I was about halfway through making a one-pot meal of shepherd’s pie when I suddenly realized that my one-pot meal required the use of three pots.
This was a problem, because I was writing a story — this story — about one-pot meals. But I learned something from the experience. I learned that people who write about food sometimes are not very good at math, such as counting to three.
And it’s not like the recipe came from an unreliable source. I don’t want to name names, but the website that touted shepherd’s pie as a one-pot recipe rhymes with “Nood Fetwork.”
I finished making the shepherd’s pie anyway, because I like shepherd’s pie, and it was fabulous. Maybe I’ll write about it some day, when I write about three-pot meals.
But today’s story, as we have established, is about one-pot meals. These are meals that are made entirely in a single pot, which cuts down considerably on what I consider the monstrous chore of having to clean up after cooking dinner.
That is one advantage to one-pot meals. Another is that they are often quite good, presumably because the flavors blend organically together. Sometimes they are even better than quite good. And occasionally they are absolutely spectacular.
The three remaining dishes I made this week are among the best things I have cooked all year. Four, if you count the shepherd’s pie.
I began with beef goulash, largely because of the scene in “Christmas in Connecticut” in which S.Z. Sakall turns Una O’Connor’s Irish stew into goulash by adding half a can of paprika. But even Sakall’s goulash could not have been as rich and satisfying as the one I made.
You begin with chuck roast — I used the less-tender top round, because the price of beef has skyrocketed — that braises for about three hours in a robust sauce. It’s the sauce that makes the dish so memorable; it’s made from roasted red peppers, more onions than you would imagine, carrots, tomato paste, vinegar and nearly as much paprika as Sakall used.
It all comes together in an aromatic, deep red stew. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal, comforting as well as filling.
Traditionally, it’s served on a bed of egg noodles. I recommend serving it on a bed of egg noodles. The cookbook from which I got the recipe shows a picture of it served on a bed of egg noodles.
But egg noodles require a second pot. People who write about food sometimes are not very good at math.
Next, I made a dish that genuinely does cook in just a single pot. It’s a chicken pot pie, but it’s different from any chicken pot pie I’ve ever had.
Instead of the usual velouté sauce (a light roux mixed with chicken stock) blended with mixed vegetables, chicken and cream, the filling of this pot pie takes a more flavorful route.
It starts with spinach, which is made creamy by the addition of Boursin cheese; that’s the familiar soft, white, spreadable cheese with garlic and fine herbs. Artichoke hearts are added, along with capers, chicken and lemon zest, which brings a wonderful brightness to the whole dish.
And it also has chicken stock and a little flour — but not made into a roux — cream and mixed vegetables, because some traditions are worth keeping.
Naturally, it’s topped with a lovely and tempting round of puff pastry. There are not many things in life that cannot be improved with a little puff pastry.
My final dish is wonderful for brunch, simple and impressive, though it does take some time to make.
At its heart, fried eggs with Parmesan and potato roesti is just hash browns (the shredded, fried kind) topped with sunny side-up eggs and a hearty sprinkling of salty Parmesan cheese. What could be better than that?
Roesti is the Swiss version of a potato pancake. The potatoes are shredded lengthwise and fried in butter in a single layer all the way across the pan. That way, you end up with a single, 12-inch potato pancake or hash brown.
Once the roesti is placed on a platter, the same skillet is used to fry all the eggs at the same time. They, too, cover the entire bottom of the pan, and they slide out and onto the potatoes as a single unit.