2014 was a wild, often wonderful, often horribly hard, ultimately joy-filled year. We each experienced huge transitions, some carefully planned for and and some we could never have predicted. The new year finds us eager to make the most of where we are now, in our lives broadly and our cooking specifically: Laura in her lovely Springfield kitchen and Jessica with all of her newlywed cooking gadgets. And we have a shared resolution this year. In 2013 and 2014 we traded off the goal of using our cookbooks more regularly, but this year we’re going specific: we want to cook from our fancy cookbooks. We each have quite a collection, and have so far been too daunted to try much. So this year we’re going for it. Jessica is eager to try Eleven Madison Park (which is so huge and heavy she can barely lift it), and Laura is ready to dive into Manresa (which holds the dual prizes of most beautiful and most intimidating book on her shelf). Happy tasty 2015!
Laura’s Resolutions: I threw myself four softballs for my 2014 cooking resolutions and even so, I barely managed some of them. Reading food books was no problem, though. Of the handful of food-ish books I read, my favorite was Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen. It’s a food memoir with a heaping helping of Russian history and I found the characters, writing, and food mesmerizing.
As for trying more Boston restaurants, Ed and I are happy with our efforts. Coppa remained our favorite spot for an indulgent night out, Ed still gets misty thinking about Deep Ellum’s fresh pretzels and warm stout cheese, Cutty’s was our go-to (again and again) sandwich shop, The Bacon Truck was the food truck I could never ignore, and Flour Bakery’s sticky buns continue to haunt my dreams.
I wanted to butter poach something in 2014 and I did. A couple of days ago, I made butter poached potatoes. Countless sticks of butter and some 5 hours later, I was sort of unimpressed. I’m not giving up yet, though. I can now make beurre monté (emulsified butter used as a poaching liquid), so there will be butter poaching in 2015.
Regarding that soufflé resolution—I served chocolate soufflé on January 1, 2015 for New Year’s lunch. It rose, it was decadent, and I’m encouraged to make soufflés a habit.
Here are my challenges for this year:
- Keep a Kitchen Journal: I took this idea from Sean Brock’s new cookbook Heritage. He recommends regularly jotting down what works and doesn’t work in a recipe, not only so you can learn from your mistakes, but also as a record of how you’ve grown as a cook. Granted, I am such a fan of Brock’s that if he said the secret to great pimento cheese was getting a block of cheddar tattooed on my neck, I might do it—but this seems like smart, reasonable advice that will sharpen my cookery. No tattoos required.
- Cook More Vegetables: I hate to admit it, but veggies and salads are often an afterthought when I cook. Too frequently, I’m focused on a protein to the detriment of the green side dish (if I bother to make one). I want to learn more about the best ways to cook vegetables and I want to work more veggie-heavy one-pan meals into my weeknight dinner routine. Going meatless for some meals is an admirable goal (and I’ve bookmarked the heck out of Plenty More for inspiration), but as I’ve previously discussed, that’s a tough sell in my midwestern household. Baby steps.
- Become the Mimi Thorisson of Springfield, Illinois: Kidding. Sort of. Mimi Thorisson creates a romantic, stunning, gourmet food and lifestyle blog based on her life in Médoc, France. If you’re a lover of french style, it’s a blog that simultaneously makes you want to fly to France to worship at Mimi’s altar and throw your computer across the room in a fit of envy. Loving/hating her is one of my favorite pastimes. But her work genuinely resonates with me—she and her family moved from bustling Paris to the slower paced, less glamorous (by some standards) Médoc and she uses her blog as a chronicle and celebration of the local food and culture in her new hometown. I could and should do that for Springfield—goodness knows no one else is doing it. I might not be able to pull off quite as many moody photos of myself holding vegetables as Ms. Thorisson can, but I do want to find, understand, and promote what makes Springfield delicious and beautiful.
- Make Bread from Scratch: I am stealing this one from Jessica’s 2013 resolutions. I love the idea of mastering a few homemade bread recipes so that I develop a good kneading technique and get comfortable working with yeast. I’ve already been to the library and checked out The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and The Bread Bible, now I just have to start working that dough.
Jessica’s Resolutions: I spent less time in the kitchen than I had hoped to in 2014, which my mixed resolutions success reflects. I did often shop my cookbooks for recipes, but mostly just ended up using Pinterest. Two faves that I did find in my cookbook collection were the celeriac puree in The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook and pumpkin mousse parfaits from Barefoot Contessa at Home. I definitely plan to make both again this year.
I made a grand total of three big meat main courses out of my ordinary this year, and really enjoyed each one. Ina Garten’s beef bourguignon proved a winner for the second time (bless that woman). I made and loved Asian oven roasted pulled pork for a casual dinner party this summer, turning it into tacos. And for Christmas I made rosemary-garlic roast beef for my dad and Hal. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly 100% confident in my skills (realizing at the end of the roast beef’s cooking time that my digital meat thermometer no longer worked was a bit of a setback…), but I’m definitely pleased with my progress.
Weekly meal planning was less of a success. There were certainly some weeks I started with a clear idea of what I would make and when, but there were many many more that found me flying by the seat of my pants. And that’s ok. This is a resolution that I think will be ongoing, and I’m more determined than ever to start doing grocery deliveries to make things simpler.
While I didn’t manage a cooking class in 2014, I did give Hal a gift certificate this Christmas for us to take a class together. Totally counts.
Here are my resolutions for 2015:
- Use All of Our Brand-New Kitchen Goodies. Hal and I made out like bandits when we got married. Our family and friends showered us with extravagant gifts (along with a staggering amount of love and support) and our kitchen is now seriously stocked. I’m looking forward to mixing everything I can find with our KitchenAid, conducting science experiments with our immersion circulator (this one is more Hal’s bag, but I’m into it), making more tarts and cheesecakes than one person reasonably should, and serving it all on our swish new platters and plates.
- Have People Over to Eat More Often. As much as I love a well-planned party and the idea of a fancy complicated dinner, I want to get better at having people over in a casual way. I want to become a less stressed hostess, the kind who can say “why don’t you just stop by for dinner tonight?” in the morning, and not immediately start to panic. Hal and I are so lucky in the amount of awesome friends we have close by, and I want to start luring them over with tasty food more often.
- Make Fresh Pasta. This resolution is a little bit of a cheat, since it’s basically using a brand new kitchen goody, but pasta feels so big that it gets a resolution of its own. We got the pasta maker KitchenAid attachment, and I’m eager to find out if homemade is really as worth it as everyone says.
- Better Weekday Breakfasts and Lunches. I lean really hard on the pre-made and take-out options for both breakfast and lunch during the work week. I’d like to get back into the habit of making hearty muffins for my on the go breakfasts, and to step up my list of healthy and easily portable lunches. Like Laura, I could also use more veggie recipes in my life, and lunch seems like an especially good place to pack ’em in.
Happy happy new year to you all! Please let us know if you have any cooking resolutions for 2015.