When I was single, I usually cooked enough food for at least two meals — dinner one night and leftovers the next.
It was easier that way, and more economical. Also, I’m lazy, and getting more than one meal out of one day’s cooking appealed to my slothful side. A dinner of corned beef turns into corned beef sandwiches the next day and corned beef hash for breakfast.
But sometimes you just. Don’t. Want. Leftovers.
Sometimes, you truly want to cook just one meal for just one person: you. And cereal doesn’t count.
So I decided to explore four takes on cooking for one: ground beef, pork, salmon (for when you’re feeling a little fancy) and vegetarian.
I was in a celebratory mood, so I started with the salmon.
It was easy getting a single fillet — I just asked the fish guy at my grocery store for one. And making the sauce for it was almost as easy.
The sauce is a simple matter of whisking together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice and a bit of garlic. And when I tell you that it is a phenomenal sauce that I can’t wait to try again, I’m not being all food writery and saying that everything I make is incredible. I’m telling you: It’s a phenomenal sauce that I can’t wait to try again.
I’m sure it would go well with other fish and even shrimp. For that matter, it would probably be excellent with chicken, too. But I can’t see how it could be better with anything than it is with salmon; it is a perfect pairing.
I sautéed my salmon in a skillet, giving it a delicious, crispy sear. But the sauce is so great you could also bake the salmon, or even poach it. Any way you do it, you’ll be happy.
I next tried a pork chop — and to be honest, I could only find them in packages of two. But that’s fine; I just had one left over to cook the next day.
The traditional accompaniment to pork chops is apple, so I was thinking along those lines when I came upon a recipe that stopped me in my tracks. It is a pork chop with apples, yes, but the apples are sweetened with brown sugar and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and pecans.
Essentially, it is a pork chop with the filling to an apple pie. It isn’t nearly as sweet as that, but it’s basically the same idea.
And how is it? It’s excellent. It’s pork with a warm apple glaze. It’s a little hard to track down where the recipe originally came from — it’s swirling somewhere in the mists of the Internet — but somebody out there is a genius.
As with the pork, it was hard to find ground beef in a portion of much less than a pound. So, as with the pork, I had some beef left over to cook the next day.
I used the beef to make what I’m afraid is a standard meal when I am cooking just for myself. It reminds me of what I imagine well-fed cowboys used to eat on the range, so I called it chuckwagon skillet.
It’s ground beef cooked with onion, potatoes, beans, diced tomatoes and roasted corn, spiced (or not, if you don’t like heat) with minced jalapeño. If you start cooking the potatoes first, everything comes together at the same time, and you can make it all in one skillet. That’s important for solo diners.
If you want, you can make it with ground turkey, although I’m guessing not a lot of cowboys did it that way.
For my final solo meal, I made a vegetarian version of my favorite Philly cheese steak sandwich, Tony Luke’s, which is located right underneath Interstate 95. If you ask, Tony Luke’s will put broccoli rabe on its sandwiches.
So I was thrilled to find a vegetarian version, with just the right amount of broccoli rabe and thinly sliced portobello mushrooms substituting for the beef. The mildly bitter rabe plays beautifully off the succulent, earthy mushrooms, and there is just enough grease to make it great.
Best of all are the couple of slices of American cheese that are melted in, which makes it absolutely gooey and divine. You could also use provolone or do it the Philly way, with Cheez Whiz.
But use the American cheese. Treat yourself.