Fork dinners for singles

Famous parties of one: Lise Meitner, nuclear physics genius and Noble Peace Prize nominee. Mary Cassatt, which is funny given all the mother-daughter subjects in her paintings. Tintin (Snowy doesn’t count. Okay, he does but only because he’s the most adorable sidekick known to detectives). Jane Austen (Jane Austen?!) Oprah Winfrey (here is an instance when all her dogs do not count).

Fork dinners are the kind of thing you make only for yourself. Some people say that it’s hard to cook for one person, and I think part of where that comes from is that you are not cooking for an audience. There’s more motivation to put a little more umph into a meal when you know you’ll present the final product to the one you’re eating with, who is more often than not, the one you love. But when you’re hovering over the stove just to fill your own stomach? I’ll be every cook takes a shortcut in that scenario.

Here’s the secret about fork dinners. They are flexible (easy) and few rules apply. What’s in your fridge? Can you cut it up, season it with the other things in your fridge, toss it together with some kind of starch? Presto, the formula for a fork dinner.

What I’ve made here is an attempt at Tex-Mex dinner. The original concept was to use ground beef and make it look like a taco grew out of its shell. But I didn’t have beef in my fridge, and found some chicken I could chop up. I knew I had to use chili powder and cumin to give it that Southern heat, and if I had a lime I’d squeeze one in too. I had a lemon, which still freshened the dish with that fresh citrus zing. I said this was flexible, right? And tomato. I can eat tomatoes raw, like apples, but when you cook them, I like them slightly undercooked so you can still take a gushy bite out of it. The can of corn niblets added in here also gave the dish some sweetness and texture, otherwise a one-pot meal risks being too homogenous and sludgy.

Finally, the best part about fork dinners is that you don’t need anything other than your bowl and that one utensil. And because we know that when you have a night by yourself, you will probably run another TV episode or watch Harry Potter again (just getting ready to find that last Horcrux!), you’re bound to watch less of your plate and more of the screen. Eating with just a fork pretty much guarantees the food will make it into your mouth. Aiming in the dark, so to speak. And if you’re really into the one utensil strategy, you just might use your wooden spoon. Saves the washing up, and no one’s going to do that for you when you’re having a night in with me myself and I, right?

Tex-Mex rice recipe

  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked rice (day-old is best)
  • 1 can corn niblet
  • Cooked meat, can be leftovers, shredded or chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Cumin, salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Heat a drizzle of oil in a wide pan on medium heat, and fry the onion and carrots. Add the tomatoes until they are softened.
  • Combine the meat, corn, and rice until well-combined. If the mixture is getting dry, drizzle in some water and let the rice soak up the moisture.
  • Add cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze in the citrus juice just before serving.
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