As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve turned into somewhat of a “gear girl.” It could be because of my husband and his firm belief that you need the right tool to do the job. Now that I’ve come to terms with this, here’s what I’ve learned.
- First there’s the cast iron section. The most used pans in my kitchen would definitely be the cast iron skillets; they easily go from cooktop to oven, and have become perfectly seasoned from years of use.
- Next would be my collection of old copper pots. Why copper? Besides being absolutely beautiful and ageless in design, they conduct heat which can instantly be adjusted to the perfect simmer or rapid boil. Most of my collection came used from eBay. What I’ve learned about copper pots is that I prefer them to be as thick as possible (minimum 2 ml), and that they be tin-lined rather than stainless steel. Someday I’ll post a picture of a reduction sauce made in a tin-lined pot vs. stainless, and you’ll notice a burn ring on the stainless steel, which taints the flavor of the reduction. For looks,
you just can’t beat a Ruffoni … pure art! The last one I bought used on eBay still had the bride’s gift tag on it. I can’t help but wonder if there are brides out there registering for the most expensive pots so they can later cash out and sell to me for 50 cents on the dollar! My friends come over and can’t believe how heavy the pots can be, but I like to refer to them as my “lunch-lady-arm-reduction-devices.”
- All-Clad … I’m in l-o-v with ’em. No non-stick allowed! Why would you give up the wonderful fond on the bottom of the pan that makes for tasty reduction sauces? The only thing I’ll make in my $20 non-stick pan is eggs.
- The dutch oven. How could anybody get by with just one? This versatile pot is perfect for braising, sauteing and bread-making. Half the time I use it like most people would use a skillet because the enamel finish and sheer weight are perfect for consistency … no hot spots. An interesting thing happened one time. I was cooking for about 40 people, had 3 dutch ovens going at once: one $40 cheapie from TJ Maxx, the others a snootie-uber-expensive Le Creuset (somehow just saying it sends my nose up in the air) and snootie-come-lately Staub. Two of the three pots of the Cook’s Illustrated beef stroganoff looked virtually identical, while one was 3 shades darker and had somewhat of a burnt odor. I promise I carefully managed the heat of all three, but the TJ Maxx pot ended up at the thrift store. Lesson learned! No cheap pots. I enjoy having a few specialty dutch ovens in my collection. My favorite is a Staub mussel pot. After eating at Bouchon in Napa, I just had to have one. Wish I could say I bought it used … Amazon.com. A mis-matched set of mini cocottes, collected one at a time (mostly used) from eBay and Craig’s List are so fun to serve sauces, desserts, hot dips and breakfast souffles.
- The cookbook … definitely my favorite book to read in bed. There’s a place for Epicurious, food magazines and the food blogs, but a good cookbook can tell a story that creates a picture in your brain, and helps you connect with the people, not just the recipe, like The French Menu Cookbook. I can’t tell you if any of the recipes are any good, since I’ve never made one, but the cookbook reads like a novel, and helps me understand how I see the power of food and its ability to bring people together to experience relationship and community. There’s no doubt in my mind why God gave us taste buds. My friends tease me about the “mmmm” sound I utter when enjoying a pleasing dish, but it’s really just my way of saying “thank you” to God for the gift of good food! My husband is into reading cookbook reviews like the James Beard awards, and he picks up used copies of the best ones in Amazon Marketplace, or other used book sources on the web. One I’ve been enjoying reading this summer is The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. Another recent favorite is A16 Food+Wine, which gave us an education in authentic Italian food and wine, and pushed Gus at the wine shop to reach out to his Italian wine importer. You may ask, what is A16? It’s the freeway that runs in southern Italy from the Puglia region to the coastal city of Naples. I learned to drink Nero with my pizza margarita and Piedirosso with my pizza marinara. Oh, the Primitivo and its fruit forward pungent taste paired with penne tossed with eggplant and tomatoes. Simply magnifico! Away with the boring Chiantis!
- Refrigerators. I know what you’re thinking … silly girl, everybody has a refrigerator! But due to an unexpected death in my family, I found myself with two. Now I can’t imagine life without the 2nd one, and would rather have it in my garage than a car. I also love my $88 Costco 5.5 cubic foot chest freezer, stacked to the top with meat and stock.
- Heat. If you’ve read this far, you know that my husband and I are always looking for the deal. We’ve had a few come our way, the most recent from a dear friend whose husband died suddenly in the midst of a kitchen remodel … which is why it now looks like a giant stainless steel space ship crashed into my kitchen. I didn’t tear out my old oven so I’m pretty lucky to now have 3, plus a warmer drawer. How did I ever get by with just one oven??!!