Go to One Pot Dinner

I’ve always loved one pot dinner recipes that don’t require a lot of work and taste great.  Well, who doesn’t?  Pre-baby days, I liked recipes that were quick to make since I often got home from work late and didn’t want to eat dinner at 9pm.  Those days, we had a lot of fried rice, pasta or bbq.  Now with baby, things have changed a bit.  You may think that being on maternity leave, I have a lot of time to cook lavious meals.  Au contraire mon ami.  You see, as my babe has gotten older, it’s become more difficult to leave her alone while she’s awake.  She’s currently 10 months old and I don’t know if it’s the separation anxiety or if she’s just a momma’s girl, but she can’t seem to be without me for more than a few minutes.  Even if I put her in a playpen next to me in the kitchen, she will only last 5 to 10 minutes before wanting me to pick her up.

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(Yes, she is playing with a water bottle and a drink tray.  Please, no judgements.)

Prior to being mobile, she was content to just sit in her chair and watch me do dishes or prep dinner.  Now, she just wants to be in constant contact with me.  These days, making dinner is an all day process.  

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Most of the time, I prep the ingredients (wash and chop veggies, marinate meat, etc) during her morning nap then either cook the meal during her second nap and we have a cold or lukewarm dinner when my husband gets home from work or I wait until he gets home to look after her before I begin cooking.
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This is why I like recipes that don’t require a lot of work.  I especially like ones where you put everything together in a pot or oven and walk away.  This recipe I’m sharing today is for how to cook pork shoulder for pulled pork but we just eat it as is straight out of the oven.  It’s my husband’s new favourite dish.  He loves being welcomed home by the smell of it cooking in the oven as he walks down the driveway.  

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One pot dinner

This dish has everything you need: meat, veggies and carbs.  The meat is so tender and carrots and potato so soft  (they ought to be, it’s been in the oven for 2 hours) that even baby can eat it.  Bonus!  We usually have it with rice and a side of blanched veggies (no need to season since the meat is already so flavorful).  And if I’m really ambitious I’ll make some cheddar biscuits to dip in the sauce, but usually I’m not. 😉  Remind me to share that recipe later.

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What do you think?  Does this look good enough to give it a try?  Let me know what you think.

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What’s your go to recipe?   How do you keep your child occupied while you cook or do other things?  

One Pot Dinner (Adapted from the kitchn)

Ingredients

4 to 6 pounds boneless or bone-in pork shoulder or butt

1-3 tablespoons mixed spices (see rub recipe below)

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1 yellow onion, sliced

few carrots, roughly chopped

few celery stalks, roughly chopped

few nugget potatoes, chopped in half or quarters

4 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)

1 1/2 cups liquid — chicken or vegetable broth

Rub from Food Network (makes more than you need, just store leftovers in a sealed bag or container)

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 bay leaf, crushed

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 325°F.  Place an oven rack in the lower-middle of the oven.
  2. Trim the pork: Trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside, but leave small pieces and the interior fat. If using boneless pork, cut the pork into several large fist-sized pieces. If using bone-in, leave the pork as is, on the bone.
  3. Season the pork: Sprinkle the pork with the spice mixture.  Rub the seasoning into the pork with your fingers so the meat is evenly coated on all sides.
  4. Sear the pork: Warm the oil in the Dutch oven (or frying pan) over medium-high heat. Sear the pork on all sides, working in batches as necessary so as not to crowd the pan. For more detailed step-by-step instructions, see How To Sear Meat.  Transfer pork to oven safe dish or pan after searing if not using a Dutch oven.
  5. Add the vegetables: Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, potato. Nestle them around the pork.
  6. Add the liquid: Pour the liquid over the top of the pork. The pork should be only partially submerged, with some of the pork remaining above the surface of the liquid.
  7. Bring to a simmer: Set the Dutch oven with the pork over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer.  If not using a Dutch oven, warm the liquid in the hot pan after searing the pork.
  8. Cover and transfer to the oven: Once simmering, cover the Dutch oven and transfer the whole pot to the oven.  If not using dutch oven, cover oven-safe dish or pan with aluminum foil.
  9. Cook for 2 hours or until fork tender: Let the pork cook undisturbed for 2 hours, then begin checking it every half hour. Total cooking time will be 2 to 4 hours, depending on the amount of pork and whether it’s bone-in (which takes longer to cook). The pork is done when it is fork-tender (when the meat can be easily pierced with a fork without resistance and easily falls apart with a little pressure). If you’re cooking pork on the bone, the meat should be falling off the bone. If in doubt, cook the meat another half hour; it’s almost impossible to overcook meat with this method.  Two hours is usually enough time to cook to tender.

