On being a restless cook

Salt cured egg yolks

As I scrolled through my Twitter feed today, I came across a post about salt-cured egg yolks. “That reminds me,” I said to myself, “I think I have one of those sitting in the back of the refrigerator.” After a brief rummage through the bottom shelf, I spied the prize: a small glass prep bowl containing a heap of kosher salt encasing a single egg yolk. 

How long this has been lurking in the dark recesses of the refrigerator is a mystery. I know definitively that it has to be less than three years, because I first spied salt-cured egg yolks in Saveur Magazine, and I see from the EYB Library that the issue came out at the beginning of 2015. In reality it’s only been a month or two, as this technique was one I added to my “must try” list, which has a backlog of well over two years. 

I chalk up this extra-long “must try” list to being a restless cook. My husband complains that if he says he likes a dish, that means I will never make it again. He’s not altogether wrong. Although I do have several recipes that I turn to time and again, I continually seek out new dishes. Not content with just trying a different twist on a familiar food, I want to experiment with new techniques and taste new ingredients. 

As a result, my kitchen cabinets are bulging with equipment: a sous vide circulator, two blenders, an Instant Pot, stacks of bakeware. The drawer are brimming with gadgets galore, so stuffed that they often get stuck when a recalcitrant ladle gets turned the wrong way. My pantry contains dozens of legumes, several varieties of rice, condiments from every corner of the world, and more pasta shapes than many Italian specialty markets. 

While all of this variety keeps me well-entertained, I wonder if having too many options hinders my ability to become a better cook. Flitting about from one cuisine to the next and baking things only once in a blue moon does not lead to mastery of any ingredient, technique, or cuisine. Am I doing my cooking a disservice by pursuing too many flings? Or does this relentless pursuit of new foods help me by allowing me to build a broader base of experience? 

In either scenario, I end up with things like a solitary salt-cured egg yolk languishing in the back of my refrigerator until I stumble across a post on my Twitter feed. I’ve cleaned out the fridge a couple of times since I gently laid the yolk onto its bed of salt, covered it, and placed it at the back of the shelf so it wouldn’t get jostled. Each time I move the bowl, I make a mental note to find something to do with the cured yolk, but never follow through. 

I pull the cover off the bowl to see if I should even bother to put it back in the fridge. The salt has coalesced into a nearly solid block, but after some gentle prying around the edges, the block crumbles and out pops a deep orange translucent disk that looks exactly like the magazine photo. (Some techniques, it seems, don’t require much practice.) Tomorrow is the day, I resolve, to put this sunny yolk to use. If I don’t find something else to do first. 

Photo of Cured egg yolks from Saveur Magazine

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  • vickster  on  February 3, 2018

    I know what you mean Darcie. I am so into reading about food and recipes and collecting cookbooks, I seem more scattered. It seems I used to focus more on my books when I had less of them. And I am always forgetting recipes I want to try, and so overwhelmed by my choices I can't decided what to cook sometimes!

  • KarinaFrancis  on  February 3, 2018

    Thank god I'm not alone!! I was nodding all the way through your post!

  • bettinab  on  February 3, 2018

    So glad there are others out there.
    It is fun though
    Sitting here trying to stop myself googling salt curing egg yolks and heading to the kitchen
    Sad ….

  • PeggyB  on  February 3, 2018

    This certainly describes me! So many recipes and techniques, so little time! I will say that I have learned a lot by covering so much ground and I can now see a less than perfect recipe and use better techniques than it calls for or improve it by tweaking the ingredients and I don’t believe that I would have that same ability to do any of that if I hadn’t covered the broad ground that I have.

  • ericg  on  February 3, 2018

    Julie Child criticized Julie Powell for cooking her book in one year, “Better to make the same dish over and over until you have it mastered” I’ve seen Anthony Bourdain say the same thing. A good reminder!

  • lgroom  on  February 3, 2018

    This is my life, Darcie. I think I need to have every cookbook on a subject, to read every food related article I see, and to try every technique once. The reality is I have a broad knowledge of a lot of things but am proficient in very little. I need to actually invite people over to eat the things I do well in addition to having them be guinea pigs for each food trend.

  • Lem9579  on  February 3, 2018

    Except for the salt-cured yolks, I could have written this! I have so many cookbooks I need to use them all. I do write down everything I make but there is no guarantee I will do them again. Even if my husband declares them "winners".

  • sir_ken_g  on  February 3, 2018

    I do repeat recipes but usually not to perfect them – but because they were good the first time.
    I have a very few exceptions – Chicken and Ham Hock Soup, and Better than Peking Roast Duck. Both modified so much that they are mine.

  • DelaDebbie  on  February 3, 2018

    This is so me! Before just about every meal, my husband's standard question is "Have we had this before?".

  • hillsboroks  on  February 4, 2018

    I see myself in Darcie's post and the notes from everyone else here. But I attribute some of my restless cooking to having cooked the same things for many years as a young wife and working mother. As the years went on and I had the basics down, I was flat out bored and started really digging through the few cookbooks I had to try new things and cooking became an adventure and a fun hobby. Then I stumbled onto EYB and I had no reason not to collect more even cookbooks and magazines. Let's face it fellow EYB aficionados, we have become addicted to new recipes and gadgets. For me (who just retired) I plan to play with all my kitchen toys and recipes now that I finally have the time to do it and not feel a bit guilty about it.

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