M.F.K. Fisher on being a woman and dining alone, 1938:
“More often than not people who see me on trains and in ships, or in restaurants, feel a kind of resentment of me since I taught myself to enjoy being alone. Women are puzzled, which they hate to be, and jealous of the way I am served, with such agreeable courtesy, and of what I am eating and drinking, which is almost never the sort of thing they order for themselves. And men are puzzled too, in a more personal way. I anger them as males.”
I eat alone often, sometimes standing at the kitchen counter, feet bare, one resting on the other. Other times, after a rushed morning of errands, in a corner of a restaurant with nothing to look on but the empty seat across from me. The quiet, disturbed only by a gurgling pour of wine and the sharp rap of a plate being set down, is a brief respite from the louder clatter of daily details.
There is, as Fisher noted, a mistrust of a woman enjoying a meal alone, and for years, when I dared do it, I fidgeted and pretended to be busy looking through my bag while my food arrived. It takes time to feel at ease with oneself, but once it happens, it’s relief, reward, and perhaps a touch of defiance.
These recipes are a feast for one, but they do easily multiply to feed more, should the mood suit you.
ROASTED MARROW BONES
Ask your butcher to trim the bones down to size. This is a make-ahead recipe.
3 beef marrow bones, about 3 inches long
Maldon salt for serving
Blackberry preserves and crusty bread for serving
– 24 hours prior to serving, combine cold water and 2 tablespoons salt in a large bowl. Add the bones and refrigerate. Drain and rinse the bones about every 6 hours, replacing the saltwater solution. This will eliminate impurities and season the marrow.
– Drain the bones and pat dry. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish and arrange the bones in the dish, standing straight up. Roast 20 to 30 minutes or until the blade of a knife slips easily down the center.
– Transfer the dish to a cooling rack and cool about 5 minutes. Scoop out with a knife or small spoon, spreading marrow on crusty bread. Sprinkle with maldon salt and, for a touch of sweetness, top with a small spoonful of blackberry preserves.
ROASTED CHICKEN & BEETS
Makes 1 chicken
Nothing says comfort like a perfectly roasted chicken. Once you get the hang of this, you’ll find yourself making it at least once a week.
If you find beets with nice green tops, wash them, thinly slice them, and toss them with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper and serve them alongside the chicken and roasted beets.
4 beets, scrubbed, green tops reserved
1 (3 ½- to 4-pound) whole chicken
Kosher salt and pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
– Adjust oven racks to middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange an oven-safe cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet, or, set a V-rack in a roasting pan. Wrap beets in foil.
– Make a small inverted “V” incision at the point where the chicken breasts meet the cavity and pull out the wish bone—this will make carving easier. Run fingers between the skin and flesh, just to loosen it. Measure out ¾ teaspoon salt per pound of chicken and rub directly on the flesh and on the skin. Season liberally with pepper.
– Cut 4 tablespoons butter into thin slices and tuck under the skin. Tuck the wings behind the chicken, then use kitchen twine to tie the ends of the drumsticks together. Arrange the chicken breast side down in the prepared rack. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and lightly brush on the chicken.
– Set the beet packet on the bottom rack of the oven and the chicken on the middle rack. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then transfer to the stovetop. Carefully, using wadded paper towels or two kitchen towels, turn the chicken breast side up. Brush with melted butter.
– Return the chicken to the oven and increase the temperature to 450°F. Roast until golden and thigh meat registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 40 minutes longer. Transfer roasting pan or baking sheet to cooling rack and allow chicken to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
– Meanwhile, transfer beets to a cutting board and open foil packet. When cool enough to handle, peel off beets’ skin with paper towels. Carve chicken and drizzle serving with rendered juices. Cut beets in half, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Once cooled, freeze leftover choux puffs in a zipper-lock bag. When ready to use, warm through in a preheated 350°F oven, then allow to cool to room temperature.
For the Choux Puffs
½ cup water
2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
– Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with vegetable cooking spray.
– In medium saucepan, combine water, butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until butter melts. Stir in flour all at once, and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a smooth ball of dough, 4 to 5 minutes.
– Remove from heat and transfer dough to a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, add the whole eggs one a time, beating well after each addition. The eggs should be well incorporated and the dough smooth. Transfer dough to a pastry bag or large zipper-lock bag with 1-inch of bottom corner trimmed off. Scrape dough into bag and pipe dough out into about 1 ½-inch mounds, spacing them about 2 inches apart from each other. Alternatively, use a 1 ½-inch ice cream scoop with spring release to scoop out dough.
Beat egg yolk, pinch of salt, and cream in small bowl. Brush tops of dough with egg wash. Bake puffs for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is puffed and dark golden. Transfer puffs directly to cooling rack and cool completely.
For the Chocolate Sauce and Assembly
For easy assembly, scoop out ice cream onto a tray and place in freezer to set.
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or chocolate chips
Ice cream flavor of choice
– Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Add chocolate and salt and stir until chocolate is fully melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
– With fingertips, carefully split the puffs and fill with ice cream. Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce.