6 Stupidly Easy Dishes To Make For Single People
Like most writers, I have a day job. I make food for people to cram in their big ol' eat-holes. It's how we get the good acid reflux pills in my house. And like many of you, I was single at times in my life. (Not that many. Right, ladies?) It's in those lonely, soul-crushing times that you learn to get creative in many different areas. Shoveling food into your face is one of those.
Having had a wide array of jobs in food service, from fry cook in chain restaurants to creating fine dining meals for vice presidents, I'd like to offer my services to you single folks and the crazy specific situations you often find yourselves in. Here are some recipes that you can pull off in your home, even with minimal skill. I've even included some short video clips, because nothing makes the spectacle of a dish pop quite like a man's hairy wrists.
Party Food: Pulled Pork
Yes. YES! "Let's have a rager tonight, Chet!" That's what I imagine you slap-fiving to your buddy while John Mayer noodles deliciously white blues licks on the boombox in the background. Beer tonight is covered, obviously. You've exhausted the city's supply of red cups and ping pong balls. Baby oil and Plan B pills are in the basket next to the fridge ...
CRIPES, the fridge! You didn't consider that all the future free clinic patients who will be inhabiting your place tonight might at some point develop a hunger after quaffing the best beer that 30 bucks can buy. Since you're going to be spending the next couple of hours hiding all of your valuables and clearing a space for Naked Crisco Twister, you need to cook something that you can literally throw into a pot and walk away from. I have a recipe that's exactly that. You could actually forget this thing cooking on your stove top for hours and it would only get better.
First off, get a good-sized pot (preferably cast iron) with a lid. If you don't have one, run by your folks' and check that rickety drawer on the bottom of the oven that no one uses. They'll likely have one somewhere. Head down to the store and get a decent-sized pork shoulder or butt. (They're like 10 or 12 bucks ... Also, "Hee hee hee, butt.") Get two if you are expecting a crowd.
What You'll Need:
4-6 lb. pork butt or shoulder, two if you're expecting to feed more than 10 or so people
Large can of V8 or tomato juice (roughly a quart)
Cup light brown sugar
Liberal splashes or spoonfuls of Worcestershire sauce, cumin, chili powder, garlic, hot sauce, mustard, whatever your taste preferences
Salt and pepper
Season all sides of the pork with kosher salt and pepper. Have your pot on medium-high heat and add a drizzle of oil, then sear that luscious chunk of meat on all sides for a few minutes until it's nice and browned all over. Then add a quart of V8 or tomato juice, and literally anything else you want. Cumin, chili powder, garlic, Worcestershire, a can of root beer, a near-mint Darryl Strawberry rookie card ... you would have to make a concerted effort for this to turn out bad.
Or just exceptionally forgetful.
Bring all that good wet stuff to a simmer, put the heat down to low, put the lid on the pot, and freaking go do your taxes, because the longer that bad boy sits, the better the results. Give it two hours, minimum.
When you come back and open it up, your olfactory nerve is going to punch its dick with its own dick. Final seasoning with salt (kosher please, for the love of Pete) and pepper always helps. Then shred the meat with two forks and grab some hamburger buns or tortillas. Congrats, you've made some broke-ass pulled pork.
3 A.M. Drunk "Fuck It" Food: Prison Nachos
Eventually, your party is going to wane, and you'll be left with crippling, buzz-induced hunger. What then? You could systematically slaughter and eat the few stragglers curled up on your assortment of couches, but this isn't Apocalyptica, this is real life. In your inebriated state, I wouldn't expect you to be able to craft a rich dish of meat and starch accompanied by a hearty sauce. No, this is the time to open some bags of shit, shove that metaphor for your parents' broken dreams into your gaping maw, and get horizontal.
What You'll Need:
Bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos
Bag of Combos, any flavor
Jar of salsa
Bag of shredded cheddar cheese
Bottle of ranch dressing (optional)
Thing to pound or pummel the bag of Combos (heavy ladle, fists, etc.)
Using the time-tested method of carefully putting one foot in front of the other, gently walk your impaired ass to the oven and turn it to roughly 300 degrees. Open the Doritos and lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Lay the Combos on the counter, then punch or smash that poor bag of cheese-filled snacks until the screaming subsides. Seriously, like, take your week out on that bitch.
