In the beginning of 2010, I made a New Year’s Resolution. One that I hoped I would have better chances at keeping than previous years when I had tried to lose weight (never happened–writing a food blog doesn’t help, nor does age), tried to exercise more (does turning the pages of a book count?). This past year, I decided to focus things I could do but push myself more.
To recap, I resolved to conquer some of my fears of cooking unfamiliar foods or cooking with techniques that I don’t often use. The list included:
1. Deep frying
2. Cooking squid
3. Cooking Mexican food
4. Baking artisanal bread
5. Cooking duck
6. And finally, cooking challenging dishes
So how did I do? Um…can I say I succeeded fryingly in some and then totally ducked out of others? Let’s look at the six items one at a time and see how I did.
1. Deep Frying
I started the year being afraid to deep fry and after a whole year of diving into the fat, I must say that I’m not as fearful anymore. The reasons for my fear were twofold: I didn’t like an oily house, and I was afraid of getting burned by splattering oil.
Well, the oily house bit was addressed by having a wet kitchen that is separated from the rest of the house so the only room that got oily was the kitchen. And yes, it did get quite greasy but thankfully, with a little bit of cleaning every so often, it wasn’t too hard to deal with. (Actually, stir-frying and cooking in general probably caused just as much grease to accumulate on the walls.)
As for the splattering and getting burned bit, I found that in most cases, if you kept your items dry before sticking them into the pan, they didn’t splatter and spit at you; they just happily bubbled away). The other trick I learned was not to drop things into the oil from a great distance–you’re less likely to get hurt if you gently slide things into the oil as close to the oil as possible.
Some items though will splatter more and in those cases, I learned that the lid is your friend. Slide the item into the oil, then cover with the lid and wait till the angry spits have died down, then open. If you need to turn said food item over, do it gently (in fish, the trick is to use two spatulas so you don’t cause a tidal wave of oil), then cover again. Here’s a link to several recipes that involve deep frying:
2. Cooking Squid
For the second item on my list, I managed to cook squid. I didn’t cook it often. If you are a regular reader, you know that I failed in getting my deep fried calamari to succeed but I did manage to make a stuffed squid dish that was absolutely yummy. I still have to get the nerve up to try deep fried calamari again. But I’d say I can check this off in my resolution list.
3. Cooking Mexican Food
Ok, here is where I hit my first road block. Mexican cuisine is just not my comfort zone at all. I’ve missed eating at the taco trucks in San Jose and I do miss having a burrito now and then. But I must say I dismally failed in trying to make anything Mexican at all.
I contemplated making some enchiladas or something simple like quesadillas (the closest I got was using some frozen roti canai and pan frying them with cheese and some meats–not quite the same). I think it’s the difficulty in getting some of the more basic ingredients that put me off trying anything. I will carry this challenge forward to this year after I return from Hawaii with some ingredients. Dear readers, please remind me to challenge myself with this ok?
4, 5, 6
As for baking artisanal bread, cooking duck and challenging dishes….well, what can I say? I totally failed to cook many breads this year (though I did make a killer monkey bread that I promise to update with a recipe) and I also didn’t do many challenging dishes (including duck!). But I have a totally legitimate reason.
I got a job in March and when that happened, my life changed. I didn’t have time to cook elaborate meals anymore. I was just grateful to be able to come home and put together a meal as quick as I could, and get it on the table. Some days, I was so exhausted that the idea of cooking was so off-putting. Those were the days when we went out to eat. We did a lot more of that than we used to.
And though, I admit to copping out of most of my resolution, I don’t think I did so badly. Most of the dishes I cooked this year were fast and easy but some of them did look quite elaborate.
Nate and I tried to take one day on the weekends to experiment and try new things. And I must say we didn’t do too badly. We attempted to make dumpling skins from scratch and we also attempted to make udon from scratch (we will blog this later when we have perfected the recipe). I made a steamed dish with taro and chicken wings that looked spectacular even though it wasn’t too difficult to create.
Making the pandan spiral mooncakes and the snowskin mooncakes during the Mooncake Festival was really fun. I actually was going to try making some traditional mooncakes as well (I got all the ingredients) but then I got busy and so I guess that will have to wait till next time.
So despite my work schedule, I managed to cook up some new things along with my old standbys (wonton soup, pastas, fried rice, tau yu bak, fried chicken to name a few). I wish I had been able to do more of them (especially the breads) but I’m not going to beat myself up for it either.
This Year’s Challenge
Do I have a resolution for this year? I’m almost afraid to set myself up for failure again but I did think about it and for the cooking (and blog) portion, I decided that I would continue to cook new dishes and to post about them. I hope that you will continue to try out the recipes I post. I try to only put in the recipes that I’ve made successfully (and sometimes also blog about my failures) and I get very excited when you tell me that you’ve tried them out and loved them.
With work being more challenging this year, my biggest challenge for the blog will be keeping up with the posting. So my other resolution this year is to *try* to write two posts a week for House of Annie.
Have you made any New Year’s resolution on cooking? Leave us a comment!