Table for One

A Squidgy, Riffable Yorkshire Pudding for One—or 24

Plus, Nigella Lawson's trick to having it for dessert.

by:
December  7, 2018
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.


Photo by Alfred A. Knopf

When Judith Jones published The Pleasures of Cooking for One in 2009, it was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Book Award in General Cooking. The book's premise is poignant, stemming from her husband's death and how she learned to find joy in cooking again, even when the meals were just for herself. Through her recipes she makes a strong case for why we should always keep on cooking for ourselves, even in the midst of grief or loneliness—because the cooking in and of itself can provide sustenance and comfort.

But for me, the images in the book make the most convincing case for cooking for one. Whether it's the tiny cocotte of bœuf bourguignon (complete with placemat, single fork, candle, hunk of bread, and glass of red wine), or the final photo of her smiling, cracking open a lobster claw (on a simple white plate with a lemon wedge and a small dish of butter), these solo dinners capture the pleasures of small-scale cooking, and the kinds of rewards that often go unnoticed because no one else is there to witness them.

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Top Comment:
“Thanks for the reminder to go back through Pleasures of Cooking for One! I got it out of the library in high school to flip through and really concerned my parents haha. I really love the simgle-meal format of this column, but if you ever get the chance to write an article on grocery shopping for one I would really appreciate it!”
— Alice R.
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Looking at the cover image of Jones' book (a single ramekin of cheese soufflé with a glass of white wine and silverware wrapped in a napkin ring), I'm reminded of all of the intimate details you shared with me when I first asked: What do you cook when no one's watching? And how it made me feel just a little less alone that day.

Because it's not just the foods we eat when we're alone that matter, it's how we eat them. The rituals we choose to make time for, even when it's just us: the place settings, the napkin rings, the things we're willing to do (or not do) for ourselves, versus when there's just one more person at the table. The table and the way we set it—mine, always with a good book and a glass of wine—is in many ways a spatial marker for something temporal. It’s a way of saving a spot for yourself and saying, "This is 'me' time."

As someone who barely has time to get up from my desk for lunch, I value even more those rare, quiet moments when I'm able to steal away to the kitchen and treat myself to a home-cooked meal. In the way that I see the act of breaking bread with a friend as a special gift—as M.F.K. Fisher says, "Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly"—the solitary meals are equally important to me, if not more. I'm not a religious person, but I do believe that there is something sacred about taking time to feed yourself.

This Yorkshire pudding recipe is all of that. It's proof that you can have everything, even when it's just you. I don't remember exactly how or when I came up with this; I was probably inspired by Nigella Lawson again (before whom I had never heard of Yorkshire pudding here in the States). But I find great comfort in knowing that, as long as you have one egg, a little milk, and some flour, you're just a greased ramekin away from a single serving of eggy Yorkshire pud goodness. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that I've ever had Yorkshire pudding outside of my own kitchenette in New York, stooped over a battered Nigella cookbook, whisk in hand, squinting through my reading glasses to make out the insensible metric measurements.

My version takes the original recipe (egg, milk, flour) and "turduckens" it into another British delicacy: Welsh rarebit. We Americans have no idea what any of this means (why is it called "pudding"?), but it's good with meats and gravies, or as a savory dinner for one—especially with a green salad, or just a glass of wine and a good book.


Yorkshire Pudding Supper for One


Yorkshire Pudding Party Side for 24

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Yorkshire pudding is traditionally made in muffin tins, and is a close cousin to the American popover. To serve a crowd, take the recipe above, multiply it by 8, fill a couple greased 12-cup muffin tins and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tall and big and browned. This is such a great thing to serve with a nice fillet of beef, or even individual filet mignons (which you should get in bulk at Costco because it'll be way cheaper). Or alternatively, buy a fillet and cut it into medallion "mignons."

This is how Lawson does it in Feast, our December Cookbook Club pick. (It also happens to be my favorite cookbook of all time.) And if you're wondering why one would go this muffin-tin route, Lawson writes: "It means everyone gets an equal measure of squidgy eggy interior and bronze edge, puffed up and crisp."


Yorkshire Pudding As "Pudding" (aka Dessert)

One more! In the television series Nigella Bites, Lawson drizzles one big Yorkshire pudding, hot out of the oven, with golden syrup and heavy cream. I do this often at home when I want a little pancake-y goodness late at night or on the weekend. Make the recipe above (just nix the mustard powder and Worcestershire sauce!) and eat with maple syrup or honey, or sweetened sour cream or yogurt would be fabulous too.

How do you set your table when you're eating alone? Let us know in the comments below.

8 Comments

Susan K. December 13, 2018
Brilliant! My family only ever ate popovers for Christmas and Easter. I'm learning to cook for one again & am quite happy to have a popover-for-me-whenever-I-like. Thank you!
 
Questrant December 9, 2018
I saw this recipe last night as I schlepped through the last leg of a frustratingly long commute home on public transit. The cold (and several hours of buses) had dulled the joy of reuniting with my brother and his girlfriend after weeks of being away, and even the thought of cooking was exhausting. But one bowl and three ingredients (I needed something sweet!) seemed too simple to pass up, and I'm so glad I didn't! I scaled it up to make 4, and 30 minutes after walking in the door we were curled up by the fire slathering butter and jam onto puddingy perfection :) Thank you for sharing such a wonderful recipe; though I somewhat missed the point by making these for "company", your message struck home and I will certainly be filing this away for nights by myself when I need the self-care of cooking for me and only me.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. December 9, 2018
I've always felt that there's more than one way to be alone. :) I love this story; thanks for sharing it with me, Questrant.
 
CameronM5 December 8, 2018
I have my little snacking table that hugs my couch. I never eat at my table. All I need is food, wine and my remote. These days I only steal these moments while the baby is asleep and what used to be a sad dinner for one has become a guilty pleasure. Perspective...
 
Author Comment
Eric K. December 8, 2018
I love a good couch meal.
 
Alice R. December 7, 2018
Thanks for the reminder to go back through Pleasures of Cooking for One! I got it out of the library in high school to flip through and really concerned my parents haha.<br /><br />I really love the simgle-meal format of this column, but if you ever get the chance to write an article on grocery shopping for one I would really appreciate it!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. December 7, 2018
That's a great idea, Alice. On it!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. December 7, 2018
Also, I love that story; so funny.