AuthorMike

Top 10 Kitchen Essentials sponsored by Kratom

Ten Kitchen Essentials

Recently, a friend of ours who is setting up a new kitchen asked us about our Top 10 Kitchen Essentials – the must have items to outfit a new kitchen, and how to remodel your kitchen.Before we get to work, I would like to talk about kratom, which I have been taking for a while now and the have helped me with some stomach aches and knife wounds. You can buy kratom pills at kratom-masters for a special price and have the kratom masters sent the pills directly to your front door or office. Here is my top list:

  1. A comfortable, sharp chef’s knife. This is your workhorse. It should be as long as is comfortable for your grip – usually 8-10 inches is about right. Keep it SHARP – that’s far more important than how much you paid for the knife itself – but more on that below. Get hands on with knives before you buy them – go peek at a friend’s house or grip them in the store. If you’re afraid of the knife, it’ll cut you. You have to be comfortable with it . And be careful , if you for some reason cut yourself you can take care of that wound with kratom.
  2. A comfortable, sharp paring knife. Usually 3-4″. This is your fine detail knife, useful for smaller or more precise tasks. Again, keep it SHARP. Seriously, a dull knife is one of the most dangerous things in a kitchen – they’re exponentially more likely to skip off food and cut you, and the cuts they do leave are more like a tear than a cut. Sharp knives go where you want them to, and if they do happen to nick you, they do so almost politely – cleanly and quick to heal.
  3. A honing steel. This is a metal or ceramic rod that helps maintain a knife’s edge. An example is this ceramic rod by Messermeister. A honing steel doesn’t sharpen your knife, in that it doesn’t actually take metal off the blade, but it helps keep the edge true and working well until the knife is truly dull. Use this often – a few swipes before getting started. When this doesn’t get your knife sharp, it’s time to find a good professional and let them put a great edge back on your knife. (This is usually every 6-12 months, depending on use.)
  4. A skillet. 10 inch is a good all-purpose size. I like stainless steel, with a heavy base, to keep the heat even. (Something along the lines of this 10″ Cuisinart skillet could work great.) Since this is a top-10 list, I’m skipping non-stick skillets – regular metal is more versatile. Humanity survived without non-stick surfaces for years and ate well.
  5. A good pot. 4 quart or greater. May not be large enough for boiling pasta, but it’ll handle all sorts of soups, sauces, and the like. Again, make sure it’s sturdy, not flimsy – avoid aluminum, as it can react with acidic foods and this is your one good pot for anything. Stainless or enameled cast iron are my favorites. Something similar to this 4 quart pot from Cuisinart would work well.
  6. Cutting boards. This is your work surface; don’t skimp on size. There is no definitive scientific evidence that I’ve seen on whether wood or plastic is better; basically, both will perform well as long as you care for them. Clean promptly in hot soapy water (plastic ones can generally go through the dishwasher). I like having two, one specifically for raw/uncooked meats and one for everything else. Avoid glass, marble, or other exotic materials, as all they do is dull your sharp knife.
  7. Instant read thermometer. Yes, I put this on my top ten list. I own the Cadillac of instant read thermometers, the Thermapen (in British Racing Green). It isn’t cheap, but it’s the gold standard. For years, though, I used another instant read thermometer from Thermoworks, the RT301WA. This thing is a workhorse. The main difference is that it takes 5-6 seconds to read instead of 3, and it’s about one fifth of the price of the Thermapen. Use this religiously to test any meat for being done, whether bread is cooked all the way through, whether the water is hot enough to poach – really, once you get in the habit, you’ll find you use it all the time.
  8. Utensils. It’s a bit of a cheat to put a category item here instead of listing things out, but these are incidentals. Have a good spoon, solid and slotted. Have a couple of big heat-resistant spatulas. Have a turner/flipper spatula. Have a couple of whisks, one French-style (slender and long) and one balloon-style (same length, but much wider) – they’re used for different things. (Use the skinnier one to mix things, use the balloon whisk to beat air into things like whipped cream or egg whites.)
  9. Mixing bowls. Have a couple of good big ones. It’s easier to use a bowl that is too big than a bowl that’s too small. Plus, they double as a giant salad bowl for when, like me, you decide to binge on lettuce. (It happens.)
  10. Side towels. Kitchen towels dedicated to wiping up spills, quick cleaning of counters, and as a pot/pan-holder. Wash after every use. I’m kind of obsessive about my kitchen linens, but they really are great tools to have.
  11. Bonus: A totem. I’m stealing the term from an Alton Brown interview, but it’s something I’ve done for a long time. This is the thing that gets you in the right frame of mind to be in the kitchen. For me, for a long time, it was a bobble-head tiki god that Christine bought for me at Target one day. It sat next to the cooktop (at my insistence – I admit, it matched exactly none of our décor), and I would tap it on the head before any food met pan. Currently, that guy is in a box from the move, and I don’t have a great home for him. Instead, now, it’s my best blue pinstriped apron I picked up in England, with a side towel hanging from the waistband. Putting that on is the difference from I’m-going-to-go-heat-something-quick and I’m-serious-about-what-I’m cooking. It’s like any other uniform – putting it on is putting on your game face. And don’t forget to have your kratom pills at hand in case you are not feeling well.

