish, Tuna Pot Pie Biscuit Casserole.
For the recipe for her Tortellini Primavera, visit https://bit.ly/39LS6Cs.
Tuna Pot Pie Biscuit Casserole
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
11/4 cups milk
1 cup vegetable stock
3 (5-ounce) cans tuna packed in water, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (8-ounce) can crescent dough sheet or crescent roll dough, perforations pressed together
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and mixed vegetables and sauté́ for 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Whisk in the flour, mustard, salt and black pepper.
Slowly whisk in the milk and vegetable stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the tuna and cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top.
Unroll the crescent dough and place it over the filling. Cut two small slits in the top of the dough to vent any steam during baking. Bake the casserole for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the casserole cool slightly before serving. Serves 4.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Meatloaf
1 pound ground chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
4 ounces smoked deli ham, coarsely chopped
4 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1 medium egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, garlic, bread crumbs, ham, Swiss cheese, onion, egg, salt, parsley, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of the mustard. Add the chicken mixture to the prepared loaf pan.
Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon of mustard over the top of the meatloaf. Bake the meatloaf for 40-45 minutes, until the center is set and the top is golden brown. Allow it to cool slightly before slicing and serving. Serves 4.
Mexican Street Corn Shrimp Pasta
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces frozen peeled, deveined and precooked large shrimp, thawed
1 medium jalapeno, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 cup hot water
12 ounces farfalle pasta
7 ounces queso Chihuahua cheese
Cotija cheese, for garnish
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the corn and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is charred. Transfer the corn to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pot, then add the shrimp in an even layer and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until they’re pink and opaque. Transfer the shrimp to the plate with the corn, and when they’re cool enough to handle, remove the tails.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot. Add the jalapeno and garlic and cook until they are soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper and cook for 1 minute. Then stir in the cornstarch and cook until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.
Whisk in the milk and water, then add the pasta. Bring the pasta to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. Fold in the corn, shrimp and Chihuahua cheese. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top it with the Cotija cheese, cilantro and lime wedges. Serves 6.
What chef would you like me to interview? Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products do you have difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me: Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.