It was one of these evenings. I hadn’t planned anything for dinner and I didn’t feel like spending too much time in the kitchen.
I foraged in the fridge and found some celery, parsley, and cream cheese. Perfect. Combine this with my standard food pantry items and the combination will make a delicious dinner of chicken and beans, with only one pan to clean up afterward.
My recommendation for one-pan or one-pot dinner recipes is to get all your ingredients ready first. Wash, rinse, pat dry, chop, measure, season, etc. It’s called “mise en place” in fancy culinary speak, which translates to “putting in place.” It really makes the cooking process a breeze and lets you focus on the cooking, smells, textures, and seasoning instead of running around trying to find ingredients or chopping the garlic you forgot.
So, let’s chop the boneless, skinless chicken, pat dry, put into a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Next, chop the garlic, shallots, and celery and set aside. Chop the parsley, measure the chili powder and cumin, and finally open the cans of beans. Drain and rinse the beans; mash half the beans with a fork or potato masher and set the other half aside. Open the can of tomatoes.
Ah, there are still two more things to do: unwrap the cream cheese, cut it in half, and put the other half back in the fridge. If you’re using a bouillon cube for the stock, heat it up in a cup of water in the microwave; otherwise, have your pre-made stock ready in a cup.
Now you’re ready to go. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped chicken and brown for about four minutes, stirring occasionally. Now you can add the vegetables (celery, shallots, and garlic) and spices and cook for another four minutes, stirring occasionally. If you don’t want to go by exact time, use your nose. It took about four minutes until I could smell the shallots and the spices started to fill the kitchen with their aroma.
It’s time to add the beans (mashed and whole), tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and add cream cheese. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cream cheese is melted; adding parsley toward the end (keep some for garnish).
Use a spoon and taste it! Go ahead, re-season if necessary. It’s your creation. Make it taste the way you like it and not the way a recipe tells you. This way, you’ll develop your own unique style and in no time you’ll be using cookbooks and recipes for inspiration instead of instruction.
A note about cooking times: There are certain recipes where the time given in a recipe should be taken seriously. Baking, for example. While cooking is a science, in most of your everyday cooking, time is relative. How does your cookbook know how hot your stove is when the instructions say “over medium-high heat”? It doesn’t. Now, you can argue that when it says simmer for 10 minutes that means simmer, like tiny bubbles on the surface…it’s the same for everybody, so 10 minutes is accurate. Right? Nope. How quickly a liquid evaporates during simmering depends on how big the surface area is. Does your cookbook tell you that?
Who needs a recipe or a cookbook, really? This little dish I created tonight could have been done in a lot of different ways. I could have used a different protein, different cooking fats, different herbs and spices, and of course, different beans. How about adding some bacon or skipping the meat altogether?
One of the reasons I enjoy cooking is exactly because of that. It’s creating something with all of your senses. It won’t always work out perfectly but it will always be a learning experience that no one can take from you. It’s your kitchen, own it!
Please let me know if you agree with my assessment of cookbooks and recipes. As a child, I would stand in the kitchen, watching my mother cook, only using a cookbook when she had guests over for dinner. Looking back now, that seems funny. I guess it was her “crutch” so that if something went wrong, she could blame the recipe? My father always cooked on the weekends and I never saw him looking at a cookbook, and his food was always delicious!
What’s your philosophy on cooking?
Love one-pan meals? Check out more of our one-pan recipes:
- One-Pan Pasta, Deliciousness from the Pantry and Two Fresh Ingredients
- One-Pan Pasta from the Essential Pantry
- One-Pan Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms
- Sheet-Pan Dinner: Hanger Steak with Mushrooms and Carrots
- Sheet Pan Butternut Squash with Spicy Italian Sausage
- Super Easy Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil
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Deliciously Creamy One-Pan Chicken and Beans
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, chopped
- 2 (15-oz) cans Great Northern Bean (or any other bean), drained and rinsed; mash half the beans with a fork or potato masher and set the other half aside
- 1 (10-oz) can diced tomatoes and green chili
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 1 c celery, chopped
- 1/2 c shallots (or onion), chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 c parsley, chopped
- 1 c chicken stock (or more as needed)
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Mise en Place
- Chop boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, pat dry, put into a bowl, and season with salt and pepper
- Chop garlic, shallots, and celery and set aside
- Chop parsley
- Open the cans of beans, drained and rinsed; mash half the beans with a fork or potato masher and set the other half aside
- Cut the cream cheese in half and put the other half back in the fridge
- If you use a bouillon cube for the stock, heat it up in a cup of water in the microwave; otherwise, have your pre-made stock ready in a cup
- In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat
- Add chicken and brown for about four minutes, stirring occasionally
- Add celery, shallots, garlic, chili, and cumin and cook for another four minutes
- Add the beans (mashed and whole), tomatoes, and stock
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and add cream cheese. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cream cheese is melted.
- Add parsley toward the end; keep some for garnish
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