I love food and beverage-making challenges. Making things that sound “hard” gives me no end of pleasure. This year, I’ve stepped it up a notch and taken on a number of the big ones, but I’ve also learned quite a bit about cooking some very simple things. Here’s my partial list of things I’ve learned how to make, maybe a short description of how I feel about it, and the thing I consider to be “the key” to success with that thing.
Cassoulette – very tasty, but made me become vegetarian – it’s not easy to find all those meats in the US. Try Asian markets, or find a more Americanized version.
Beer – homemade can be so much better – cleanliness is key.
Cheese – still very new to this – your thermometer is your friend.
Wine – if I could stop doing everything else, I’d just make wine – Best advice I’ve ever gotten came to me 2nd hand from a very famous winemaker: “Get good grapes and don’t fuck em up.”
Pizza dough – easy as pie! – With 3 to 5 ingredients, you kick ass and you’ll be so happy.
Tortillas – I can eat these all day. – With 2 ingredients, you kick ass! A tortilla press is inexpensive and helpful, but I’ve made some of my best tortillas using an empty wine bottle as a rolling pin.
Tamales – if you’re gonna do tamales, do a LOT of them. I make em vegetarian, and I make everything from scratch. Takes me 8-10 hours, but I end up with 70 or so of them. I hear they freeze great, but they never make it to that point here.
Guacamole – I thought I knew how to make guacamole until my Mexican friend taught me her family recipe. Sorry, I can’t say any more.
Crepes – Amazingly versatile and tasty. Just a few ingredients, but the cooking takes practice. Don’t give up! I always have to throw away the first one to get the amount of oil right in the pan.
Souffle – memorize the recipe you’re doing. At certain points, it’s critical that you work fast.
Pretzels – the dough is irritatingly dry. There must be a better way to do them. I have a lot of trouble making long and thin enough ropes of dough. Tasty, though!
Limoncello – I make the best limoncello you’ve never had (well, maybe a couple of you have). Filter the water, filter the alcohol. Wash those lemons. Be patient, it’s worth it!
I’m looking for new challenges. What else is there that a lot of people don’t bother to learn to cook, or that’s considered difficult?