[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] More All About Cheese Everything you need to know about eating and cooking with curds Hummingbird cake is a Southern classic, a towering dessert in the style of a layered carrot cake, complete with toasted pecans and cream cheese frosting. But instead…
Month: July 2018
2. For the Cake: Combine sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, nutmeg, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and whip until thick and fluffy, about…
There are plenty of reasons to love expensive cooking gear—a shiny new high-end blender, stand mixer, or Dutch oven promises a world of fun new kitchen projects and tasty meals—but good cooking certainly doesn’t require pricey tools. In fact, some of our most used, versatile, and treasured items cost about as much as a couple of fancy-ish cups of coffee. Read on for our favorite pieces of equipment priced at $10 or less, all of which will make cooking at home a little simpler, more streamlined, and more delicious.
A Paring Knife
The main takeaway from our review of the best paring knives was that paring knives, though important to have, aren’t so pivotal that you need to shell out for a high-end brand. Instead, we recommend buying one that’s affordable, like this Victorinox model, and keeping it sharp for mincing shallots and peeling onions. And, because it’s cheap, you won’t have to feel bad if that blade dulls over time from checking the tenderness of a roasted beet or the doneness of a batch of brown-butter brownies…or, I don’t know, opening cardboard boxes—for under $10, it’s not so taxing to replace.
A Pie Plate
We’ve known for a while that cheaper is better when it comes to pie plates. While you can spend quite a bit on eye-catching stoneware products, we recommend sticking with simple tempered glass, which heats more quickly than stone. This helps butter melt faster, for a flaky, golden crust instead of a sad, soggy bottom. If you’re taking the time to make the best old-fashioned pie dough on earth, do it like our pastry wizard does; her favorite glass pie plate is this one from Pyrex, priced at around $7.
You’ve probably seen all sizes of offset spatulas—like these four-inch and eight-inch versions—used in videos for frosting cakes, cupcakes, and other small pastries. But they actually have a few more uses as well. If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated when trying to pry a fragile piece of fish or a thin-skinned dumpling out of a skillet using a massive spatula, you’ll love the way the thin, flexible blade of a small offset can slip under even the most petite food items with ease. Because they’re small and thin, offset spatulas give you more control over your food, whether you’re using them to crumb-coat a gorgeous cake or for plating a fancy meal.
A Fluted Pastry Wheel
The other day, I was cutting dough to weave a lattice crust for our blueberry pie, using a pizza cutter. Though I tried really hard to make everything even, it still looked sort of lame. This is where a fluted pastry wheel would have been nice: Super sharp, with a pretty design built in, it’ll create a more delicate shape for those lattices, and make your homemade ravioli look really nice, too.
Better Can Openers
I’ve long had a bad relationship with can openers. Maybe it’s because the ones I’ve purchased have always been poorly made. Maybe it’s because I humiliated myself using one incorrectly in my first kitchen job. That’s why I got so excited when the team finally did a review of the best can openers on the market, and luckily for us, two of the winners actually come in at under $10. The best traditional can opener is well built, grabs easily onto edges, and cuts smoothly through cans of all sizes. Our favorite fixed opener works a little more slowly than the traditional, but it’s dishwasher-safe (always a plus) and includes a bottle opener, too.
Before I started working at Serious Eats, I really thought there was only one type of whisk, and that its function was simply to, well, whisk. Any variations, I assumed, were just stylistic. I found out how wrong I was when Stella published “How to Choose the Right Whisk.” In fact, there are quite a few types: The balloon whisk is for whisking in bowls and sauciers, and combining dry ingredients; a French whisk is for aerating eggs and cream and emulsifying sauces; a ball whisk is for scraping flat surfaces; and then there are silicone versions for working in nonstick pans. That’s a lot of whisks! Fortunately, several are priced under $10, so stocking up won’t be too much of a problem.
