The Art of the One-Dish Meal
I think there are a few things about cooking that intimidate people, but I’d guess one of the main things is the idea of putting together a meal. I get why it’s intimidating: you have to figure out what goes with what, find recipes for each dish, and then time everything correctly while cooking. It’s a lot to think about! And it’s why I love one-dish/one-pot meals. I love the idea of getting everything I want in a meal with one singular recipe. They also tend to pack lots of flavor! The most common one-dish meals are things like soups, stews, casseroles, crock-pot meals, stir-fries, etc.
The essential elements of a one-dish meal
- A satisfying protein. Some of my favorite easy proteins to use in one-dish meals like soups or stews are beans, pre-cooked chicken sausage, rotisserie chicken, and tofu. None of those need to be cooked, so it makes incorporating them into a recipe almost foolproof.
- A flavorful fat. For me, no meal is complete without some form of (unprocessed fat). In a one-dish meal, I recommend butter, cream, coconut milk, coconut oil, or olive oil.
- Lots and lots of veggies. You can really go nuts with the veggies, but a good place to start is always mire poix: celery, carrots, and onions. Trader Joe’s sells a pre-made version that’s so convenient when prepping soups, stews, or sauces.
- Herbs and spices! My best advice is to have a heavy hand with the seasoning when cooking a one-dish meal. Italian spices like basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc., are pretty safe, as are non-spicy flavors like paprika, pepper, and citrus zest. And though you don’t want to go overboard, you’ll probably want some salt, too.
- A dash of carbs. I tend to leave carbs (rice, pasta, potatoes etc.) out of my one-dish meals completely, but a little goes a long way if you can’t imagine living without them. Grains and starches don’t have much bang for your buck, and they tend to act as “filler” (big on bulk, small on flavor). However, as long as you tread lightly, adding a few potatoes or a small amount of rice, starches and grains can be a nice way to bulk up a one-dish meal.
Bringing it all together
Slow and low heat is the method for a successful one-dish meal. The longer and slower you cook it, the more flavorful the dish will be. In fact, many one-dish meals (again, think soups, stews, casseroles, etc.) taste progressively better as the flavors have time to marry. Crock pots make wonderful one-dish meals! Baking at a low temperature, simmering, or slow-cooking are all good methods of cooking one-dish meals. Don’t forget: one-dish meals tend to freeze well, so these types of dishes make for perfect make-ahead lunches and dinners.
All-star one-dish meals
Some of my favorite one-dish meals include:
- Polenta, Sausage, and Zucchini Casserole
- Korean-Style BBQ Beef with Broccoli
- Real Deal Chicken Soup
- Big-Batch Turkey Chili
- Green Curry Tofu
- Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Ricotta and Spinach
- Spicy Dumpling Soup with Shrimp
- Signature Vegetable Soup
- Cauliflower and Ham Gratin
- Cabbage and Sausage Casserole
- Slow Cooker Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew
- Chicken Pesto Soup
- Creamy Sausage and Kale Soup
Do you prefer one-dish or multiple-dish meals? Either way, share your favorite soup, stew, or casserole recipe!
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