Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Technique Tuesday: My Favorite Things

Every Technique Tuesday post so far has been about a particular cooking technique. For this week's post, I thought I'd switch things up a little bit and tell you about some of my absolute favorite kitchen tools. These are all tools I use on a daily or almost-daily basis, and each of them helps me pair technique and ingredients to make some delectable food!

1. Calphalon Grill PanAs you'll read later in this post, I have a sort of love affair with my grill. I probably grill 3-4 times a week, all year round. Unfortunately rain or snow can sometimes prevent me from grilling outdoors, so it's imperative that I have a great, easy to use and clean grill pan for indoor grilling. I've seen many different grill pans, and this is by far my favorite in its price range. It retails for about $80 and is worth every penny. Nothing sticks to this pan, and it leaves beautiful sear marks on proteins and veggies. My husband is a bit of a barbecue snob, and he raves about dinners I make using this grill pan. It's fabulous for burgers, steaks, veggies and fish ~ because of the grill pan's design, your food will not cook in its own fat like it would in a frying pan. It's also large enough to fit over 2-3 burners, so you can make several things at once. I make a balsamic-brown sugar steak sandwich with veggies, and the whole meal uses just the grill pan (and you can cook everything at once!). You will barely notice, if at all, that your dinner was not made on an outdoor electric grill.

2. Silicon Rolling Pin

I'm not a natural born baker, so it's really important to me to have baking tools that are really easy to use. I've always been somewhat of a disaster with a rolling pin, but all that changed when my dear friend gave me an adorable light blue silicone rolling pin for Christmas a few years back. It is a magical tool, I promise you! It retails for about $30 and can be found at Bed, Bath and Beyond (use a 20% off coupon; they'll even accept expired ones!). There's absolutely no sticking when you're rolling out dough, so it makes the whole process a lot less frustrating. I make homemade dough for different things (quiche, pie, tarts, cookies) pretty frequently, so it's great to have such a wonderful rolling pin (oh, and did I mention that it's easy to clean?!).

3. Jenn Air Grill with Rotisserie and Searing Panel
I can't rave enough about this grill. Don't call it a barbecue, because it is much, much more! It is truly an outdoor appliance that I use all year round. It has a searing panel on the side that is really easy to use and allows you to get a perfect seal on steaks, etc. before transfering them to the body of the grill to cook. It also has a detachable rotisserie that is perfect for grilling cornish game hens (I make honey-garlic-balsamic glazed hens for Easter; it's a big hit in my house!). This grill even has a small light to allow you to grill in the dark ~ so handy during the cooler months when the sun sets earlier. My husband surprised me with this grill a few years ago (a neighbor of mine saw him unloading it and thought he was going to be in big trouble with me for splurging on a grill...little did he know I'd been eyeing it for a long, long time and was over the moon to finally have it). It is a little pricier than some of the other grills I've seen/owned, but it is well worth the investment (retails for around $7-800). I recommend getting the Jenn Air cover to go with it. You certainly will not be sorry!
4. Pyrex Small Glass Bowls
These little glass bowls are very inexpensive and incredibly useful. They are very small and are the perfect size for an aioli, dipping sauce, mise en place (when you get everything ready to be cooked, these are great for holding minced garlic, onions, etc.) or even a serving of baby food. I have a set of four of these bowls, and I use them CONSTANTLY. There are also stainless steel bowls that are very similar and come with little lids. These are wonderful for aolis, etc. that you have leftover.
5. Cuisinart Smart-Stick

This tool is UNBELIEVABLY helpful in the kitchen, not to mention being reasonably priced! It costs around $75 and is incredibly versatile. Honestly, I use this gadget just about every day for so many different purposes. It comes with a plug-in base that attaches to a whisk, mini Cuisinart and immersion blender. It also includes a measuring cup that you can use with the immersion blender for easy, one-step blending and measurement. I use the immersion part for soups, making baby food and pureeing items like corn, etc. to use as recipe components. I use the mini-Cuisinart for salad dressings, salsa, chopping onions, pesto, etc. The whisk is great for eggs and making whipped cream. All of these pieces are really easy to clean (I throw them all on the top rack of my dishwasher). LOVE THIS!

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