I am not a serious cook the same way we are not serious hikers. The issue is the same, – total lack of professional-grade gear and equipment. The biggest reason for that is that I am not a gadget person. On top of that, I have low risk tolerance (most uncharacteristic for a finance professional!). Among many other things, it manifests itself in my apprehension about new kitchen appliances.
As a result, my kitchen is VERY low-tech; you will not find any pressure cookers, KitchenAids, sous vide ovens, and not even a coffee maker. We use a French press and a hand-cranked German coffee bean grinder, which I think is way cooler than the fingerprint-recognizing espresso machine or robot tea infuser (ok, maybe not). Once ubiquitous computing becomes, well, ubiquitous, my kitchenware will be left behind in the Stone Age. My computer will not want to talk to my toaster oven from circa 1990’s.
To continue, inexplicably I own no risotto pans, or crepe pans, etc. and insist on cooking all soups and stews in a scratched-up $20 pan, bought at a grocery store years ago when I found myself assembling kitchen essentials on a non-existing budget. I salivate over beautiful copper pots and can afford updating my equipment, but for some reason, I don’t. I don’t know if I am afraid that “the magic will be gone”, and that wielding new pots and pans, I will find myself unable to boil water, like when I was 19.
Here is a list of my favorite kitchen tools used daily:
- A small sauce pan and a medium-sized pan, both from our college days (hint: we are not recent graduates)
- Toaster oven and tray which I often use instead of the Pyrex dish
- Pyrex dish for 90% of things sweet and savory that end up in the oven (cost: $5)
- Microplane grater
- Knives (almost exclusively Global) are the only expensive and updated items in my kitchen.
Last week I took
a huge leap a baby step forward, and purchased a mandoline slicer. However, terrified by graphic reviews that suggested I needed to invest in a rubber “no slice” body suit prior to using it, I cleverly got out of using the mandoline for the purpose intended, i.e., for slicing the truffles. A week later, I finally screwed up the courage to put my newly acquired mandoline to use.
And so, my veteran team of 5, together with the ingénue (the newly-acquired mandoline) present the Friday dinner lineup:
Saffron turnip, parsnip, and potato gratin
A nice twist on a comfort food dish. I layered thin slices of root vegetables in the Pyrex dish with a bit of saffron-infused heavy cream sauce, a splash of white wine, and shredded sheep’s milk cheese on top, and put it in the oven at 375F for around 20 min.
We washed down the gratin with a 2006 Jean Rijckaert Arbois. The saffron sang in unison with the minerality, citrus, and especially the spice and exotic floral tones that have developed as secondary characteristics in the 6-year old Burgundy (Jura white, to be precise).
Warm shitake mushroom salad with frisee, roasted parsnips, and celeriac slaw
The French have long known of celeriac’s pleasures and routinely serve celeriac slaw as a classic bistro side dish, but it is still waiting to be discovered in this country. The smoked sturgeon, horseradish, and celeriac slaw appetizer I had Wednesday night at the brand-new Mintwood Place restaurant in Adams Morgan left me a bit disappointed but inspired. Celeriac slaw, or céleri rémoulade, is shredded celery root tossed in a mayonnaise-based sauce, usually flavored with a little bit of mustard and acid, like lemon juice or vinegar. I felt the dish was a bit too mayo-heavy, and limp, and I wanted to see if I could improve on it at home.
Naturally, the mandolin slicer is the perfect tool for making a slaw! The problem is, I don’t like mayo, and Jeff (my husband) does not like mustard. My solution was to use sherry vinegar, butter, lemon juice, and ponzu sauce. I cooked shitakes in butter and a nice aged sherry vinegar, with parsley, herbes de provence, and salt & pepper, and roasted parsnips in the oven for 12 min at 400F (pre-seasoned with olive oil, salt & pepper).
And for dessert – a shot of Buddhacello. Friday marked exactly 4 weeks since the beginning of the experiment.
To continue with the root vegetable theme, I will be making rutabaga with crème fraiche, cardamom and ginger later this weekend. Stay tuned!