We are in an odd time in food history. More food shows, food blogs, cookbooks, food videos, foodstagrams, eateries and variety of ingredients than ever before. Yet, so many people I know don’t know how to cook, have no confidence in the kitchen and will never invite a guest for dinner for fear of the kitchen.
We “watch” food on cooking shows, facebook and instagram feeds, yet too many don’t have a real relationship with food.
I stand firm, however, in my belief that everyone can cook at least a few dishes, if someone shows them the way.
Many of my favorites are made in a cast iron frying pan, cast iron dutch oven, and less frequently a slow cooker.
Here are ten iconic American dishes that I believe everyone can learn to make, and I’m including men and women.
It didn’t take me long to pick these dishes. They are the dishes you might find in any good American diner, because these are the foods people love and often have a childhood attachment to.
Roast Chicken in One Hour – The very first dish I thought of the was the roast chicken. I swear by my method and everything I have to say about getting a good roast chicken. If I dare change my method, out of laziness or experimentation and veer off in another direction, I am disappointed. Trust me on this recipe.
All you need is a cast iron pan and a willingness to buy the right chicken. I only roast air-chilled chicken because the taste is amazing and it roasts better. The savings will be the many meals you can make with leftovers.
Spaghetti and Meatballs – This is the most requested birthday dinner of all time for everyone (except vegans, but I have a feeling, vegans have their own version). The meatballs are baked, and there are tips to follow, as I’m Italian.
The sauce is made from San Marzano Tomatoes, but I promise this is not hard. I’ve even gone to the trouble of doing two blind taste tests to ensure the right tomatoes.
A Good Steak – This New York Strip Steak Recipe has been visited over 150,000 times to rave reviews. When I say good, I really mean great. This method is perfect for a New York Strip, a Ribeye, or Filet. These are the pricy cuts you want to get right. Seared to perfection, not overcooked, not complicated. By your third steak, you’ll be a pro. Learn what tools I use to get it right like a cast iron frying pan.
Pot Roast – It’s on menus everywhere and is always best when made at home. I have two recipes for pot roast. This recipe uses a uses a full bottle of red wine. This Italian style recipe uses more tomatoes as the acid base.
A Good Burger – You might think this is a no brainer, but simple food can require more skill than you think. For example, if you press an indentation in the middle of the raw burger, you will avoid the burger dome.
Salmon – Grilled or Pan Fried, Salmon should be on your menu every every week, because it’s the Omega 3 fat you need, it’s delicious if done right and it’s easy. I start on top of the stove and finish in the oven in this no fail method.
I have several salmon recipes. My favorite by far is to start on top of the stove and finish in the oven.
Chicken Soup – You can take your time using whole chicken making broth like I do here, or you can make it easy like I did here. There’s no shame in buying quality organic broth, but do use fresh herbs and veggies. I also have a favorite summer chicken soup version made with squash, kale and avocado.
Lasagna – It’s the dish everyone love and saves for potlucks and Christmas time, but you still need to learn how to make it. I love it with spinach (a vegetarian choice) or with sliced meatballs.
Frittata – You can take almost any kind of meat or left over veggie and make a frittata. This post will give you all details on frittata with a lot of options.
The things in my Kitchen that will easily make these recipes
Every kitchen should have a cast iron frying pan and cast iron dutch oven. These will do more for the taste of food than any other vessel. A committed cook should own all three, but even if you want to just dabble every now and again, these will serve you well and for a very long time.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven – I wish someone would have told me years ago to invest in a Le Creuset dutch oven. It’s so worth it and you’ll save money in the long run. My 5 1/2 quart dutch oven does almost everything I need. I went through several cheaper versions before I finally made the investment that lasts a lifetime.
Slow Cooker, handy for soups, when you want to leave home. You don’t need anything fancy. If you don’t want to brown your meats first, this one has a browning feature.
Cast Iron Frying Pan – You want at least two sizes, a medium and an extra large. You’ll use to sautè greens, make a steak, roast a chicken, make stove-top smashed potatoes. I also use this cast iron griddle almost every day.
One medium-sized non-stick pan for frittata and searing salmon.
Salad Spinner – I honestly use this at least twice a week.
Zester – I use this for citrus and for parmesan cheese.
My Two Absolutely Favorite Kitchen Tools Easily Over-looked
Oxo Spatula that is extra large and I use for everything.
Hand Egg Beater that we take out every single time we need to scramble eggs.
Spices that I use all the time.
Let’s keep your pantry simple. Most of us have way too many spices that we don’t use. I grow herbs on my deck and have rosemary, sage, and lemon thyme all year around. In summer, I grow mint, basil, lemon balm, oregano and Italian parsley.
Dried Herbs: If you can’t have easy access to fresh herbs, I recommend having dried rosemary, thyme and basil on hand.
If you are short on room, the one spice blend I rely on for many dishes is herbs de provence.
The best spice mix for an exciting chicken dish like this one is za’atar.
Dried Spices: I would start with cinnamon, red pepper flakes, sea salt, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper.
Sea Salt and Black Pepper go a long long way and if you’re a minimalist just use these. After trying numerous salt and pepper grinders that stopped working, I discovered these from Oxo and have had them for four years now, using them all day every day.
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Happy Cooking. Happy Eating.