These are some simple techniques that will make your life as a busy home cook exponentially more easy. You will find that you CAN—yes, really!—deliver truly tasty meals even on the busiest (i.e., Flipped Out) of weeknights!
The Saucy Two-Step
Yes, the dance reference was on purpose. This is a fun cooking hack where you devote yourself to a weekend cooking project that involves making a sauce: marinara, Bolognese, adobo, salsa verde—the possibilities are endless. During the week, you use your sauce in simple meals: in the crockpot, baked in the oven, tossed with pasta, or however you want. Then freeze the rest for another busy night!
|“A Saga of Salsa“…Here, I describe a recent weekend cooking project making Salsa Verde, complete with recipes for the salsa, Crockpot Green Chile Pork, and Salsa Verde Enchiladas.|
|“The Bolognese-Lasagna One-Two Punch“…A “Saucy Two-Step” meal plan featuring easy-but-delicious “cheater” Bolognese sauce, and everyone’s favorite baked pasta: Lasagna. Yes, you really CAN make lasagna on a weeknight!!|
|Red Enchilada Sauce: making this authentic enchilada sauce is a great weekend project. The sauce is great during the busy workweek to use in enchiladas, chilaquiles, carne adobado and more.|
This is probably the number one cooking hack for delivering a deliciously savory meal during the work week. You put in a bit of effort on the front-end: for example, cubing meat, searing, deglazing, etc. Keep in mind that these steps will build deep flavor and richness into your sauce, so it’s well worth it. BUT: you can do it the night before! All you need to do the next morning is pour your meat and deglazing liquid into the crock of your slow cooker, season, hit “on,” and go! When you get back, you’ll have fork-tender meat and a wonderfully flavorful sauce that can be made into gravy, or just eaten as-is.
Pick a meat with a lot of collagen for this method: this is a type of connective tissue that’s found in muscles involved in movement: for example, portions of the arms and legs. Beef chuck and pork butt roasts are two of my favorites. During the long slow-cook, the collagen in these meats breaks down and transforms into a luscious gelatin that makes your meat incredibly tender.
Any number of cuisines are amenable to slow cooking, from French, to Asian, to African. Once you become comfortable with the basic technique, it’s easy to adjust the flavor profile any way you like.
|“A Saga of Salsa”…this post includes a recipe for Slow-Cooker Green Chile Pork.|
Moroccan Lamb Stew…My family’s favorite stew. I frequently make it with beef chuck roast—and I ALWAYS use the slow-cooker now!
|Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup…this recipe illustrates another of my favorite slow-cooker tricks: taking a sack of any type of bean, putting it in the slow cooker with aromatics, herbs, and spices, maybe floating a ham hock in the broth, flipping the switch, and going away for several hours!|
For me, the words “Pressure Cooker” used to conjure up images of super-heated food exploding upward in a horrifying geiser before splattering all over the ceiling. I have since recovered from my pressure-cooking phobia with the help of the newer, virtually dummy-proof models that are available these days.
So, what’s the deal with pressure cooking? The short answer is that the steam and pressure trapped inside the pot allows foods to cook in a fraction of the time that would normally be required. I can make pot roast in under 25 minutes with a pressure cooker! Many Indian recipes are prepared with pressure cookers: the steam and pressure infuse the spices into the meat. Pressure cookers are also a great way to make a rich, savory broth in a fraction of the time.
I never cook just enough food for one meal. (Well, unless it’s fish.) Leftovers are a godsend for busy nights! I freeze leftover sauce, broth, casseroles, soups—you get the idea. Then, when I’m short on ideas or crazy-busy, I pull what I need out of the freezer.
On busy weeknights it’s great to be able to fall back on a well-stocked pantry. There are endless meals you can make with pantry staples that can be ready within 30 minutes.
“Deadlines and Pantry Raids“…Here, I describe a recent hectic night and my Pantry Raid solution, complete with 4 of my favorite PR recipes.