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Blog

One Pan Wonder

Suzanne Pollak

Moms are the masters of cooking with only one pan (and only one arm!) Photo: Elliot Erwitt c. 1955.

Moms are the masters of cooking with only one pan (and only one arm!) Photo: Elliot Erwitt c. 1955.

What is so great about one pan meals? For starters, one word: EASY to make and to clean up!

Beyond that, one pan is a way to train the brain to become free from distraction and endless chatter. Use this type of cooking to remain razor focused for a short period of time instead of multi tasking with too many pots and other problems. The job at hand, whatever is going on in one single pan, is all that is important, at least for the moment. Before putting pot to fire, stow away your cell phone, set the table, organize the mise en place, warn your family to be ready to sit when called.

Lastly, limiting yourself to one pan frees you from a deluge of too many options, giving you a chance to get creative! Cooking is really fun when you riff and listen to your intuition. What is your stomach telling you? What is calling you from the aisles of the produce section?* One pan cooking is about following your likes and your mood, using a recipe as a guide rather than a rule book… 

Steak and Veg. for Two

  • thin steaks, sliced 1/4 inch thick, edges notched to keep from curling

  • 1 raw potato, peeled and cut into small cubes

  • 1 red pepper, sliced

  • handful of mushrooms, sliced

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper

  • fresh oregano (leaves removed from the stems)

  • olive oil

Choose a skillet large enough to hold the steaks in a single layer. Pour in just enough olive oil to barely coat the bottom of the pan. Heat the skillet over high heat until smoking hot. Cook the steak just long enough to brown on one side, then turn over and season with salt and pepper. Do Not Over Cook! 3 minutes on one side, 2 to 3 on the other, for rare. Transfer steaks to a plate to rest. Add a tablespoon or more of olive oil. When hot put the potatoes in. Leave the potatoes alone until crispy brown on one side, turn, then add the peppers, mushroom and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until all ingredients are crisp and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano and place vegetables next to steaks. 

*Don’t give up on physical visits to the grocery store. The benefit of walking up and down the aisles (instead of having everything delivered) is the opportunity for a spontaneous idea to spark while faced with a pyramid of potatoes, a deluge of favas, a mountain of shiitakes, or whatever else might be right in front of your eyes! Tonight’s dinner might take a left turn from what you thought you wanted. We know the ease of delivery: avoiding traffic, saving time, etc. etc. But still, there is something about a grocery store that is creative and even relaxing. All you are doing is planning for meals. Taking a toddler to a  grocery store is a learning experience that shouldn’t be missed.  (When my twins were small enough to sit in the front of the cart together, one twin picked up a tomato and took a bite of what he thought was an apple. Oops!)