December 24, 2009

Just totally not in time for Christmas, I decided to make a list of my Top Ten Favorite Kitchen Things. Not all are gadgets, and they certainly aren't all essential, so Things they are. And maybe if you're lucky, you celebrate Serbian Christmas (exchanging gifts on the Epiphany) or maybe the K-mart in your town is open for a couple of hours tomorrow. And also please enjoy this gratuitous picture of a fig and bacon salad.

Top 10 Kitchen Thingies
in no particular order
(and the links are for descriptive purposes only, I am not endorsing any particular brand - with three exceptions)

1) Mini-whisk. I convinced my husband's Aunt Joanie to buy one just the other day, and she says she's used it every day since. (It was only two days ago, though.)
Pluses: It's teeny-tiny, great for making salad dressing, whipping up one or two eggs, or combining small amounts of things. It's more efficient than a fork. Plus you can save your forks for food shoveling.
Minuses: It's teeny-tiny, so you'll still need a mama-sized whisk for things like polenta or fritatta.

2) Cast iron pan. It was non-stick before non-stick was cool.
Pluses: You don't use soap to clean it (water and a Chore Boy only, please!), it can go in the oven, and it gives THE best crisp crust on anything you sear or fry in it. And it's not that expensive - I think ours was $25 or $35. As a bonus: it adds iron to your diet! Not a problem for me, as I have a freakishly high iron content, but great for the anemic folk out there.
Minuses: It's really heavy. And if you're a germaphobe, the whole not using soap thing might bother you. (Let's just say that is not an issue in the House of Mango Hands.)

3) Kitchen Aid Mixer. Aka bridal shower gold.
Pluses: It can do everything! It has a whisk, bread hook, and just general mixing gadget. Plus you can buy any number of attachments. I have the meat grinder (thanks Walter! Stay safe in Iraq!), pasta plates, and sausage stuffer. I think you can also get an ice cream maker, French tickler, and juicer attachments.
Minuses: If you have a small apartment, it can be hard to find a place to store it. Also, they are pricey.

4) Immersion blender. I heard my friend Kaitlin (aka Bev)'s fiance's stepmother just bought one on a Mango Hands recommendation. (Hi Christine! I can't wait to meet you! Your daughters are beautiful!)
Pluses: If you like to make soup, you have to get an immersion blender. If you're making something you need to puree, you don't have to go through the fuss of dumping it in the blender in batches. You just stick it in, zshooch it around, and smooth soup it is! Bonus points if it comes with a mini-chopper attachment. (Most do.)
Minuses: Um, I can't think of any. Don't forget to unplug it before you wash it.

5) Garlic press. Great for keeping away vampires, or people who like Twilight too much.
Pluses: It does a damn good job of mincing garlic. I only bought one because America's Test Kitchen recommended it. It's great if you don't have anything else to chop but garlic, but you don't feel like getting a knife dirty. Most have a mince and slice feature. Get that kind.
Minuses: I am not the biggest fan of one-hit wonders (aka things with only one purpose), so if you feel the same it might not be for you. And it can be a pain in the butt to clean. My husband thinks it should go on the Top Ten Useless Kitchen Thingies, but if he wants to espouse that opinion he should get his own blog.

6) A giant cutting board. Put it next to the mini-whisk for laughs.
Pluses: It's giant. You can chop a bunch of different things and keep cute little piles, and then use them as you need them, as opposed to getting a bunch of little bowls dirty.
Minuses: It's giant. You'll need some counterspace. (But it's worth it.) And if it's wooden, you'll have to oil or wax it to keep it from drying out like a crusty old man.

7) A small salt bowl. I like to touch everything that goes in my food. Good think I usually wash my hands.
Pluses: It's small, it travels, and you can pinch exactly how much salt you're putting in your food.
Minuses: We spill it ALL THE TIME. There are piles of salt all over our house.

8) Salad spinner. I once saw this episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown suggested spinning your greens dry in the clothes dryer. This is much easier.
Pluses: Gets your greens nice and dry, plus it is fun for everyone to use. We have a collapsable model, which is great for our small space. If you eat green things, you should own one.
Minuses: Ours broke recently. It stopped spinning. Hence our new model. Please note that just spinning your greens doesn't clean them. You have to soak them in cold water, then scoop them (don't dump them! you'll just dump the sand and dirt in with them!) into the spinner.

9) Thin-slicer thingie. Don't spend load of money on a mandoline. This is just as good and cheaper. (This is the only link where I actually recommend you buy this exact model. You may, however, get a different color. Mine is lime green.)
Pluses: Perfect for consistent, very thin cuts of vegetables. I've used it for gratins, potato chips, and thin apple slices for brie, red onion, and apple baguettes.
Minuses: If you enjoy your fingertips, please don't lose the fingerguard. Or you WILL cut yourself.

10) Microplane zester. Also useful for zesting off your fingerprints in case the police are on your tail.
Pluses: It's the best way to zest citrus, plus great for ginger, parmesan cheese, and chocolate.
Minuses: See above.

Happy Elfing! If you have suggestions for other fabulous kitchen things, please leave comments.


Rib said...

Loved every word of this! Couldn't be more timely as I put my new kitchen together.

Shea said...

Yo Mango Hands, we haven't met but I'm a friend of L. Casabona's. Love the blog, couldn't agree more about the miniwhisk, like the one thing that no one thinks they need and everyone should have on some kind of culinary "Batman Belt".

Elsa said...

I love immersion blenders!!! Mine came with a mini food chopper / processor attachment and whisk. Very practical for when you don't want to get the big processor out for a small amount of chopping.

Also love garlic presses. I hid one in Janelle's luggage when she came to visit as a surprise gift for when she got home (she had been craving one) and she got pulled over at airport security because they thought it was a weapon. woooops.

Becky B said...

First, laughed so hard I cried a number of your descriptive comments (which hopefully is not a commentary on how not-funny my life is right now).

Second, thanks a bunch, now I have to go buy more kitchen gadgets because I loved every one of your recommendations!

Love the blog, keep it up!