Cooking for one

On a discussion board I frequent, there’s been talk about how to cook for just one person. As is typical for me, I kinda ran off at the mouth with a lot of suggestions, but I figure enough of them are good that I’d turn ’em into a web-page here on my site, too. Enjoy!

Buy vegetables at a co-op, organic store, or farmer’s market that lets you select your own. I can get potatoes two or three at a time that way. If you have your own herb-garden you have fresh herbs on an as-needed basis through the warm months. A small indoor herb garden keeps the place smelling better in the winter, especially if you’re an indifferent house-keeper as I am.

Root vegetables - get a one gallon plastic container, and fill it about half-full of clean, dry sand. When I buy a batch of beets, green onions, sweet-potatoes, or whatever, the ones I don’t use immediately go into the sand, and then the whole container goes in the fridge. The veggies will keep for weeks this way.

Other vegetables get canned, pickled, or frozen, depending on the veg. I have a “root cellar” (a side room in my basement - it doesn’t stay cool enough to be a real root cellar) that I hope to fill with four or five dozen pint jars of home-canned things by the end of the fall. I can things in “just in time” batches with a tall and skinny two-quart saucepan. It holds three pint jars just perfectly. I also have the monster 21 quart pressure-cooker/canner which gets put into service late in the fall.

Corn - when I get fresh corn on the cob, a half-dozen ears at a time, I roast two ears on the grill for dinner (and invite a friend) on day 1. Steam the remaining four ears on day 2, eating one, and cutting the corn off the other three ears. Some gets eaten on day 3, some turns into creamed-corn and canned, and some goes into cornbread or polenta (or grits).

Cook meals that can evolve. For example, I’ll make up a batch of rice that’s generally 4 servings for me (the rice cooker doesn’t do well with smaller batches). Meal 1, I stir-fry up a small batch of sauce and meat. Meal 2 (lunch the next day, for example), I’ll make fried-rice from most of the leftover rice. Meal 3 (dinner) gets a new sauce on the fried rice. Meal 4 (breakfast) is kedgeree made with the fried rice.

Similarly with red sauce. Batch 1 is meatless. Depending on the size of the batch, some will get canned and go into the root cellar. One meal’s worth goes over pasta. Next meal with it, I use it and some meat to stuff a bell pepper or two. Third meal ends up being hotdish, perhaps with some leftover rice, or lasagna. Leftover lasagna gets put into individual-serving-size containers and frozen.

I also freeze bacon, but I generally just cut a pound in half (for half-length strips, which are more convenient in BLTs), and half goes in the freezer. No individual wrapping, since I’ll use up a half-pound of bacon by myself before it goes bad. If the bacon starts to go bad before I’m done with it, I lay it out on a sheet-pan, bake at 350 until it’s really crispy, cool, crumble, and a ziploc bag of bacon-bits goes into the freezer.

For bread, I either bake my own, with small loaf pans (they’re “kid-size” ones that came with some Easy-Bake oven clone) and freeze dough I’m not going to use immediately, or buy the tubes with the dough-boy on ’em, and freeze unused portions. If you’re making toast, bread can be frozen after baking, too, but it will be too dry for sandwiches. But I often have a half-loaf of “store-bought” bread in the freezer just for toast.

Leftover bread gets turned into homemade croutons by sprinkling it with a little olive oil and herbs and then drying it out in the oven on the lowest setting. And then into the freezer with any I won’t use in a week or so. Croutons will keep nearly forever if frozen in an airtight container.

When I make a batch of dough, I also usually turn out a couple pizza crusts. Bake them half-way (about 5 minutes at 350), then into a gallon ziploc bag, and into the freezer. When it’s time for pizza, I pull out a jar of red-sauce, some leftover meat, use the microplane to grate some frozen mozzarella off the chunk from the freezer, toss on some leftover vegetables, and bake for 10-15 at 350 and I’ve got something a lot better than Tombstone sells.

Microplane graters are wonderful for grating frozen cheese. Mozz doesn’t freeze especially well, but if you’re putting it onto a pizza, it’s okay. “Government cheese” cheddar is some of the best stuff on the market, and freezes very well. In spite of the Rainmakers’ song, I’m always happy when I score one of those tasty 5 lb blocks.

Meats - get small roasts cut to order by the butcher. Day 1, it’s hot roast for dinner. Day 2, it’s cold slices on a sandwich for lunch, and starting a stew with the rest of the roast. Leftover stew either gets canned or frozen.

Chicken: Day 1, roasted whole chicken. I eat both legs and maybe a thigh. Day 2, I part out the carcass, and slice up all the breast meat. Into a ziploc bag for lunches. Thighs get warmed for dinner, or chopped and turned into a stir-fry. The main carcass, bones and wings go into the gallon ziploc bag of chicken parts, which when full gets turned into chicken stock, which gets frozen in 1/2 cup plastic containers. I can thaw just enough stock for any recipe when I need it.

Finally, the BEST investment I made for my kitchen was a Danby counter-top dishwasher. They’re under $200 now. Four plates, four saucers, and four cups/glasses is a full load for it. I’m not wasting a ton of water doing dishes for one guy every day, but with pots, pans, etc., I have enough for a load every day, so nothing sits around and gets stinky.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:08:07.