I’m not one for resolutions, per se, but I love the idea of taking stock of our accomplishments and our missteps, and everything in between, at the end of a year. This year was a big one for personal growth for me as a writer and a human being, and I imagine 2012 will continue in that vein. I’ve had a lot of unbelievable experiences, and sense that my career is in a shift of some sort, but I haven’t yet figured out where it’s going. In the meantime, I’m making a list of things I would like to cook/bake/make in 2012 that I’ve never done before. We already eat pretty well, with a focus on what’s fresh and seasonal as much as possible, buying meat and poultry from known/sustainable/organic sources when possible. The kids haven’t yet had McDonald’s or any fast food, and are happily eating our mostly vegetarian diet. We usually eat at home most nights; I try to be home made/from scratch whenever possible. I economize well and use my freezer like someone from the 1940s or 50s—minus all the meat. Part of this list aims at the basic, cross-em-off-one-at-a-time to-do list for the kitchen; the latter half of the list has to do with bigger goals.
1. Lemon curd. I love lemons, but the word curd throws me off, and it shouldn’t, because lemon curd is delicious.
2. Coq au vin–or, in the case of Nigella Lawson’s recipe, Coq au Riesling. That recipe has been on my to-do list for a few years.
3. While we’re feeling French, I’ve never made creme brulee. Or a souffle. Should these be two separate entries?
4. Pad Thai. I had it recently at White Orchid in Saucon Valley and it was so delicious I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I’ve not made it before.
5. Pasta from scratch. It may seem surprising that I haven’t done this, but there you go. It’s true. Oh wait, that’s not totally true. We’ve made gnocchi from the Bouchon cookbook. I’m talking about the whole make-a-well-in-the-middle-of-the-flour kind of pasta.
6. Puff pastry. Ok, some people may think it’s crazy to attempt this when commercially available puff pastry is good, but what about doing it fresh, and on your own? Yes, there are lots of layers and they’re flaky, but I’ve worked with phyllo before. Could it be worse/more difficult/challenging?
7. I want to cook at least once a week from a cookbook I haven’t touched in a while. I have enough of them to keep me busy. I love the interactivity of finding recipes from the interwebs, but there’s something really satisfying about sitting down and rifling through a cookbook to get the imagination going and the kitchen mojo fired up.
8. I want to be a better cook, one who doesn’t need recipes as much. Yes, that’s kind of contradictory to number 7, but I got Ruhlman’s Twenty for Christmas and I’ve already started salting things more (even though I thought I knew a bit about salting beforehand; i.e., that most people don’t use enough salt in their cooking). I’m cooking without recipes more often than not these days, and using them mostly for inspiration because I’m curious about how to make something in particular.
9. I want to figure out how to have more than two adults over for dinner at a time (with a child or children, usually), even with my kids in the house, without it devolving into toddler meltdown 101 or dumbing down into take out. (Please, don’t hassle me about takeout–we don’t usually do it unless we are completely exhausted, so I have guilts about takeout sometimes even though it has its place.)
10. I want to start writing my own baking recipes. I’m working toward this already, with an improvisation of a spice cake last week for my sister-in-law’s Christmas part three gathering and two adaptations of dessert/cookies I ate without ever seeing a recipe for them. I know more than I think I do, so I should be able to do this, right?
11. Use one new ingredient every couple of weeks. I almost wrote “a week” but I started laughing. Not all weeks are equal, so I’m not going to set myself up for something ridiculous.
12. Blog more. In general. About things related to writing, food, yoga, life, kids, and such.
How about you? Have you made any goals? I have a whole separate set of professional/writing/personal goals that’s tumbling around in my head, but it’s not ready for prime time yet.