The Solo Dinner That Chef Anita Lo Loves

Anita Lo's Solo cookbook

When flying solo, cheesy pasta and eggs on toast are great staples, but what if you want to treat yourself to a more inventive meal? Chef Anita Lo created her cookbook Solo around recipes designed to serve one person, and one of her favorite meals when dining alone is a slow-cooker chili verde. Here, Lo reveals how to make it (and shares a smart tip for grocery shopping)…

Slow-Cooker Pork Stew with Tomatillo and Chilies
From Anita Lo’s Solo

My dishwasher at Annisa, Dion Flores, was from Puebla, Mexico, and made this chile verde one day for our staff meal. It was one of my favorites of the year, but unfortunately he never made it again. (It was the one-night stand of dinners.) But I’ve re-created it here so you can revisit it, like an old friend. This is a very versatile stew, and I make it for myself often. You could serve it over rice or make huevos rancheros or tacos. (Just multiply the recipe if you have more people or want leftovers.)

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Pork Stew with Tomatillo and Chilies
Serves 1

You’ll need:

6 oz. pork stew meat, cubed (pork shoulder works well here)*
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup onion, thickly sliced
1/2 large clove garlic, chopped
1 large pinch ground cumin
3 cups chicken stock or water
2 2-inch-diameter tomatillos, hulled and roughly chopped
1/2 small jalapeño, or to taste
1/2 clove garlic
1 heaping tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp lime juice

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a slow cooker (a small one is better, if you have it, for small portions) on high and add the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cumin and stir. Add the pork and chicken stock, cover and cook on low for eight hours, while you sleep or go to work.

When the meat has finished cooking and you are ready to prepare the dish, puree the tomatillos with the jalapeño (capsaicin levels — or what makes jalapeños spicy — vary greatly from pepper to pepper, so add it a bit at a time and taste as you go; the end result should be a little spicier than you want the resulting stew to be, as it will be diluted a bit from the meat and cooking juices), garlic and cilantro until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the lid from the slow cooker. The stew should have reduced so that there is about 1/2 cup of braising liquid left. Stir in the tomatillo mixture and bring back to a simmer. Season to taste with salt, pepper and the lime juice.

* Plus, Anita’s smart tip for solo grocery shopping:

Avoid the traditional supermarket, since most food there is pre-packaged to serve multiple people. Ah, the hegemony of the four-pack chicken! Instead, head to your local store or farmer’s market where you can buy just what you need. Also, go to your butcher for meat or fishmonger for fish, so you can get the exact portions for your meal.

Anita Lo by Julia Rothmann

Thank you so much, Anita! We love your cookbook.

P.S. More recipes, including salmon salad and loaded baked sweet potatoes.

(Excerpted from Solo by Anita Lo. Copyright © 2018 by Anita Lo. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Illustrations by Julia Rothman for Solo. Thanks to Franny Eremin for helping with this series.)

  1. Sarah says...

    I’ve been cooking from Solo for a few weeks now. It’s wonderful! My husband eats meat— I do not. Solo works well for cooking one of the fairly uncomplicated, but flavorful meat recipes for him & then putting together a substantial salad for the both of us. It’s the type of cookbook I’ve been needing for a long time! Hopefully more to come.

  2. I love slow cooker recipes. You let the time do all the work and you get all the wonderful smells and some delicious and usually very tender food at the end of the day.

  3. Erin says...

    All I could think reading this was I hope Dion got a promotion!

    • Lourdes says...

      Right on!!!!

  4. Susn says...

    this sounds so delicious! tomatillos are very hard to come by in australia, but i have seen tinned tomatillos. can you substitute fresh with tinned? thank you

    • Emma says...

      Hi Susn, I’m Australian married to a Mexican and I am here to happily tell you that the tinned ones work fine!

  5. Megan says...

    I love recipes for one but it’s a little silly when recipes call for half a garlic clove and half a jalapeño. Like what are you supposed do with the other halves? Just throw the whole things in!

  6. It’s been a while since I made a solo dinner (my fave used to be sweet potato black bean quesadilla baked in the oven!) but I’ve been subscribing to Sprouted Kitchen’s Cooking Club and last week she had a recipe for sweet potato nachos that was SO GOOD my husband and I made them again a few days later. They’d be perfect for solo dinner. Just peel and slice a sweet potato into 2″ rounds, toss in oil, cumin, red pepper, and salt, and put in the oven for 20 min at 425, flipping halfway through. Then you top just like nachos! Beans, taco meat, tomatoes, avocado, shredded cheese or queso… delicious!

  7. Nicole says...

    Why isn’t there a picture of how the dish looks?

  8. Alex says...

    All the cooking advice on the internet seems to be for people living in big cities. If you live in a small town, it’s useless. Fishmonger? Seriously? We’re lucky to have 3 grocery stores.

    • Irina says...

      Agreed, from a fellow small-town resident. My town has just one supermarket and one natural foods store. We do have a butcher in the next town over (used to be an independent butcher shop and now they are incorporated into that town’s supermarket) but certainly no fishmonger, especially given that it’s a 5-hour drive from here to the ocean :)

      An easy solution to food only being available in large packages while being a solo cook/eater is to freeze part of the food before cooking, or make a big batch of a dish and freeze most of it in single-serving containers.

      The above doesn’t help with things like lettuce, of course, but works for almost anything else. For example, I will buy a gallon of organic milk when it’s on sale, freeze most of it in 2-cup containers, and defrost as needed for cooking and baking.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note! is there a fish counter in your grocery store, where you can request a certain amount of fish (in smaller portions)? some larger supermarkets i’ve been to let you do this, but i’m not sure about every one. i’ll keep thinking of alternate solutions! thank you again xo

    • Irina says...

