2014 – the year according to my kitchen

Looking back through some of my photos from 2014 offers a fairly thorough rundown of some of the new food-related things I tackled. So, 5PM on NYE (as I write this) seems like a good a time as any to give some thought to what I accomplished this past year, here’s a brief list of the greatest hits:

The Brian Polcyn butchery and charcuterie course I took was probably the biggest food undertaking for me this year. I wish I had taken it 20 years ago, it probably would have changed the course of my life dramatically though I might not have been ready for it then, so who knows.

After the butchery course, I got even deeper into learning about pork this year and feel very confident in my ability to make something delicious out of fresh hams, pork bellies and large shoulders. My carnitas is some of the best I’ve tasted and I can’t wait for another opportunity to make my porchetta-inspired fresh ham.

Other high points from the year were that I received a very nice email from John Thorne. I read Thorne’s Outlaw Cook back when Kelly and I lived in Washington DC (seems like ages ago because it was) and i’ve read everything he’s written since. Thorne is the best food writer we have and just a great, great honest and sincere voice and I was really flattered by his kind words.

I made a few big deal-type dinners this year that went well: a bbq beef brisket for my brother’s birthday, a standing beef rib roast for Thanksgiving II at my mom’s, a fairly (too) elaborate sunday sauce for no particular reason – these were all as tasty as to be expected and I don’t think I would significantly change how I prepared any of them. The Sunday Sauce wasn’t quite worth the effort (I made A LOT of meatballs for this sauce), but it was good nonetheless. I will absolutely make a larger beef brisket next time.

I “invented” a few quick, simple dishes this year that I’ll definitely be making again next year. My garden yielded a never ending crop of kale and chard and mid-summer or so, I started whipping up a steak, kale and sriracha stir fry with small pieces of whatever cheap beef trimmings I could get from one of our area butchers.

Also, one of our neighbors turned me on to grilled raddiccio this year. I would quarter it (leave the stem in so it doesn’t fall apart) marinate it herbs/balsamic/olive oil and grill it with some thinly sliced steak and onions. Truly delicious and makes me wish for summer and fresh produce.

This year also marks the year I stumbled upon the Lusty Lobster’s occaisional “ready-cooked” lobster sales on Facebook. Occasionally, when this great seafood store has an event and steams too many lobsters they put them on sale at the fish counter for really, really cheap. That resulted in multiple rounds of Lobster BLTS as well as a good freezer full of lobster stock which I’ve made a lot of good fish curries from this year.

And then there was my bacon experiment. I bought 12 pounds of duroc pork belly and cured it in two batches (one bourbon, one maple+coffee) with the hopes of giving it out for christmas presents to friends and family. I bought a cold smoker contraption and ended up smoking the belly way too much. The family loves it but it’s too bitter for me and I couldn’t give it as a gift and feel good about it. We’ve used just about all of it up and the scraps/trimmings (useful as lardons, especially when blanched) are just delicious. So I’ll need to try that again and this time not smoke it so long.

A good year of eating I’d say. i learned a lot and learned I have a lot to learn.