Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Perfect One-Dish Dinners

Summary: In Perfect One-Dish Dinners, the New York Times best-selling author Pam Anderson shares her secret for having people over without breaking stride: Make just one dish. Instead of a parade of offerings, she focuses attention on a single main course—a rustic tart, paella, grilled platter, or homey stew. Perfect One-Dish Dinners showcases about forty such meals, perfect for every season and occasion, all designed to wow guests, calm the cook, and relieve the dishwasher at the end of the night.

Stews for All Seasons

Worldly Casseroles

Roasting Pan Complete

Big Summer Salads and Grilled Platters

But that’s not all. If the cook wants to make something extra, Pam provides a compatible appetizer, salad, and dessert for every one dish. And as a special bonus, she throws in “nearly instant” alternatives for each—more than 200 mixable, matchable recipes. Whether for a book group, church get together, birthday party, or family supper, Perfect One-Dish Dinners makes easy, shareable meals perfectly doable. -- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I do love looking at cookbooks, and I'm even starting to enjoy trying out new recipes. So when Swapna reviewed PERFECT ONE-DISH DINNERS: ALL YOU NEED FOR EASY GET-TOGETHERS on her blog a few days ago, I knew I needed to get my hands on this book. Her review made it sound like this cookbook might have some recipes that my family might enjoy.

A huge thanks to Swapna because I really liked PERFECT ONE-DISH DINNERS! I found quite a few recipes that I thought sounded interesting as well as new twists on some classic recipes. What really stood out to me about this cookbook (beside the gorgeous photos!) was the format of the recipes. The book is divided into the following chapters -- Stews for All Seasons, Worldly Casseroles, Roasting Pan Complete, and Big Summer Salads and Grilled Platters. Within each chapter, there were main dish recipes (just like I was expecting) but there were also recipes for appetizers, sides and desserts that complemented the main course.

In addition to the many recipes in this cookbook, there were "Instant Alternative" tips that made the recipe ideas even more versatile. I also liked that there were drink suggestions for each meal; i.e. types of wine and/or beer. I think PERFECT ONE-DISH DINNERS is ideal for people who entertain on a regular basis, but I also liked that many of the recipes were easy enough to make for a regular family dinner.

There are quite a few recipes that I plan on trying, but I decided to go with something really simple first -- Shells and Cheese for Everyone. Since I made this on a night with play practice and karate, I didn't even attempt any of the sides. It was the easiest homemade mac and cheese recipe that I've ever made, and it was also probably the richest. Despite substituting 1% cottage cheese and low-fat sour cream, it was still very creamy and I thought it was delicious. I also substituted panko for the regular bread crumbs because isn't panko always better?

Shells and Cheese for Everyone
serves 8 to12

1 pound medium-size pasta shells
1 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 container (16 ounces) cottage cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 container (16 ounces) light or regular sour cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup plain dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with vegetable-oil cooking spray.

Bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large soup kettle over high heat. Using package directions as a guide and stirring frequently at first to keep it from sticking, boil pasta, partially covered, until just tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, mix cheese and sour cream in a large bowl. Add hot pasta and toss to coat. Adjust seasonings, including salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to baking dish.

Mix bread crumbs, parsley, and butter in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over shells and cheese. Bake until casserole is bubbly and crumbs are golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve.

If you are looking for a cookbook that's very user-friendly, but also has over 200 mix and match recipes, then look no further than PERFECT ONE-DISH DINNERS.
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Beth F said...

I have always loved her cookbooks and this definitely looks like a winner. And that shells and cheese recipe looks really good. Panko is a must!

Sandy Nawrot said...

My first reaction is that my kids would not like this, because they don't like multiple things mixed together. But they totally love shells and cheese. So maybe I need to try to find this at the library. Love the cookbook recommendations!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love one dish dinners! So much less to clean up!

Marie said...

I'm another fan of one-dish dinners. I'll keep an eye out for this book. It looks great. I'm definitely going to try the recipe. Thanks for posting it.

bermudaonion said...

That macaroni and cheese sounds decadent!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

THank you SOSOSO much; my friend just had her second child and I volunteered to drop off dinner this coming week for them -- I am so making this! XO

JoAnn said...

I'll have to check to library for this cookbook. Next to the crockpot, one dish dinners are a favorite around here!

Margot said...

Add me to the list of cooks who love one pot dishes. I like this variation on standard mac and cheese and I especially appreciate the substitutions you gave for a lower fat recipe.

Swapna said...

I'm thinking of making that mac and cheese this week! So glad you liked this cookbook as much as I did.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

oh this sounds awesome! i love making one-dish dinners...perfect for the busy mom!!!

Tracey M. said...

YUM! I love cookbooks with one-dish meals. That's one of my favorite things to make. Thanks for sharing!

Heather said...

I also read Swapna's review and have added this to my shopping list. Glad to see that you are in agreement with her.

Joy said...

Saw this post at the Foodie's Reading Challenge. I have this book checked out of the library but haven't had a chance to look at it yet -- putting it to the top of the stack!