Restaurant chefs have the luxury of throwing all the saucepans, bowls, whisks, sheet pans, and skillets that they’ve used to create just one finished dish into the sink for someone else to clean. Certainly, I’m guilty of sometimes taking that same messy approach in my own cooking.
If you can manage to create all the flavors and textures that you crave in a single pan, though, then why wouldn’t you? More and more, that’s the way I cook. I adore the simplicity of all-in-one dinners. And skillet cooking (especially cast-iron skillet cooking) offers the flexibility of starting on the stove—perhaps to melt onions, garlic, or leeks together in butter before adding the other ingredients—and finishing in the oven or under a broiler to create irresistible crunch.
These recipes showcase some of my favorite ingredient combinations: Ghanian-inspired crispy peanut-chile chicken with tomatoes and sweet potatoes; lamb with couscous, spicy harissa peppers, and eggplant; salmon with lime, pomegranate, and avocado; and comforting broiled gnocchi with goat cheese, peppers, and chard.
To me, the best thing about these recipes is that they offer an easy template for you to follow when you throw together meals with your own favorite ingredients. Once you’ve made a few of my versions, feel free to swap out the starch, some of the seasonings, the type of protein, or the crunchy topping that gets added at the end. This one method of cooking affords you almost endless creativity once you get the hang of it. To spark your imagination, I’ve provided a few easy tweaks at the end of each recipe so that you can experiment.
The Joy of Cast-Iron Cooking
I love cooking in my cast-iron skillet. It’s durable, versatile, and handsome. And once it’s well seasoned it’s nonstick, too. In my home, it truly is the workhorse of the kitchen: I use it for frying bacon, searing steaks, cooking crêpes, baking cookies, and more.
Arguably the best thing about cast iron is that it gets smoking hot and stays that way, so it’s ideal for high-heat jobs, such as searing steaks and roasts, and stir-frying, where the intensity of the heat makes a cast-iron skillet a great substitute for a wok. Then, of course, cast iron is oven-safe, so it’s easy to start a dish on the stovetop and finish it in the oven or under the broiler. Speaking of the oven, a cast-iron skillet is great for baking, too. Think cornbread, brownies, blondies, and giant cookies.
It’s a cheffy thing to say, but the key to success with these dishes, as with anything you cook, is tasting and adjusting as you go: a pinch more salt, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Taste again and adjust again until your dish is just right. For me, that’s the key to a perfect meal. And when the meal is low effort with minimal washing up and a great combination of flavors and textures, what’s not to love?