Showing posts with label kitchen utensils. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kitchen utensils. Show all posts

16 September 2008

The Well-Stocked French Kitchen

The first thing we will do at Chez Bateau is check the larder, and then drive down the south side of the causse to the nearest supermarche for provisions.

Chez Bateau's sunny little kitchen is well-stocked and we will likely find staples like pasta, rice, coffee, tomato sauce and olive oil. We will also find a cupboard that is completely stocked with essential kitchen tools and utensils. We will take our time cooking, and if the weather is fine, dine out by the pool overlooking the vineyards.

In Paris last year, we made do with a few cutting boards, a bread knife, a steak knife, a colander, skillet and sauce pan. Not so at Chez Bateau!

"How would you stock a French kitchen?" a reader asked me last winter. I thought about that for a while, then came up with my list of French kitchen essentials. These few items would do, I think, and keep my kitchen from becoming too cluttered

Pots and pans: A skillet, a saut├ę pan, sauce pan, roasting pan and stock pot.

Utensils: A good set of knives, a large whip, a small whip, a strainer.

Tools: Corkscrew, herb scissors, mortar and pestle, pastry bag, pie weights.

Miscellaneous containers: Large bread bowl, two smaller bowls, colander, souffle dish, tarte pan or pie plate.

Nice to have: A banneton, a French bread pan, an egg basket, a copper bowl for egg whites.

There are many, many other "essential tools," but these are the ones I have found to be the most useful and have collected over the past several years. Each time I go to Paris, I vow to find a mortar and pestle, which is the only item missing from my list.

With these tools, I can prepare the soups, salads, souffl├ęs and stews that remain my favorite French dishes. And I can make baguettes and boules when the baking urge strikes. Did I mention tarte tatin?

What's missing from the list? I want to hear from you!

24 November 2007

Kitchen Tools: Essential for a Kitchen Dominatrix

I bought a new whip in Paris.

Really, it's a ball whisk, a relatively new tool which features weighted, vibrating balls on stainless steel rods. This arrangement promises to provide good results with less effort. (I certainly support the notion of less effort.) So far, it has lived up to its promises. Restraint is key: Don't overdo it with this utensil.

It was during our pilgrimage to E. Dehillerin, that dusty commercial cathedral to the art of the kitchen, that I found my new weapon. Actually, it was Kim, the charming salesman who led me to it, after he found me a copper bowl for egg whites.

The ball whisk is excellent for whipping little clumps of flour into submission in any pan or bowl. The balls allow you to reach the insides of pans, the dark little places where the bottoms and sides meet, a feat that is difficult to perform with a wire whisk. To read more, click here.

(As Kim pointed out, the ball whisk can also be used as a scalp massage tool. It feels pretty good.)

When I packed our suitcases, I carefully wrapped the whisk in its original paper and attached the receipt from Dehillerin. Just in case someone rifling through my luggage thought it was a sex toy. You never know about these things.

The whisk got its first real workout when I made Bearnaise sauce for my Chateaubriand on Thanksgiving. It performed admirably.

You don't have to go to Paris to buy one, although I recommend it. You can buy a ball whisk from many online sources.

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08 January 2007

Old Kitchen Stuff is Hot, Says Saveur Magazine

Finally. I'm in. Rather, my kitchen is.

According to the most recent issue of Saveur Magazine, used kitchen utensils are hot right now. They made Saveur's Top 100 list for 2007. People like to use the same spoons or bowls Mom or Grandma used, say the foodies at Saveur.

I knew that. Chances are, so did you. We like the cracks and the scratches and the mars and the imperfections. We can relate to them.

I have always wanted old stuff in my kitchen. Since I was a teenager, I've collected odds and ends from my grandmothers' kitchens. Grandma Annie's mixing bowls. Grandma Laura's big bread bowl. Old flour sifters and egg beaters. I went through a stage when I loved all that old red-and-green handled stuff. More recently, I've collected old crocks. They serve a purpose in my kitchen as cache pots for nuts or garlic or tea bags.

I think we find comfort and continuity in old things. Maybe a bit of luck, too. If I were making Laura's famous raisin-graham bread or Annie's Lady Baltimore cake, you can bet I'd do it in those old vessels. Just in case.

Besides, old things give a kitchen character. Believe me, my kitchen has plenty of character. Clutter, too.

What's old in your kitchen?

21 December 2006

Kitchen Tools: Annie's Pie Crimper

December darkness came quickly and stealthily to Old Frenchtown, sneaking around the corners of the ancient weather-beaten barns and sheds.

Only the shops on Dunlap Avenue were bright with red and green lights — the shops and the little IGA store located just north of Grandma Annie’s back yard.

Often we went home with Annie in the evenings for a comforting supper in her bright kitchen. The house was cold and dark when we entered, but soon the furnace would roar on and Annie would walk toward the back of the house, shedding her dark coat and hat as she went and neatly stashing them in her closet before turning on the kitchen light.

She’d ignite the gas oven with a tiny poof! and light the burner under the kettle. Always, there was tea to be made and bread to be sliced and pickles to be placed on a cut-glass, leaf-shaped plate.

There would be ham or chicken or turkey and vegetable soup, for Annie’s suppers were simple but homey affairs. Always there was dessert, served with a twinkle in her eye, because of course, it was her favorite.

Annie’s sweet tooth was legendary in family lore.

In the years before she married my handsome Irish grandfather, Annie worked as a seamstress for one of the many French Canadian dressmakers who had shops downtown. On her first payday, she walked past a candy shop on the way home — and promptly spent all her earnings on sweets.

As an adult, Annie loved to bake cakes and cupcakes and pies. The latter is something she shared with my father, her son-in-law. Pies were his specialty, when he wasn’t cooking dinner.

Especially at Christmas, my father made pies for people: Librarians, elderly ladies living alone, old family friends. He rose early on Christmas Eve and made a variety, from fruit pies to cream pies. By 9 a.m., he’d have the car loaded with pies for delivery.

This year, there will be no exchanges of lavish gifts. Instead, I asked my mother for Annie’s pie crimper.

Really, that is all I need.