Monday, December 26, 2011

Food Resolutions

I find it disheartening to see the series of post-Christmas commercials that begin running on Boxing Day. "The holiday we've been harping on you about since a week before Halloween is over! Come by and stock up on marked-off crap, and be sure to get some Special K and a Bowflex. Because you've gotten super fat lately--time for a new year's resolution!"

Kicking yourself into a change because of the calendar, fueled by pressure and negativity, doesn't seem like a fantastic way to stick with well-intentioned goals. I prefer ringing in the new year with positive, fun goals--and saving the tough stuff for later. To give 2012 a big hug, I'm resolving to make 12 new recipes--one for each upcoming month--that I've never tried before. And, for extra fun and accountability, I'll blog about each adventure. It's like Julie & Julia, except without the insanity and slightly more manageable between the thesis, graduation, losing the last ten pounds, and whatever else this fresh new year has in store.

1. Alton Brown's Roast Duck
I watched the Good Eats episode where Alton Brown made this roast duck, based on the traditional holiday roast goose that Dickens loved so dearly. Although you have to plan ahead and prep a few days ahead of time, this looks easy enough to be successful and decadent. Already planning a wonderful orange balsamic vinegar sauce to make it my own.

2. Moussaka
I've wanted to make moussaka all year long, but it just never happened. This year, I want to make a point of bringing this hearty, cheese-clouded vision into reality in our kitchen.

3. Cassoulet
In the same warm, rich, comforting vein as moussaka, I'd like to try this classic French dish. The ingredient list is long, the cooking time is epic, but with a reputation like cassoulet's, the results should eclipse the labor.

4. Chocolate Souffle
Well, since there's no international trips on the foreseeable horizon, my only option is bring some Provence into my own world. I've never made any souffles, but I feel ready. I could do a savory souffle, but there's something about accomplishing a new feat in the world of desserts and baking that eclipses everything else. The science is so sensitive, especially with a finicky riser like this. If it doesn't work out, I suppose I have concrete evidence to support a more evenly-baking gas range upgrade.

5. Beef Cheeks
I was lucky enough to try beef cheeks at BEAST two summers ago. I had no idea what to expect, but when I tasted that molten-tender entree, I practically melted. With all of the butchery options in Portland, I'm sure I can find the cut, and want to convert Matt--without maybe mentioning the odd body part right away.

6. Key Lime Pie
I've torn out several versions of key lime pie from Martha Stewart Food, Bon Appetit and whatever other magazines I get my hands on, but I've never gotten around to actually making it. I'm defaulting to King Arthur Flour's recipe, the baking authority that helped me bake the best Christmas cookies I've ever made this year. This is Matt's favorite dessert, so I'm thinking June for his birthday would be just perfect.

7. Tamales
I never even had a tamale until just a year or so ago! The best I've tried were made by mothers of people I worked with, with recipes I'm sure I'll never have a glimpse of. Nevertheless, it's worth a try. And try I will! This recipe looks family-loved, delicious and well-written.

8. Rack of Lamb
I love lamb. Along with duck, it's the dish I always look for any time we go to some fantastic, perfectly pretentious restaurant (note to self: many fantastic, perfectly pretentious Portland restaurants to try in 2012!). I was going to make it for Easter a few years ago, before finding out that certain family members refuse to eat it. Shame for them, but more for me! No more waiting for the "right" crowd to come by for a meal. This year, I'm cooking for myself.

9. Julia Child's Roasted Chicken and Tarragon
I don't have Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which seems awful when I type it out. Maybe I should snatch it up before any more time goes by. Either way, this chicken recipe looks incredible, and with the fresh tarragon that grows in my backyard in the summer, I've already got one of the title ingredients easily taken care of.

10. Pad Thai
Wait, you may say. You've already made Pad Thai! Yes, I have. And I've failed miserably every. Single. Time. This is the year I make a dish that actually tastes kind of like what I love to order at Thai restaurants, not just Asian-ish noodles that I choke down and swear aren't that bad. I found this very informative write-up on how to make this possible, and I'm working up my nerve to try again. Maybe a little later in the year, after a few of these turn into successes. I'm still feeling a little burned.

11. Country Captain
The name is so funny, how can you not want to try this? This is a traditional southern dish, with some definite Indian flavors, along with our all-time favorite--ham! Also a plus? Country Captain is a one-pot dish, one of my favorite ways to serve dinner. Just top rice and serve.

12. Baked Alaska
Happy 2013! I will say when this glorious dessert is aflame. I've had it once, the night I graduated high school at a fancy restaurant in Tacoma. Festive and vintage, if I'm anything like the girl that's typing right now, this will be the perfect end to a delicious year.


  1. I've been making key lime pies like a mother trucker since october. Filling is easy: 4 egg yolks, 3/4 cup fresh key lime juice, and one can condensed milk. Easiest and truly authentic. Cream cheese has no business in a key lime pie.

  2. I love LOVE love this idea. I can't wait to hear about how they turn out. I have never made key lime pie, and I would love to learn to make tamales, but I made a tamale slow-cooker stewish thing and it was .gross. So I wish you all the luck that I did not have! I bet you can do it. Can't wait to see the write ups.