Last year, rather than making a set of boring old new year's resolutions of the lose-weight-save-money-find-ourselves variety, we made a set of culinary resolutions.
In truth, we're not really resolution people (although this entire blog was the result of a New Year's resolution two years ago). We loved setting culinary resolutions, though, because it helped us set some good goals, and we've had fun checking in on them over the past year.So how did we do in 2009? Here's the run-down:
• Cook a whole fish -- Done and done! We grilled a whole fish and it went well. If we count smelt, we cooked several whole fish, but we don't think that quite qualifies. At some point, we'd like to salt-bake a whole fish in the oven.
• Buy foods with five or fewer ingredients -- This is a rule we adhere to pretty well when grocery shopping. We're careful to avoid foods laden with chemicals, and we try hard to stay away from foods with high-fructose corn syrup. But as anyone who has read a label lately knows, that's sometimes easier said than done.
• Make Beef Wellington -- Success! We made Beef Wellingtons (or is that "Beefs Wellington"?). In fact, we made a lot of Beef Wellingtons that will be featured in a collection of recipes this year. More on that in a few months!
• Cook Indian food -- We rocked some Tandoori Chicken back in February and it was de-li-cious. So we did it once, and since then, we've incorporated Indian spices into a few other dishes, like deviled eggs or roast chicken. Perhaps we'll try making Tikka Masala this year.
• Don't let food go to waste -- We did a lot better on this in 2009 than we did in 2008, when we would often throw away food that we had let spoil in our refrigerator. One thing that kept us on track, especially as produce from our CSA was piling up, was that we kept a list on the side of our refrigerator saying what produce we had on hand. We'd refer to it often when planning meals, so it helped us to use up the food we had on hand and waste less. In related news, we started composting this year, so when we're throwing stuff away, at least we don't feel quite as guilty.
• Keep our knives sharp -- We didn't do so hot here. We sharpened our knives maybe three times. Every time we sharpened them, we were blown away by how much better they performed. This is one to stay on top of in 2010.
• User fewer paper towels -- We did pretty well here. We no longer keep our paper towels on the kitchen counter. They live in a closet just off of the kitchen, so it's easier to use a real towel than go for paper. There are times still when only paper will do -- especially when it's time to make some bacon. This is an ongoing goal.
• Learn to make fresh pasta -- This goes into the bucket with the knives. After some iffy attempts in 2008, we made fresh pasta a couple times this year. It turned out really well both times, though we can't say that we really "learned" to make fresh pasta. We'd like to get to the point that we don't think twice about rolling out and cutting some fresh pasta for a meal. Some Southern boys can dream...
• Eat at least one vegetarian meal per week -- If there are any items on this list that were failures, it was surely this one. It's a failure on par with our disintegrating chocolate cake back in January. We can't even claim to have done this resolution successfully for a solid month. We even waxed on and on about the most delicious vegetarian meal we made, only to be corrected by a reader who rightly pointed out that dishes with chicken stock are not vegetarian. The bottom line: We ate a lot of meat. Probably too much of it.
• Eat more short ribs -- Um, in related news, we are experts at consuming short ribs and did so with absolute -- and frequent -- success in 2009.
So what about 2010?
Here's what's on our list for the coming year:
- Learn a little something about wine -- Here's a confession. We don't really know the first thing about wine. Ever since a Trader Joe's opened up in D.C., we've become whatever is the opposite of wine snobs. If we pay more than seven bucks for vino, you can bet it's a special occasion (and even then, we're talking $13 bottles). So we'd like to get a little smarter about wine. We're not interested in becoming stuffy wannabe sommeliers who pontificate on every little sip. We'd just like to know, you know, which Charles Shaw goes best with fish.
- Get rid of old spices -- Everyone seems to agree on this: You should throw out spices after they've been on your shelf for about a year. We're horrible about this. We've got plenty of spices that date from the first Bush Administration, and at least one tin of curry that we think hails from Bill Clinton's final days in office.
- Make an aspic -- If there's anything that exemplifies "stuffy" "old-school" cuisine, it's an aspic. And we'll grant that there's something a little off-putting about what is, essentially, meat-and-veggie Jell-0. But we've always been intrigued by the idea of aspics, and we feel like we're hearing more about them lately. The December Saveur had a Ham and Parsley Terrine we'd love to try. Aspics: Are we crazy?
- Write more recipes -- We featured several recipes of our own this past year. For the coming year, we'd like to do that more often. Believe us, you're going to love our recipe for duck ice cream. That's a joke. We think.
- Experiment more with cocktails -- Artisanal cocktail are on the rise in our nation's capital, most notably at The Gibson, a speakeasy that we've frequented a few times this year. The cocktails are mindblowing: classic cocktails with modern or fanciful twists. They're so good, they make you remember how great a cocktail can be. This year, we'd like to experiment with making more cocktails at home.
- Make more jams, preserves and canned goods -- We love doing this. In fact, Canning Tomatoes and making Freezer Jam are two of our favorite things we've ever done in the kitchen. We'd love to do more of it this next year.
- Salt-crusted beef tenderloin -- This dish has been perpetually on our list for years. We'd love to finally make one this year.
- Yorkshire Puddings -- We love a popover. Popovers + beef drippings? We're there in 2010.
- Eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant -- One of our highlights of 2009 was eating at Alice Waters's Chez Panisse, a restaurant that had been our list for many years. This year, we'd love to visit a Thomas Keller restaurant in New York or California.