Hint: Less is always more.
If you are looking for a New Year's resolution, here's one to consider: Spend the year establishing a culinary repertoire. The idea is to choose a few delicious recipes – say, 10 or 15 for the year – and dig deeply into them. They do not need to be complicated, but they should be delicious because you will make them (and eat them!) over and over again. From this commitment will spring numerous benefits.
First, your confidence and expertise in the kitchen will increase. You will memorize the recipes, refine them, and be able to pull them out at short notice. Cookbook author Jessica Battilana, writing for Saveur, explains why repetition is so important:
"Trying new things takes confidence, but committing to a repertoire takes confidence, too, the confidence to repeat something over and over, resisting the urge to move along to something new. But by committing to this repetition you’ll develop habits, which in turn beget greater happiness, all while getting dinner on the table."
Second, your job of preparing food will become easier. When you limit the number of recipes you make on a regular basis, you no longer have to feel pressure to try fancy new ingredients (grocery shopping becomes simpler), try experimental techniques, or waste any extra time. The entire process of feeding yourself and your family is streamlined.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will become known for certain specialties. This is something that has a lot of meaning for children in particular. When I think of my mother, I think of her sticky buns, macaroni and cheese, moussaka, and suprême de volaille. I watched her make them over and over again and learned the techniques from her. I want my children to have similar memories of me.
The problem, however, is that we are inundated with recipes these days – far more than we could ever cook in a lifetime. It's not uncommon to make something delicious and then never eat it again because the recipe has been lost or forgotten. By paring down the variety and focusing on repertoire, you will weed out those less-than-fabulous dishes and focus on the ones that bring you true joy.
So, what would be on your list of 10 recipes to master?