Saturday, March 17, 2007

Culinary Heebie-Jeebies

Yesterday at school M's class learned about St. Patrick's Day, complete with a snack of Lucky Charms topped with green milk (not moldy milk, just milk and green food coloring). In fact, he loved the cereal so much, he convinced me to make up some green milk and let him and T have cereal for dinner. So much for the homemade pizza I'd baked with pre-made sourdough pizza crusts.
Later I made him some green frosting to spread on graham crackers. He stared in disbelief. How in the world had I just *whipped up* frosting? Had I *added* frosting to the bowl, he asked, sure it was an ingredient; perhaps that frosting farmers in Mexico harvested the frosting crops every summer. I realized that for the most part I've only used frosting from a can; it's what he knows. It seemed to him insurmountable to get it any other way.
Which got me thinking about the culinary mountains I've never climbed, partially because I'm scared I'll be such a miserable failure. I think back to when I first learned to drive a stick shift. We were in Brooklyn, trying to navigate the start/stop traffic. I didn't understand how manual cars work, and was sure the car would accelerate itself and I'd go careening through someone's brownstone. I even had to stop for a quick tearful breath-catch, causing a cop to stop by our car to ensure that there was no domestic strife. These days, even with all that drama, I prefer to drive a stick. I'm hoping in a few months I'll be able to say the same about the things that intimidate me in the kitchen.
So this year I'm going to face my cooking fears head-on, including:
  • Pie crust. Why is it that I watch Amy whipping one up and feel it's no big deal, I've got this licked. But on my own I can't seem to get the balance right and will flirt with the Poppin' Fresh Doughboy rather than try to tackle this. No more.

  • Maki rolls. Back in New York on a shopping excursion with a friend to Kan Man Foods, I bought all the sushi tools one Friday night: rolling mats and a knife and even little sake cups. And they've all sat for six years. The boys recently disassembled one of the sushi mats and made swords from the bamboo sticks -- that's the extent of the action the sushi mats have seen. I love the idea of talking with dinner guests while I expertly roll up and cut perfect maki, but ultimately I get intimidated by what seems like it could be sticky and lumpy and prone to disaster. But mark my words, this year I'm making my own maki rolls.

  • Lasagne. You read it right: I've never made a lasagna. I've never even purchased lasagne noodles with the intention of making lasagna. This isn't so much total fear of failure, but just never having done it. Everyone I know makes lasagna; why haven't I? I don't know. But I'm going to. I have my eye on this recipe from Adrienne of Hello Yarn.
Are there any culinary mountains you're looking to climb to climb this year? If you're intimidated by making green milk, M's got a surefire recipe you can try...


Blogger amyzeats said...

1. Canning. I know, you taught me, but it confuses and scares the be-jesus out of me.
2. Caramel. I'm terrified of ruining pans with this, and candy termometers are sort of frightening.
3. Anything that uses gelatin sheets, although they are fascinating.
4. Things that need to be set on fire. Although I've done it and it's always fine, I alwasy expect to set my hair or sleeve or house on fire.

Now, re pie crust and lasagne: I think we need a cooking exchange weekend, you know? Get a truckload of ingredients and anyone else who has skills to share and others they'd like to acquire (Lytle should get in on this), and just spend Ah, the smell of it! :) I feel like I need to watch you make pie crust on your own to figure out what's going wrong. Is there a particular consistency problem that you've noticed?

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Laura Kitchel said...

There isn't anything that I really *want* to eat that I get the willies about putting together. I really can't believe that you've never done a lasagne. It's a little labor-intensive, what with the meat sauce layered with noodles, layered with cheese goo, but nothing really tricky about it. I've never had the nerve to try the method that doesn't require the noodles to be cooked first. I'm just afraid if it doesn't turn out, there's about $25 worth of ingredients down the tubes. So I guess that's my culinary heebie-jeebie.

Pie crust. I just use the recipe in my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook (Xmas present from you, I believe), channel my Grandma Minnie, and voila! Perfect crust every time (the secret is lard--really!)

12:26 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Cheesecake. I own the springform pan. Michael thinks it looks like an oil filter.

On the lasagna--use the Barilla noodles that don't have to be cooked first. It is perfect everytime. You can add spinach, squah or zuccini. This is where I hide veggies from Michael. :)

4:06 PM  
Blogger Cindy K said...

I'm convinced. This weekend we're having lasagna. And I think I'll try the no-cook noodles, Teresa.

I love the idea of a cooking weekend, Amy. If you and David were involved, I think I'd mostly observe, but maybe I could can something since it terrifies you...

Lard, Laura. Got it. Amy's recipe doesn't have any. Maybe I need to get more skilled before I try the lardless version. :)

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Laura Kitchel said...

Well, lard isn't particularly heart-healthy, but my opinion is if you wanted to eat healthy, you wouldn't be making pies, ne c'est pas?

5:12 AM  
Anonymous Leneta said...

1. Fresh Garlic was one thing, but you fixed that, Cindy.
2. Yes, Amy! Things that need to be set on fire. I've never even considered doing it in order to decide I was afraid to. But I would be. (Joe Linville used to say that when they heard the sirens at home, they knew dinner was ready.)
3. I can open almost any page in Larry's Complete Book of Breads and find something I'm afraid to try. He's intimidated by it too.

11:32 AM  

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