Ninth and Sixth Pans
I was in culinary school the first time I used ninth pans, sixth pans, and other hotel-pan derivatives, and let me tell you: They are useful. I’ve seen very few in home kitchens, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant kitchen that doesn’t use them for all sorts of organizational purposes. Use them for your mise en place, or cover ’em over with plastic wrap to save leftovers. And when they’re not in use, just stack them for easy storage—the nesting feature is one of the best parts.
A Silicone Turner
There are many different kinds of spatulas out there, but if you own and use a nonstick pan, you’ll extend its lifespan with a silicone spatula, which won’t scrape away the Teflon like its metal counterpart. We recommend a few silicone turners, but the most affordable is this one from OXO. Next time you make eggs or buttermilk pancakes, you’ll be ready and raring to execute the perfect flip.
A Nonstick Muffin Pan and Liners
If you are a muffin man or woman, you’ll want to have the best gear for muffin-making. Start with a nonstick muffin pan that’s made of reflective metal; paired with greaseproof foil liners, it’ll keep the muffins from browning too much along the bottom. Then you’re free to tackle our blueberry muffins or, come holiday time, a batch of stuffin’s.
We’ve often waxed rhapsodic about why Y-peelers are the best type of peeler for your kitchen. Their carbon steel blades are super sharp, they work well for lefties and righties, and a three-pack costs less than $10. That’s pretty—wait for it—a-peeling to me.
A Bench Scraper
A bench scraper is an essential tool for any cook, which is why it’s pretty cool that you can get one for under $10. Use this one to portion your pasta dough, transfer chopped vegetables into a big pot, or give your cutting board a quick clean after you’ve peeled garlic and shallots.
A Pastry Brush
Because I’m a poor visual artist, paintbrushes have never been of much use to me. But a pastry brush is something I can get behind, especially when I’m slathering pie dough with a glistening egg wash. It’s like painting the Mona Lisa, but so much more delicious. And since this brush has dishwasher-safe silicone bristles, I don’t need to worry about getting any rogue hairs stuck in the dough, or ending up with an oily, stiff-bristled brush that never looks clean.
A Slotted Spoon
A slotted spoon is a great item to keep in a utensil crock next to your stove. A good one will be easy to hold, and sufficiently cupped that water can drain quickly from whatever you’re grabbing, whether it’s poached eggs, pasta, or dumplings. In a pinch, I’ve also used mine as a makeshift spider.
An Oven Thermometer
If you’ve never calibrated your oven, there’s a pretty good chance that the temperature inside it is wrong. An inaccurate oven can undo all of the hard work you put into your baked goods: If it runs too hot, it can burn cookies; if too cold, cakes can end up with a wet crumb. My advice? Invest in this extremely affordable thermometer, and show your oven who’s boss.
A Juice Reamer
We published a whole review of the best citrus reamers, and this reamer from OXO came out in our top three. It’s simple, affordable, small enough to squeeze (ha!) into a drawer, and nice-looking enough to sit right on your bar cart.
Speaking of the bar, if you need to replace your old corkscrew or buy a spare, why not get one that’s simple and actually works? This one has a nonstick worm, which slides easily into both natural and synthetic corks and managed to outperform other, more expensive waiter’s-friend corkscrews in our tests. It also costs less than $10, and that handsome wood handle will look nice in your bar setup as well.
A Utility Knife
We strongly believe that a utility knife deserves a spot in your kitchen. Get one and use it to cut open bags of rice, slice perfectly uniform labels, free cucumbers from their shrink-wrap, and even trim pie dough. It’s functional, affordable, and badass—what’s not to love?
Plastic Squeeze Bottles
To make your home kitchen more like a restaurant kitchen, it helps to have some of these plastic squeeze bottles around to keep your most used ingredients as accessible as possible. Fill one or two with your favorite olive oil or wine for cooking; use one as a salad dressing dispenser if you’re feeding a crowd. Make your own condiments? Fill up a bottle, stick it in the fridge, and have it within arm’s reach whenever you want.