      Thanks for the reply, Joanna! I’m pretty sure the meat/fish counter inside our grocery store would be open to cutting pieces of fish or meat into smaller portions. And, a lot of the fish they sell actually comes packaged in pretty small amounts, like 1 lb or less.

      I think the intent of my comment was that it’s easy to just freeze what you don’t need right away, and use it later :) This way, regardless of whether your local grocery store is a small independent shop or a Costco, you can easily cook for one – or for a crowd!

    • Amanda says...

      I know this feeling! I grew up and went to college in a “suburban” area –but with no real urban area near it. Now I live in the Bay Area, and grocery shopping is SO different (and admittedly, much more fun.) But one tiny piece of advice I have for fish and meat is to go to that department of the grocery store and ask for packages to be broken up or for them to specifically package and price something for you. In the southeast, for example, I had great experiences asking for this at Publix. (But it only works if they actually have a butcher or someone there that deals with the meat — I think you’re out of luck if everything is packaged elsewhere.)

    • Katie says...

      While at the grocery store last Sunday, an elderly woman asked the guy behind the fish counter to cut the large pieces of salmon up for her. He did so gladly. He even wrapped the two small fillets separately for her. I don’t know why it amused me to watch, but it did.

      At that same grocery store, I was picking up mussels for a new recipe I wanted to try. I went to the fish counter. The guy picked through them for me to make sure I received the best ones. He was great!

      This is a busy chain grocery store. Most of the time, the people want to help.

  9. Jennie says...

    I noticed that the recipe says that the cooking liquid would reduce down, but I have never had that happen with a slow cooker. If anything, it thins and increases due to steam.

    • Tina says...

      I was thinking the exact same thing

  10. Z says...

    I would think you could also add hominy to this. Also, smaller tomatillos are better, not so fibrous. I would also use a serrano instead of jalapeno.

  11. Vanessa says...

    I also live on my own, but I don’t really mind cooking a larger batch of food to last for more than one meal. What really used to annoy me though was wasting food so recently I have started planning all my meals for the week in advance (when do I have a work dinner? When am I meeting a friend for lunch? When do I need to bring my own packed lunch?). It sounds like such an obvious thing to do, but has really helped me reduce left overs lingering in the fridge forever and ending up in the bin. Since I now have less spontaneous last minute trips to the supermarket to source my next meal, I find that I am also saving money!

    • HG says...

      Vanessa, that’s what I love to do too! What I also love to do is freeze my leftovers. If you are by yourself put a portion size in a sandwich size Ziploc bag. For larger families I use gallon size. Label then lay the bag flat in freezer, freeze then you can stand up the meals to look at file style. To eat, take out night before (probably best for larger size like gallon) if smaller ones don’t work well that way. Get them out in am before going to work. Should be thawed enough to pop in microwave, oven or stove depending on what the leftovers are. I do this with everything! Saves money, I have good meals on hand and when you’re in mood not to cook or late nights these are great! Blessings

  12. Jill says...

    Omg. I hv this braising in my oven as we speak (I check the liquid level every hour or so). Smells heavenly! No way would I b able to sleep if this was wafting thru my house in a slow cooker all night. Ha!

  13. Tiffany says...

    Another idea for lower quantity grocery shopping, especially if you mostly have the big, suburban-style grocery stores available; get produce from the salad bar! If you don’t need a giant bag of spinach or broccoli, you can get the amount you need, and it’s prewashed and chopped and ready to go!

    • Katie says...

      I’ve done this and it’s super helpful! I’ll add that if you want to try a new recipe and don’t want to spend a lot on spices, you can pick them up in the Whole Foods bulk section. They have jars upon jars of spices and you can buy only what you need. Same with grains, legumes, nuts, dried fruits, baking needs, etc.

      I did this when single and also now for two of us.

      Ooh, and when shopping for produce, look and see if items are sold by pound or as a bunch. For instance, sometimes I make soup and only need two celery stalks and I have no desire to use the rest of the celery. If sold by the pound, I take off two stalks and purchase. So easy!

  14. Natalie says...

    Just brought home “Solo” from the library today! Now I’m extra excited to dive into it:)!

  15. Paula says...

    I make a variation of it all the time.
    Beef stew chunks, beef stock (water, whatever), canned tomatoes, some jalapenos, ton of chili and cumin, add black beans at the end
    Chicken breasts, chicken stock (water, whatever), canned tomatoes, loads of veggies, onions and garlic, anything you have in the fridge, add ANY color bean.
    the list goes on. literally, stew anything. it’s like soups. soups are great and then add various things on the sides: pita with feta and kale, grilled cheese, etc.

  16. Sharon in Scotland says...

    Learn how to joint a chicken!
    I buy 2 free-range chickens, joint them, roast the carcass and back bone for cook’s treat. Then I freeze the portions……..4 legs attached to thighs, 2×2 chicken wings and 4 breasts cut in half to yield 8. I try to eat meat only at the weekend, so this lasts for quite a while.

    • Marisa says...

      Just so curious– what is “cook’s treat”?

    • Sharon in Scotland says...

      Cook’s treat are the bits you get to snaffle because you are the cook………..the parson’s nose, wing tips, well done slice at the end of roast beef, salmon skin, that round nugget of meat by the bone on a leg of lamb, that sort of thing

    • SFord says...

      My mum used to call these ‘cooks perks’ – more often than not it related to licking the spoon or the bowl when making cakes or whipping cream!

  17. Jamie says...

    Thanks for giving us a recipe for 1! It’s hard if you live alone but like to cook to find recipes that work!!