A is for Dining Alone on Premium-Grade Lamb Chops

Last week, while recovering from bad restaurant overload, I cooked at home every night. The rain and gray skies were making me thoroughly depressed. Jacob was in Shanghai on business, so I was cooking just for one. I started to rely on fast fixes for food, including my all-time quickest, unhealthiest, and yet oddly delicious comfort meal: fried eggs and rice doused in hoisin sauce.Β No wonder my palate was deadening.

In the essay "A is for Dining Alone" from An Alphabet for Gourmets, MFK Fisher wrote,"It took me several years of such periods of being alone to learn how to care for myself, at least at table. I came to believe that since nobody else dared feed me as I wished to be fed, I must do it myself, and with as much aplomb as I could muster." After discovering that dining out alone meant a succession of bad seats and pitying stares, she settled on making well-planned meals for herself at home.

But how often do we really cook a nice ittle meal just for ourselves, with no one else to impress? Were the elaborate preparation of past meals for the sole enjoyment of other people? And should I feel guilty about spending as much for premium choice lamb chops for one measly dinner, as I could for ground pork for 7 meals?

But I couldn't not buy the lamb chops. I had ridden my bike half an hour, through some snarling weekday morning traffic, to get to Beijing's best delicatessen. The lamb was too nicely marbled, and I was already plotting pan sauces.

That night I made my red wine sauce more fitting for summer by adding a bit of lime and garnishing with mint. I served myself cheese and a JuliΓ©nas Beaujolais. I almost lit a candle. Despite the fact that I was at home, it was the best restaurant-style meal I had eaten in weeks.

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Lamb Chops with Lime and Red Wine Sauce

Serves 1

2 lamb chops Salt and pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 shallots, sliced 1 clove garlic, minced 1/2 cup red wine Zest from 1 lime 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (using all the juice from the lime will make the dish too tart) Chopped mint for garnish

Suggested sides: Stir-fried green beans, leafy salad greens, coconut rice.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Generously season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sear lamb until a nice brown crust forms on the outside, about 3 minutes each side. Transfer lamb chops to a roasting pan in the oven.

While lamb finishes off in the oven, sautΓ© shallots and garlic in the same skillet. Add wine to deglaze pan, then lime zest and juice. Reduce liquid by half, about 3 minutes. Salt to taste.

Remove lamb chops from the oven and plate with sides. Spoon sauce over and around the meat. Serve to oneself, with a glass of mellow red wine.