- Cream scones
Easy and delicious, especially with fresh fruit jam. This might be my favorite recipe of the year; I’ve made it at least five times, probably more.
- Peach pie (lattice)
Lattice-top is impressive but easier than it looks.
- Fresh fruit tart
Ultimate summer dessert. I miss fresh peaches.
- Braised short ribs
Tender beef in a rich sauce. Works well as a make-ahead recipe.
- Shrimp fra diavolo
I love shrimp.
I’m sad to have not included a fish recipe in the top 5, maybe next year.
Of the new kitchen equipment I acquired, the food processor that I got for Christmas last year has been life-changing. I use it to mix all sorts of doughs for pastries, pies, and pasta. Recently I’ve been using it to grate potatoes and carrots. It’s quite an amazing machine.
Now that I’ve got my kitchen set up again, it’s back to “real” cooking. Jen was appalled to see the following things arrive in the mail this week: pizza peel, pizza stone, pastry scraper, new kitchen scale, and oven thermometer. I’d better make some damn good bread for her. Whipped up my first batch of olive oil dough Sunday evening. So far I’ve made two loaves of sun-dried tomato and parmesan bread and one pizza.
The recipe (from my new bread book) is incredibly simple. Mix the following ingredients together in a large bowl or tupperware. Keep in mind that the dough will rise a significant amount (to 2-3x the initial volume). Your container should also have a cover.
2 3/4 cups lukewarm (105 deg F) water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp yeast (active dry)
Once those have been mixed together, stir in 6 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour. I use a wooden spoon to mix until the flour is incorporated. Then cover (don’t seal), let stand at room temperature for two hours, then stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Most of the doughs in the book will last for 12 days. The dough is a bit easier to work with (less sticky) when it’s cold. I’m amazed at how easy it is.
Several of my friends got dutch ovens over the holidays. We’ve had ours for nearly three years, and it has produced many tasty braises and stews. A few other accessories that can help a lot:
Wooden spatula: With a flat edge, for scraping up the bits from the bottom of the dutch oven after the meat has been browned.
Splatter screen: Hot oil can splatter everywhere, so protect yourself and everything around the stove.
Tongs: Makes flipping things over a lot easier.
Two oven mitts: The handles can get really hot.
And a few cooking tips:
Pick the right cut of meat. Some (with high collagen content) are better for braising than others.
Salt liberally before browning. This draws moisture to the surface, giving you a better crust.
Leave space. When browning smaller pieces of meat, be sure to leave space in between. Do an extra batch if you need to.
Monitor heat. Especially when you’re working with multiple batches don’t it get too hot or else you may get some charring. There shouldn’t be too much smoke when you’re browning meat.
Be careful. The pot is really heavy and gets very hot.
So after I posted last night about kitchen gadgets, some of the others felt betrayed and demanded their own post.
1. Meat thermometer: Cook meat to perfection without having to slice through it to see if it’s cooked (remove from heat at 130 for medium rare beef, 135 for medium beef, 145 for pork, 165 for chicken). Use it sparingly though since juices will leak out of the holes that you leave. Since I have still not mastered the art of telling done-ness by feel, this is my only hope of consistently getting it right.
2. Grill: Not really a kitchen tool, but there’s nothing quite like enjoying a pleasant evening outdoors with meat sizzling on the grill. Ours is a small Weber propane grill.
3. Stand mixer: As Joy pointed out, this is awesome for beating egg whites and whipping cream. I usually use mine for cookie doughs and cake batters.
4. Whisk: Mixing things by hand is fun too. I’ve been mixing my own salad dressings for a few years now, and I also regularly use this for scrambling eggs.
5. Mini food processor: Great for making bread crumbs and saving you from having to do a lot of fine chopping. Have considered upgrading to a full-sized one, but for now the small one does the job.
I spend a good amount of time in the kitchen, and there are certain tools that make me quite happy every time I get to use them. There are others, too, of course, but these are my favorites.
1. A sharp knife: Cuts through everything effortlessly with no slipping or struggling (or putting your fingers in imminent danger).
2. Heavy pans: Cooking with the cast iron pan or dutch oven makes the meal feel more substantial. And the heat retention makes for a great surface upon which to sear meat. I’ve made a lot of wonderful stews and braises in our dutch oven.
3. Kitchen scale: Takes a lot of the trouble out of measuring sugar (7 oz/cup) and flour (5 oz/cup) for baking. Without this, measuring flour can be especially tricky since its volume can change depending on how settled it is.
4. Bread maker: Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh bread? It still feels novel when we bake our own loaves, and there’s nothing like biting into a warm piece of bread. Garlic Parmesan, jalapeño cheddar, cinnamon swirl…
5. Garlic press: Minces garlic without making a fragrant mess of your knife, cutting board, and fingers.
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but this motivated me to finally do it.
We’ve owned a cute little Weber Q for two summers now, and it’s been great (Though our next grill will be bigger and have two sets of burners and an exterior thermometer). The only problem is that it uses tiny little propane tanks that have a tendency to run out in the middle of cooking a meal – and if stuff has been dripping through the grate onto the burner, the only way to re-light it is to remove the grate (and all the food). Needless to say, this got extremely annoying so I finally purchased an adapter hose and a tank of propane. I should have done this a long time ago. If you get one and want to keep it outside, be careful: one reviewer reports: “Squirrels destroyed mine.”