Early November, when temperatures dip below zero and the primal need for warmth becomes more pressing, is not generally considered the ideal time to be mateless -- or, more importantly, dateless.
With the holidays fast approaching, the better organized (if slightly neurotic) among us are already lining up potential escorts for the season's long list of parties and social events.
This is the time of year, it seems, for well-meaning and otherwise normal friends and family members to hand-pick the best of their single buddies to make one another's acquaintance in the hope, one presumes, that romance might blossom under the mistletoe or somewhere equally unlikely.
This delusion is not the fault of the well-meaning friends and family members. Blame it instead on the acceptance by the public at large of the patently untrue notion that there is nothing more depressing than being on one's own during the holidays.
However strongly I might feel that one is never the loneliest number (except, perhaps, in the case of the last mincemeat tart on a holiday dessert tray), I don't feel that a full-scale rant against society's skewed views is in order just yet.
Eating well remains the best revenge. The following recipes were designed with one or, at the most, two people in mind.
The dishes can be prepared in the morning and left to sit in the refrigerator all day, then thrown into a hot oven to cook while you take a bath, make a phone call, watch the news, or generally do whatever you want -- isn't that what single people do best? -- and, ideally, you'll have a hot meal within an hour of arriving home.
On a completely different note, I'm helping put together a cookbook that's being published in time for the 2004 Kitchen and Bath show in January. The book is all about soup, and I'd like to include some of your recipes. Do you have a family-favourite soup, or a stellar soup accompaniment, that you would like to see published? Please send it my way.
The winning recipes will be included in the book, and winners will have the opportunity to participate in a cooking demonstration at the Kitchen and Bath show. Entries may be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter Veal Stew
This recipe is even better the second day. I eat it as is, sometimes with a crusty roll, but it's also nice spooned over a baked potato.
1 lb. stewing veal, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2c dry white wine
5 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
10 whole peppercorns
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, halves and thinly sliced
1 handful (approx. 1 cup) baby carrots
3/4c sliced mushrooms
1 - 28oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch strips (optional)
2c (approx) chicken or veal stock
1c flour, on a shallow plate
Combine veal, wine, brandy, oil, salt, peppercorns, thyme, sage, bay leaf, garlic, onion, and carrots in a large, shallow dish. Stir well, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and marinade at least three hours or all day.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove veal from marinade, drain, and set aside. Drain marinade vegetables, reserving marinade. Stir mushrooms and tomatoes into vegetable mixture. Line the bottom of a cast iron or other heavy saucepan with half of the bacon strips, then cover with half of the vegetables. Dredge veal in flour, one piece at a time, and place in one layer on top of vegetables in pot. Top with remaining bacon and vegetables. Pour reserved marinade over ingredients in saucepan, then add enough stock to barely cover. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, then transfer to oven and cook about an hour, until meat is tender. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning if necessary. If stew seems too liquid-y, simmer, uncovered, on stove top until desired thickness is reached.
Lamb and Pomegranate Pizzettes
This recipe actually makes enough for four little pizzas. I buy ready-made pizza dough from DeLuca's, divide it into four balls, and freeze them individually. Transfer a ball of dough into the fridge in the morning to thaw, then take it out about an hour before you are ready to make the pizzette and allow it to come to room temperature. Don't hesitate to use plain mini pizza shells if it's easier. I also make the filling ahead, drain it, and freeze it in individual portions. Allow to thaw in the fridge before using.
1 package ready made pizza dough or 4 mini pizza shells
1 medium Spanish onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 gloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb
1 tbsp harissa or chili paste
1 tsp cumin
pinch of allspice
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp each finely chopped fresh mint and flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
seeds and juice from one pomegranate or juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
240g goat cheese
Place dough in a large, well-oiled bowl and allow to come to room temperature and begin to rise. Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onion is limp and pale pink. Add lamb and cook, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, then stir in harissa, cumin, allspice, tomato paste, mint, parsley, and pomegranate or lemon juice and cook, stirring, one minute. Taste for salt & pepper and adjust seasonings as necessary. Drain in a sieve set over a plate.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When dough has risen, shape into 4-5-inch rounds and place on an oiled baking sheet. Divide filling into four portions and spoon onto shells. Divide goat cheese into four portions and crumble on top of pizzettes. Brush crusts with olive oil. Bake 20 minutes or so, or until crust has browned and cheese and filling are heated through.
Makes 4 pizzettes.
Butterflying means removing the backbone of the bird. Not only does this speed up the cooking time considerably, it also makes it much easier to cut the chicken in half after roasting. My butcher at DeLuca's is always willing to butterfly the chicken for me, but it's easy to do yourself as long as you have a decent pair of kitchen scissors: just place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board and cut the chicken from end to end on either side of the backbone to remove it. This recipe serves two, but I will often eat half of the chicken in the manner of a Barbarian one night and save the rest for sandwiches.
1 three pound chicken, butterflied
juice of 1 lemon
1/3c olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 large onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1 head garlic, separated into cloves, skin left on
2 lemons, washed and quartered
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tbsp coarse salt
Whisk together lemon juice and olive oil, then add rosemary, mashed garlic, and ground pepper. Place the chicken in this mixture to marinate, cover, and refrigerate at least one hour or all day.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade and place in a roasting pan. Strew onion, garlic, lemon, and rosemary on and around the chicken. Sprinkle chicken with coarse salt, drizzle a little olive oil over the whole thing, and roast one hour or so, until juices run clear when pierced at the thickest part of the thigh. The skin will be very dark brown and crispy. Remove from heat and allow to sit about 10 minutes before cutting in half and serving, with the caramelized vegetables and pan juices poured over top.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
This recipe is just a suggestion; I have even sunk to making ice cream sandwiches with store bought cookies when the need is dire.
1c unsalted butter, room temperature
1c packed dark brown sugar
1/2c granulated sugar
1 tbsp dark rum
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/4c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse salt
3/4c bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4c milk chocolate chips
1c pecan halves, coarsely chopped
vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars, then beat in rum and eggs until pale yellow and fluffy. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until well blended, then add chocolate chips and nuts.
Divide dough into two parts. Place each half between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll into a log shape. Cut desired number of cookies in 1/2-inch rounds from one dough log and freeze remainder. Place cookies onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake until golden, 10 minutes or so. Allow to cool, if you can, before making sandwiches.