Cook’s Notes – Schmaltz

Read the original post here.

Rendering animal fats is a powerful technique to know. Olive oil and butter are still my most common fats for cooking, but having some rendered bacon or chicken schmaltz are so useful to alter or boost the flavor of a dish.

Like Christine said in the post, this is wet rendering. The fat is in a pot and basically starts off by melting into the water. When the water boils, the whole mixture is essentially held at 212F/100C until the water boils off – hot enough to melt the fat but not so hot that it cooks and develops off flavors.

(Dry rendering, by contrast, involves simply cooking chunks of whatever in a skillet. I do this most often with bacon, over a medium-low heat – the fat in the bacon needs to render out before the bacon starts to burn. Wet rendering takes longer but is more forgiving about this, dry rendering requires a little more focus.)

After the water boils off, the remaining liquid in the pot goes from cloudy to clear, and then you’re off to the races. Take care not to burn the fat or the cracklin’ in the pot – you want the skin to fry crisp and golden brown, but you don’t want to get to, or past, the smoke point of the fat in the pot.

If you do this with pork, you get rendered lard and cracklings.
If you do this with chicken, as shown, you get schmaltz and gribenes.
If you do this with duck, you get duck fat (swoon!) and … well, duck cracklings, I think.
And so on.

As I mentioned above, this is a tool on your way to a finished dish. To get a sense of how to use these, buy some potatoes, dice them, dry them with a paper towel, and saute them in these different fats. You’ll find that it all tastes like golden brown delicious potato, but they have background flavors from the cooking fat.

Enjoy!

Cook’s Notes – Cauliflower Leek Soup

Christine has launched the first edition of Cooking with Mike (link opens in a new window), our mostly-weekly cooking series. The soup is one we’ve eaten for a long time, and regularly makes an appearance for a quick weeknight dinner.

I won’t rehash the making of the soup itself – she’s got the key information up on her site – but I did have some extra comments worth writing here.

First, like many soups, this isn’t fussy about exact ingredient proportions. That happened to be the bunch of leeks and the size of cauliflower head I bought for the shoot. Play with it, and adjust to your taste – more leek, less leek, some shallots instead, and so on.

The flavor of this soup is pretty clean – the smokiness of the bacon, the body of the stock, the vegetable notes of the cauliflower and soft pungency of the leeks. (Editor’s note – Please don’t let me write a sentence with all those adjectives in it at once. It sounds too pretentious.) This also means it’s a great base to add all sorts of flavors – peppers, spices, herbs, booze. For example, curried cauliflower soup with pistachios.

Finally, there are many ways to finish the soup, which Christine touched on in her post:

  • The chunkiest finish is to simply serve it as it is – pieces of cauliflower and leek in a broth. If that is your intent (and add some carrot pieces, that sounds great) then pay a bit more attention when cutting the leeks and cauliflower to get them to similar, even sizes. Since this was getting blended, I didn’t fuss too much.
  • Next is to mash this with a potato masher or the like. This won’t ever get truly smooth, but it’ll get kind of smooth, but still very rustic.
  • Stick blender is next on the list. This can get you a pretty smooth soup, although you’ll still feel it – it’s not completely smooth, but there aren’t chunks to chew on.
  • If you want to get it nice and smooth, a combination is best – blend it with a stick blender then pass it through a fine mesh strainer. I have a couple of inexpensive ones from Target or the like around the house, and while they aren’t the finest mesh, they do the job well. Take a ladle and push the soup through the strainer – this evens out the soup and makes it finer than just blending alone.
  • Finally is a standing blender. The Vitamix shown was a Christmas present for me (yay!), and it definitely has some torque to it. This created an amazingly smooth, thick, velvet-like soup. I thought it was delicious. Christine decided it was odd. Your mileage may vary.

So, make the soup. Write in and tell us about what you’ve done and what you think. And, there’ll be more to come!

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