Melissa Clark Talks “Dinner in One” and Her Favorite All-Purpose Kitchen Tools
Her latest cookbook is all about creating delicious meals with less time and cleanup
The pandemic reignited a lot of people’s love for cooking. And it was easy to maintain our sourdough starters and take on days-long culinary projects as our social calendars sat empty and we worked from home. While the love for cooking has remained, commuting, travel and social engagements have returned, meaning we have less time and energy to whip up that homemade meal — and tackle the cleanup that comes with it — than we did two years ago.
As someone who cooks for a living, Melissa Clark feels our pain, which is why she was inspired to write Dinner in One: Exceptional & Easy One-Pan Meals. Each recipe in the book can be made in less than one hour, and they’ve been streamlined to require only one pan, pot or skillet during the cooking process. “[During the pandemic], I went from cooking dinner four or five times a week to cooking three meals a day, every day,” Clark says. “The dishes piled up, and I started to resent them. So cooking became a puzzle — how to make the most delicious food to sooth and satisfy, but how not to make myself crazy with dishes at the end of the meal.”
I myself have always loved cooking, but it became the daily habit I wanted it to be during the pandemic. Exchanging recipes with family and friends became a weekly ritual to keep things exciting and fresh. One particular friend told me I had to read Clark’s Dinner in French and sent me a copy. That’s when I became a devotee to Clark’s recipes, cooking through her ode to France and as many of her NYT dishes as humanly possible. And after making an abundance of her meals, I can say that her recipes are about as foolproof and delicious as they come.
Dinner in One has tons of options for modification, whether you want to substitute a different ingredient or even make certain recipes vegan. Many even have a note on how to “Veg It Up,” which gives you a chance to pack the dish with vegetables. “Baby spinach!,” Clark said when asked about her personal favorite way to add more veggies. “I add it everywhere, pre-washed, straight from the box into the soup-stew-chili pot. And I’ll roast any veggie that will let me. Having a side of roasted veggies goes with everything, especially if you’re turning the oven on anyway — might as well stick a pan of cut-up, oiled vegetables in there, too.”
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Clark is an expert in one-pot cooking, so we asked her about the other multi-purpose kitchen tools she can’t live without.
“A microplane for garlic, ginger and citrus zest is such a great way to add flavor quickly, and then you can toss it into the dishwasher.”
Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester Grater ($16.99)
Deep Pan With Cover
“I also love a deep, 10-inch sauté pan with a cover, which I can use for sautéing and also for making pasta sauces (and pastas!), stews, braises and even small batches of soup. The high sides make it more practical and multifunctional than a slope-sided skillet.”
Cuisinart 5-Ply Stainless Steel Sauté Pan With Lid ($89.95)
Digital Kitchen Scale
“Once you start weighing things instead of measuring, your life gets easier and your dish load gets lighter. You don’t need cup measures for baking anymore, just add ingredients directly to the bowl. It’s so much more exact and leaves you a lot less to clean up.”
Escali Primo Digital Food Scale ($25.11)
If you’re looking for a little dinner inspiration tonight, this roasted tuna recipe from Melissa Clark’s Dinner in One is a quick, delicious meal that only requires the work of your Dutch oven.
Roasted Tuna with Brown Butter Corn, Tomatoes and Chile
- 1½ lbs. tuna, cut into steaks about 1-inch thick
- ½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or finely grated
- 1 tsp. ancho chile powder (or substitute another chile powder)
- 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 5 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts separated)
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
- 2 cups corn kernels, fresh (from about 2 ears) or frozen and thawed
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Flaky sea salt, for serving
Heat the oven to 325ºF. Season the tuna all over with kosher salt and black pepper. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and chile powder. Rub the mixture on the tuna and set aside while prepping the other ingredients.
In a 5- or 6-quart Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn golden brown, and it smells nutty and toasty, 2 to 4 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it doesn’t burn.)
Stir in the scallion whites and jalapeños and cook until tender and golden, 2 minutes. Add the corn, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, the ½ teaspoon kosher salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Nestle the tuna steaks into the pot and drizzle with the oil. Cover and bake until the vegetables are tender and the tuna is cooked to the desired doneness, 10 to 13 minutes for rare, 15 to 20 minutes for medium.
Taste the corn and add more kosher salt and a squeeze of lime, if needed. Serve topped with the scallion greens and flaky sea salt and the lime wedges on the side.
SWAP IT OUT: Thick salmon filets will work well here in place of the tuna.
VEG IT UP: You can add tender greens to the corn and tomatoes. Before serving, remove the tuna steaks from the pot and tent with foil to keep them warm. Add 4 to 5 ounces (4 to 5 cups) of baby greens and stir over low heat until they wilt.
Reprinted from Dinner In One. Copyright © 2022 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Linda Xiao. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.
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