If you’re reading this, thank you. First off, only truly dedicated (or bored!) cookbook readers ever turn to the introduction. But secondly, and most importantly, it means that you care enough about what you’re eating to purchase, or seriously consider purchasing, this book.
You may not feel this way, but consider yourself lucky. Too many people don’t think about what they consume on a daily basis. Too many people think that cooking is “too hard” or “not worth the trouble.” Too many people see the supermarket as a place to pick up premade meals instead of choosing to make healthy choices. Too many people have given up control of their diets. And, in doing so, they’ve missed out on the comfort, satisfaction, pride, wonder, and glory of cooking for themselves and the people they love—not to mention reaping the benefit of eating home-cooked food as compared to, say, a Salisbury steak TV dinner.
But you, you’re one of the special ones. You know that cooking empowers you. You know that choosing to decide exactly what goes into your body is a delicious form of self-care. You know that under the right conditions, with a little practice, cooking isn’t hard or inconvenient. It is even, more often than not, really fun.
And that’s what A Man, A Pan, A Plan is ultimately all about: fun. You’re not going to find any convoluted multiday recipes in this book. You’re not going to have to search the ends of the planet to source specialty ingredients. You’re not going to find any precious recipe notes about the golden days in provincial France. What you will find, though, is plenty of practical advice and straightforward recipes that involve tools you already own, resulting in meals you’ll immediately place among your favorites. By cooking meals in one pan, you’ll save stress, prevent mess, and reduce your chances of culinary distress.
Cooking is a lot like building a birdhouse. With the right equipment, a smart set of plans, and some ambition, you can make something beautiful. Is there a possibility of screwing up somewhere along the way? Sure. But that’s part of the learning process.
The big difference between carpentry and cooking—and perhaps cooking’s greatest advantage—is that you get to eat the birdhouse.
Eggplant and Zucchini Lasagna
This is one of those weekend-project meals that require some handiwork and patience to see through—sort of like cleaning your garage or raking your yard. except that unlike cleaning your garage or raking your yard, you’re left with a week’s worth of cheesy vegetable lasagna that improves in flavor as the days go by. The garage and yard can wait.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced white onion, diced
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, drained
2 cups ricotta
Zest from 1/2 lemon
6 basil leaves, chopped, plus more for serving
Leaves from 3 parsley stems, chopped
1 small eggplant, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1. In a large cast-iron pan, add the olive oil, garlic, and onion. Heat over medium-high and cook until the onion is golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, till slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the ricotta, lemon zest, basil, and parsley. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside.
3. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Scoop half of the sauce out of the pan and into a small bowl. On top of the sauce in the pan, layer half of the eggplant and zucchini, half the ricotta mixture, the rest of the vegetables, the rest of the ricotta, the rest of the sauce, and, finally, the mozzarella.
4. Place a lid on the pan and bake until a knife inserted into the layers slides easily through, 20 to 30 minutes. Using an oven mitt, carefully remove the lid and bake the lasagna until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes more.
5. Using 2 oven mitts, carefully remove the pan from the oven (it’s heavy) and place on a trivet to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Serve topped with more fresh basil.
Nutrition perserving: 313 calories, 21 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates (4 g fiber), 20 g fat
Every time you throw out bacon grease, a pony cries. Bacon grease is a lovely, luscious cooking fat that guides home fries, bitter greens, and seared scallops to higher planes of existence. it also works its magic on grilled bread, which, here, bookends the best BLT with avocado you’ve ever had.
4 slices thick-cut bacon
2 slices whole grain bread, cut 1/2" thick
1 thick tomato slice cut from a large tomato
1 large leaft Boston lettuce
1. In a large cast-iron pan, add the bacon and turn the heat to medium. Cook, flipping the bacon occasionally, until crisped, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
2. Carefully drain the bacon fat from the pan into a bowl to cool and keep for another use. Return the same pan, still greased with a sheen of fat, to the burner and adjust the heat to medium-low. Add the bread and cook, turning occasionally, until crisped and a little charred in places, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer 1 bread slice to a cutting board. Using the back of a fork, mash the avocado onto the bread. Snap the bacon pieces in half and arrange on top, followed by the tomato, lettuce, and the second slice of bread.
Nutrition per serving: 493 calories, 24 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates (9 g fiber), 26 g fat
Holy $@%! Kitchen Trick: The Better Bacon Switch-Up!
Start bacon in a cold pan for more evenly done slices. As the pan warms, the bacon fat slowly renders from each slice, resulting in fewer sputtering and flying gobs of hot grease than if you were to toss a few rashers onto an already hot pan.
Steak ’n’ Shrooms with Garlic Spinach
This is one of those recipes where you sizzle everything in the same pan—the rib eye, the mushrooms, the spinach, and even the steak sauce. if you’re going for maximum efficiency, you could even eat the whole meal out of the pan, you savage.
1 bone-in rib-eye steak
2 tbsp canola oil
ó cup red wine
2 tbsp butter
1 (6 oz) package mixed mushrooms (cremini shiitake, oyster)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups packed baby spinach
1. Preheat a cast-iron pan to high. (Open a few windows and crank your oven vent to high—things are about to get smoky.) Liberally season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. When the pan begins to smoke, add 1 Tbsp of the canola oil and swirl. Add the steak and sear, flipping every minute, for a total of 6 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the steak to a plate.
2. Remove the pan from the heat, add the wine to the pan, and using a wooden spoon, stir the wine, scraping up the browned bits clinging to the pan. Add the butter, stir until melted, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour into a small serving dish and set aside.
3. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, adding a little more oil if the shrooms are too dry, until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Spoon the mushrooms over the steak.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the remaining oil, the garlic, and spinach. Cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted, about 1 minute. Serve alongside the steak, with the sauce on the side.
Nutrition per serving: 512 calories, 51 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates (1 g fiber), 34 g fat