"I don't know, I guess it's like depressing. Or just really really sad." This is what a friend, who doesn't cook, thinks of cooking for a party of one. My red pepper-infused Ramen Noodles with fish sauce vehemently rebukes this.
Not to get all "Eat Pray Love" on you, but cooking, for me anyway, has always been a solitary experience. To be clear, I'm not trying to sauce shame anyone. If you don't like or want to cook, then by all means don't. But please, single ladies who run the world schoolin' life, don't NOT cook because of propoganda created by the secret coupling cabal, which perpetuates the myth that cooking doesn't count unless it's for two (or three or four). The answering machine that taught me how to cook would beg to differ.
My mother was (is) a single parent, who aside from loving the job of raising the most awesome kid on earth, also liked her alone time. Add to that the fact that she had to work several jobs to make sure I didn't end up an idiot.
When my mother had to work late, she'd call our house during the day and leave a "recipe" on the machine. "Lena Dana, there's ground beef defrosting in the sink. Tacos?" If the machine was winking at me when I got home, I put my backpack down and headed for the kitchen. Perhaps some of you "traditional" family types think this is a horrible way to raise a child. I don't have a counter argument aside from my place in society as a non-murdering fully-functioning adult who likes rainbows and civil rights.
My machine meals usually turned out pretty decent. Before "Top Chef," I figured out how to brown meat, cook noodles, make rice and scrape off the burnt parts. Most days my mom made it home to cook and we'd sit down and chat about our days and bond and blah blah blah. But on the days when I had all 500 square feet of our one-bedroom house to myself to boil some water, blast some SWV and sip bubbly Crsytal Pepsi from a champage flute I got a taste of independence I couldn't wait to gobble up when I got grown.
Now cooking is something I prefer to do alone. Sure, I usually make meals for the lovable hungry aliens who've invaded my living space, but I cherish the moments right before the dinner bell rings and I can silently bask in my own accomplishments.
Case in point: Gilt Taste's Buttery Roast Chicken with Black Garlic.
Here's the thing. My name's Helena and I'm an online window shopper. Every single day I HAVE to scroll through pages of clothes on Gilt, weird adventure-y stuff or auto repair on Groupon and vacations on Kayak. I need to know what's out there, just in case, which is how I came across the Gilt Taste recipe for the roast chicken pictured above. Black garlic, which is hard to find offline, is the star of the dish so I figured I'd never actually make it in real life, only in my mind kitchen.
Following the super easy recipe on Gilt Taste, I mashed this baby up into a chocolate-y paste of softened butter, parsley and Kosher salt, using a marble pestle my landlord left in my condo.
After rinsing the 4-lb chicken and patting it dry (which is essential for browning, thanks "Julie & Julia"!) I slathered this black garlic butter all over it with my fingers, which wasn't the greatest idea. Imagine trying to grease up a beach ball with peanut butter. So, I switched to a steel butter knife to get my bird good and lotioned up, making sure to get some in the butt crack, arm pits and thigh crease. It wasn't until my oven beeped when it hit 400 degrees that I realized I don't own a roasting rack.
Aluminum foil to the rescue!
This is a DIY (some might say "ghetto") roasting rack/pan. Basically you wrap a regular 9 by 13-inch pan in foil as tightly as possible. Then stab about three rows of four holes in the foil so the chicken juice can seep through. Just make sure your pan is wrapped tight enough that the foil can hold the weight of the chicken without sagging too much. The point is not to cook the chicken in its own juices.
Booyakasha! Buttery black garlic goodnes for that ass, in about an hour. I think the one thing that scares people the most about roasting chicken is measuring doneness. Don't be afraid to poke the hell out of the thickest parts (breasts, thighs) all the way to the bone. If the juice runs pink? Salmonella. Clear juice? A okay. Also, let your chicken "rest" for ten minutes or so, to let all the flavors settle. Then go serial killer on it and serve.
This simple salad is just funky colored tomatoes, avocados, and arugula with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. The blinding colors trick people into thinking you did something. You didn't.
The hour and half I spent in the kitchen, drinking Yellow Tail and listening to Amy Winehouse, was meditative and necessary. And when everything came out looking like it was supposed to, I couldn't help but be proud of how I turned out too. I'm a grown woman who knows how to feed herself, in a kitchen she knows her way around, in a home she pays the rent for, living a life she really likes.
So, I want to share my recipe affirmations and will be hitting all you xoJane jockeys with a new rando meals and meditations on the reg. Share your favorites here and I'll try those, too.