Don't forget to yell "C-C-C-Combo breaker!"
If your boozy brute force didn't already open the bag, you may now do so. Sprinkle the Combo shards over the Doritos, then spoon some salsa on top of that, followed by some shredded cheese. Repeat as many times as you wish, then slide the tray into the oven. DO NOT FORGET IT. Give a good five minutes for the cheese to get all bubbly, then pull it out and absolutely unleash your own personal Antietam on that poor tray of prison nachos. Top with some drizzled ranch dressing if you're feeling zesty.
The Next-Day Food: French Toast Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich
When you awake the next morning, there will be something resembling American Gladiators operating the floor of the New York Stock Exchange going on inside of your head. That's to be expected. No risk, no reward, as Phil Collins probably said.
If you're a lucky skunk who prepares ahead of time, you might have some eggs, milk, bacon, and bread in the house, in which case you're basically a god. High-five yourself and get ready to dick-slap a hangover. These staples of the American household are the only things separating you from the hordes which would normally be clogging up the doorway of a Bob Evans right now. And they could very well save your life. I give you ... the French toast bacon grilled cheese sandwich.
What You'll Need:
2 slices of white bread
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup of milk
2 slices of bacon
1 slice of American cheese
800 mg ibuprofen, taken with tap water
Crack the egg into a bowl and add the milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Set aside.
On medium heat, place your bacon in the pan and cook on both sides until it looks like ... well, you've fucking seen bacon. Just make it look like that. Set aside on a folded paper towel. Drain some of the bacon fat off, but leave a little in the bottom. Dip one slice of bread in the prepared egg batter until coated and lay in the hot pan (the bread, not your body). Cook on one side for 2-3 minutes until nicely browned, then flip the bread and repeat on the other side. Set the first piece of french toast aside and repeat with the next piece of bread. Once that's heavily blessed on both sides, assemble the sandwich with the bacon in the middle and a slice of cheese. Plop a chunk of butter in the pan and cook the sandwich on both sides for a minute or so to let the cheese melt, and then plop yourself in front of the TV, because Blue Streak is on somewhere, and it needs to be watched.
Post-Breakup Food: Chocolate Brownie "Truffles" AND Homemade Toffee
We've all been there, bucko. The guy or girl in your life has decided that theirs would be way better if yours wasn't in it. It's never an easy thing. And some people react to that roiling tummyhurt of a situation in different ways. Some folks take up exercise, thinking that jogging will help them run away from the fact that they presented themselves in the purest form to another human being and were promptly given the ol' "Go fuck yourself until you die of fuck poisoning." Some people will surround themselves with friends, halfheartedly playing Cards Against Humanity and hoping the cacophony around them will drown out the desperate, throaty howl of the blood demon in their heads urging someone, anyone, to PLEASE ACCEPT ME JUST TOUCH MY HAND. Some people eat.
This is the time to cast worry to the wind. No one wants your slightly sweaty, on-the-verge-of-tears self anyway. So why not eat a whole pizza? But let's say you did want to introduce a little class into your current situation, instead of eating all the cookie dough chunks out of the ice cream. Just a thought. You need something sweet that takes no effort to make, in order to get those dopamine levels elevated in the Nucleus Accumbens. No, I didn't Google that. Shut up.
First, let's do chocolate brownie "truffles".
What You'll Need:
1 box brownie mix
1 bag chocolate chips
Yep, that's it ... No, seriously
Make and prepare the brownie mix like it says on the box, but take it out of the oven a couple of minutes before you're supposed to, so it's slightly undercooked. When it cools, you should be able to roll it into balls. Place the chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl. Nuke the chocolate in 20-second intervals, stirring each time, until it's melted. Dip your brownie balls one at a time (you can use a slotted spoon for this, or stick a toothpick in each one while dipping) in the chocolate, letting excess chocolate run off, then set each ball on a cookie sheet with tinfoil or wax paper on the bottom. Let the tray sit until the chocolate is hardened and set, or place it in the fridge to speed things up. Eat. Cry.
And let's cap that shit off with a homemade toffee chaser.
