GOPM: Explanation and template
I put most of this in a comment, but it seems worth a post: a template for “Glorious One-Pot Meals.” Elizabeth Yarnell originated the cooking technique in her book of the same name: Cooking two meals at once in a 2-qt enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, the food layered in the pot which then is covered and put into a 450ºF oven for 45 minutes. Generally, you can assemble the pot of food in about the time it takes the oven to get to 450ºF. UPDATE: After some experience with it, I realized that the 2-qt pot cooks two meals for active adults; for a sedentary adult, it holds four meals, not two. /update
Very important: This is not a “slow-cooker” method. Some see “one-pot” and stop thinking: even though they read the description, “one-pot” overrides everything and they think these are slow-cooker recipes. They are not: they are “fast-cooker”: 450ºF for just 45 minutes. Some foods that work well in slow cookers—shanks, oxtails, short-ribs—would not work at all in GOPM meals because those foods require long cooking at low heat, and this method is the opposite: short cooking at high heat.
The layering is part of the reason it works, and the layers make it easy to assemble the meal in your mind (the first creation, as Stephen Covey calls it) before assembling it in the pot (the second creation): that is, the technique makes it easy to improvise with some assurance that you know what you’re doing. (The layering technique is what Yarnell patented.) While I’ve had a failure—at most, two—the meals virtually always turn out to be tasty, nourishing, and balanced.
Two caveats about the recipes in her book: they tend toward blandness (a little sprinkling of crushed red pepper helps), and for some reason she cooks 4 servings (not 2) of rice. A serving of rice, measured before cooking, is 1/4 c, so two servings is 1/2 c. I generally use 1/3 c because I like to limit my intake of starch, but Yarnell’s recipes call for 1 cup (4 servings). UPDATE: I have switched to a low-carb diet, so for the starch layer, I use 1/4 c—just enough to absorb extra liquid—and I also get four meals from one pot. /update
When I think of a recipe, I first consider what I’ll use for the three main parts: the starch, the protein, and the vegetables. Then I may think about the pour-over: the 1/4-1/3 c of liquid poured over the assembled vegetables just before covering the pot.
The pot itself can be any cast-iron dutch oven that holds about two quarts. These tend to come in two versions: tall and narrow, or short and squat. Both work. Texsport makes one that is seasoned cast iron but not enameled; it’s of the tall, narrow sort and holds 2.5 quarts. Le Creuset makes an expensive 2-qt round pot that works if you replace the plastic knob with a metal knob: the plastic knob won’t stand up to the 450ºF temperature. (A cabinet doorknob works.) I used the Texsport and the Cajun Cookware 2-qt enameled cast-iron dutch oven (of the short, squat variety), but I finally got a Staub 2.25-qt round cocotte: enameled exterior, some type of tough non-stick interior. The Staub comes with a metal knob to begin with—and a knob with a long shank, easy to grip while wearing oven mitts. This is the one I like. You can find it in various colors. The Staub is, IMO, better than Le Creuset. [UPDATE: The Staub 2.25-qt pot is hard to find now—they seem to have gone to 2.75 qt as the smallest size, and that’s rather large for two meals. But the Staub 2.25-qt pot is still available if you search. – LG]
Now: contents and assembly. I first spray the interior of pot and lid with olive oil, and then use a dry paper towel to wipe off excess oil, leaving only a thin film of oil. Then I layer the food. Below, and when I write recipes, I list the layers in the order in which they go into the pot—i.e., bottom layer first, and ending with the top layer.
a. Starch: This is usually the first layer, or you can put it atop the aromatics. Starches that work well: white rice (converted rice has a lower glycemic index and higher arsenic content than, say, Lundberg rice grown in California), pearled barley, hulled barley, cut pasta, egg noodles, lentils, quinoa, diced yams or potatoes. I use 1/3-1/2 cup, or for noodles and pasta, 3-4 oz. Aim for 1.5-2 servings (even though now I get 4 meals from the pot, which makes it more low carg).
b. 2 Tbsp vinegar of some kind—I often use sherry vinegar, but rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar are also options. Vinegar brightens the taste.
