Figuring out how to make the preparation and execution of mealtime easier has inspired home cooks for generations. Whether we plan ahead and prep on weekends for the week to come, or rely on processed foods or eating out in order to get us through, we all do our best to find solutions when it comes to meals.
If you are similar to me and don’t have the budget to eat out every night, nor the strength to face a rerun of leftovers more than two nights in a row, it can be helpful to have a small collection of easy-to-execute recipes to pull from. My own arsenal revolves around rice or pasta and vegetables, but can just as likely include a can of chickpeas, some boiled eggs or a roasted chicken when necessary. I keep things straightforward by regularly relying on flavour-builders (beyond salt and pepper) that I already have on hand, such as chili flakes and garlic. No matter what, I do my best to use the least amount of dishes wherever possible, and extra points always go to recipes that don’t require a ton of supervision once I get them rolling.
Having a routine that revolves around a simple approach to cooking is important to me because it helps make regular eating at home more attainable. The federal government has just released its latest version of Canada’s Food Guide, and along with it a set of simple guidelines for all Canadians to consider when it comes to mealtime. The new guide transitions away from the four food groups and instead focuses on mindful eating habits and a suggested consideration toward cooking at home more often. It has received some criticism, but I think this shift is important. Having access to nutritious food needs to start at home and we don’t need a list of suggested daily-intake numbers in order to make that happen. Instead, I believe it will be a move toward uncomplicated and accessible recipes and allowing them to become part of our daily routine, that will help make this shift easier for everyone.
That’s why I love trends such as one-pot meals and sheet-pan dinners, which have both had huge success this past year. They’re a perfect fit for the new food guide (and my own personal criteria for that matter), and couldn’t have come into popularity at a better time.
These recipes are great because they require next to no fuss to bring together and are easy to approach, even if you have only the most basic of cooking experience and equipment at your disposal. Best of all, they generally make use of a single vessel in their execution, which is especially awesome for those of us who, in addition to needing to find easier ways to cook at home more often, might not be the biggest fans of doing the dishes.
There still might be skeptics, but the results of cooking this simply can be just as beautiful and as nuanced as any of the elaborate meals you might have been more inclined to get into if you’d had the time to plan. Streamlining the process doesn’t mean leaving out technique or flavour, it simply means less time at work over the cutting board or stove, and who wouldn’t appreciate that?
This recipe doubles or even triples effortlessly to accommodate more than the two servings it provides. It uses the oven to do the bulk of the legwork and doesn’t really require any other specific instructions to get you started. Most importantly, its only intention is to show you that good cooking really can be this simple and accessible for everyone – and that is what I think healthy eating is really all about.
One-pan roasted chicken with potatoes, garlic, shallots and caper berries
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 whole chicken legs, thighs and drumsticks
1 pound small new potatoes
1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
6 small shallots, halved lengthwise
2 sprigs rosemary
½ cup caper berries, loosely packed (can substitute ½ cup whole green or black olives of your choice or a ¼ cup regular capers as necessary)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the chicken
10 grinds freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh, crusty bread (for serving)
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Place the chicken in a large casserole and season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the chicken and toss together. Place everything back into the casserole you used for seasoning the chicken, with the legs lying skin-side up on the top. Turn the garlic and shallots cut-side down so that they roast into the olive oil while baking. Use a spatula as necessary to scrape any remaining oil and seasoning from the bowl into the casserole.
Roast for 75-90 minutes until chicken skin is golden brown and meat is falling off the bone. Garlic and shallots should be completely roasted and potatoes should be fork-tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving with bread (which is excellent for mopping up the flavourful sauce in the bottom of the casserole).