Alone in the Kitchen with Pork Belly

May 19th, 2009  |  Published in All, Meats and Sausages, Sausages, Meats  |  5 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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