after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Archive for the ‘Odes to Kitchen Equipment’ Category

k’s favorite pot

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k says: I was perusing afterdinnersneeze, as I like to do when I’m too tired to do any more work for the night, but not yet ready for bed, and I saw the 2010 posting about Dutch ovens. I have no relevant information to share, no pros and cons lists, but instead, here below are my truest emotions about “my favorite pot.”

My favorite pot is our gray Le Creuset pot. It is gorgeous. It’s heavy. It’s shiny. I love cooking in it because it feels like you’re really cooking a real dinner. These days, dinner often consists of cereal, an apple and some cashews. But when we cook with the Le Creuset, it means we are cooking something special. Some of my favorite dishes have been cooked in this pot – cm’s pasta with butternut squash, perfectly browned conchas, braised chicken with vegetables, and of course “the good soup”. We used it to wow our judges in the famous Iron Chef battle, home edition, of 2009. (k and cm vs. t and g, Battle Carrot.) I’m sure the beauty of the pot itself bought us a couple points.

The truth is, it’s not a totally necessary pot. Most days we can get by with our other mediocre pots and pans. For many years, we did just fine without it. The year after graduating from college, cm and I and our two close college friends hosted a weekly dinner for our friends that still lived in the area. It was our first time learning how to cook, trying new recipes, and playing host. We called it “Sunday Dinner Series.” We stuck almost exclusively to recipes, poring through our first cookbook as well as trying our hand at our childhood favorite recipes. I remember Sunday Dinner Series fondly. It was the beginning of our love of cooking and eating with friends. Unfortunately, it fizzled off as we ran out of money…

Five years later, we were ready to own our first Le Creuset. cm and I went to Williams Sonoma after spending many months percolating on the idea, now wielding a gift card from cm’s parents. As we examined the wall of beauties, stacked up perfectly just like t said, an older couple started chatting with us and tried to convince us to buy an entire set of Le Creuset’s in one color. They were in the process of doing just that, as a wedding present for their son. Since a set costs many hundreds of dollars, we settled on our one pot… the one in the color that was on sale. It felt like a big day. I felt like a real grown up. We soon would have more visits to Williams Sonoma, and even purchase more Le Creusets, with the help of our wedding registry. But none would be more special than our first visit and our first Le Creuset purchase.

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19 November 2011 at 11:04pm

Meet Serena

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t says:  After about 9 months of waiting, I finally procured a new chef’s knife.  It sure is purty.  Coming in at 270mm in length (~260mm cutting edge), this Konosuke features a custom bakelite-horn-metal handle and a spine thickness <2.25 mm.  Translation: the vegetables in our fridge should be very afraid.

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15 July 2011 at 1:41pm

An Ode to Dutch Ovens

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t says: An honorable mention for my list of awesome kitchen equipment goes to our Dutch oven.  As mentioned in our recipe for short rib ragu, I have a very bizarre attachment to our Dutch oven; his name is Francois.

Francois says, "get in my belly!"

A lot of research went into buying Francois, not because it was warranted, but because I obsess about things. I’ve been using him a lot over the last 6+ months and now feel justified in highly recommending Dutch ovens to anyone who wants super-tender meats.  The downside (and the reason why he only achieved an “honorable mention”) is that most recipes that I come across take a few hours to pull off, as I’m usually braising large quantities of meat (for strictly veggies or seafood, smaller vessels are more efficient to use).  Thus, our Dutch oven is our go-to cooking vessel on the weekends, so we can make a whole mess of food and eat it throughout the week.

If you fancy purchasing one of these guys soon, then here’s a little primer.

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26 March 2010 at 5:28pm

An Ode to Microplane Rasp-Style Zesters/Graters

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t says: Flabbergasted?  Could it be that something as simple as a grater/zester could hold the title as most interesting/important piece of equipment?  Well, to be honest, this is our most used piece of equipment in the kitchen.  More than pans.  More than knives.  More than our fire extinguisher (which, for the record, has never been called into duty).  But how can that be?  It’s because of all the lemons, limes, oranges, and cheese (but mostly cheese)!  We just can’t help but finish a lot of our meals (meats and pastas) with a quick grating of parmesan or pecorino cheese – and this includes meals where we simply re-heat a dish or don’t really have to do any prep work for (e.g. kimchi pizza) (which is why it edged out knives in terms of utility).

