One-pot meals are like the footie pajamas of the family table; cozy, familiar, and easy to throw on. They offer the pleasure of home cooking assembled with little fuss and minimal clean-up, and nearly always contain a starch, protein and vegetable all rolled into one happy dish.
One-pot meal defined
Most cultures have their version of the one-pot meal. The Italians stir up creamy risotto, the Spanish steam fragrant paella and the French serve a perfect cassoulet, to name but just a few. Versions of this dish span the globe from nearly every ethnicity, the defining factor is in its name: it requires only one pot. That pot may be a wok, a Dutch Oven, a skillet or tagine, but everything is prepared in that one vessel and the melded flavors combine to produce something extraordinary.
Hard-core one-pot devotees insist that a true one-pot meal must contain every element to the meal IN the pot and serving bread on the side is ‘cheating’. Personally, I think that most one-pot meals pair splendidly with warm rolls, naan, or buttermilk biscuits, however that decision is entirely up to you!
Why it simplifies
- Not everyone has time to prepare three different dishes- a starch, protein and vegetable- every night. The one pot meal allows for diversity, while keeping things simple.
- While every dish many not religiously contain a perfectly balanced meal, its all-in-one preparation lends itself to sneaking a vegetable or two into the pot or pan.
- Clean-up is kept to a minimum, with most meals requiring not much more than a cutting board and knife; beside the requisite pot, of course!
- One-pot meals are ideal dishes for batch cooking. Recipes can be doubled and a portion frozen for a later date.
More than just Pot Roast
Here in North America, the term one-pot meal is almost synonymous with crock-pot dinner, with hearty stews and pot roasts leading the charge; however there are plenty of lighter and faster variations to the familiar meat & potatoes duo.
A one-pot meal need not require hours & hours of cooking, but may also be a stir-fried noodle dish or a summery pasta with vegetables and seafood.
Here is a recipe that falls into that category. Not only does it only dirty one pan, but lends itself well to a good fridge purge. It is as comforting as it is convenient and can be easily adapted to be vegetarian, meat-lovers, or the seafood special, depending on what you add in.
Recipe: Malaysian Shrimp Fried Rice
Ever since a backpacking trip through South-East Asia in my late-teens, Nasi Goreng, or Fried Rice, has rotated on my dinner repertoire. I’ll toss anything that needs to be used up into the mix of spicy rice and my picky eaters gobble it up. I’ll credit the soy sauce for that, because we all know how my boys feel about my cooking. Enjoy!
- 3 green onions, washed, white parts chopped, green tops reserved
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1-2 fresh hot red chillies, seeded and chopped (optional, depending on who’s eating)
- 1 inch lemongrass bulb, chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons each fish sauce and sweet soy sauce
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon Siracha chilli sauce
- 3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice, cold
- 4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
- 2 cups diced napa cabbage
- 1/2 lb peeled raw shrimp (or prawns), cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon mirin (may substitute water)
- 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
In a mortar, combine the chopped whites of the green onion, garlic, chillies, lemongrass and ginger and grind together with a pestle, gradually adding 2 tablespoons water as you work to form a paste. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a mini food processor and process to a paste. Set the chilli paste aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, sweet soy sauce, lime juice, and chilli sauce. Set the sauce mixture aside. Beat eggs together with mirin in a bowl and reserve.
In a large wok or sauté pan over high heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the canola oil until almost smoking. Add the chilli paste and fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the cabbage and stir-fry until the cabbage begins to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and continue to stir-fry until they just turn opaque, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Return the pan to high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. When it is hot, add the eggs and scramble until just set, about 1 minute. Add the rice and peas and return the cabbage mixture to the pan. Stir-fry until the rice is heated through, 5-7 minutes.
Pour in the sauce mixture and continue to sauté until the rice is well seasoned, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the rice mixture to a warmed bowl and serve with chopped green onion tops.
- Cooked, shredded chicken
- Green onion
- Diced ham
- Cooked carrots, diced
- Sugar snap peas
- Bean sprouts
Let’s hear it! Does your family have a ‘go-to’ one-pot meal?