Monday, April 18, 2011

Drinking Alone

Drinking alone, in style
New York makes me crave loneliness in a way that other cities do not. Most days, the constant swarms of people feel more like a series of obstacles: The streetwalkers who wield their furled umbrellas like javelins; the commuters who plow through the subway turnstiles against the tide of bodies trying to exit; the pet owners who bark into their cell phones while their dogs pee on a pile of trash bags.

When people ask whether living alone makes me lonely, I usually answer by naming all my friends who live in my neighborhood or listing the benefits of the solitary lifestyle for a secret slob like me. But in truth I’m frequently lonely in my little one-bedroom; I just like it. The only obstacles are those that I drop; the only footsteps are those that I take; the only conversations are those of the Real Housewives, swiftly stifled with a flick of the remote.

The secret to sorbet is a shot of vodka.
One of the few things I dislike about my living situation is avoiding that whole “drinking alone” problem. Last year I lived with one of my best friends, and I’d never think twice about uncorking a cabernet for a half glass, since we were bound to finish the bottle while snooping on Facebook or rooting through each other’s closets for something to wear on a Saturday night. But in my one-bedroom, just as my running shoes will languish in the doorway where I kicked them off, that mostly full bottle of red will sit on the shelf and slowly sour, undisturbed.

A friend stopped by a few weeks ago and, to honor the occasion, I put away my sneakers and opened a bottle of wine. We hardly made a dent in the cabernet, and the bottle taunted me from on top of my refrigerator for a full week before I pulled it down and put it to good use. The following two recipes are perfect dishes for entertaining, but I can vouch that they taste just as good when scarfed down alone in a quiet kitchen.

Chicken with Vinegar
Vinegar chicken: blase name; bangin' flavor
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (I skipped this)
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium)
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (8 fl oz)

Cook chicken:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. (Skip the salt if you’re using kosher chicken). Heat oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning over once, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken as browned to a small (13- by 9-inch) flameproof roasting pan, arranging it in 1 layer. Once all chicken is browned, roast, uncovered, in oven 15 minutes.
Make sauce while chicken roasts:
Another downside to living alone: This is my
entire counterspace
Discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet, then add garlic, shallots, carrot, thyme sprigs (2), and bay leaves and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until vegetables are browned, 3 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine, vinegar, sugar, and remaining teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 5 to 10 minutes.
Finish sauce and chicken:
Add chicken broth to sauce along with any juices from roasting pan and bring to a boil. Remove the thyme and bay leaves, and pour sauce over chicken. Continue to roast chicken, uncovered, until just cooked through, about 15 minutes or more depending on your oven.
Transfer chicken with tongs to an ovenproof serving dish and keep warm, uncovered, in turned-off oven.
Meanwhile, boil sauce in roasting pan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a scant cup, then remove sauce from heat. Season with salt and pepper and pour sauce over chicken.

Notes for the Naked:
  • Skip the salt if you’re using kosher chicken since it’s already brined
  • I removed the thyme and bay leaves but left the vegetables in the sauce instead of straining it like the original recipe suggested. The carrots oozed with a rich, sour/sweet flavor and I couldn’t stop snagging bits from the pan.
  • If your roasting pan is too small to fit the chicken in one layer I strongly suggest pulling in another pan or you’ll end up with an underdone bird.

The caramelized vegetables tasted outrageously good
Red Wine Raspberry Sorbet
by David Lebovitz
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 bottle fruity red wine
3 cups raspberries (I used frozen)
2 tsp vodka

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and red wine to a boil and let boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the raspberries. Cover and let steep for 1 hour.
To purée the berries and remove the seeds, using a spoon, press the mixture through a mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Notes for the Naked:
  • Don’t have an ice cream maker? No problem—read here how you can make sorbet without a machine.
  • Unfortunately, you can’t skip the straining step for this recipe (trust me, I tried). I got my strainer for two dollars at an Asian dollar store on the corner and have used it in three other recipes since.  


  1. i have no idea what red wine vinegar is. how bad would it be to substitute with something else vinegar?

  2. Yup! You can use cider or rice vinegar.