I realize that a lot of people already know about Microplane graters – but because there is a possibility that there is at least one person who does not, we needed to make sure it got the attention it so rightfully deserves.  We got ours through a kitchen gadget of the month club (thanks to g’s tofu-hating sis!).  Ever since it arrived in the mail, we’ve all but thrown away our rotary grater (it’s in storage just in case our microplane brakes due to overuse).

But what makes it “interesting”?  There’s something about the feel of grating that’s kind of addictive.  This wand of perforated metal effortlessly pulls the cheese in as you grate – it’s so smooth and actually seems like it wants to grate for you!  And it makes super-thin shavings of cheese that look so pretty on food.

If only this cheese knew the fate that awaits it ...

Are there any drawbacks?  I can think of one.  Sometimes, I get so “in the zone” that I start grating as fast as I can (it really is a lot of fun).  But, when this happens, I become a little more careless.  The result?  Well, if you thought it’s good at grating cheese … imagine what it does to thumbs …  Moral of the story: grate with caution.  Microplane makes a safer version of their graters … probably for people like me.

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24 March 2010 at 8:02am

An Ode to Rice Cookers (and white rice!)

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t says: Time for number 2 on the list.  Meet “Li’l Red” … our rice cooker.

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that ..."

g and I love starch.  If we had to go Atkins, we’d be really really grumpy – our meals need pasta, bread, or rice.  Of the three, I’d argue that rice is the most versatile.  Bread requires effort to make and gets hard quickly.  Pastas might be quicker to make than rice, but are seldom served plain.  Rice, on the other hand is very simple to make, cannot be overcooked in a rice cooker (unless you put too much water in it), and goes with nearly every meat and veggie.  It also tastes wonderful on its own.  Actually, one time, when k was over, we made white rice – she was surprised by its flavor and asked if we doctored it with anything.  As you might guess, we go with rice quite frequently.  And, using a rice cooker, it doesn’t take up valuable space on our stovetop and is foolproof.  g also likes that it’s red …

Li’l Red was cheap (<$20) and makes enough rice for 6 servings.  Making 2 cups of rice (which inflates to about 4 finished cups of rice) works out well for me and g to have enough rice for 2 meals, each.  So critical is a rice cooker for successful rice cookery that I’ve even added this post to our “recipes”.  Some tips and tricks:

1)  Prepare the rice according to the rice cooker’s instructions.  g made it once following rice’s instructions – yea – it was not good.

2)  There are actually different kinds of rice out there.  We like short grain rices – our favorite is koshihikari short grain rice (we like Tamaki Gold as pictured, but there are other good ones out there).  My mom’s favorite, which is also delicious, is Kokuho Rose (it has a pink emblem on the package).

3)  Mom sometimes adds other things to white rice to make it more nutritious.  For instance, you could use barley, beans, peas, or even brown rice!  Brown rice might change the cooking characteristics – I don’t know – I’ve never tried it.  If you want to be a purist, add nothing to rice – no seasoning, vanilla, or even oil.

4)  If you’re making white rice, you must wash the rice thoroughly before cooking.  Basically you need to rinse the rice in water as many times as it takes for the water to run very-nearly-clear.  Basically, do it until you think you’re done, and then rinse it three more times.  I’ve done it by hand in the included rice pot or using a fine sieve – the latter works faster.  No matter what you do, this super-secret step is super-vital.

5)  When the rice is done cooking, fluff it with the included paddle and then replace the lid until ready to eat.  To “fluff” the rice, drag the paddle across the surface of the rice (kind of like how you would scrape a water ice with one of those wooden spoons) and lift up gently.  Keep doing so to get a nice fluffy pile.  When fluffing the rice, you want to avoid packing it together (e.g. you don’t want to do what they do with Chinese takeout white rice).

