Is it me or does it seem like it takes a bit of moxie to dine out alone?
Less so at lunch time, my preferred solo dining time slot, than dinner. Eating alone at lunch feels more casual for sure. Regardless, both options offer a fine opportunity for people watching, and my other favorite pastime...inventing stories and backgrounds for the occasional passerby. (Oh, look, a group of girlfriends at a a table together...a Sex in the City assortment of friends? no, they seem extra animated and the wardrobe's been dialed up an extra notch. It's graduation/reunion season...they all went to college together. That's it. Now, the one on the left...she seems quiet...she had an affair with her friend's boyfriend...yeah...)
But eating at home, alone. That's a different category.
There's the comfort level. Your favorite slouchy jeans, pj bottoms or, dare I say it...sweatpants. A t-shirt and the ratty old dad sweater. Check.
Dog trailing your every move with laser beam focus. (She's headed for the kitchen. Things are looking good. ) Check.
There's the thought of eating while sitting in front of the tv. All god. Your mother's not here, you're an adult and you get to do whatever you want! Wheeeeeee!
And then there's the question of food.
Some of us experience a certain giddiness when faced with the idea of eating whatever we want without compromising our cravings for the sake of our partners, significant others, roommates, etc... S., a friend at work, sat down across from me at lunch the other day with the most delicious-looking curry and naan. You know it...Indian food leftovers because her spouse, who emphatically does not like Indian food, had been away on a business trip. Another friend, dials exuberantly for local Chinese food takeout -- Beef with Broccoli -- whenever her partner, a vegetarian, is away.
I know for a fact that given an evening home alone, my husband does not even begin to think about what he is going to eat until he has already unscrewed the lid to the jar of peanut butter, his go-to form out nourishment. To each his own.
Me, not so much a "cold food" person. A sandwich is not going to happen as my solo dinner. Unless that sandwich is a grilled cheese. And it comes with a cup of tomato soup...straight out of the box. No shame in that.
The thing is, I LIKE to cook something at the ned of a long day. It helps me unwind. And eating alone wallows a certain selfishness free reign. If YOU want to eat a banana split for dinner, then so be it! Livining with a vegetarian? I think a juicy steak is in order! Partner can't take heat? Use jalapeños with abandon!
Judith Jones, Julia Childs' legendary editor at Knopf, has even devoted a book to creating perfect meals for yourself. In The Pleasure of Cooking for One she makes the very excellent point that you are free to experiment when cooking alone. You are free to fail and it doesn't have to be perfect. If things don't go as planned, there's always takeout and the best part: no one is the wiser.
My solo cooking escapades are burly based on in-the-moment cravings. Steve likes to tell the story of being away on a golf trip and calling me during dinnertime. He and his brothers were getting ready to head for a burger. I, in the meantime was steaming a single lobster and had opened a beer, having already pulled the TV up closer to the dining room table. (You don't want to be cracking lobster claws sitting the floor eating on the coffee table!)
Solo dining perfection!
A regular favorite now that asparagus is in season, is to plate up a raft of steamed asparagus, drape it in Serrano ham (or prosciutto...your preference!) and top it with a soft-boiled or poached egg. A lovely piece of toasted bread rubbed with a garlic clove while still warm is optional and gives you an excellent tool for mopping up the egg yolk.
The closest I'll get to a "cold" meal is reserved for those nights when, teetering on the brink of complete exhaustion...the best I can do is stop by my favorite butcher shop/charcuterie, The Fatted Calf, for some help with a cheese and cracker plate. A couple nice cheeses, oh, and maybe some zippy salami with a few olives and those little pickled pappadew peppers make for a perfectly relaxing dinner for one. Cue last week's episode of Modern Family, please.
Which brings me to tell you about a recipe I've been obsessing over recently. It's the cover shot of this month's Bon Appetit: a gigantic seared beauty of a Porterhouse steak. With little captions that tease (ten minutes ago this porterhouse was frozen solid).
Another headline above the recipe reads:
We wouldn't tell you to score, season, chill, freeze, fry, slow roast, baste and refry a steak if it wasn't worth it.
Gah! That's like every possible cooking technique known to man, applied to this piece of meat! Things get curiouser and curiouser! You can read more about it here. My brain's been humming ever since I set eyes on this craziness. Steve is not as much of a beef lover as I am...and the calendar shows potential...(his next scheduled beer-with-the-boys night!). This crazy steak experiment WILL HAPPEN!
Is this indeed crazy?
How does one stand a giant porterhouse on its side, upright, in the freezer?
I have 'fear of frying'. Will I be able to overcome it with this quest?
Answers to these questions...and more...soon.
I'll report back.