Cooking for one

I’m on my soapbox! Just need to vent!  Maybe I’m even being a bit paranoid, but….

At times I feel there is an attitude problem about cooking for one–even more than cooking for  just two! Sometimes while perusing recipes I find  myself getting irritated by  comments on the fact that one didn’t want to put (too)  much effort into cooking for two! If not for two, then surely we wouldn’t put much effort into cooking for one?  Duh!?!

Table for six

Occasionally more than one dines here

Why is it that  people think that cooking for one or even two people shouldn’t take much effort?  OK–it takes more effort to cook for thirteen  than for one  or two,  just in terms of quantity and size of pots. Admittedly some dishes do not lend themselves to making for one or two–so invite the neighbors; roast goose is not something that works well for one or two.  But…

No matter how many you’re cooking for there are times when you need quick, easy recipes–any cook who works outside the home knows that. But that doesn’t mean that there are not times when you want something special without having to invite the neighbors, or eating the same thing for umpteen meals.

Waiting for the roast goose....

Waiting for the roast goose….

I’m all for improvisation and cooking as an ongoing process of tasting and seasoning, but sometimes I do want a tested recipe so I’m always on the lookout for cookbooks for one or two. It can be difficult to take a recipe that serves six or eight and cut it down for one or two servings; you have to make allowances especially for the seasoning and you cannot necessarily do that “on the fly”.

I’ve commented on some of my favorite books by Judith JonesJoe Yonan and Nigel Slater where you do find recipes (and not necessarily “quick” ones) for one or two–these are single people who really like their food and are not bound by how much effort it takes to prepare the dish.



When I saw that the editors from America’s Test Kitchen had put out  “for two” cookbook, I  was excited because I like the way they explain the recipes, and how well they work.  I have tried some of the recipes and am glad to have them.  One bonus of their cooking-for-two approach is a section that cross-references recipes, e.g. all that use cauliflower or bell peppers, so that you can deal with what isn’t used in a single recipe.  Another benefit is that the seasonings are also adjusted. (Personally for my taste, I find many of the recipes a bit under-seasoned–but that’s taste, and no reflection of the worth of the recipes–after all, they have to please many people–and I know that I may need to increase seasonings.)

Many of the recipes involve chops, and/or pre-portioned meats which do play huge role in single-serving-cooking. There are recipes, e.g. for beef stew, where ingredients are modified or cooking methods changed (e.g. beef stew).    Recipes designed for two  are much easier to adapt to cooking for one (without necessarily having extra portions) than recipes for six or so.  If you’re hesitant about improvisation or about how to adjust recipes, then the Cook’s Illustrated  books on cooking for two would be a good investment–as you use the recipes, you learn why they work, and get a feel for how to change or reduce ingredients.

These, as well as books by Jones,  Yonan and Slater (see bibliography), give an excellent jumping-off point for single-serving  cooking.

A son goût.