c. Aromatics – use some or all of the following, layer by layer
c1. Chopped allium (onion, shallots, leek, cippolinis, scallions, spring onions, whatever)
c2. Minced garlic (also an allium, but I always add some)
c3. Chopped celery (you can chop an entire bunch of celery, drying the stalks well before chopping, and it will keep in the fridge: the drying is important; if it’s wet, it rots)
c4. Diced carrot
c5. Diced green bell pepper
c6. Finely chopped mushrooms
d. Protein: 8 oz. cut into chunks for easy serving: boneless skinless chicken breast, thigh or leg; boneless skinless turkey; boneless pork chop; lamb; Dover sole (I just lay the fillets down without cutting into chunks) or salmon, cod, swordfish, halibut (any of which I do cut into chunks); tofu or tempeh (diced or cut into small slabs). It’s better to avoid very fatty things, like duck breast: the fat doesn’t cook off and will make a greasy meal. Still, I sometimes use linguiça or chorizo or lamb sausage, but generally a small amount (thin slices) as an accent with some other protein.
e. Seasonings: Crushed red pepper, thyme, Penzeys Mural of Flavor, Emeril’s Essence, whatever. Generally I cannot taste the seasoning, though I certainly can detect the presence of (say) crushed red pepper. You can also use condiments in this layer (or as another layer): chopped olives, capers, anchovies, sesame seeds, and so on: whatever might spark up the taste. Pickle slices? Why not? (I’ve not tried them, but now will.)
f. Veggies the rest of the way—choose what you like and give each vegetable its own layer. Frozen vegetables work fine without requiring thawing before putting in the pot. Again, to make serving easy, I chop or dice or slice the vegetables. Diced zucchini or summer squash or bitter melon; chopped or diced tomatoes; pitted olives, halved or chopped; eggplant, sliced (Japanese) or diced (Italian); chopped okra; sliced or diced mushrooms (if not used in the aromatics layer); chopped bell pepper of whatever color (ditto); corn kernels (fresh or frozen); dried cranberries; raisins or chopped prunes or dried currants; peanuts, walnuts, or pecans. As a top layer, green beans (fresh or frozen, cut into 1″ sections) or chopped greens (spinach or dandelion greens or cabbage or sliced Brussels sprouts) or chopped cauliflower. Experiment: look around the produce aisles and see what you like. Diced or thinly sliced whole organic lemons are good with fish or with greens. I’m eager to try halved kumquats.
Fill pot to the top. Greens will wilt as they cook, thus taking up less volume. The heavy lid of the Staub is an advantage.
The pour-over: Keep in mind the likely volume of liquid you’ll get from the vegetables and how much liquid the starch will absorb—yams and potatoes don’t absorb much, for example, while rice and noodles do; tomatoes, lemon, frozen vegetables may contribute a fair amount of liquid. Adjust the volume of the pour-over to complement the amount of liquid you expect. Experience will quickly teach you, and too much liquid is not really a problem since it tastes good.
I always use 2 Tbsp of vinaigrette and then add whatever strikes my fancy: soy sauce, mirin, ponzu sauce, sherry or red or white wine, Dijon mustard, gochujang sauce or other hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, whatever. You can also add seasonings here: ground black pepper, paprika, and the like, though they tend to remain on top, so it’s often better to put them atop the protein layer. I have a small bottle that once held some food; I use that to receive the pour-over mix, which I then shake vigorously before pouring over.
It’s good to have some sort of “theme” in the back of your mind: Greek, Mediterranean, German (e.g., egg noodles, pork, cabbage, apples, etc.), Caribbean, Oriental, whatever. A theme will suggest things to include that go well together.
After making a few of these, you get the idea and it becomes quite easy. Although it’s said to be two meals, The Wife usually gets at least three from a pot, sometimes four.
If you have a family, you can simply use a larger pot. I have a 3-qt Staub round cocotte, and you can also get larger sizes: a 4-qt pot could doubtless serve 4 easily, and probably 5 if some are children.
For examples to stimulate your imagination, look through the GOPM posts in this blog, most containing recipes. Measurement of starch, vinegar, and protein is always exact—of course, if I buy (say) Dover fillets, I generally do not get 8.00 oz exactly, but I am going for 8 oz and I buy as close to that as reasonable. Same for chicken, pork, etc. For tofu, I will use a 10 oz cube and figure what the hell; tempeh conveniently comes in an 8 oz package. The vegetables I simply use enough to make a layer. The vinaigrette (containing the oil) I measure exactly: 2 Tbsp.
Leave some of your successful GOPMs in comments: just list the layers, starting with the bottom layer, ending with the top, and describe the pour-over.