12 Months | 12 Dishes

let the games begin

A few months ago, our friend Emily Dietsch (who is actually no relation to Mike, though we wish she was) came up with a rather brilliant project for herself. She called it 12 months, 12 dishes, and she described it as such:

Over the next year, I’ll utilize a list of ‘essential’ dishes and work through one per month, trying out a few recipes or even the same one until I get something just right. By ‘essential’, I mean dishes that qualify as one or a few of the following: classics that have been around forever (and deserve that status); comprised of core techniques that I can use in other dishes; crowd-pleasers (i.e., things to whip up offhand for friends or partners); and me-pleasers (i.e., things I want to eat again and again).

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She’s compiled a wonderful list of dishes she wants to take on: seafood stews, vegetable gratins, curries or tagines, roast chicken, bistro-style steak… a nice mix of classics from various cultures. It has been so much fun to follow her progress as she cooks her way through them.

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In fact, I found the whole project so inspiring that I asked her if Mike and I might borrow her idea, put our own spin on it, and post about it here.

To my delight, she agreed.

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I feel like we’ve gotten into a bit of a cooking rut. While we’ve developed a solid little rotation of favorite dishes over the years – pantry pastas and mac & cheese, stews and braises, roast chicken, meatballs, and pizzas, thick and thin – I think we’re both getting a little bored with the same old, same old. We also feel that there are some gaps in our repertoire, that there are recipes and techniques we’d love to master to help beef up our kitchen skills, and dishes we’d love for Julian to grow up with.

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There might even be some baking.

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So this is our challenge – 12 Months | 12 Dishes. Mike and I are still finalizing our list of the 12 dishes we’ll cook through over the coming year, but we’ve decided to start with a comfort food classic: chicken and dumplings. If you have a favorite version, we’d love to hear about it.

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Let the games begin.

21 thoughts on “12 Months | 12 Dishes

  1. How fun. I have some classics I’d like to conquer as well (hello, roast chicken!).
    Lately I’ve been obsessed with the idea of chili with cornbread biscuits on top. I think I might have seen a photo on Pinterest…

  2. LG says:

    OH BOY do I have THOUGHTS about this. I grew up with chicken and noodles, which I later learned was my paternal grandmother’s name for Hoosier chicken and dumplings, which are served with great pride and delight at countless Indiana small-town fall festivals. The dumplings are nothing more than thick, chewy homemade egg noodles cut short, with no leavening or fat (except that provided by the egg yolks). They’re rolled out, sliced, and left to dry for a few minutes or up to overnight with a hefty coating of flour on top, which then thickens the rich stock from a whole bird (meat shredded and added back in). Celery, carrots, and a little minced onion, plus lots of salt and pepper, are the seasonings. We always served them over mashed potatoes because we were carbo-loading for a marathon or something. Many a Midwestern child grew up with this as his/her archetypal chicken and dumplings.

    HOWEVER. When I moved to KY and met people from further south, their chicken and dumplings were something totally different — the dumplings were halfway between noodle and biscuit, and had both butter (or shortening) and baking powder in them, though they were sturdier than a biscuit and rolled out thin before they puffed in the soup.

    So there you have it. Try both. I prefer the chicken and noodles/dumplings of my childhood and the unleavened toothsomeness of that kind of noodle/dumpling to the fluffy leavened dumpling, but it would be crazy not to give them both (and other varieties!) a shot.

  3. Fantastic idea! I may have to make some of these dishes, too! My favorite chicken and dumplings was my Aunt Glo’s recipe, and the dumplings are more like noodles. Just flour, salt, water…and broth from scratch, of course. It was THE ONLY thing I wanted to eat for days after I had my daughter. Comfort food at its finest.

  4. Oher Susan says:

    Welcome back to you blog! Looking forward to your project. If I can manage a better work life balance, I may become a participant rather than just reading about your adventure.
    Thanks for your updates.

  5. Karen says:

    What an awesome project! I may be a copycat myself (though I don’t blog so it won’t be public), as there are dishes/techniques that I keep intending to master, but time flies, and I just keep making the same familiar stuff. Limiting the focus to 12 things makes it seem much more attainable. Thank you!

    Re: chicken and dumplings, Molly Stevens’ recipe from “All about Braising” is one of the best things I’ve ever cooked or eaten, no question! For me, it’s a weekend dish — lots of steps and lots of dishes to be washed at the end — but I love it. And I haven’t made it in a while so I might have to do it this weekend — thanks for bringing it to mind!

  6. Jennifer Ann says:

    I love this idea! I recently made Thomas Keller’s chicken and [chive] dumpling soup. A lot more work than my mother’s traditional recipe, but it was so wondefully delightful and ‘fancy occasion/company’s coming!’ special. I think it is in French Laundry (or ad hoc?)

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