The aspiring or aspired-to cook will always light the stove for the food to be eaten, not the dishes to be cleaned. But inevitably, dishes will be dirtied; warm soapy water will be made. Unfortunately, we have a direct relationship between how much we cook, and how much we wash dishes. Fortunately, people have been cooking long before we ever thought of picking up a whisk.
This old guy Escoffier (the god-father of all things foodie) had it right; he used lots of tricks to help him cook more and clean less. Escoffier popularized simple techniques like deglazing a pan with a flavorful liquid, then scraping the pan to loosen the browned bits. Yes, these browned bits are the yummy heart and soul of cooking; but he really does it so he didn’t have to clean as much.
Cooking is all about layering; layering of colors, textures, flavors, aromatics, and the like. Escoffier layered his food by using the caramelized, sweetened bits of fond (the yummy stuff in the pan), with deep, oaky flavors of wine; finishing with a piece of cold butter. These layered elements together, create the 5-star restaurant sauce you pay the big bucks for. Best of all, if done right, this process yields a nice browned-bit-free pan; ready for soapy water instead of a deep, overnight soak.
Cooking is about layering your time, too. Any Sandra Lee out there knows everything doesn’t go into a 350° oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Try this: open a package of boneless, skinless chicken breast; season one side of the chicken in the package. Arrange them, seasoned side down, in a preheated, oven-safe pan with room to spare. Sear the seasoned side till it looks photo perfect, Season the unseasoned side, flip. Sear the other side till its photo perfect as well. Place your pan in a 425° oven for 10 minutes. During the last 3 minutes, add some halved cherry tomatoes to the pan. During the last 1 minute, add a diced avocado to the pan. Take it all out of the pan, deglaze the pan with a little chicken stock, and pour the sauce over your chicken. This way, at most you dirtied a cutting board, one knife, a pan, and a pair of tongs.
A combination of cooking techniques, thriftiness, forward thinking, and desire not to clean is what helps expert cooks cook more, and clean less. Also, don’t buy things like the EZ Cracker or the Better Breader.
See the basics of making a simple pan sauce in our How to Saute Chicken Breasts step-by-step slideshow.