Thursday, December 6, 2012

For Most Excellent Cookery

Several years of professional cooking as well as a stint in culinary school mean that the kitchen is where I spend a good portion of my time. I don't cook for a living anymore, which has made it that much more enjoyable and relaxing (especially not being forced to participate in the crime of cooking a steak to well-done...but that's a rant for another day).

Spending so much time in the kitchen means that I need to have the stuff I need to get shit done. Sub-standard equipment will turn a hobby into a chore, and superfluous gadgets just clutter up the space I need to  accomplish food-wizardry. Therefore, to start, here's a list of my most essential kitchen things:

Things I Love:

1. Good knives! 
(This particular knife actually belongs to my dear partner, but I use it all the time so whatevs) A good knife is sharp, versatile and comfortable to use. I have a set of Victorinox knives from culinary school which are okay but made of fairly soft steel, so they get dull very fast. That's where this little guy comes in. Global's knives stay sharp for a ridiculously long time, and this santoku-style chef's knife is a little bit shorter and more manageable than a typical 10-inch blade. We've got 3 different Global knives and all could use sharpening, but it's been over 3 freakin' years since they were initially purchased and they're still sharp enough to do most things, whereas my school knives have to be re-honed constantly. Get one of these, a paring knife, and a big serrated knife, and you'll be set.

2. Food Processor:
My food processor is probably at least 10-15 years old; that's it in the picture. It's loud and ugly but DAMN does it work well. My mum passed it along to me many years ago, and I'd be lost without it. A decent food processor is one of the best small appliances you can get if you're both ambitious and lazy. Having the slicing and grating attachments makes it so much easier to shred potatoes for latkes or thinly slice them for scalloped potatoes. I'm sure there are non-potato uses as well but this is the best thing I know of for speeding up the process of getting delicious carbs into my face.

3. Coffee Grinder:
Fresh-ground coffee kicks ass. If you buy shit like Folger's, I'm gonna have to ask you to leave and not come back until you've tried a REAL cup of coffee. Pick up a grinder, they're only $15-20 for a basic one, and grind your own damn beans. 
Also, you can use these things for more than just coffee. Buy whole spices and mulch them up as-needed (I've got a second grinder for this purpose so I don't get unwanted flavours all up in my beans). Basically the message here is: buy whole things, and grind them for maximum flavour. 

4. Parchment Paper:
This is something you should always have on hand, because it's as useful as plastic wrap or foil but has many more applications. Wax paper is for chumps, parchment is the paper you need. Nothing sticks to it, because it's coated in silicone. You can put it on baking sheets instead of greasing them, which means one less thing to wash later. You can fold it into a piping bag and ice a cake with it. You can fold it into little packets with food inside, and it'll trap all the flavours and steam. You can use pieces of it to separate layers of frozen stuff so a jackhammer isn't required to pry apart portions. It'll make cooking easier, so go get some!

5. Dishwasher:

Okay, so not everyone has one of these babies. If you don't, consider bribing those who co-habit with you to wash the dishes in exchange for delicious food. If bribery doesn't work, a golf cart battery wired to their nipples with a jolt every 30 seconds should do the trick. 
Considering how much I cook, I would spend twice as much time washing dishes. I don't have time to scrub pots and pans, I've got wine to drink and a cat to annoy. For years I lived in character buildings with tiny kitchen sinks, and when I could be arsed to wash the dishes, it would take FOREVER. If I could hug anything in my kitchen, it would be the dishwasher (probably a good thing, then, that it's built into the cupboards where I can't get my arms around it, because I might look a little bit insane). This thing even has a high-heat sanitary rinse for sterilizing wine bottles (an important function for the making of more wine). Now that I've got a dishwasher, I don't know if I could go back to life without one. 


Coming up on the next list: Least-Essential Kitchen Crap That You Shouldn't Waste Your Beer-Money On.

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