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Saturday, January 09, 2010

My New Year’s Cooking Resolution

I’ve decided that this year, my resolution will be to conquer my fear of unfamiliar foods (or at least as many of them as I can). I could have chosen to lose weight or exercise more (let me tell you, writing for a food blog does not help with these areas at all!! Does lifting heavy pots and pans count as exercise?) but I really want to have success with my New Year’s Resolution this year.
This is where you come in readers. I will need encouragement and support as I attempt things that scare me or that I have never attempted because it goes out of my comfort zone.

What are those you ask?

I know I seem pretty adventurous already but trust me, there are food experiences that I avoid. For example:
1. Frying foods—I seldom do it because I don’t like a dirty, oily house. Well, I don’t really have much of an excuse now seeing that I have a wet kitchen that is quite separate from the rest of the house.
2. Ok, that wasn’t that challenging…here’s the one that I was just telling Nate I have never done: cooking with squid. Yes, I know, it’s weird that I’ve never done this but I just don’t know how to select fresh squid, how to cook it without turning it into a rubbery mess and especially how to make my favourite thing in the whole world—deep fried calamari. (Deep frying AND squid—shudder!)
3. Cooking Mexican food—even while in San Jose, I just wasn’t adept at cooking Mexican, you know, just not instinctive for me. I don’t think I ever ate any Mexican food until I got to Hawaii and boy, if you only knew how I ate my first hard shell taco, you’d cringe (I still cringe when I think of it). I’ll save the story for later when I actually try to make some Mexican food, like molé (a dish that I absolutely love but am terrified to try to make myself). This will be especially challenging since I cannot find a lot of the ingredients here.
4. Artisanal bread. Yes I’ve baked bread but I’ve stuck to easy breads for the most part. Artisanal breads take time and care—ciabatta, sourdoughs, focaccias, ryes, baguettes, crusty loaves, and then some. Those are things I dream of making but I’m still somewhat afraid to try. I’m also afraid of no-knead recipes because we’ve not had too much success with them so I’m going to have to give them another shot.
5. Duck dishes—believe it or not, I’ve only cooked duck once in my entire life (and that was recently) and it wasn’t pretty. I LOVE duck but I only eat duck at restaurants because I don’t know how to cook duck.
6. Challenging recipes. You know those—you’re looking at a cookbook, and you see a recipe and you think, “that looks delicious, but I’d never be able to make it myself.” Yeah, in my case, stuff like making my own shrimp crackers from scratch, cassoulet, making cheese (I don’t know if this can be done here in Malaysia but one day, I will try this) are some that come to mind. I’m sure there are others that I’ve always said I would like to try but just can’t imagine doing. So from now on, if I see them and they really intrigue me, I won’t just bookmark them, I’ll actually try to make them (gulp!).
Phew! That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Well, now you have it and now, I’m done for since I’ve let it all hang out there in the open. I can’t hide it back in and pretend I didn’t make this resolution. I’ll have to work at it and see how much I can overcome some of my fears and challenges.

Here’s how YOU can help

  • Point me to successful recipes
  • share your own recipes
  • give me pointers on how to cook these dishes
  • comment or email me with encouragement
  • send me care packages with ingredients (joking!)
Tell me about your own resolutions or join me in mine! It would be great to know if you have some food challenges that you have yet to overcome and want to work on. Let’s inspire each other.
Cheers, Annie


Rachel Cotterill said...

I've always been a little bit nervous of deep-frying, so I'd like to experiment with that more, too (healthy, huh?)

I also have a jar of mole in the cupboard and need to figure out a great (veggie) recipe to serve it with.

So at least a couple of our goals overlap... I'll look forward to reading about your progress over the year :)

Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) said...

Great resolution!

I only deep fry occaisionally for health reasons but it really isn't hard. Invest in a thermometer (if you don't have one) and fry in small batches to be sure the temperature doesn't drop too much.

I recently how we cook duck. It's a little complicated because it requires steaming first but you will love it!

J said...

I whole heartedly agree with Rachel's (Hounds) first paragraph. I've tried on a couple of occasions to replicate my dad's stuffed chicken wings (similar to fried chicken), but the batter and oil temp did me in. I am still looking for a KFC-type batter that will stay crispy after the chicken cools. And I discovered that my oil was not hot enough, which gave me soggy results.

Bob said...

Deep frying is all about temperature control, use a frying thermometer and a large amount of oil to begin with, the greater the ratio of oil to food, the easier the temp control is. Deep frying in a wok is not the way to learn, although it is my preference.

Jennie McClelland said...

Thanks for the lovely comments, too sweet. I'd love to do that Grow Your Own group thing, sounds so great. Very lucky with the KitchenAid, those pasta making attachments were super expensive but worth it!!
Lovely to meet you. We have friends in Malaysia, at the Air Force Base in Butterworth - we're an Army family. Love Posie

Amanda said...

Ok so chili is sorta mexi-american. That's a good baby step? This recipe knocks my socks off every time. Unless you're really into lard you can leave it out (we always do)

Dodol & Mochi said...

Hmm ... I'd like to try European artisanal bread, too ... Thanks for reminding me ... Best of luck to all us home cooks/bakers! Hope to see more from you soon!


Nate @ House of Annie said...

@all - thanks for your comments!

@Rachel - I wonder if you could do something with nopales (cactus) and mole.

@(Hounds in the Kitchen) - We'll have to find a restaurant supply store that has an oil or candy thermometer. Thanks for the link to your duck post!

@J - Yes, it has to be hot enough so that the steam from the cooking food prevents the oil from seeping in. But not too hot or it'll burn the outside before the insides are fully cooked.

@Bob - thanks. I think part of our dilemma is what to do with all that oil after we're done frying.

@Jennie - welcome to our blog!

@Amanda - thanks for the recipe!

@Dodol & Mochi - yep, already thinking about making some French bread...

Mrs. L said...

My first try at 'frying' were these wonderful little orange drop donuts. So easy. So good. I went from there to deep frying potstickers, chicken wings, nutella in wonton wrappers. Sigh. I've never looked back! You can do the frying, I know you can!

Nova Walsh: said...

What a great resolution - trying to cook new foods! I've always wanted to try squid and duck as well and have been too intimidated - can't wait to read about your adventures cooking these!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Mrs L - wow, you are a frying fiend ;-)

@Nova - thanks! stay tuned...