You know those obnoxious people who shy away from things they aren’t good at in order to avoid embarrassing themselves? Yeah, I’m one of them. On the long list of things I don’t do for this reason (which also includes participating in any sort of competitive sport or wearing skinny jeans) is basically anything kitchen-related.
Sit me down in front of a shrink and I’m sure a dozen different phobias and psychological disorders could be identified in my aversion to cooking and baking. Essentially, though, it boils down to a lack of faith in my ability to produce something that is actually consumable for sustenance; that’s a tall order! Unfortunately, my ways have gots ta change.
In an effort to better myself and develop an appreciation of the food I so love to consume (as well as to earn deferrals on my student loans), I’m currently taking a food writing course taught by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s food critic, Craig LaBan. The catch here, of course, is that I know diddily about the process of preparing food, the flavor and textures of separate ingredients, and so on. So how am I going to effectively dissect a dish to write about it if I don’t know about food with any sort of depth?
To address this problem, I have developed a 10-week cooking and baking challenge to run concurrently with my class with Prof. LaBan. The task is to make two new dishes a week (one meal, one dessert), trying progressively more difficult recipes as I work through the 10 weeks. For the sake of simplicity and some semblance of standardization, the recipes come from FoodNetwork.com, and will be divided up as follows:
Weeks 1-4: Easy Recipes
- Meal: Crouton Crushed Chicken Tenders with Orange Barbeque Sauce
- Dessert: Bacony Breakfast Cupcake (<–Ack! Why is it “bacon-y” and not just regular bacon?!)
Weeks 5-8: Intermediate Recipes
Weeks 9-10: Difficult Recipes
- Meal: Corn Tortelli with Tarragon Butter
- Dessert: Tall, Dark, and Handsome Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
- Meal: Chili-Rubbed Free Range Chicken with Guacamole and Pico de Gallo, Smothered Black Beans and Tortilla Threads
- Dessert: Salted Caramel Banana Macarons
One could argue over the culinary merits of the above recipes and the chefs/cooks from which they spawned, but my aim is a self-prescribed crash course, not the Culinary Institute of America. I preemptively command you off my back, food snobs!
To quote Benedict Cumberbatch, “The game is on.”