Cooking in someone else’s kitchen can be a gamble. Whether you’re spending the weekend at a friend’s borrowed cabin, a rented beach bungalow, or your mother-in-law’s condo, it’s impossible to count on any of the reliable staples of your own kitchen—good olive oil, a sharp knife, a cheese grater that’s not encased in rust. I’ve encountered this problem at many an Airbnb, and you probably have, too. Chances are, the spot you chose for a weekend getaway is far from any major cities, and you may find yourself at the mercy of the local dusty supermarket. Good luck finding a Frenched rack of lamb in the northern Michigan woods.
That’s where we turn to chef, blogger, and cookbook author Molly Gilbert’s new book, One Pan & Done. Her concept is evident in the title: Use just one pan per dish. It’s an expansion from her previous book, Sheet Pan Suppers, which, as you can guess, focused on the classic maximum-surface-area oven cooking of the sheet pan. With the signature honesty and quippy humor that got her started as a food blogger, Gilbert teaches us that you can keep things simple without sacrificing flavor, even when your supplies are limited. The recipes never require more than one pot, and they rely on easy-to-find supermarket ingredients, like chicken, canned beans, polenta, and ground turkey, all readily available at Ralphs and Meijer locations across this country.
This time around, Gilbert has expanded her repertoire to include the cast-iron skillet, the Dutch oven, the baking dish, the muffin tin, and occasionally the pie tin, loaf pan and Bundt pan (the pan that each recipe requires is noted with a helpful icon at the top of each page). Her favorites are the sheet pan and the Dutch oven. “They’re both great for feeding crowds, and also for extracting lots of flavor—sheet pans via roasting and broiling, and pan-searing and braising for the Dutch oven,” she says. “Something about using just one pot or pan feels so primal.”
Primal indeed—like that time I tried to slice a stunning hunk of rib eye with a dull knife in my ex-boyfriend’s poorly stocked kitchen (if you can call that Ikea butcher block on wheels a kitchen). But Gilbert’s recipes are perfectly suited for minimalist (whether intentional or not) kitchens. Plus, the always down-to-earth Gilbert shares your cleanup pain: “A few years ago, my husband and I lived in an apartment without a dishwasher, and I learned that there are few things more daunting than an enormous stack of dishes after a big dinner.”
While planning a recent weekend trip upstate with friends, I combed the pages of One Pan & Done for a meal plan. I settled on a comforting Simple Chicken Cassoulet after a morning of snowshoeing with a lighter dinner of Wilted Arugula and Sweet Pea Cheese Ravioli to hint at the coming of spring. The next day, I tried the Zucchini Cakes for lunch, followed by a show-stopping dinner of Turkey Parm Meatballs With Polenta.
Armed with Gilbert’s book, you won’t be dismayed upon discovering that your next vacation rental’s kitchen lacks the utensils required to cook the carfull of groceries you bought to make your meticulously planned Moroccan feast. Just check with your host to make sure the house comes equipped with a Dutch oven, and consider bringing a small survival kit from home (some dried oregano in a small jar, that tube of tomato paste wasting away in your fridge, and the half bottle of olive oil sitting on your counter). Don’t be shy: Book that glamping tepee or that low-key bachelor party in the woods—Gilbert’s got your meals covered.
Reprinted from One Pan & Done. Copyright © 2017 by Molly Gilbert. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Aran Goyoaga. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC