One-Pot Meals For Sweater Weather

Put away your tank-tops, your cut-offs, your whimsical floral dresses. Say farewell, too, to ice-cream cones and watermelon, beachside fish tacos and all things tomato. Forget going out, it’s time to stay in. The end of summer isn’t all bad, though, because cloistered nights at home mean tasty experiments in the kitchen. And, when it comes to cooking, there’s nothing more delicious or effortless than a one-pot meal.

One-pot meals are an ode to lazy comfort. History of their development is straightforward, and altogether related to their simplicity. Variations of the method arose independently in multiple global locales for similar reasons: convenience, versatility, and general foolproof deliciousness.  Think about it–you take a bunch of yummy stuff, put it in a pot, and wait. How could you go wrong?

It’s no wonder countless food cultures enjoy their own one-pot iteration. Chinese hot pot, Korean kimchi jjigae, French cassoulet, good ol’ hearty American chili, Spanish paella, Thai curry, Indian dal, and Moroccan tagine are all scrumptious renditions that are relatively easy to replicate. Naturally, ingredients vary between each recipe, but the general idea remains the same: meat, vegetables, seasoning, and sometimes carbohydrates like rice or potatoes.

Amazingly, there are just about as many cooking receptacles for one-pot meals as dishes themselves. There’s the Dutch oven, crock-pot, paella pan, sauteuse, pressure cooker, wok, beanpot, tetsunabe and tagine. My personal favorite is the Dutch oven, and I pretty much avoid pressure cookers at all costs; they cut your cooking time in half, but they’re utterly terrifying. Don’t worry if you don’t have the specified vessel on hand for each dish, just about any old pot with a top will do. When deciding what to cook, first take a gander at the meat at your local supermarket or butcher, grab what looks fresh and appealing, and take it from there. Or, better yet, see what you have lying around already!

At the moment, I happen to have a whole rabbit in my freezer. It came courtesy of my cousin, who knows my affinity for experimenting with unusual meats and requested one especially for me from a friend who was raising and harvesting the cute, tasty, little guys. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the turn of the seasons so that I could whip up my version of Hasenpfeffer, a German hunter’s stew I plan to serve to a few lucky friends this week, paired with plenty of beer, in honor of a slightly belated Oktoberfest.

The long cook times in one-pot meals are ideal for gamey or lean proteins like rabbit, brisket, lamb or pork shoulder, which can sometimes be tough or chewy when prepared too quickly.  Sealing in the moisture and cooking over a couple hours allows the muscles and collagen (connective tissue) ample time to break down, giving the meat that tender fall-off-the-bone quality that’s oh-so-succulent. Make sure to brown the proteins in the same pot you’ll be cooking with in order to render the excess fat and lock in the flavor.

Okay, so maybe “stew” isn’t the sexiest food concept, but a one-pot meal will impress nonetheless. They’re also a great way to transform leftovers, require far less clean up than a multi-pronged cooking approach, and tend to be even better the next day, after sitting in the fridge overnight and providing the flavors time to marry. So, break out the sweatpants, and sip on some red wine while your pot does all the work. It’s sweater weather.

Featured photo courtesy of Jules.