Dinner For One
Dinner for one. There's nothing more difficult than dinner for one. There are plenty of food blogs out there that give great recipes with great portions for two. But one? There's not much out there. Let's be honest, cooking exciting meals for one is difficult.
Historically, I have made a big pot of something on Sunday and ate it all week. I've rotated through red beans and rice, various flavors of jambalaya, a gumbo here and there, and chicken etouffee. These are all great, and they reheat well, but eating the exact same microwave reheated meal for five nights gets old. It got old to the point where I was throwing out half the leftovers - that's not healthy, and it is wasteful.
My food is heavily influenced by my roots. I grew up in the New Orleans suburbs and learned to cook from mom and grandma. Dietary staples very much include red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, beef pot roast, and just about anything that swims. My absolute favorite chef? Paul Prudhomme, who passed away in 2015. His cookbooks consistently have fun, exciting, and delicious flavor combinations. You'll find a lot of flavor and spice combinations native to NOLA in the food that I now cook weekly.
These last few months I have been trying something new. Instead of the big, boring, one pot meals, I have been getting the ingredients to cook each night and make 2-3 different things. Flexibility is key. I'll do the prep work the first night - either Sunday or Monday - put everything into containers, and put it together each night. I get recipe ideas from everywhere: Youtube videos of the latest chef I find, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and plenty of others. I really enjoy the current fad in recipes - the overhead 30-60 second video of someone making something simple and tasty, with a link to their blog.
A few weeks ago I watched a video of Gordon Ramsey making chicken parm for one, and lusted over it for a week. So the next weekend, I bought all the ingredients for it - fresh Parmesan, a fresh ball of mozzarella, some good Arribita pasta sauce, and made fresh chicken parm each night. It was fantastically delicious, and nothing beats a hot fresh meal each night.
This week I'm mixing it up. It is Hatch chile season here in Texas, so this week I bought a pound of roasted Hatch chiles from Central Market. I also bought some nice aged cheddar and made a batch of Hatch chile mac and cheese as a side. I bought some cauliflour and orzo to make a variation of Gimme Some Oven's Roasted Cauliflower Orzo Salad, because veggies are important.
For the main course, I bought some of Central Market's already marinated/seasoned chicken breast, seasoned with Hatch chiles, and I bought some shrimp. Tonight I made blackened shrinp tacos, with some pickled onions, leftover cole slaw, and it was delicious.
I've wanted to pickle onions for a while, and it is so incredibly easy. There are plenty of guides online, but the gist of them consists of:
- Slice onions into long strings
- Mash some garlic
- Bring some vinegar, salt, sugar, and pepper to a boil
- Pour over onions and garlic
The onions are ready in half an hour, and they keep for a few weeks. Pickled onions are so tasty.
Being able to cook something simple and tasty each night has made food more exciting for me. Having some variety in life is good, and I have a lot of fun picking out recipes each week to make for the next week.