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     One Pot: How It Works
       excerpted from Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, & One-Pot Meals Copyright © 2003 by Tom Valenti and Andrew Friedman


    Picture this: It's late in the evening. You're sitting in the living room, enjoying the company of family and friends, and savoring the final moments of a dinner party that began hours ago. Everything has been just perfect and everyone is so comfortable and sated that, if it were socially acceptable, they would close their eyes and nod off right there. Instead, they push themselves up out of their chairs, say goodnight, and retire to their cars or bedrooms.

    You make your way around your home, turning off lights, closing windows. But then you reach the kitchen, and that warm, satisfied feeling deserts you as you're reminded of the monumental cleanup that awaits. Pots and pans have been turned every which way to fit into the sink; the last ones you used remain on the stovetop with remnants of meat and sauce encrusted -- for eternity, or so it seems -- onto their surfaces. Your heart sinks. Your elbow and wrist begin to ache at the mere contemplation of the task before you. Whether you tackle it tonight or leave it for the morning, one thing's for sure: It ain't gonna be fun.

    To be perfectly honest, as much as anything else, this book began with my dread of that moment. Chefs probably hate washing dishes and scrubbing pots and pans more than anyone because there are people who do it for us in our restaurants. We live in a world where the supply of clean pots and pans is limitless and dirty ones simply don't exist. When we're done cooking, we're done working.

    This is every bit as appealing as it sounds, and it gets even better: As you might know, we also have prep cooks who wash and pick the leaves from herbs, cut onions,make stocks, and so on. In other words, when I'm on the job, I can focus exclusively on the dish before me, drawing from prechopped and precooked ingredients.

    When I cook at home, I try to approximate my work environment, whittling the cooking universe down to the burner in front of me, but never forgetting that I don't have a support staff to chop and clean. As a result, I depend almost exclusively on one-pot dishes where everything cooks together -- often slowly, but sometimes quickly -- in a single vessel. For the most part, one-pots call for a minimum of prep work, usually just chopping some vegetables and measuring the necessary quantities of broth, wine, vinegar, spices, and herbs. And there's only one pot to wash when I'm done.

    One Pot (Pretty Much): How It Works

    In the pages that follow, I'm going to show you how to make recipes as diverse and far-reaching as Butternut Squash Soup with Minced Bacon (page 37), Chicken in Red Wine Sauce (page 156), and Texas-Style Chili (page 114) in one cooking vessel. In the disclaimer department, you should know that my definition of one-pot cooking is any recipe that allows the principal cooking to take place in one vessel on the stovetop, in the oven, or both. I don't count mixing bowls, or even a pot or cookie sheet that might be used for a simple step like boiling pasta, blanching greens, or roasting vegetables. In a few cases, I actually use a second pot to accelerate the process, like steaming a large quantity of mussels in two pots simultaneously for Mussels with Tomato and Saffron (page 54).

    The premise and promise of all one-pot cooking relies on the same basic logic: A steady building of flavors, one on top of the other, as opposed to what's known as "component cooking," where you must make a handful of different recipes to create the final dish.

    In one-pot cooking, everything happens in one place, in that little space you've whittled your cooking universe down to. In some cases, browned meats may need to be temporarily removed and set aside; in others, a few of the ingredients may not be added until the final minutes of cooking. But in every instance, the technique itself really couldn't be simpler, calling for little more than periodic pouring, stirring and, best of all, tasting.

    Much as I'd love to claim credit for it, one-pot cooking is obviously nothing new. Quite the opposite, in fact: Home cooks and chefs have been doing it for centuries. I'm endlessly amused by some of the ironies that abound around the history of this style of cooking. Think about how many classics we all still love today were born out of poverty generations ago. Dishes such as Beer and Beef Stew (page 116), Braised Oxtail with Cipolline Onions (page 180), and White Bean Casserole with Preserved Duck (page 108) are rich in flavor, and all descend from a similarly humble ancestry, based on recipes that were created as a way to break down and soften relatively tough (and therefore relatively cheap) cuts of meat.

    I have a lot in common with many of these dishes. I'm descended from a humble but proud ancestry myself. I grew up in an Italian-American household where most of the cooking was done by my grandmother, a member of an entire generation of immigrant home cooks responsible for bringing Old World cooking to American kitchens. My grandmother wasn't a showoff, but her food was so intensely flavored, so primal and immediate, that she constantly impressed us nonetheless.

