Happy Holidays from our house to yours! I thought I would take some time to share with you some great gift ideas for the home cook (at least I think they are great, so hopefully you and your friends will too!). Let's first start with some useful kitchen items and utensils. I highly subscribe to the notion that you need at least some essential tools in order to produce good results. Without some of these tools below, I would be up a creek without a paddle.
The first item that I could not live without is my Microplane Stainless Steel Zester. I've used several different zesters and I love the Microplane one - it's completely flat, and cleans so easily. Every time I use it, I'm always surprised at how sharp the blades are. Zesting is one of those key ingredients that makes a dish come alive, and to me, you can't survive in the kitchen without a zester.
I must admit that it wasn't until recently that I owned a cast iron piece and now I couldn't live without it. Personally, I chose the 10 1/4/ inch Lodge Logic Skillet. Being able to sear a piece of meat or prepare a frittata on the stove top and then finish it off in the oven, just makes life wonderful. Full of flavor, crisp edges when you want them, I could go on and on. The best thing about this Lodge cast iron piece is that it comes pre-seasoned. Okay, so I took a shortcut but I'm loving my skillet.
Another somewhat new item I've put to much use lately is the Taylor Classic Instant-Read Pocket Thermometer. Now I'm sure there are much fancier versions out there, but what all do you need it to do besides give you a temperature reading? Mine is basic and works beautifully. I never used thermometers up until the last year. I'm pretty good at telling when a steak is done, which for my family is rare, but when it comes to pork and turkey, it's hit or miss. I dusted off this thermometer that was in the back of my utensil drawer and put it to use. My turkey roasts this year were a breeze. I took them off just a bit before they reached 170* and let them rest for 10 min. Perfectly moist and cooked through. I also just recently cooked a pork tenderloin, not my most favorite cut of pork since it tends to be very dry if it is overcooked even the slightest, and used my thermometer which resulted in a beautifully moist dish.
As for cookbooks, I plan on posting some of my favorites as I cook some fabulous recipes from them, but the one in particular I want to highlight is near and dear to my heart, Sam the Cooking Guy: Just a Bunch of Recipes. Sam lives in San Diego and was working in the drug development industry. Hmm...sounds familiar...anyway, he went after his passion and now has a t.v. show on several networks that is shot right in his house. Sam cooks with his kids, dogs, and sometimes the occasional neighbor. He has no background in culinary schooling or television - his recipes are simple, using basic ingredients and basic cookware; and they are AWESOME. Be on the look out for his new cookbook coming out in April!
So what have I asked for this Christmas? All-Clad. I've decided it is about time. This stuff is pricey, but so worth it. I'm only asking for 1 piece and I believe I have narrowed it down to the 13 inch All-Clad Stainless French Skillet. It is a bit on the large side, but I'm not a fan of over-crowding a pan, so bigger is better. This will be the first pan that I've ever bought (but technically, I won't be buying it for myself) since most of my other items have been hand-me-downs. I think I've just made Mark's life much easier when it comes to gift giving - add to my All Clad collection!
Lastly, a thought for the cook that has everything. I think a very unique kitchen item would be a Emile Henry Tagine, 2.6 Qt. A tagine is a Moroccan pot entirely made of clay (sometimes glazed), with a flat bottom with low sides and a dome-like or cone-shaped top that fits inside the rim of the base during cooking. The way the top is designed, allows the condensation to return to the bottom. It is used to make dishes from all over North Africa, but is probably most widely known for the Moroccan slow-braised stews. Very similar to the flavors I love from the middle east - lamb or chicken, fruits, nuts, aromatic herbs like cinnamon and saffron. Beautiful piece and it produces magnificent results.
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!