Alone in the Kitchen with Pork Belly

May 19th, 2009  |  Published in All, Homemade Sausage and Meat Cookery, Sausages, Meats  |  4 Comments

I started pondering solo dining a while back when Denise from Chez Danisse recommended I read Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, a collection of short stories about cooking for one, dining alone, and preparing meals in less than ideal kitchens.  I followed her suggestion, and thoroughly enjoyed the book.  I suggest you read it too!

I have dined alone quite a lot in my life.  Besides being a bit of a loner by nature, I spent the year after graduating from Wellesley traveling around Europe, during which time, I dined alone a lot.  Sometimes I had an apartment that I could cook in and I would dine alone there; other times my home was a hostel or a hotel or a friend of a friend’s couch, meaning I ate out a lot.  I might even go as far as saying I am a pro at dining alone.  It doesn’t phase me one bit to walk into a restaurant (nice, dive, mid-range, whatever) and ask for a table for one.  One might even say I feel a bit empowered by it.  I even got good at requesting a table for one in many different languages — eine person, bitte; una persona, por favor; une personne, s’il vous plait; sola persona, per favore; een persoon, alsjeblieft…

In the last few years I haven’t dined alone that much.  When I do dine alone, it’s because Steven has to stay late at work or is out of town.  Most nights we eat together, either at the table or on the couch watching Lost or Stargate on one of our laptops…  When I am cooking for both of us, I am fairly adventurous, but tend to stick to the tried and true.  If I am trying something totally new and different for the very first time, I tend to wait for a night when I will be alone because, well, I feel best cooking something entirely new just for myself, you know, just in case…

I picked up some marinated sliced pork belly from the butcher in Bissendorf the other day, along with some entrecote steaks, ground beef, salami, and frankfurters.  Everything but the pork belly went quickly.  Having never cooked pork belly before, I was a little bit at a loss of what to do with it.  One day went by, then two, then three, then four…  today I finally decided that I needed to cook the pork belly or throw it out.  Steven had to stay late at work tonight too, making this the ideal evening to try my hand at pork belly cooking…  Not really knowing what to do, I decided to cut the pork belly slices into large-ish pieces (2 in wide, 2-3 in long, 3/4 in thick or so), and fry it like I would bacon until it was crisp and nicely browned.  Perhaps it’s not the best or most elegant preparation of pork belly, but it is at least a good place to start.So, I fried up the marinated pork belly and served myself a good-sized portion over spicy sauteed zucchini, green onions, shallots, and napa cabbage.  And you know what, it was sooooooo  delicious!  Sort of like…. mega-bacon.  I am pretty sure I lost the nuance of the meat by frying it for so long, but like I said before, at least it was a place to start.  Now I am not so intimidated by the large pieces of skin-on pork belly sold at the butcher….  I am ready to roast.

So one more thought on dining alone — as much as I love dinner company, I also look forward to dining alone.  If you’re at a restaurant, a solo meal gives you time to think.  At home, a solo meal can be a canvas for experimentation (as well as giving you time alone to think).  Do you eat alone often? by choice? do you experiment? cook a comfort meal?

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  1. Erin says:

    May 19th, 2009at 7:24 pm(#)

    Pim of ChezPim has a great recipe for pork belly and Marvin over at Burnt Lumpia has a pork belly recipe that is guaranteed to make your heart explode.. I personally love it braised with kimchee, though I’m not sure how easy it is to come by in your neck of the woods.

    As for dining alone, I have never minded it. I look at it as a time for contemplation, brainstorming and a time to treat myself. There is nothing like the solitary gluttony of a plate of oeufs en meurette to put a spring in your step. No conversation to divert your attention. At home, when Phil is away I treat myself to little nibbles and appetizers. There is usually a bit of speck and some sort of cheese involved.

  2. denise says:

    May 20th, 2009at 11:40 am(#)

    How can I not get excited about mega-bacon! Dining alone is a joy, but only when done right. I rush through my solo meals all too often. If you are up for a little more reading on the subject…Amanda Hesser dedicates a chapter of Cooking for Mr. Latte to dining alone (chapter 6). I also enjoyed her chapter on solo dining in the sky (chapter 26).

  3. maybelles mom says:

    May 31st, 2009at 4:27 pm(#)

    I can’t remember the last time I dined alone. It has easily been about 5 years.

    But, as for the pork belly, Gordon Ramsay has a good recipe for pressed pork belly.

  4. Jen says:

    June 13th, 2009at 7:42 am(#)

    erin — pork belly braised with kimchi sounds amazingly delicious… I am definitely going to have to try this. Do you know the cookbook “Fat”? it also has some delicious looking pork belly recipes

    denise — thanks for the recommendations! So far your suggestions have been spot on, so I’ll have to look these up.

    maybelles mom — thanks for the tip — I’ll check out his recipe

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