I started this blog a year and a half ago and I have not yet directly addressed the question of cooking for one: is it worth it, or is it just a sad way to spend an evening? To be honest, when I started this blog I had no particular purpose in mind, and I certainly didn’t know if anyone would read what I had to write! If I could trace back to what I was thinking in August 2009, I believe I told myself something along the lines of, “ok, I’m moving to Paris and I’ll be cooking for myself a lot, so why not write about it?” It was as simple as that.
This blog has been a lot of fun and now that people are starting to respond my efforts feel very rewarded; I hope every one writes a blog so they can know how good it feels when people you don’t know contact you and compliment your work. However, I can’t deny that at times I feel discouraged or unsure of myself: there are not many other sites that deal with cooking for one, for the obvious reason that it can be lonely. There are moments when I ask myself why I am working on a blog that merely shows people how lonely I am, and that I often eat by myself.
Ultimately I think these thoughts are just my potentially bruised ego talking, for every time I make a meal for myself, I never once feel sad or alone, quite the contrary in fact. I have to eat, we all do, and sometimes I have to eat alone, so I may as well make it as enjoyable as possible. I decided to write about it because I love cooking and even though I’m eating alone, I do want to share the meal with someone, and that someone is you!
The Wall Street Journal wrote a blog post last August contemplating cooking for one and whether there is value behind it (the exact title is “Dining Solo: Is Cooking For One a Waste of Time and Money?” – they clearly don’t beat around the bush). I think that if you are just starting to cook for yourself, it takes some adjustment and getting used to using half of an ingredient or part of a product. But I don’t know of anyone who has started cooking for themselves and later stopped. The fact of the matter is that cooking for yourself gives you a sense not only of self-reliance and dependability, but also of self-esteem: you don’t need to go out because you can make the best things at home. As for the issue of cost, I can’t imagine that eating out every night would be cheaper than making food at home, but I don’t know this for sure and would love to hear your opinion - if you cook for yourself, do you find that it saves you money?
I posted a comment on the WJS blog post with the example of a cauliflower head, and how you can use it several different ways during the course of a week, so you don’t have to eat the same meal three times in a row or throw away what you don’t use. The most important thing, as I detailed in my comment, is pairing long-lasting pantry items, such as onions, garlic, nuts, spices, oils, and almond/peanut/soy butter with fresh ingredients, namely fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats. If you want to make chicken but you can only buy chicken breasts in pairs, then use one breast to make this dish, save the other breast in the fridge for up to three days and use the it in chicken piccata or chicken with couscous and prunes.
This recipe for chicken stuffed with mushrooms was inspired by a recipe from Martha Stewart, whose cookbook my dad gave me for christmas last year (the recipes are really great dad, so thanks!). Her recipe calls for wild mushrooms but I used only white button mushrooms (in France they are called champignons de Paris), and it came out very well – there was a deep mushroom flavor while not overtaking the chicken and parsley. However, I did add one expensive ingredient which certainly influenced the outcome of this dish – oil heralding from one of France’s most prized possessions, yes I am talking about truffles. I bought a small tin can of black truffle oil for 8 euros, which I have already used 5 times and can probably use a few more times yet, so I don’t find this to be a huge splurge. Unfortunately I just looked online and saw that the same tin can is being sold in the states for 25 dollars!
It is up to you if you want to add truffle oil to the chicken; if not, you may want to vary the mushrooms and include a few wild mushrooms (chanterelle, shiitake, or porcini) to intensify the flavor. Or, you could opt out of either of these options and eat it the classic way, or better yet add toasted pine nuts or walnuts to the mushroom mixture and stuff the chicken breast in this manner. Lastly, since I ask you to use only 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, and since you likely will be buying more than this, I highly recommend wrapping the parsley in a damp paper towel and putting it in a Tupperware container in the fridge to maximize its lifespan.
No matter how you eat it, I hope you enjoy it – and if you do enjoy it, or even if you don’t, let me know!
Chicken Breast stuffed with Mushrooms and Parsley (and topped with truffle oil, if you please) – serves 1
1 tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for the chicken)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
5 large white mushrooms, finely diced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 chicken breast
Black truffle oil for drizzling (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C
1. Heat the tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and saute until softened, about 7-8 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, wash and pat dry the chicken. Rub all over with olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the parsley.
3. Once mushrooms are softened, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Once the liquid has evaporated, remove from heat and stir in the remaining parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a teaspoon or so of truffle oil if using.
4. Stuff the chicken breast cavity with the mushroom mixture, and top the breast with any remainder of the mixture.
5. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil, place the breast in the center, and seal the foil around the chicken to create a sealed pocket.
6. Bake until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes.