My steady diet of competitive cooking shows has introduced me to a variety of foods I've never eaten and techniques I've never heard of much less tried, but I've rarely been immediately inspired to say, make a mashed potato foam or sous vide the meatloaf. That said, challenges keep things interesting so I've found two different food blog challenges -- Charcutepalooza and the Daring Kitchen -- in which I am participating.
Charcutepalooza is a year-long challenge to learn the craft of charcuterie. Each month has a new challenge which will have me smoking, salting and/ or curing meat. On the 15th of each month, I'll be blogging about my experience with making the charcuterie, as well as how I served the finished project. The January challenge was making duck prosciutto. I missed that one but plan on completing it sometime along the way. I haven't yet started on this month's challenge because I am still waiting for my copy of Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing to arrive from Amazon and, more importantly, my pink salt (sodium nitrate) to arrive from Butcher & Packer. In the meantime, I've been to Ruhlman's blog for instructions on this month's challenge. I think my family is going to enjoy this one!
The Daring Kitchen also offers monthly challenges created by participants selected to host. You can sign up to be a Daring Cook, a Daring Baker, or both. Needless to say, I am a Daring Cook. The challenge is a secret to to non-participants until the 12th of the month when all the Daring Cooks post to their blogs. These challenges will likely pale in comparison to those of Charcutepalooza, but since there are a number of pretty basic things I've never done -- making pie crust and poaching egg come to mind, I think it will be a good way to build my cooking skills.