58 Cooking Goals for 2019

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Manteigaria, Lisbon, Portugal

I credit Knut Strom-Jensen for any interest I have in food.

For years, I thought recipes were ridiculous.  Completely arbitrary.  What right did such-and-such chef who wrote such-and-such cookbook have to tell me to mix a cup of butter in with some flour and water if I wanted to make a pie crust?  Or how much milk, flour and egg to put together to make a crepe?  It seemed utterly ludicrous to me; there was no rhyme or reason to recipes, no science, particularly when you look at them using Imperial measurements (cups of this and ounces of that and no way to tell how they related to each other).

So I didn’t follow them.  I cooked vegetables, and put them on top of rice, or pasta, and if you were coming over for dinner, that was about what you could expect.

But then, one evening, Knut came over for a party and told me about a book he was reading called Ratio.  The premise: recipes were ratios of ingredients, and you could make things like bread just by using a ratio of flour to water, with yeast and salt, also in a ratio, all by weight.  A roll was the same as a baguette, or a thousand thousand baguettes; the ratio was always five parts flour to three parts liquid, and only the quantities differed.

It struck me as interesting, so I ordered the book.  And it changed my life.  I don’t say that lightly; I would not have anywhere near the interest I have in cooking were it not for Knut and Michael Ruhlman.  The world opened up to me.  Suddenly bread was not a mystery product of a bakery; it came out of my oven.  And I could make it on the fly, and add in herbs, or use beer instead of water, or wine (which I don’t recommend), or whatever, and it would turn out like…bread.  I could make crepes for my AirBNB guests in the morning, and they would get excited.  I’d whip up pancakes from scratch and they’d marvel at what I was doing, adding chocolate or blueberries or bananas or whatever they wanted, and suddenly they were interested in the alchemy of the kitchen, too.

But ten years on and I’m a bit…well, complacent in what I cook.  Bread is easy now, as are muffins, and any kind of pancake, crepe or pie.  So I have my go-to, non-challenging recipes – if there’s a party, I might make cinnamon rolls, or a quiche, and I get compliments and I don’t have to stretch myself or risk failure.  I’ll spend a Sunday roasting a chicken, then stripping the meat off the bones, making a stock, then a soup and a stir-fry, and I have twelve meals for the week and I feel like I do almost no actual work – it is all joy, all pleasure, all beauty, to take raw ingredients and turn them into something not only edible, but beautiful as well.  And that’s the joy of cooking – taking raw ingredients and putting them together knowing that they are going to be delicious, and aromatic, and taking the skills learned in one recipe – chicken curry, for example – and using them to make stew, or chilli, or pulled pork, and just thinking your way to a meal.

But I haven’t been stretching myself.  Last year I set the goal to read 100 books; I’m now in the early 70s, which, if I was thinking about OKRs, is pretty darn good.  I’m still setting 2019 reading goals, but for the new year, I’m setting cooking goals, too.  I’d challenge others – Eric Sandy, James Doermann, Melissa Von Hinken, and Natalie Clay, I’m talking to you here – to do the same.  Just as with the books I’m reading, I’ll likely start writing about them.

Crap.  I’m not going to have a food blog.  I hate those things.  But Mimi Thorisson‘s is amazing.  Hmm.

Anyway, here are 58 things I want to cook from scratch in 2019:

  1. Gyoza 
  2. Vegetable stock
  3. Tempura and dipping sauce
  4. Macaroni and Cheese
  5. Herbed butter
  6. Mexican Tortillas
  7. Thai Hot and Sour Soup
  8. Green curry paste
  9. Red curry paste
  10. Yellow curry paste
  11. Teriyaki marinade
  12. Pasta alla Carbonara
  13. Lasagna de Carnevale Napolitana
  14. Lasagna Bolognese
  15. Meringue (compare with a Ruhlman one)
  16. Scones
  17. Miso soup
  18. Macarons
  19. Ice cream
  20. Crystallized Ginger
  21. Marshmallows 
  22. Madeleines 
  23. Kedgeree (Little Library version)
  24. White sauce
  25. Cheesecake 
  26. Pork chops 
  27. Caramel sauce 
  28. A clear soup
  29. A pureed soup
  30. Candied nuts
  31. Doughnuts
  32. Chocolate brownies
  33. Chocolate cake
  34. Fruit tart
  35. Millefeuille
  36. Croissants
  37. Lemon Madeleines
  38. Brioche
  39. Macaron
  40. Earl Grey Truffles
  41. Blood-Orange Marshmallows
  42. Rice pudding
  43. Puff pastry
  44. Corned beef
  45. Custard (tart)
  46. Creme caramel
  47. Kedgeree with smoked haddock (Fortnum and Mason version)
  48. Marmalade
  49. Ginger biscuits
  50. Florentine biscuits
  51. Shortbread
  52. Garibaldi biscuits
  53. Crumpets
  54. Wild Mushroom and Tarragon Tart
  55. Meringue
  56. Sauerkraut
  57. Kimchee
  58. Black peppercorn sauce

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