    My grandmother didn't only cook one-pot dishes, but much of what she made was prepared that way, such as her tomato sauces (the flavor is a friendly ghost that haunts me to this day) and braised meats. She also taught me some great seafood recipes such as Tubetti with White Wine and Clams (page 92).

    When I look back on my personal life and cooking career, I realize that one-pot dishes have always been there. They were there during my childhood. And they were there when, as a young professional cook, I traveled overseas to work for the acclaimed French chef Guy Savoy in his Paris restaurant. While in France -- in bistros and in the homes of friends -- I learned to appreciate the classic foods of that country. Many of them were made in one pot, such as Beef Bourguignon (page 120); Baked Chicken with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions (page 150); and boeuf à la ficelle, which inspired my Beef on a String Soup and Sandwich (page 176). In time, experimenting in my own home kitchen, I even found ways to cook a one-pot variation of those that weren't.

    When I returned to New York, I worked at Gotham Bar and Grill as Alfred Portale's first sous chef. Alfred's food is very different from mine -- he is a former jewelry designer, and his brilliantly conceived (and highly influential) dishes are visually unparalleled, usually drawing on several creations that are prepared separately. But we both grew up on Italian-American home cooking and had spent time in France, and I recognized some of that personal history even in his groundbreaking creations.

    When I became the Executive Chef of Alison on Dominick Street, I began to let my love for my culinary roots show. And people responded like you wouldn't believe. I became famous for braised lamb shank. I'm still known for it. I've cooked at other New York City restaurants since then, including Cascabel, Butterfield 81, and the ones I now co-own, Ouest and 'Cesca. Over the years, I've forged a style of cooking that in many ways is based on my love of home cooking, featuring lots of soups, stews, braises, and roasts like the ones in this book. And customers respond more positively than ever, often telling me that they find my cooking comforting, largely because it's not the least bit intellectually challenging. Sometimes they say this sheepishly, as though they might be offending me, but I take it as the highest compliment.

    Even beyond the kitchen, I think of myself as a one-pot kind of guy. I believe that when you can keep things simple without sacrificing quality, you should. That's part of why I love to cook and eat things like the woodsy, rustic Mushroom, Barley, and Sage Soup (page 32); the beefaroni-meets-béchamel Lamb Pasticcio (page 124); and the timeless Baked Chicken with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions (page 150). I actually appreciate them more, and think they taste a little better, because they're so refreshingly easy to make.

    Speaking of keeping things simple, of taking a one-pot view of the world, here's my goal as we move forward together: I want this book to inspire you to run into the kitchen and find out for yourself how doable these and other bursting-with-flavor dishes are.

    In Praise of Slow Cooking

    Many of the recipes in this book are cooked slowly over a period of several hours. As far as I'm concerned, slow is one of the most evocative words in a food-lover's vocabulary; the mere mention of slow cooking starts my mouth watering. When we speak of slow cooking, we speak of home cooking. We speak of lovingly prepared dishes that require a minimum of effort yet produce sensuous textures; deep, abiding flavors; and soul-nourishing satisfaction. It brings to mind succulent roasted leg of lamb, home-style tomato sauces, a spicy chili, or a savory pot roast. It reminds us that our sense of smell accounts for ninety percent of our sense of taste -- you can really taste these dishes just by taking in their potent aromas.

    My favorite food memories are based on slow cooking, like when I think back on my grandmother standing over a pot, wooden spoon in hand, or when I remember walking into her house and being embraced by kitchen scents that seemed as loving and welcoming as a hug from the woman herself. No matter what your background or biography, I bet that slow cooking reminds you of home, or of what you think home should be.

    In today's fast-paced world, it's nice to be known for something so humble. At my restaurant Ouest the menu overflows with other slow-cooked offerings, including Mushroom-Braised Short Ribs (page 174) and Red-Wine-and-Tomato-Braised Duck (page 106). And that's nothing compared to my at-home repertoire, which includes such personal favorites as Chicken Braised with Mushrooms (page 154); Root Vegetable Stew with Cumin, Coriander, and Millet (page 78); and Braised Pork Belly in White Wine Sauce (page 192).

