My number one pick for a great inexpensive gift to give a cook is a Japenese mandolin, aka a Benriner (the brandname). This is a tool virtually all cooks own, used for all manner of slicing, julienning and brunoising. Gnarly sweet potatoes become gorgeous chips. Under 20 bucks—can’t beat it. My most used small appliance is the hand blender, or immersion blender, a fabulous tool for pureeing soups and sauces, making vinaigrettes and mayos. Wouldn’t want to be without one. (The above link is to an inexpensive CuisinArt blender, here’s the KitchenAid version nearly 3 times as expensive but some feel it’s worth it.) If you’re really in to cooking, these round cutters come in handy for all kinds of baking, cooking, plating needs. I recently bought this fat separator and love it—simple ideas work Read On »

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Christmas, 1992, my mom’s beau, an avid cook with whom I shared many happy hours in the kitchen, gave me a KitchenAid standing mixer.  It quickly became and remains my most relied upon countertop appliance.  I use it for mixing all kinds of dough, whipping meringue, making big batches of pate a choux, and, when I joined forces with Brian Polcyn to write a book about sausages and other forms of food economy and preservation, to grind meat (via the grinder attachment) and to mix the meat afterward (more this later).  It was one of the best and most useful gifts I’ve received ever. Christmas is a time when we indulge the people we love with gifts they wouldn’t be able to afford or to justify buying on their own.  For those of you who Read On »

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I get asked a lot about cooking tools and while I could do anything I really needed with just five tools—my truly minimalist kitchen would have a chef’s knife, cutting board, large sauté pan, flat-edged wood spoon and a large Pyrex bowl—I’ve got lots of tools I like and a box of tools I never use down in the basement.  In a world where all kinds of companies pitch all kinds of products, I’d like to talk about the actual tools I use and love. First things first: Knives.  You don’t need a big block of knives.  You need a big knife and a little knife.  Invest in good quality knives.  I use Wusthof, have been for 20 years.  I think they’re the best.  (Here they are at Amazon.)  Find a good sharpening service near Read On »

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Over the weekend I made a recipe I tore from the recent issue of Saveur.  I don’t use many recipes but I’ve been looking for a flavorful, soft, comforting roll to make and this one enticed. Maddeningly though, it called for 5 cups of flour.  Normally when I make bread, I set the mixing bowl on the scale and pour in whatever weight I want.  But here I found myself scooping out cups, scraping off the top, flour drifting over the counter and cutting board. But more than the mess, was the variable amount: given that flour can weigh 4 ounces a cup or as much as 6 ounces, I didn’t know if I had 20 ounces of flour or 30 ounces—a 50% difference.  According to the standard bread ratio, if it were the former, Read On »

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I am determined to get my shopping done NOW—so I can concentrate on the fun stuff on the days leading up to Christmas (eg Pork Pie, Brioche, Chocolate Truffles).  I started my shopping today at my own Open Sky shop (my first time ordering, very easy and free shipping!). The following are gift ideas for the cook in your life are very cool in that they’re not easy to find, incredibly useful, and eminently affordable gifts. Want your lover to make you the above quiche?  Here’s the ring mold he or she will need for the proper depth and that voluptuous texture that made Keller refer to quiche as the sexiest pie. I love the Mag Blok magnetic wall mounted knife holder.  It’s gorgeous wood and won’t ding your knives. Especially great for tiny kitchens Read On »

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