Skillet Dinners: An almost recipe

Here’s a revelation I’ve recently come to: scrambled eggs can’t be for breakfast and dinner every night. Even Mr. Quotidian needs some variety. Regrettably, there was a period of time where variety equaled take out. While part of it was lack of energy and all the typical reasons for ordering take out, another large part of it was curiosity. Where are the hole in the wall restaurants that all the locals go to? What does Banh Mi taste like? Is that sandwich place as sustainable as it advertises? What’s the closest place that will satisfy my noodle craving? Greek? Thai? Pizza? All four?

I’ve officially had my curiosity sated. While the thrill of discovery still woos me sometimes (Chicago is a big city after all), I’ve had to admit that I simply don’t really like take out. It’s not that anything we’ve ordered has ever been bad. It’s just I know I could make it better. I’ve been cooking for myself for so long, that I’ve grown accustomed to personalizing dinner to my taste. More herbs. Less cayenne. Broth instead of water. An extra egg. A splash of vinegar. Extra care taken in making sure the top is perfectly brown and crunchy. Short of employing a personal chef, there’s just no way to order that kind of personalization.

The one thing I’ve had trouble wrapping my tongs around though is simplicity in cooking. The older Baby-tidian gets, the simpler my cooking has needed to become. And that’s where take out has one over on me. It is simple. There’s no pantry inventory. No rushing to the store. No balancing heavy bags and a fidgety baby while fumbling keys into a lock. No realizing the spatula is dirty. No sink full of dishes. There’s just a menu, a phone call, and sinful amounts of plastic. (Seriously, how many bags does a sandwich need to be in before it’s adequately protected from the noxious world?)

As I’ve been focusing more on training my cooking with Team Simplicity, the skillet dinner has emerged as a kind and forgiving teammate. There’s no actual recipe involved, so it’s impossible to be “out” of something. The skillet serves as both cooking device and serving vessel. (It can even be the plate if you don’t have anyone to impress. Spoons are recommended. The finger pick and vacuum approach really only works at the stove. Minimalism can only go so far.)

Everything in this recipe is optional, though I usually include some kind of protein, vegetables, aromatics, and perhaps a starch. These ingredients can be pre-cooked leftovers or raw.

Protein ideas: ground beef, bacon, beans, cut up leftover steak, tofu (if you’re into that sort of thing),
Vegetable ideas: whatever is abundant and cheap at the farmer’s market, the triumvirate of carrots, onions, and celery, leftover roasted potatoes
Starch ideas: leftovers! (Seriously, I don’t really add a starch unless I have leftovers of some kind. It’s just not worth the effort to cook new. Add more veggies if you need to bulk it up) rice, pasta, couscous

Lacking a concrete set of instructions, here’s what I did last night:

  • Gather ingredients; mine were four medium zuchhinni, an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a pound of ground beef, about a cupful of tart cherries, and mixed herbs from my window boxes.
  • Heat your largest skillet. Add crumbled beef and chopped onion. If the onion sticks, add a pat of butter. Season with salt and cook till meat is mostly brown and onions are about half cooked.
  • Add the chopped zuchhinni and stir. Cook covered until tender. Deglaze with a little wine or vinegar if necessary. Season to taste.
  • Turn off the heat and add the pitted cherries and minced herbs. Stir together.
  • Serve.


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Posted in Uncategorized 10 years, 4 months ago at 4:50 pm.

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