02 November 2010

Kitchen essentials redux

Back in the day, when I was writing the blog that made me a household name (it only takes one household, folks), we discussed kitchen tools we simply couldn't live without. I was rereading that post a few days ago, mostly because I seemed to remember a whole lot of useful, funny comments. I remembered correctly. I also got to thinking about cooking now, in a new era. Had bachelorhood changed me (how I loathe that word bachelor; I can't make myself fit any of its definitions or stereotypes. Besides, I only managed to remain unencumbered for about five minutes. I envy real, honest-to-goodness bachelors; I even know one. So insouciantly sexy. [See, that's why I could never be called a bachelor—I say insouciant.])?

The fact is, once I left the group home (where cooking involved eating, gratefully, whatever Foster Dad put in front of me [we won't speak of the straight-line vomiting of DQ milkshakes during The Recovery from the Unpleasantness {but don't you wonder whatever happened to Dr. MacDreamy? I do.}]), I cooked quite a bit. Cooking has changed; for one thing, I don't have all the gadgets I used to (not worth another post, but things I really miss: a KitchenAid stand mixer [which, really, given the amount I bake, seems a bit like a dentist without a drill, or a stripper without a pole], a digital kitchen scale, and the big Epicurean cutting board. And really, those three things are all I miss. Not too bad.). Because M and I both cook, a lot and well (until he decided to take a graceful dive off a ladder in either a foolhardy show of manly bravado or super pathetic attempt to depart this world), I have come to realize even more that a good working kitchen is much more about efficient space, a few basic, high-quality tools, and a whole lot of common sense.

Today, I consider these my five kitchen essentials:

Lodge 12-inch skillet   More and more, I'm leaving the Calphalon and even Le Creuset behind in favor of humble, solid, easy-to-clean (and cheap!) cast iron. How often do I use it? Its storage spot is the stovetop. That's right, I never. put it away. And I pretty much put away everything.

Melamine bowls   They're light-weight, nestable, come in a variety of useful sizes, they're from friends I love and miss, and most importantly, they're pretty.

Ginger   Whole, powdered, crystallized, aled, and liqueured up. One spice, many forms, as useful in a savory curry as in a buttery baked good. And the GinGin is a most satisfying cocktail.

Oxo bottle opener   Let's be real; it's been a rough year.

M   I can only describe his knife skills as savant-like. When the big orange bent-arm cast comes off, I expect him in the kitchen chopping onions for a solid week. Or else.

Now. Yours?


  1. I've been looking for a cookbook to use as the mainstay of my version of your dinner project. I got "Eat Feed Autumn Winter: 30 Ways to Celebrate When the Mercury Drops" by Anne Bramley from the library. I don't think this will be THE book but I do like her chapter called "Secrets of the Cold-Weather Pantry." These are what she considers necessities of the season: apples and pears, beans and grains, braising cuts, canned tomatoes, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, citrus, cranberries, crucifers, dried fruits, game, nuts, pickles, preserves, roots, spices, spirits, squash, and more staples which she says are maple syrup and maple sugar, dark breads, horseradish, spicy mustard, dried chilies, and butter. Ahhh. Just reading the list is almost enough on its own.

  2. 5 Kitchen Essentials from Jill in Cville-

    1. Le Creuset Dutch Oven: because it's holding the short ribs right now.
    2. 7-inch chef's knife, even if it's Cutco, by way of a starving student.
    3. The cast iron: 12-inch, sure, but that little 5-inch i use to "roast" spices...
    4. Coriander in any form - crushed seeds on a duck breast, leaves on tacos...mmm
    5. Immersion blender. The kitchen is much tidier now.

  3. One Christmas my gift-giving-deficient brother nailed it: he gave each of us an enormous stainless steel bowl. Perfect for so so so many kitchen moments, including the Halloween candy bowl moment. Just remember to time it so your front porch light burns out and no trick-or-treaters ring the bell.

  4. I second the Immersion Blender. I don't know how we lived without it. Great for blending soups right in the pot and my almost 3 year old's special drinks (aka: smooties) in the morning.

    I have 3 stackable stainless steel bowls I love. They were a wedding shower gift from Crate and Barrel 9 years ago. Great for so many things and practically indestructible.

  5. -- Zojirushi 5.5 cup rice cooker (Neuro Fuzzy). I bought it because I read that Roger Ebert said a rice cooker was the only appliance he needs, and that he makes all his meals in one. This was before his mouth-changing cancer surgeries.
    -- Chef's Choice electric kettle. I like the squatty one that's shaped like a beehive. Turns out water boils much more slowly on a gas range than on an electric range, and an electric kettle is just the thing for black tea. It isn't wonderful for oolongs or greens because of the all-or-none aspect of boiling.
    -- Stickney Hill Dairy Farms crumbled chevre.
    -- rubber-backed OXO stainless mixing bowls - set of three.
    -- blue and orange Marimekko fiberglass trays (from 118 East, after they moved to St. Anthony Main)(before your time)(their original shop was at 118 East 26th) for the attendant to bring the food upstairs to sit in the purple chairs and eat in front of the TV.


As always, civility reigns, but cleverness trumps.

They shall be called my disciples.