    Ironically, slow cooking is the perfect answer to the scheduling challenges facing today's fast-forwarding, double-clicking, express-lane-shopping home cooks. These are recipes that may take their sweet time getting where they're going, but they don't insist that you come along for the ride. Slow-cooked meals are their own, self-reliant workhorses. You get them started, and off they go -- or rather off you go, leaving them to their own exquisite transformations. While you're away, meat softens to fork-tenderness (a state of culinary nirvana where it flakes or breaks apart at the touch or tug of a fork), dense root vegetables develop the ability to melt in your mouth, and braising liquids amass mind-blowing layers of flavor. All you really need to do once you've got such a dish under way is check on it every now and then, maybe rotate something a turn every half hour or so, and then just dig in and enjoy -- or sometimes, even better, set aside to enjoy the next day when you can sit down to a satisfying, ready-made meal.

    Equal Time (Actually, Less Time): In Praise of Fast Cooking

    There are also a number of one-pot recipes in this book that cook quickly, most of them featuring fish or shellfish. But I hasten to add that dishes like Sautéed Calamari with White Wine, Garlic, and Clam Broth (page 100); Roasted Fish and Shellfish with Tomatoes and Parsley (page 98); and Baked Sea Bass, Papillote Style, with Lemon and Olives (page 146) don't offer less flavor than other recipes in this book. It simply means that fish and shellfish, as a rule, take relatively little time to cook. The overall character of these dishes may be somewhat lighter than that of their poultry and meat counterparts, but they still feature my trademark flourishes, like the unmistakable acidic lift of distilled white vinegar and the smoky undercurrent of bacon and other pork products. And everything is still mingling in one vessel, building in flavor and complexity by the minute.

    Make-Ahead Cooking That Gets Better Every Day

    I'm a big believer in make-ahead cooking and many of the recipes in this book can be prepared in advance. Moreover, most of them get better over a day or two in the refrigerator for the same reason that cooking in one pot produces delicious results to begin with: The give and take of flavors -- the way the ingredients enhance one another -- is only reinforced the longer the ingredients intermingle.

    To maximize this benefit, I've also provided suggestions for how to find inspiration with leftovers in a recurring feature called "Tomorrow's Table" that tells how to use them as a basis for a new dish. For example, turning Florentine Pot Roast with Red Wine, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes (page 178) into a pasta sauce by shredding the meat and heating it in the braising liquid, or making Lentil and Garlic Sausage Stew (page 110) into a soup with the addition of extra stock and fresh herbs. These uses expand on the economy and efficiency of the recipes.

    Throw It Right In

    One of the pleasant surprises I discovered while testing recipes for this book is that a great many ingredients that most recipes instruct you to precook on their own can be added in their dried form and successfully reconstituted right in the pot where you're making the main dish. Barley, millet, dried porcini mushrooms, and a bunch of other ingredients all cook perfectly well in this way.

    Not only does this save time, but it also makes more of an impact on the dish. Mushrooms, for instance, have more time to infuse the liquid with their flavor. Note these skip-a-step tips in the recipes for your own spontaneous cooking. They'll make both cooking and cleaning faster.

    Save Another Step: Cook It and Serve It, in the Same Pot

    Many of the dishes in this book can be served right from their cooking vessel, plunked down in the center of the table. Be careful to protect your table. I suggest doing this in a way that emphasizes the recipes' rustic roots. Place a wooden cutting board on the table (the older and more dramatic-looking, the better), lay a cloth napkin on it, and place the hot pot on top for a little display -- a timeless touch that makes the meal all the more appealing.

    Copyright © 2003 by Tom Valenti and Andrew Friedman


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    CROCK-POT SLOW COOKER GRAVY MATE Say Good-Bye to cold gravy with the Crock-Pot(R) Gravy Mate !
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    One-Pot
    One-Pot Cooking in one pot, which could be a wok, a frying pan, or a casserole dish, is simple and undoubtedly delicious. This book features a wide variety of soups and starters such as Mediterranean Leek and Fish Soup with Tomatoes, main meals such as Seville Chicken and Fragrant Lamb Curry with Cardamon Spice Rice, and classic vegetarian meals such as Ratatouille. To complete your meal, there are such irresistible desserts as Lemon Surprise Pudding. With a useful, informative introduction and over 100 simple-to-prepare recipes, this inspirational yet immensely practical book shows just how easy one-pot cooking can be.