A Drying Mat
There will always inevitably be some dishes that you can’t stick in the dishwasher—assuming you even have one. In those situations, a good drying mat is a necessity. This one is made from absorbent microfibers that dry quickly after getting dripped on. It can be folded up and tucked away until you need it, and, if you need it frequently, it’s not so unattractive that you’ll be reluctant to leave it out around the clock.
Bar Keepers Friend
Want to know how to keep stainless steel pots and pans clean? It’s Bar Keepers Friend all the way. This affordable cleaning solution is the key to ridding your pans (and your stovetop, and just about any kitchen surface you can imagine) of grime and dark spots left by polymerized oil.
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1. Preheat a 12-inch heavy-gauge skillet or cast iron pan over high heat. Season flank steak generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil in pan until smoking-hot before carefully placing steak in hot pan, laying it down away from you. Cook steak,…
Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic who tragically died of pancreatic cancer this past Saturday, was a superb food writer. But he was more than just that: Jonathan was a writer whose mission was to break down the psychological walls that people erected between themselves and their neighbors, and he did that by shining a light on all the amazing food available in far-flung neighborhoods all over the LA basin. I don’t know a single person serious about food who has visited the city without traveling a half hour away from where was convenient, just to eat some taco because Jonathan had written about it.
We didn’t know each other well, although we had many friends in common. I did have the privilege of giving Jonathan and his wife, Laurie Ochoa, a food tour of New York City in 1999. Jonathan had just taken on the restaurant critic job at the now-defunct Gourmet magazine, and Laurie had just been tapped to work there as editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl’s number two. That was almost 20 years ago, but I remember we went by Sullivan Street Bakery and Melampo Imported Foods, and I remember that he impressed me as both a wonderfully serious eater and a serious thinker. When none of us could eat another bite, Jonathan turned to me and said, “If I can ever do the same for you in Los Angeles, let me know.” And now I guess I’ll always regret never taking him up on that offer.
But the fact of the matter is that Jonathan has left behind a huge and beautiful body of work that allows me or anyone else to take a self-guided Gold tour of the city he loved as much for its food as for the people who live and work there. If you don’t know anything about him, I urge you to watch the documentary City of Gold, or, if you’ve got some time today, listen to the Special Sauce interview I did with him after the film was released. I also recommend that you check out his work at the Los Angeles Times—they’ve lifted the paywall on his guide to the 101 best restaurants in LA, in memoriam—and his book, Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles. Here’s a bit from the introduction to that book that, I think, captures much of what I admire about both the man and his writing:
“What I’m trying to say, I think, is that the most authentic Los Angeles experiences tend to involve a mild sense of dislocation, of tripping into a rabbit hole and popping up in some wholly unexpected location. The greatest Los Angeles cooking, the real Los Angeles cooking, has first a sense of wonder about it, and only then a sense of place, because the place it has a sense of is likely to be somewhere else entirely. Los Angeles is, after all, where certain parts of town have stood in for Connecticut or Indiana so often on TV that they look more authentic than the real thing; where neighborhoods are called Little India, Little Tokyo, Little Central America, and Koreatown; where a typical residential block might include a couple of Spanish haciendas, a Tudor mansion, two thatched Cotswold cottages, a Palladian villa and a cream puff of an imitation Loire chateau.
As people here like to say, often when contemplating a piece of Peruvian-style sushi or one of the Teriyaki Donut stands that have popped up in Tarantino flicks, only in LA.”
The food media world has lost another giant, and we are all the worse off as a result. What is the best way we can honor the man? If you can, visit Los Angeles, try out one of his recommendations. If you can’t, eat something unfamiliar, something you’ve never had before. Then raise a glass to the late, great Jonathan Gold.
May he rest in peace. I hope there are plenty of tacos in heaven.
