As I mentioned in my initial post on my 100 Hours in the Kitchen project, it only takes about 100 hours of doing something to become significantly more advanced than a beginner (as compared to the 10,000-hour theory that says that you must spend 10,000 hours to become a master at anything).
Now, I know that to be a true master, I'd need a lot more than 100 hours, but this project is all about getting me more comfortable with experimentation and trusting my intuition in the kitchen. Over the course of my lifetime, I've made hundreds of recipes, but I rarely have let myself just play around while cooking and try new things, and I tend to just make recipes that I know are "safe" in both technique and in flavor, so this project is all about making my palate more gutsy as well as my execution.
I'm happy to report that one quarter in, I'm already feeling much more sure of myself when it comes to invention in the kitchen (it helped that none of my attempts from January through March were even close to failures).
I started with soups because I figured that they would be the hardest thing to mess up. (Funnily enough, the very first thing I ever attempted to completely make up on my own was a soup, although that particular experiment wasn't exactly as visually--or literally--delicious as what I'd pictured in my head. Fortunately, three and a half years of further experience and hard work taught me to "experiment" a lot smarter this time around.)
Here's what I made:
1 - Avgolemono (not the typical soup flavor I'd go for, and I modified it slightly by adding in chopped chicken)
2 - Elimination-Diet-Friendly Ground Turkey Chili (I invented this one--you can find the recipe here)
3 - Julia Child's Leek & Potato Soup (French cooking has always intimidated the heck out of me, so this was a nice, easy place to begin)
4 - Chicken Wild Rice Soup (modified to be gluten-free; was missing a few ingredients so had to find some substitutes, like using sour cream instead of heavy cream)
5 - Potato Vegetable Chowder (I added in a ton more vegetables and changed the spices a bit)
6 - Homemade Broth (I can't believe it's taken me so long to do this---I basically just saved all my odds and ends from the vegetables that went into other dishes, like carrot tops and onion skins, and combined them all into a broth with the leftover bits and carcass of a 5-day-old rotisserie chicken. Not only economical, but decidedly tastier than the canned stuff! I'll have to do a post on making homemade broth soon.)
7 - Italian Meatball Soup (another one I made up entirely, using my newly-made batch of homemade broth as a flavorful base)
8 - Corn Chowder (made gluten-free; added chicken; changed cooking techniques)
If I want to get technical, I didn't make my original goal of trying out 12 new soup recipes. However, I did make up almost entirely from my own head two other entree dishes not mentioned above (a mushroom and ground turkey straganoff and a carbonara, which I'd never tried before), and I'm already feeling about a million times more confident when it comes to making up my own recipes.
What's up for round two now?
Side Dishes, Salads, and Appetizers.
Something you must know about me first---I am SO bad at doing side dishes with meals. Basically, I feel like my family's lucky that I had the energy to make dinner at all, so if I even think about doing a side dish, it's usually a can of green beans or a simple fruit salad.
Luckily, with all my free time over spring break (which I'm on right now---woo hoo!), I've discovered Chopped on Netflix, and I'm feeling all sorts of motivated to step up my cooking game big time. In fact, I even started the second quarter of experimentation today, the first official day of my break, by making mini tostada cups with a homemade vinaigrette, which is what's pictured in this post. (Note on why it's adventurous: homemade dressings have never been super palatable to me in theory, so I've shied away from doing them for, well, my whole life. Luckily for me, this first foray into the genre was zippy and delicious and everything you could ever want on a Monday night for an appetizer.)
If you've got any good side dish wisdom (or any good recipes), I'd love for you to send them my way.
Better cooking skills, straight ahead!
Linking up with Stay Gold Autumn