The Pleasures of Cooking for One

Cookbook editor and author Judith Jones with Martha Teichner
Cookbook editor and author Judith Jones with Martha Teichner

Much as we may cherish the ideal of a big family dinner, plenty of us know what it's like to sit at a table for one. Martha Teichner is here with one singular culinary sensation:

Judith Jones' recipes are not that hard, but it is "the little tricks," as she calls them, that make them good: "Or, as Julia would say, soigné."

That would, of course, be Julia Child.

Jones is the book editor who got Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" published. And as anybody who saw the film "Julie and Julia" knows, it was Judith Jones who came up with the title.

From her own time in Paris and fifty years of working with great chefs, Jones figures she's learned a thing or two about cooking.

"Around 4 o'clock, I think, 'What am I going to make for dinner?'" she said.

From losing her husband in 1996 and living alone, she's learned enough about cooking for one to write a cookbook,

"After my husband died, I really didn't think I'd find much pleasure, and I was almost afraid of it - the memories," she said. "But I love cooking, and little by little I started, and it was a way of honoring our life together.

"I come home, and you know your house is dark, there's nobody there," Jones said. "But the minute I start cooking, it comes to life, because you smell all those good garlicky smells and get your hands all messy."

In her kitchen in Vermont, Jones shows us how to prepare a skirt steak, "which is a cut I love because it isn't too huge."

The skirt steak recipe involves smearing the meat with a paste made out of garlic, fresh ginger, salt and pepper, and then searing it for a minute on each side - just time enough, Jones discovered, to sing one verse of "America the Beautiful."

"I wanted something everyone would know," she explained, "and you tend to know popular songs by generation. So I didn't think 'You Do Something to Me' would be quite right," she laughed.

[That's Cole Porter, by the way.]

By now it has to be pretty obvious that Judith Jones is not your average 85-year-old. She still works full-time as senior editor and vice president at the new York publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. Here, at her Vermont farm, she also raises cattle - Black Angus and Belted Galway.

She tries not to get to know them too well.

"Is there a difference in taste when it's come from grass?" Teichner asked.

"Yeah, there is a difference. I can't describe it more than to say it's a very intense, beefy taste."

Don't worry, we're not cooking one of Judith Jones' cows . . .

We're taking what's left of the skirt steak and turning it into a completely different dish.

The cookbook calls for mushrooms, garlic, red wine, a shallot, and some nice soft just-made bread crumbs.

"I deliberately don't use the word 'leftovers,'" Jones said. "I use the word 'second rounds,' or 'new incarnations.' How about that?" she laughed.

"Second rounds" are Jones' answer to anyone who says cooking for one is wasteful or too expensive.

While we wait for the oven, she shows me a great trick, perfect for cutting down recipes.

"It's not impossible to use a half an egg, it really isn't," she said. "All you have to do is crack the egg - I use a little glass bowl so I can see what I'm doing. A large egg is three tablespoons. Shake it, shake it, shake it. So you want a tablespoon and a half for half an egg. Just pour it into your tablespoon, and that's it."

Simple! Just like the meal Judith Jones and I are about to eat.

And when she cooks for herself, what does she feel?

"It makes me feel wonderful," she said. "It's just a deep satisfaction, and sometimes quite a spiritual one, too."

Wine, candles, creations, a little music.

"Bon appetit, to cooking?"

"To cooking!" Jones affirms.

And to eliminating the phrase 'Grab a bite' from the English language!

Recipes From Judith Jones:
Skirt Steak and "Second Round"

For more info:
"The Pleasures of Cooking for One" by Judith Jones (Knopf)
"Julie & Julia" available on Blu-ray and DVD
Check out the CBS News "Sunday Morning" Recipes Index for more tasty selections from our guests, contributors and Bon Appetit magazine!