What You'll Need:
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper. Combine the butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the butter is melted and the mixture turns an almond color, roughly 10-15 minutes. You are basically cooking sugar, so do take care, as this shit is hot as asphalt. Spill that on your crotch and your desire to date will vaporize for all the wrong reasons.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cookie pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let them kinda melt for a minute or two, then spread that out evenly as well. Let cool for a couple of hours, and then you can break that shit up and get to chompin' that instead of handfuls of Prozac.
Tax Return / Date Night Food: Steak And Mushrooms
Hey, you're getting back on the relationship horse again? Good for you! Maybe you just finished your TurboTax session and saw you're getting a little bit of money back, and you want to treat your new flame to something other than an appetizer sampler at Denny's.
In the early stages of courting, things are fresh and easy. Everyone is super impressed with each new thing they learn about their partner. So why not apply these still-unknown skills in the kitchen? Think about it -- you have a hot date over, candlelight is dancing across the walls, Emerson, Lake & Palmer is playing softly on your clickwheel iPod classic. And then you begin cooking for your prospective lover what looks to be a technically skilled meal. I hope your walls are sturdy, because this recipe will make pants shoot off of their body like a pants geyser.
Steak and mushrooms is going to make this person totally yours. Not, like, "lotion/basket" yours. I'm talking about affection, weirdo.
What You'll Need:
2 steaks, your choice (NY strip, filet mignon, and ribeye are all fine)
1 package pre-sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 cup red wine
1/2 stick unsalted butter
6 sprigs of thyme
2 bunches fresh green beans
Kosher salt and pepper
Place a large saute pan on the stove top over medium-high heat. Drizzle some oil in the pan and wait until it just starts smoking. Salt and pepper both sides of your steaks, and then add them to the hot pan. Sear 4-5 minutes until browned, then repeat on the other side.
Now is where you'll determine the doneness of your meat. Let's say you want your steak cooked medium, while your partner prefers well-done. That's when I use my hand (sizzle). Using your left hand, touch the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. With your other hand, feel the fleshy part of your hand just under your thumb. That's what a rare steak feels like. And so it goes with each finger. Middle finger to thumb equals medium rare. Ring finger is medium. Pinkie is well done.
Either a medium steak, or the newest gang to hit the streets of rural Maryland.
Just before you remove the steaks from the pan, add the thyme springs and that big-ass chunk of butter in there. Let it melt, then take a spoon and baste the tops of the steaks continuously with it. This not only adds juiciness and butter flavor, but also crisps up the outside of the meat even more AND makes you look ridiculously cool.
Set the steaks aside on a plate to rest. Put another drizzle of oil in your hot pan and add the mushrooms. Season them with salt and pepper and cook them, tossing occasionally, until they release their water and start to take on some color, about 8 minutes, then remove from the pan. Add the green beans with a little oil and let them blister in the pan, then remove. Add the wine, and let the liquid cook down until thickened. Plate your steaks on top of the crispy green beans, and top with all that mushroomed, winey love. Enjoy the sex.
"I'm Broke Because I Blew All My Money On Date Night" Food: Poor Shepherd's Pie
Ahhh, the lean days. These happen to the best of us. And if you're of college age, this is a way of life for weeks at a time. If a thoughtful parent had taught you all the skills you truly needed, you would know how to rummage the forest floor and forage for berries, and how to field dress a bunny rabbit. That's beside the point. I'm here to stretch your dollars to the max, without resorting to a diet of Ramen noodles in Ramen sauce with a side of Ramen salad.
The holy trifecta for a good meal has long been protein, starch, and vegetable. So let's conjure up a way to get all of that in you at the lowest possible price.
What You'll Need:
1 lb. ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 bag of frozen peas and carrots
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 cups milk
1 package instant mashed potato mix (about 1 cup dry mix)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400, and put a good-size pot on the stove. Warm over medium-high heat, and then add the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper and cook until done, then add the soup, ketchup, peas, and carrots. Dump all of that into an oven-safe casserole-type dish.
Heat the milk in a saucepan until it boils, then pull off the heat and add the instant potatoes. Stir until they look all potato-ey, then spoon them over the beef mixture. Heat in the oven until the potatoes are lightly browned on top, roughly 15 minutes, then sit and eat while planning the next party that starts the cycle all over again.
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