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21 March 2010 at 1:17am

An Ode to [Sharp] Knives

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t says: I like kitchen knives. I like sharp kitchen knives. I like cutting tomatoes without squishing them. I like dicing onions without shedding a tear. I like to see how thinly I can slice garlic and lemons … for no apparent reason. It’s an illness – and it’s contagious (more on that later).  It’s also number 3 on our list!

I’d be willing to bet that 9 out of every 10 times that g and I cook, we need to cut some food product before cooking it (it’s been a long time since we’ve had frozen dinners or boxed mac-and-cheese). I think that the only courses that commonly evade our knives are desserts (although I recently had to cut bacon for chocolate chip cookies, so there are exceptions). Consequently, I think sharp knives deserve a spot on the list of interesting equipment in our kitchen; we use them a ton and they’re not normal people’s knives …

It all started two and a half years ago, when g and I made our wedding registry. I got her permission to add a knife to the list. There were these really cool looking knives by the manufacturer Shun; the blades had these really fancy wavy patterns. It was like having knife-bling! And it was called a “Santoku” – a Japanese name! That makes it at least 7 times cooler! Well, in the end, no one bought it for us (I was told later that knives are perceived by many as awful gifts, and, in some cultures, even have very negative meanings if given as gifts), but that was a blessing in disguise. Now that we had to afford cutlery on our own, I had to hit the internet and figure out what was good and what was not-as-good (e.g. Santokus are not as useful as you think – no matter how often you see Rachel Ray wielding one – but we do have one). Of course, all of that information is viewed by many as incredibly boring, so I made up a separate shopping-for-knives primer. Long story short – we have a stable of sharp knives that I sharpen regularly (that’s right, knives dull over time!). Here’s one of ’em:

This is my go-to knife: Zoe

But are sharp knives actually important? Well – let’s just say that if I somehow convinced g that sharper is better, then it must be real, ‘cuz she is not fooled easily (e.g. she does not believe that faster cars are better than slower ones, no matter how much I try to convince her). It’s progressed to the point that nowadays, I sometimes feel guilty because I know that every time she picks up a blunt knife (e.g. at our parents’ houses – no offense moms and dads), she’s thinking of her knife, Sammy (yes, they have names – what? is that not “normal”?). As a result – when traveling to our folks’ homes during the holidays, when we anticipate helping with cooking, we bring a knife with us (what? is that not “normal”, either?).

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19 March 2010 at 8:33am

An Ode to Gravity-Activated Salt and Pepper Shakers

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t says: On to #4 on the interesting/awesome/useful kitchen equipment list.  We have salt and pepper shakers.  Actually, we have several salt and pepper shakers (l gave us some pretty rad shakers – thanks!).  You [likely] have salt and pepper shakers, too.  But … do you have gravity-activated salt and pepper shakers?  We do.  Check it (sorry, it’s a little out-of-focus):

It don't matter if you're black or white - you're both fun to use!

But wait!  Aren’t all shakers “gravity-activated”?  Doesn’t salt and pepper fall out of all shakers when you invert them?  Yes … but you have to shake the shakers!!  Pfft – that’s so 20th century.  Each of these bad boys have a little electric motor (powered by 6 AAA batteries) that turns on when the shaker is inverted.  Upon inversion, without having to press a button or twist something, the shaker starts grinding the salt/pepper so it falls out.  That’s right!  No shaking required!  And that little loop at the top is a  knob that you can turn so you can dial in how coarse/fine you want the motors to grind.

Is this feature actually useful?  Kinda.  Is it fair to consider these “shakers” and not “grinders”?  Probably not.  Is it borderline ridiculous?  Maybe.  Is it super-cool?  Absolutely.  Here’s an example of just how cool … Soon after we first acquired these, a bunch of friends visited us.  While I was moving food to the table, I hear a wwhhiirrrr noise from the kitchen, followed by giggling and a “whoa, do it again!”.  I turned around to find a bunch of very manly men huddled around the sink – they were “testing” the shakers.  With giddy smiles on their faces, they passed them around so they could all try.  I asked, “pretty cool, eh?”.  One of them responded, “Dude – I’d get married if it gets me one of these.”  And there you have it.  These salt and pepper shakers are so cool that men in their mid-20’s will strongly consider long-term commitments to own them.  Need I say more?

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13 March 2010 at 12:36am