To quote Julia Child, “French cooking isn’t fancy, it is just GOOD cooking”. French food sounds so because it is in a foreign romance language. For instance, Coq au Vin is simply chicken stew. So be fearless ~ try new recipes even when they require long prep times. Always buy the freshest and finest ingredients that you can. Just as important, furnish your kitchen with the most workmanlike equipment that you have room for.
If you have read the other two pages on this blog (About Me and What’s in a Name), then you will know that I consider myself a decent cook by experimenting with food from different regions. But here’s the thing. In the culinary classes that I have taken, the instructors (typically professional chefs at one time in their lives) don’t like gadgets. Yes, they take up multiple drawers in my kitchen but at the same time save me tremendous prep time. I know that I could donate at least two deep drawers of these items but I am a gadget junkie. If any chefs were to read this post (LOL), they would be groaning loudly at this point. Most chefs believe that all you need are quality sharp knives. I can’t really disagree with that; however, an executive chef has a sous-chef who has a line cook – do you?
For me, knives, gadgets and small kitchen appliances are all necessary evils. My favorite scene in the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ is when Julia Child is chopping massive amounts of onions in her kitchen and crying. Really? Perhaps back then but now there is the ‘chop wizard’, as seen on TV. I urge you to run out and purchase one. I have turned all of my friends on to this gadget as it chops or minces in seconds. I am not ashamed to admit that I use it. A mini-food processor can do the same thing. Also a very good shortcut is to use kitchen scissors to mince herbs. Another fine piece of gadget wizardry is the mandoline. Please take note with this word of warning about it though. My husband must now slice food with it for me as the blades are SUPER sharp. I literally took off part of my thumb once that required sutures. Changed my thumbprint forever.
The bane of my existence and something that I desire to perfect is creating bread without using a bread machine. The machine makes terrific pizza dough but that is pretty much it. Why have one more thing to clutter your pantry or worse your counter space. Truly, bread making is an art but for some it is as simple as making a bed. Same for pastry chefs ~ yikes!
If you are reading this post, then you may respect my opinion and culinary experiences. Or not. But please take into consideration the following list of what I cannot live without for all of my basic kitchen needs.
1. Very sharp knives: okay, I cry uncle!
2. Measuring spoons and cups (for both dry and wet ingredients)
3. Zester/plane grater: for grating, zesting and exfoliating the skin
4. Whisk: hand or electric immersion stick blender
5. Kitchen scissors: for opening packages without using your expensive teeth
6. Food processor: super-size or mini
7. Stand mixer with attachments: eliminates many other kitchen appliances (like my pasta machine) and they come in gorgeous colors.
8. Thick, solid wood cutting board that does not move.
9. IF you have room and love mashed potatoes then you must own a potato ricer. I promise that you will make the best mashed potatoes on earth (see the November 2012 blog post at Thanksgiving).
Aaahhh, I can eliminate 90% of my kitchen clutter (which incidentally does not exist on a cooking show set). I won’t even get started on pots and pans but have said before if a recipe calls for a certain pan then use it ~ there is always justification for it.
I promised from the start of this blog last year that I would always include at least one recipe. Spring sings of lamb and asparagus to me. Prepare the rack of lamb listed below with roasted asparagus using some of the aforementioned kitchen essentials and decorate the table with daffodils or tulips.
ALI’S PARSLIED RACK OF LAMB
Simply foolproof and elegant enough for a dinner party or Easter dinner.
• 2 racks of lamb, Frenched
• Extra virgin olive oil
• 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• ½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
• 2 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
• 2 cloves garlic
• 2 T. unsalted butter, melted
• ½ cup fresh white bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
• 2 tsp. lemon zest
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place both racks of lamb in a roasting pan, fat side up.
3. Rub the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Roast lamb for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, place parsley, garlic and butter in a food processor and finely mince.
6. Add bread crumbs and lemon zest and process just to combine.
7. Take lamb out of the oven and quickly press the parsley mixture on top of the
8. Return the lamb to the oven and roast an additional 15 minutes until parsley crust
9. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes.
10. Cut racks into double chops and serve warm.
Go shopping, sharpen your knives and get cooking.