Simplicity Served In 'One-Dish' Dinnertime Wonders

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Festive Roast Chicken and Stuffing i

Pam Anderson roasts the chicken on top of the bread stuffing in her "Festive Roast Chicken and Stuffing" recipe. Judd Pilossof hide caption

itoggle caption Judd Pilossof
Festive Roast Chicken and Stuffing

Pam Anderson roasts the chicken on top of the bread stuffing in her "Festive Roast Chicken and Stuffing" recipe.

Judd Pilossof

Cookbooks usually come in two varieties. First, there are those gorgeous, glossy food porn albums that you'd never dream of actually using (you wouldn't want to splatter sauce on them). Their recipes are usually so complicated that you probably couldn't use the book even if you tried.

Then there are the so-called "easy" cookbooks that you wouldn't mind spilling on at all — but that also rely a bit much on those slightly icky shortcuts, like canned vegetables and cream of mushroom soup.

Somewhere between those extremes sits best-selling food writer Pam Anderson's Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers.

Anderson tells NPR's Rebecca Roberts that the cookbook's "one-dish" concept grew out of an offhand comment made by one of Anderson's cooking students a few years ago.

"A woman raised her hand and said to me 'Pam, I can make one dish just fine, but when you start throwing in side dishes and vegetables and sauces and fancy desserts, I just get overwhelmed and shut down,'" Anderson recounts. "I paid attention to that woman and actually I started incorporating this way of cooking into my own lifestyle and realized, 'This is it. Just make one big, splashy, beautiful, gorgeous, delicious, memorable dish and you don't need to spend a lot of time on the other things.'"

Perfect One-Dish Dinners
Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers
By Pam Anderson
Hardcover, 280 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
List price: $32

Try The Recipes

Organized thematically, Anderson's book groups recipes as cohesive meals so that each one-dish dinner is listed with an appetizer, dessert, and sometimes, a side dish that complements it. Anderson says that's because she wanted to facilitate great cooking for the busiest of families.

"I understand that life happens. The dog gets sick, you have to pick the kids up unexpectedly at school, and that dessert you wanted to make just isn't going to happen," she says.

Enter the "instant alternative," Anderson's answer to the quandary of what to do with all those ingredients for the dish that just won't happen. The "instant alternative" is a shortcut version of her recipes that uses the same ingredients and leads to a dish that's similar to the original.

"I've got these beautiful little cakes in the book that start with a shortcake actually — you fill it with some raspberry jam and top it with some toasted almonds and make a cream cheese lemon curd frosting for the little cakes. Very simple," she says, "but the instant alternative is to take that jar of lemon curd and simply streak it into some premium vanilla ice cream and top it with the same raspberries that you would have used to garnish the cakes."

Even Anderson's more complicated recipes incorporate the kinds of shortcuts that will easily change the way you cook. Take her recipe for a lemony seafood pasta salad that calls for cooking the seafood in the water along with the pasta.

"You can use that technique for any kind of pasta that you're making," she says. "If you want to make a vegetable pasta, you don't have to cook the vegetables separately … always just throw the vegetables in with the pasta. It's great."

Pam Anderson i

Pam Anderson is a monthly food columnist for USA Weekend and the former executive editor of Cook's Illustrated. Judd Pilossof hide caption

itoggle caption Judd Pilossof
Pam Anderson

Pam Anderson is a monthly food columnist for USA Weekend and the former executive editor of Cook's Illustrated.

Judd Pilossof

In another recipe, Anderson calls for her parmesan muffins with prosciutto and basil to be scooped into a muffin tin instead of rolled out and cut. She recommends using a heavy duty roasting pan when browning meats for stews — because it doubles the cooking surface and saves time — and she suggests cooking your starch underneath your meat in dishes like her chorizo-stuffed pork loin with black beans and rice.

"You're getting your roast and your side dish in the same pan because that's the whole point," she says.  "The drippings from your roast go down into the side dish and flavor it as well, so it makes it especially delicious."

Anderson says, these days, people are looking for more simplicity in their lives — and she's happy to give it to them.

"I am a real cook," she says. "I'm not somebody out there kind of creating dishes in a lab somewhere. I really live the having-people-over life."

Lemony Seafood Pasta Salad With Tomatoes, Feta, And Oregano

Lemony Seafood Pasta Salad With Tomatoes, Feta, And Oregano i
Judd Pilossof
Lemony Seafood Pasta Salad With Tomatoes, Feta, And Oregano
Judd Pilossof

Serves 8

For color contrast, roasted yellow peppers are preferable. If they’re not available, use roasted reds. The salad can be prepared a day ahead, but for peak freshness, toss it with the dressing close to serving. Leftovers are great for a day or two — just pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to take off the chill.

