Monday, May 24, 2010

Selzer & Smuckles - My Final Thoughts

You see that? That picture is my attempt at recreating the cover of the Achewood Cookbook, seen here:
It is also the reason that I haven't posted anything here for nearly 3 months. Seriously. I knew my next blog post had to be the closing of the Selzer & Smuckles chapter, I had put it off long enough. I also knew that I wanted to take that picture. Unfortunately, as you can probably tell if you're reading this, will power is not always my strong suit. I refused to post until I had that picture, and every night I would get home and think, "I'll have to get the camera out of the bag. And then I'll have to clean off the counter. And then I'll have to get everything setup. Hey, The Simpsons is on!" Finally, I just went ahead and did it (it must have been a Lisa-heavy Simpsons episode) and here we are. Please note that I do not own copper pots and pans, nor do I have a hanging baker's rack (I could use one, but every time I think about it I remember I live in a state where the ground has a tendency to toss itself about without warning and I don't like the idea of a cast iron skillet crashing into my noggin when all I wanted was a bowl of Cheerios). I also own a blue cocktail shaker, not the classic silver, but the Ketel One, martini glass, and lemon were all meticulously placed.

So what did I learn from Selzer & Smuckles? First, I'm probably a better cook than I thought I was. Most of the recipes seemed a bit below my level of expertise, no matter how tasty the result. That said, I did learn how much can be found from the most basic of recipes. The 12-Step Cookies are now Melissa's favorite dessert, and I make them frequently for potluck type events. Toasted Nut Orzo has quickly made its way into my regular recipe rotation. In fact, we had it for dinner on Friday and are having it again this week (the ingredients are proportioned in a way that when you buy them, you have enough to make it twice). And the Fool's Rice has accompanied every stir fry I've made since the first time I've tried it. The Meditation on Home Fries has proven the perfect way to cook potatoes for an easy (if not necessarily fast) side (Melissa loves these, too). The Scotch Eggs and Ray's Hot Wings have both merited repeat eatings, as well. Not a bad haul for a cookbook that mostly plays itself for jokes.

I have also learned how much trial and error there really is in cooking. There is no doubt in my mind that the Perfect Oven Fries and Flavor Burgers are solid recipes and that I screwed them up somehow. Due to differences in appliances and cookware, slavishly following a recipe can be hazardous. I've started to learn to cook more by instinct, and I'm enjoying the creative feeling of it. And several techniques took many tries to master. Just last weekend I finally made a Proper Omelette perfectly for the first time. I've been attempting it every time I make omelettes since I first posted about them last August (and I make omelettes fairly frequently). But it took until now to roll the egg on to itself without a spatula and have it finish cooking without really browning. Watching that perfectly yellow cloud of egg slide off of my pan and on to my plate is one of my proudest moments in the kitchen.

I also learned to appreciate good liquor. The Ketel One in my freezer has provided me much more enjoyment than the Smirnoff on the counter (which is now just for mixin').

Where do I go from here? Well, there's no shortage of cookbooks in the world, though I don't think I want to go trekking through another one in its entirety anytime soon. If I do, the top candidate is Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef, which reads almost like a textbook and comes from a chef I really admire. I'm currently reading the book, not cooking yet, and I've already learned more about cooking than I would have expected from any book. Melissa just got me Hubert Keller's Burger Bar cookbook for our anniversary, and that looks like a lot of fun. She also bought be a nice kitchen scale so I can dive into Michael Ruhlman's Ratio in earnest. In short, I'm trying to move myself more towards creating than just following instructions. As for the blog, don't expect to see the food posting stop anytime soon. I got a lot of positive responses from this project and really enjoyed it myself. That being said, I don't think I want to make this strictly a "food blog." There's already a billion of those out there and I don't really want to tie myself down to one topic.

But I guess that's it for now. I thoroughly enjoyed Selzer & Smuckles and I hope that you did too. I laughed more than I should from a cookbook and enjoyed a lot of great food. I really finished this project months ago, and looking back on it now made me realize how much I've missed it. But what can I do? I reached the end of the book and that's all there is to it. Even if I wanted to go through the hard work again, I couldn't do it. I mean, unless they put out a second Achewood cookbook. Wait a minute. What's that? Son of a bitch.