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My husband and I are lucky enough to live on the top floor of our building, which allows us luxuriously high ceilings with skylights that flood the space with light (not to mention a comfortable buffer between us and the basement-dwelling rats below). The trade-off for our rooftop view and rodent-free living? In the summer, the skylights turn our little studio apartment into a solar oven that easily runs a steamy 10 degrees hotter than the city streets. Our dog finds reprieve by waiting out the summer splayed in the bathtub, which, though tempting, isn’t nearly as delicious as my chosen route to cooling off: living on juicy chilled watermelon.
When I want to make a meal out of watermelon, gazpacho is the best way to go. Gazpacho is a chilled soup made of bread and olive oil blended with raw vegetables; because it’s light and refreshing and requires no cooking, it’s the perfect meal for hot summers. A traditional gazpacho contains mostly tomato and cucumber, with some assistance from aromatics, but there are countless variations on the theme, like the delicate almond-, garlic-, and bread-based ajo blanco and other “white” gazpachos. This version combines watermelon, tomato, and fresh vegetables with almonds and olive oil for a bright and cooling soup.
I want watermelon to be the star of this recipe, so I’m breaking away from tradition by leaving out the bread entirely. The result is a lighter gazpacho that gets all its body from a handful of toasted almonds and a healthy pour of good extra-virgin olive oil.
Because it’s so light, I like to add some richness to the dish in the form of a Calabrian chili–spiked crema. The heat from the chilies and the tang of the crema balance the watermelon’s delicate sweetness, keeping this dish from becoming dessert. I also season the soup with sherry vinegar, whose nutty flavor with hints of dried fruit grounds the bright watermelon, while emphasizing the savory notes from ripe tomato.
To make the gazpacho, I start by tossing roughly diced watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion with salt and pepper. The salt immediately begins breaking down the vegetables’ cell walls, releasing their juices and marrying their flavors. For his ultimate gazpacho, Kenji maximizes this cell-wall destruction in a two-part process, in which he first salts the vegetables, then freezes and thaws them. If you have time, you can follow his gazpacho procedure with this recipe as well, but in a pinch, this quick salting step alone will still do wonders for the flavor of the final soup.
After about an hour, the vegetables will have wilted, and their liquid will have pooled at the bottom of the bowl. This liquid is enough to blend the soup, so no additional water is needed. Using a blender, I blitz the gazpacho in batches, fully blending each batch until it’s completely smooth before transferring it to a large bowl. After blending, the almonds will give the gazpacho a creamy and rich texture.
I finish the gazpacho by whisking in extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, and more salt and pepper to taste. This is the time to bust out my fanciest olive oil—because no heat is applied, all the flavors and aromatics of the olive oil can shine. The grassy notes and bitter edge of a high-quality olive oil will make all the difference in this simple dish, adding roundness and balance. Taking the time to taste and carefully adjust the seasoning is equally crucial in taking the dish from delicious to truly exceptional.
For an extra kick of flavor and heat, I stir chopped Calabrian chilies into some crema (Mexican sour cream) for a quick garnish to dollop onto the finished soup. You can use whatever chilies you have on hand, but I especially like the bright acidity and sharp spice of these Southern Italian peppers against the fresh watermelon. I opt for crema here because its lighter body makes it easy to drizzle onto the soup, but anything tangy and cool, like Greek yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk, can be used in its place. I also add a finishing touch of extra diced veggies, which not only adds crunch but also makes this soup into more of a meal.
Although you can serve it right away, the gazpacho only gets better after it’s chilled out for a bit in the fridge, where the flavors meld and the soup gets extra frosty. I always adjust the seasoning just before serving, as the cold can affect your perception of taste.
When I’m counting down the summer days, sitting in a pool of my own sweat, nothing helps me beat the heat better than this refreshing gazpacho. It’s hydrating, it’s lunch, and it doesn’t require me to make my hot apartment any hotter.
[Photograph: Vicky Wasik] The addition of bright and juicy watermelon to the classic mix of tomato, cucumber, and onion makes this chilled summer soup even more refreshing. The delicate sweetness of the melon is balanced by a Calabrian chili–spiked crema, which adds richness and a…