What wine goes best with ramen? Caesar Salad for one: can it be done? Cap’t Crunch Soup for dinner? These questions are all answered by the celebrated Lonely Chef Oscar Dinwiddie in his latest recipe collection which further explores the subject of his first book (“Table for One: the Solitary Plate”), i.e., the joys and miseries of cooking and eating alone. Always a proponent of the quick and easy, Dinwiddie includes here mainly recipes requiring four ingredients or less, many with only two. Boxed mac & cheese served over a large baked russet is Dinwiddie’s “Perfect Comfort Carb Dump,” certainly a meal that will “fill the hollow desolate holes in your life.”
As ever, Dinwiddie’s prose makes the book worth reading, even if you never cook and aren’t alone in life. Take his description of this breakfast-for-dinner concoction: “Bacon and caramel were meant to be together. Be sure your bacon is of the very thick sliced variety and fried super crisp before rolling it up in the black-banana buttermilk pancake and then drenching it with caramel sauce. With or without the pecan praline crumbles or chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Bits, or even the Jack Daniels Frozen Delight (see page 47 for the proportions of JD to French vanilla ice cream) which I consider an absolute requisite, this dish will make you want to live again. Many a cold winter’s evening, starting to feel that sinking into the oblivion of despair, I have turned my evening and my blood sugar right around. This is a recipe to cherish at the worst of times! Serve with a cup of hot dark coffee and you’ll be fired up to start over on that novel you’ve been writing for six years or maybe even reroof the garage!”
A large portion of the book (and this critic would like to see Dinwiddie devote an entire volume to this cuisine!) is “TV Tray for One.” Here he whimsically wonders what beer Jim Rockford drinks? His “Rockford Tacos” made with folded white bread toast, liverwurst, and salsa are better than they sound and “perfect,” declares Dinwiddie, for a solitary night of “private eye reruns and mental paralysis.”
Fish sticks in a bowl with deli slaw, and tartare sauce spread on Chips Ahoy! cookies make up Dinwiddie’s “Gilligan’s Life is an Island Party Compared to Mine Seafood Supper.” And you won’t want to bypass the “Everyone Loves Lucy and Why Not Me Babalú Bake” with Cuban pork sausage baked into cornbread and served smothered in catsup and kidney beans cooked in rum. “Everyone Loves Raymond Party-for-One Dip” and the “I Dream of Beanie” are also fool-proof and perfect eat-alone feasts.
Don’t think that the Lonely Chef has forgotten desserts! Indeed he opines that, “Fried fats and sugars are the backbone of recovery from a good cathartic cry. Doughnuts, pie, sundaes are safer than over-medication, easier then exercise, and quicker than liquor! Feeling low? The answer is a sugar high!”
Need a lift right now? Try Dinwiddie’s “York Patty Melt.” If you live alone you have a toaster oven and you’ll be enjoying this treat before you can say “Kleenix.” Place one York Patty on the tiny oven pan. Top with crushed Pep-O-Mint Life Savers or, more darlingly, Altoids. Top with several globs of butter and/or raspberry jam. (Don’t grimace! It works!) Put a second York Patty on top and bake at 150 degrees until you see the whole thing began to glisten and sag. Let cool at least seven minutes and then eat with a spoon directly from the pan. Why plate it? You’re alone! Pairs well with a mug of brandy.
What singles’ cookery book would be complete without recipes for a staple of Lonely Chefs everywhere: peanut butter. Whether used as a sauce base (e.g., “Pasta in a Jif”) or a spread (try the delicious “Skippy and Thyme Tater Tots”) or in a dessert (like the “Baked Peanut Butter Oreo Tower”), Dinwiddie works absolutely magic with this ingredient.
Handy appendices give substitutions and break down measurements for cooking alone. Batter calls for 1 cup kefir for 10 servings? Try 1-1/2 teaspoons. Have no kefir? Stir 4 drops lemon juice into 1-1/2 teaspoons milk. Have no milk? Use vanilla ice cream, adding a dash of salt. Have no vanilla ice cream? Try any pale colored flavor. Have no ice cream? Oh, of course you do: you’re single!
Dinwiddie knows the lifestyle, trials, and inclinations of his disciples. No wonder his books rise to the top of eharmony’s book list like pop-open refrigerator biscuits in the oven! With Oscar Dinwiddie’s help, cooking and eating by oneself become almost enviable activities! Almost.