Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Few More Things You Need For Your Kitchen And A Couple You Don't

Good Quality Spatulas

With the possible exception of knives and and frying pans, the tool I most often "turn" to is the spatula, most often the one above.  It may seem like overly anal, foodblog falderal, but having the right spat for the job makes all the difference in both results and ease of use.  What sets this type of spatula apart from it's cheapy supermarket relatives are stiffness and a sharp edge.  Food sticks to pans, sometimes by design, and sometimes not, but in either case a sharp stiff spatula is a welcome companion.  Nothing scrapes up the crunchy yummy fond at the bottom of the pan like these and you're guaranteed not to leave the seared exterior of chicken or fish stuck to the pan when you turn the food.  As an added bonus, when it comes time to cleanup, these guys crush scotchbrite.  The one pictured above is made by Lamson & Goodnow, a 170 year old cutlery manufacturer in Western Massachusetts.

Kitchens accumulate rubber spats like dryers collect socks, I count around 9 in my kitchen, the vast majority of which I never use - because they suck and I should throw them away.  The one I use almost exclusively is the one pictured above.  The stainless handle is strong like bull and the silicone blade doesn't fall off, crack or harden.  The one I have is quite a bit bigger than the run of the mill model and the long handle makes the job easier, faster and more neat.  I got mine at Sur La Table, but I don't see them on their website anymore. I did find them at Kitchenworks though for a pretty reasonable price.

A Huge White Poly Cutting Board & A Non-Slip Mat

Really? Yes, Really.   A big white poly cutting board makes prep work a helluva lot easier and they are as common and cheap as Megan Fox.  It's great to have room to prep almost everything a recipe calls for on one board without dirtying every bowl in the house.  Chop some onion and then push it off to the side to make some room for the carrots.  Get the biggest one you can still easily clean in your sink or DW.  With regards to the non-slip mat, it doesn't have to be anything fancy, just washable and easy to store.  The one above is sold for three bucks at the "Webstaurant Store"  I have never bought anything from them, but the price seems good.  Alternatively you can put a damp kitchen towel under your board or even that red mesh that goes on glassware shelves in bars.  The important thing is to keep the board from moving around so that you don't cut yourself.

A Couple of Things You Don't Need

A Wooden Cutting Board

Listen, I like the way they look as well, but they're really just kitchen bling, and I am cool with that if that's what you into.  Other than for looking, serving on, or cutting bread, they not the best choice.  Wood boards are unsanitary, difficult to clean and needlessly expensive.  Poly is better, cheaper and lasts longer.

The Mushroom Brush

To believe in the unique qualities and magical abilities of this shamwow of kitchen gadgets requires a suspension of disbelief exceeded only by the demands placed on audiences of  the 1994 movie "Junior".
"Mushrooms Absorb Water Like a Sponge Spoiling the Taste of a Dish".  If you believe that, I've got some Himalayan Sea Salt and Fiji Water you're gonna love.  Give me a break, shrooms are already chock full of water, they grow in damp places for chrissakes.  Category : Re-Gift immediately.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Easy Tip for Carving a Pumpkin

Don't bother with those "Pumpkin Carving Sets" in the seasonal aisle of your grocery store, they are way to flimsy, and besides, you probably have one of these excellent pumpkin carving tools in your garage.  If you have access to a few used reciprocating saw (Sawzall) blades, the tapered version in the top illustration makes an excellent (if somewhat McGuiver style) pumpkin carving tool.  To protect kids delicate hands, I wrap the top third with a few wraps of thick tape such as electrical or duct.  The nice thing about sawzall blades, other than the price, is that the teeth are generally pretty dull even when new.  If you happen to have a "keyhole" saw (sometimes called a drywall saw), these also make excellent carving tools and are certainly more ergonomic.  Whatever you do, under no circumstances should you use a chef's knife or other kitchen knife, it's way to easy to end up in the E.R.  If you must use a kitchen knife, use a serrated knife like a bread or steak knife.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Faster Mashed Potatoes With a Potato Ricer

If food is love, than good mashed potatoes are the tantric sex.  Like alot of simple things, getting mashers to come out perfectly is more difficult than it seems and can be a real PITA.  The texture or mouth feel is all important and most potato mashers are haphazardly designed and manufactured, requiring you to pound away for what seems like an eternity before you get decent results (hey, just like tantric sex).  I don't know about you, but by the time I get home from a busy day, I am really not in the mood for all that effort, which has generally meant rice or bakers would have to suffice (the culinary equivalent of "afternoon delight").  Three of four months ago, on a lark, I shelled out for a Potato Ricer, which looks for all the world like a giant garlic press.  I had up until that moment considered that the Potato Ricer's main function was separating me from my money.  To this day, I have no idea what came over me, call it the hand of providence or what have you, but this temporary lapse in judgement has changed my life.  Using a ricer, the mashing takes less than a minute (four servings), and principally consists of the time it takes me to stuff it with spuds a few times.  You'll need pretty good grip strength though, so if you have carpal tunnel these might not be for you, but otherwise, these things are well worth the money and space they take up in the pantry.  BTW: The best tip on mashers I have ever received was from Cook's Illustrated's practice of getting as much of the H2O out of the boiled potatoes before you mash them, it really leads to a fluffier result. (I return them to the hot pan and stir over the off, but still warm burner).

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Ultimate Zombie Fighting Machine - The Slashbuster

When the unthinkable (but inevitable) Zombie-Apocolypse occurs, you are mos def going to want one of these units on your side, should make pretty short work of the invading hoards, though cleanup is going to be a bit of a chore. Check out the video to see one of these machines go up against a Dodge Caravan.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cleaning Rusty or Stained Carbon Steel and Cast Iron

Even though you are never supposed to put carbon steel or cast iron cookware in the dishwasher, some well meaning individual invariably does it at some point.  Nothing rusts iron and steel like the dishwasher, and when they come out of the dishwasher they look ruined.  The next time this happens to you, use Barkeepers Friend to strip off the rust, it works alot better than a Sham Wow.  Seriously though, this stuff get's surface rust and stains off metal really easily.