Start with the Best Ingredients

23 Aug

Two hours and twelve minutes into preparing Roasted Chicken Stock, and I’ve already nearly choked to death. I have a long, embarrassing history with surprise gobs of food lodging themselves somewhere along the platinum highway that is my esophagus (Frosted Mini Wheats, hot dogs, baguette, chicken breast, peanuts, olives, cashew chicken, a cupcake, and once, in college and baked out of my mind, a Dorito slathered in canned bean dip). Today it was a carrot. I was shocked. Alan was indifferent. The chicken stock was simmering.

I will consider my survival proof of success of this project.

Welcome to Learning to Stir! We’re two Chicago foodies, faced with the prospect of another interminable and frozen winter trapped inside our Lakeview loft, who have decided to exercise our culinary triceps. We have a fully-outfitted kitchen, a city full of shopping options, a cookbook, a bitchy cat, and iPad, a secure wireless connection, and a dream: to prepare every single recipe in the pages of Barbara Lynch’s Stir. I’m Jay. He’s Alan. She’s a James Beard award-winning chef who embodies the American Dream. She grew up hardscrabble in Boston, stole a bus once, and stumbled into her success using her brain, her heart, and her skills.

She’s kind of a badass, a trait that is not lost on us. Barbara Lynch never went to cooking school, but instead got “hooked on the sense of wonder and accomplishment that (she) felt after creating something delicious”, something Alan and I share with her. She’s a rule breaker, a survivor, and  has really beautiful skin – a natural choice.

The book is a gorgeous and hefty 355 pages, from small bites to wild boar salami, handmade ricotta to desserts. We’re going to make them all. Alan will be cleaning any and all meats. I’m going to do my best to not asphyxiate. We’re talking modern Italian cooking, peppered with techniques from lots of other world food traditions. This ain’t no red sauce joint. This is serious.

A few points:

1. The fabulous Barbara Lynch is the owner and creator of every recipe we will detail in this blog. We’re not going to include full recipes, because, hello, buy the book.

2. Ms. Lynch is not affiliated or aware of this blog, but, with luck, she just might change that.

3. There will be cursing. Lots of cursing. Get used to it, dammit.

4. Alan and I are both full-time professionals, so no promises can be made in regard to deadlines or regularity of blog posts. You should probably just come back every day and tell your friends to follow suit (gogo analytics!)

5. If you want to snatch any of our quirky one-liners or our original photography, just let us know. You’ll flatter us and I’ll probably make a Facebook status update about how cool that is.

6. Both of us will be updating this blog, and it should be pretty easy to differentiate between our voices. We’ll be sure to sign our posts so as to avoid confusion, and so later we can tally our fans and annoy each other with the numbers.

7. We’re on Twitter. Follow us!

8. A grateful and ethusiatic thank you is due to those cooking blog pioneers that came before us: Julie Powell of Julie and Julia, Carol Blymire of Alinea at Home and French Laundry at Home, and the many, many others who have undertaken this kind of challenge and loved to tell the tale.

So, that’s us in a nutshell. You’ll learn more about us – the good, the bad, the poorly seasoned – as the weeks sizzle by. The Roasted Chicken Stock is almost done, and I should probably put on pants and go find us dinner. Check back for our rundown on this very first recipe we’ve prepared from Stir, brought to you by Alan. Thank you for popping in!