NB: A new feature here is that on Saturday I will share five things around a theme. Maybe it will be five books I like, or five funny cat videos, or five Saturday morning cartoons I miss.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to cook. It’s part of who I am, how I care for myself and my family, and fundamental to how I see the world. But cooking is one of those things that is easy to do, but also easy to do better. Sauteing with olive oil and butter is better in almost every way than sauteing in canola oil, and it requires but only a smidgen more of care. Likewise, inserting shallots instead of onion makes almost anything better with only minimal expense and care.
The other day I was helping a friend come up with a list of things they needed for their new kitchen, and it made me think about the things I use that are not essential, but are simple things that elevate my game. Here are five of them, with links to examples in case you need gift ideas for your friend who cook.
A salt cellar (filled with kosher salt): Almost everyone undersalts their food. And miss me with health concerns – the huge problem is all the processed food we eat, which is rife with sodium. Your blood pressure isn’t too high because you salt your pasta water.And Kosher salt is great because it doesn’t contain iodide, which is helpful in preventing goiters but hurtful on flavor
Having an open container of kosher salt next to the stove so you can grab a pinch or three and add it to your pot will make you more likely to do it, and your food will taste better. Mine came from Target and I can’t find it on their website, but I like this one and this one.
A pepper mill: Of course you can just use ground pepper from a shaker, but if you do, it won’t taste as good. Pepper begins to degrade when you grind it, and being able to grind it on the spot as you need it will mean you are more likely to do it. I have this one.
The New Techniques cookbook, from Jacques Pepin: Trussing your chicken is a simple elevator. So is crushing your garlic and seasoning under the chicken skin. You can get step by step guides to do virtually anything in the kitchen in this book.
“You know what? If Jacques Pépin tells you this is how you make a fucking egg? The matter is settled, fuck nuts.” – Anthony Bourdain
A french chef knife: You really only need 3 knives to do almost anything you need to do in a kitchen, and this is the king of them all – a chef knife, probably with an 8 inch blade. Most folks aren’t intentional with their knives, and if you don;t have a good knife with good balance, you will take shortcuts and be lazy, which means your food won;t be as good or as pretty.
All my knives are antiques and high carbon steel, but if I were to buy a new one today, it would probably be this one that all my friends have and rave about.
An immersion blender: I was late to the game on this one, but it makes making soups so much simpler, and the whisk attachment mean you will actually make fresh whipped cream or meringue. It’s easy to clean. (full disclosure: I got this one for Christmas a few years ago, but have only have ever used the whisk and blender attachments) This was a huge game changer for me.
What say you? Are there tools you use in the kitchen you wouldn’t be caught without?