A Single Dish Celebration Dinner: Pun Choy 盆菜

Pun Choy (or Poon Choi)

Pun Choy (or Poon Choi)

This was my first attempt at making Pun Choy (or poon choi), translated literally as ‘basin vegetables’, and now it might become a family tradition.

Poon Choy was something on my cooking bucket list that I was leaving for when I had the luxury of more time, maybe even weeks, to plan, research recipes and shop. Instead, this was thrown together a la reality tv show challenge style.

Premise: you got limited ingredients and only 3 hours to plan and put together a celebration dinner. What will you present before the hard to impress judges aka picky toddlers? Cue dramatic music.

Pun Choy (Poon Choi)

Sure, sure, the key layers were purchased ready-to-eat, but this Pun Choy turned out surprisingly easy to make and tasty for an unplanned last-minute feast!

Layers:
1. Garlicky Romain Lettuce Stir Fry
2. Fried Gluten Balls (that’s right, you read it correctly, GLUTEN, not gluten-free balls!)
3. Oyster Sauce Shiitake Mushroom
4. Pork meatballs
5. Fuzhou style fish balls
6. Soy sauce chicken*
7. BBQ pork (char-siu)*
8. Roast duck*
9. Broccoli
10. Ketchup Shrimp
* purchased from a Chinese BBQ restaurant

Soy Sauce Chicken

Soy Sauce Chicken

Roast Duck

Roast Duck

BBQ Pork "Char-siu"

BBQ Pork “Char-siu”

There are probably as many ways to make one as there are families, with simple easy to make and inexpensive layers like mine, to exotic and complicated layers I incorrectly thought it would require.

The potential ease to make, combined with the large variety of foods to accommodate many, makes this a wonderful potluck dish.

Holiday celebrations in this household are usually ad hoc affairs because of the Mister’s stance on non-commitment with going to my in-laws. It is just like pulling love me daisy leaves, except it’s ‘we might be going / we aren’t going’ instead. This year we landed on we’re going, but at 4 PM, the Mister texted from work that we aren’t leaving anymore until the following day. I texted my sister the news and she asked us to join them for dinner at 8 PM. What could I bring?

At 5 PM, my daughter woke from her nap so we went to the kitchen and I took stock of the nearly empty fridge; except for eggs and a bag of Romaine lettuce heads, I had successfully cleared it out in preparation of being out-of-town for 4 days.

I peeked in the freezer- frozen waffles, broccoli, fish sticks, fish and meat balls and eggplant parmesan. The pantry held dried beans, dehydrated Shiitake mushrooms, fried gluten balls and chicken stock. I can scrap together a quick dinner but what is Lunar New Year if dinner is not a feast?

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I started ruminating on the feasts my mom would put together for us each year. It was disappointing that I wasn’t doing the same for my daughter so I thought I should at least attempt just one of the more festive dishes. Just one dish, just one dish, just one dish…

And poof, just like that, the one dish train of thought lead to an ambitious attempt at making Pun Choy for dinner in 3 hours.

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I started on the shiitake mushrooms first because of the amount of time required to get them really soft the way I like them. Normally I soak them for hours or even over night so with just hours until dinner, I washed them and soaked for just an hour and stuck them in the pressure cooker for another hour with some water and cane sugar. Then I drained and cooked them with some garlic and savory Oyster Sauce.

While the mushrooms were in the pressure cooker I made a pot of soup to cook the meat and fish balls. Then I used the same soup to cook the gluten balls next. Finally, I used the same soup to steam and season the frozen broccoli.

Broccoli & Fried Gluten Balls

Broccoli & Fried Gluten Balls

While the meatballs were cooking, I stir fried the Romaine lettuce with some garlic.

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The time was now 7 PM and I was pretty much done but I was disappointed- the dish was hardly festive. If only I had some seafood or meats to give the dish more substance. Just then the Mister texted to say he was on his way home. So I asked him to pick up some BBQ pork (“Char-siu”), soy sauce chicken and roast duck and a pound of shrimp.

I gave my daughter a bath and got ready for dinner while I waited for the key ingredients. The Mister arrived at 7:30 PM, we should be leaving for my sisters but I still have to cook the shrimp so the next half hour was a whirlwind. This is where some people start cracking on reality shows, and the cameras pan frequently on the clock.

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We made it to my sister’s on time and had a wonderful night after all.

The judges? I have no idea if they were impressed or not but they ate and in my book, that’s a win 🙂image

Happy Lunar New Year everyone!!