1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound bite-size pasta, such as penne
1 pound bay scallops
1 pound (31–35 count) uncooked shrimp, preferably wild, peeled, deveined, and cut into small pieces
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved and lightly salted
1/2 cup finely chopped jarred roasted yellow peppers (see headnote)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano

Whisk garlic, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper in a Pyrex measuring cup. Slowly whisk in olive oil to make a thick dressing; set aside.

Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta and, using package times as a guide, cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add seafood to pasta and continue to cook until seafood is just opaque, a minute or so longer. Drain and pour onto a baking sheet to cool and dry. Just before serving, mix pasta and seafood, tomatoes, roasted pepper, cheese, and oregano in a large bowl. Add dressing, toss to coat, and serve.

Drink: A clean, crisp white such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano or Sancerre

Excerpted from Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers by Pam Anderson.  Copyright 2010 by Pam Anderson.  Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Roast Chorizo-Stuffed Adobo Pork Loin With Black Beans And Rice

Roast Chorizo-Stuffed Adobo Pork Loin with Black Beans and Rice i
Judd Pilossof
Roast Chorizo-Stuffed Adobo Pork Loin with Black Beans and Rice
Judd Pilossof

Serves 16 (or 8, with another meal of leftovers)

If you don't want to cook such a large roast, buy a 3 1/2- to 4- pound pork loin, halve the remaining ingredients, and roast it over a smaller pan to serve 8. Since a smaller roast is shorter — not thinner — the cooking time should not differ dramatically. Stuffed and seasoned, the roast can be refrigerated (no need to cover it) a day ahead.

16 large garlic cloves, peeled
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound fully cooked chorizo sausage, cut into large chunks
1 cup whole fresh cilantro leaves, plus 1 cup chopped
1/4 cup chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (from a 7-ounce can)
3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons ground cumin, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons ground paprika
2 tablespoons packed light or dark brown sugar
1 whole boneless pork loin (6–8 pounds; see headnote)
4 cans (15 to 16 ounces each) black beans, drained
1 quart chicken broth
2 cups long-grain rice
1 can (14.5 ounces) petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

Heat garlic cloves and 3 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Once garlic starts to sizzle, reduce heat to low and continue to cook, turning cloves once or twice, until soft and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, place chorizo, 1 cup whole cilantro leaves, chipotles, bread crumbs, and 1 tablespoon cumin in a food processor bowl. Add garlic and its oil and process until ingredients are finely ground; set aside.

Mix remaining 2 tablespoons cumin with 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, paprika, and brown sugar in a small bowl.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Lay pork loin on a sheet of plastic wrap, fat side down. Slit pork loin lengthwise down center almost — but not quite — all the way through to form a long pocket. Brush cavity with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons salt and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.

Line cavity with sausage mixture. Tie roast crosswise with butcher's twine at 1 1/2-inch intervals, alternating between one end and the other so stuffing remains even.

Brush roast with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle all over with cumin-paprika mixture.

Place roast on a wire rack set over a large heavy roasting pan and roast until a meat thermometer stuck into center registers 125 to 130 degrees, about 1 1/2 hours. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Remove rack with pork from pan and add beans, broth, rice, and tomatoes.

Stir and return rack with roast to pan and return pan to oven. Continue to roast until a meat thermometer stuck into center of pork registers 155 to 160 degrees, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stir scallions and remaining 1 cup chopped cilantro into beans and rice; cover and keep warm. Just before serving, cut roast into 1/2-inch-thick slices, place on individual dinner plates and spoon some rice and beans alongside.

Drink: A full-bodied Zinfandel

Excerpted from Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers by Pam Anderson.  Copyright 2010 by Pam Anderson.  Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Mini Parmesan Muffins With Prosciutto And Basil

Makes 4 dozen mini muffins

Meat and cheese are baked right into savory mini muffins. If you prefer, serve the muffins in a breadbasket alongside the salmon. To make regular-size muffins, use a 12-cup (1/4-cup capacity) muffin tin. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and increase the baking time to 25 minutes. Warm leftovers in a 300- to 325-degree toaster oven.

3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup minced prosciutto (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, Parmesan, prosciutto, and basil in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Whisk mustard and eggs together, then beat into butter until it forms pea-size lumps.

Alternating between dry ingredients and yogurt, beat in one third at a time, just until batter is smooth. Spray four 12-cup mini muffin tins with vegetable-oil cooking spray. Divide batter evenly among the cups. (A spring-action mini ice cream scoop works well. Muffin cups will be full.) Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool pans on a wire rack, remove muffins, and continue to cool or serve.

Excerpted from Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers by Pam Anderson.  Copyright 2010 by Pam Anderson.  Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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All You Need for Easy Get-togethers

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