    One-Pot Wonders
    One-Pot Wonders Woman's Day One-Pot Wonders presents fuss-free dinner solutions for today's busy woman. With a million and one things to do and dinner too, this book offers a wealth of easy and practical recipes that can be cooked or baked in only one pot! Just throw in the ingredients, turn up the heat and walk away...you can attend to your life while a delicious casserole of skillet dinner prepares itself. And with scarcely any dishes to do at the end of the meal, what more of an incentive could one need? One-Pot Wonders is the perfect, simple-dinner-solutions resource.

    One Dish Dinners
    One Dish Dinners Full flavored recipes that offer the ease of one-pot cooking. Uses one-dish techniques such as roasting, baking, simmering and stir-frying. Includes tip boxes, make-ahead and freezing directions. More than 170 recipes. More than 50 cooking tips.

    Sensational One-Dish Meals : Simpler the Better
    Sensational One-Dish Meals : Simpler the Better Busy schedules and family demands can make it challenging to create quick, easy-and, at the same time, delicious-meals at home. This one-pot meal cookbook, which features over 125 short, scrumptious recipes, is all about convenience, taste, and presentation with minimum effort and maximum flavor. Leslie Revsin includes elegant yet unfussy dishes-Spaghetti with Pesto and Grape Tomatoes; Spanish Chicken and Garbanzo Stew; Chicken, Basil, and Peanut Stir-Fry; Roast Jerk Pork with Yams and Watercress; Sliced Steak, Baby Spinach, and Roquefort Salad; and Quick Ham Cassoulet, to name a few-that can be made from readily available supermarket ingredients and are simple in terms of the number of ingredients (no more than ten), number of steps (no more than three), and preparation time. And like every other book in The Simpler The Better series, One-Pot Meals includes quick tips, variations, and clever ideas for serving and dressing up dishes.

    Quick from Scratch One-Dish Meals Cookbook
    Quick from Scratch One-Dish Meals Cookbook It's a well-balanced, tasty dinner in a dish--the ultimate solution to how to produce a great meal in a short time. And they're all stylish and adventurous, a far cry from yesterday's dull stews. Fewer pots and pans, fewer dishes--but a delicious meal your friends and family will love. What could be better than a browned and bubbling Fusilli with Three Cheeses (fontina, mozzarella, and Parmesan) and Bell Pepper? Or swordfish sitting atop a fluffy mound of couscous, with a vinaigrette of chunky fresh plum tomatoes? A piquant South American chimichurri sauce is the perfect accompaniment to a grilled steak; black beans go alongside. And lots more, with cooking tips for such things as foolproof rice and adjusting the thickness of sauces.

    Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, & One-Pot Meals Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, & One-Pot Meals
    Tom Valenti is Manhattan's grandmaster of comfort food, a much-touted chef who has made this beloved cooking his hallmark. And on any given night, you'll find him at his wildly successful Upper West Side restaurant Ouest, cooking hearty soups and chowders, casseroles, chili, stews, and slowly braised, cut-with-a-spoon tender meats, for the likes of Bill Clinton, Steven Spielberg, Charlie Rose, and Barbara Walters. In Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, & One-Pot Meals, Valenti and coauthor Andrew Friedman dish up the flavor that we've come to expect from a celebrated New York chef, without any of the fuss. Here are realistic recipes for the home cook--most made in a single vessel--all based on the fact that the right ingredients, left alone cooking in one pot with virtually no intervention from the cook, will steadily build glorious flavor. This is make-ahead food that gets better a day or two later, this is dinner party food, holiday food, food that's made on the weekend and savored throughout a busy week. Beautifully designed with 16 pages of color photography, the book includes more than 125 recipes for delicious, deeply satisfying meals including Tomato, Bread, and Parmesan Soup; Creamy Smoked Cod Chowder; Lentil and Garlic Sausage Stew; Lobser Shepherd's Pie; Texas-Style Chili; and meltingly tender meats, such as Florentine Pot Roast with Red Wine, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes and Slow-Cooked Chicken in a Pot.


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