Research has begun for a "Test Drive" column I write some months for Fine Cooking magazine. Past topics have included box graters, grill woks, probe thermometers, toaster ovens, juicers and electric skillets.
Blenders are the next topic. Right now I'm developing tests to compare the machines and working up a list of test candidates.
I've owned the same Oster blender for 21 years, and It's a great piece of equipment. So Oster is on the list, as is KitchenAid, whose products always impress me with their quality. Waring's stylish, powerful blender is on the list.
After those, I'm at a loss. What other blenders should be on the test list?
My mom used to go ballistic when she couldn't find the kitchen shears. They were just too handy for little people to grab when something needed to be snipped. And they were always conveniently located in the same drawer.
My mother-in-law used to complain that her pie servers always went missing. Her theory is that she would take along the pie server with a pie to potluck and someone would notice how useful it was, or, more charitably, assume it was theirs.
Now the Wood family meat fork has similarly disappeared. Not to be found. Dumped out the utensil drawer -- the fork is MIA. A meat fork is like a pipe wrench -- you don't need one often, but when you do, nothing else will get the job done. The upshot is that the giant, greasy country ham has to be turned with hands.
As if to compensate for missing meat forks, though, the bottle openers have reproduced. There were two, and now there are four, along with two corkscrews.
What kitchen gear comes and goes in your kitchen, and is it worse during the holidays?
Cookie time, er, I mean Christmas time has rolled around again, the ideal time to bake cookies for the flimsiest of reasons.
Deciding which five or six cookie recipes are worthy of The Moss-Covered Three-Handled Family Christmas Cookie Tray is half the fun. Last year Food & Wine had a great spread of renowned chef's cookies -- top of the list for this year's tray are Nick Malgieri's Ginger Sandwich cookies with a lemon filling and Jacques Torres' Cherry Nut Mudslides.
During a Farmers Market foray, we ran across Muddy Pond Sorghum, and that means molasses cookies, preferably the ones from the Silver Palate.
But Relish magazine editor Jill Melton had a blog post recently on soft molasses cookies that sound -- and look -- really good.
The plan is to use the dough in our 1970s as-seen-on-TV cookie gun for molasses wreaths, sprinkled with sparkling sugar.
What other gorgeous bites of cookie pulchritude should be on our cookie tray? And what's on your family's holiday sweets platter?
Cookies are an appealing way to slip into the onslaught on the holidays. The lists, the shopping, the decorating, the holiday cards -- all that overwhelming list of stuff comes later. Cookies are a small, sweet way to step through the doorway.
At the end of this series of connected incidents, our cookie tray is beginning to take shape.
The same combinations of circumstance and happenstance are working in millions of heads right now, in home kitchens and restaurant kitchens. What influences, what magazines, what cookbooks, family members, dietary considerations -- what's the recipe going into the holiday planning potion wherever you are?
There are lots of things to love about autumn and the approach of winter: college football, changing leaves, hot toddies in front of a roaring fire. But having to put the cover on the charcoal grill is not one of them. Add that to the fact that my family has spent the summer living in a condo with a "no outdoor cooking" covenant and you can see the potential for a sad time around our household.
Enter the SAVU Smoker Bag from www.hotdiggitycajun.com. I first met Jennifer Hunneycutt, the owner of this online food products business during the Gaylord Food and Wine Festival last summer. I was attracted to her booth by the fact that it smelled like bacon. She sells a variety of interesting kitchen and grill accessories, many of which are dedicated to applying smoke flavor to meat, something which makes her my friend.
Lesson #1 in business school and media studies is: hardware PLUS software. PlayStation and games, TV and DVDs, iPhone and apps. The consuming must continue after the main purchase or you've got no kind of revenue stream.
The lesson extends to plumbing and refrigerators now, too. An astronomical plumbing estimate was discounted if we purchased a gold circle warranty plan that would ensure we were a plumbing priority. (Shouldn't we be anyway, if we chose to call that particular plumber?) And our Kitchen-Aid fridge was fitted with a water filter that has a complex business plan of its own.
The first filter was free -- easy decision. A timer on the fridge changes color when the filter's six months of efficient filtering are over. Handy! And at the same time, a notice arrived in the mail to remind us, along with an order form and a toll-free number. Time to buy that filter!
The filters cost $55 plus shipping, which seemed a little steep, but okay. (If you've examined the tubing of a 10-year-old refrigerator, you'll want to filter the water.) No ignoring the timer, either, because if the filters aren't replaced every six months, the ice maker stops working. It wasn't the money so much as the well-planned effort to separate us from it. It seemed a little forceful.
The decision was made for us when I snapped off a connection removing a filter.
The business plan accounted for this, though, and discount coupons for the filters arrived in the mail. $10 off! Free shipping!
But it was too late. We brought back the Brita pitcher. Funny how simple and old-fashioned it seems.
This week's dining review of Nuvo Burrito, the gleaming burrito restaurant in East Nashville, praises NB's use of biodregadable cutlery and carryout boxes.
Nuvo Burrito's utensils are made of corn starch and will biodegrade in 30 to 90 days, depending on the conditions of the landfill. The carryout boxes are made with sugar cane fiber, which is biodegradable and compostable.
Co-owner Sean Perry says the company pays three times as much for these products as they would shell out for styrofoam, while the paper cups at Nuvo Burrito cost double what a similar foam product would cost. Such costs inevitably make their way to the consumer, but Nuvo Burrito's prices remain within the normal bounds for casual lunch.
As a consumer, does the shift toward biocompostable/biodegradable/post-consumer/recycled/sustainable/green products come to bear on your dining decisions?
Trendspotting's fun when you've been around for a cycle. Bubble dresses? So 1978. Electric skillets? Are we at granny's in 1968, or at a garage sale?
Some households never stopped using them (check the comments on Amazon.com for a survey). Manufacturers noticed and improved the functions with better heat control, safety features and clear glass lids. And the nonstick coating was improved -- it used to flake off into the food, causing a generation to fret over their cumulative teflon ingestion.
When Carrington married, brides were opting for steel, non-nonstick cookware, or "stick," she called it. Steel "stick" electric skillets are made by All-Clad ($299 -- save all week) and Presto.
Testing them for Fine Cooking magazine involved braising, searing, pancakes and stir-fry, and it all went well. No hovering over the skillet -- it cycles on and off by itself. No open flames. No need to lift the lid to check on the food. Fantastic.
And then: We. Fried. Chicken. I dreaded it -- my fried chicken is so-so, even with an iron skillet -- and now I was facing eight batches of it. To improve my odds, I picked an Alton Brown recipe that bathes the birds in buttermilk, then dunks them in spicy garlicky coating before the flour coating so the seasonings don't flake off -- why did no one think of that before?
For two days, those skillets, blazing three at a time, turned out the best fried chicken I've ever made. Crisp outside, juicy inside, with perfectly sealed, golden crusts. Like Prince's, but with a thinner crust.
Granny was a good cook, for sure. But her reputation for perfect fried chicken came compliments of yesterday's appliance.
At time of publication, an 8-foot stainless steel range hood was going for $2 on the McLemore Auctions site, which is selling off a bunch of restaurant equipment, including sinks, ovens, refrigerators and a pool table.
The auction closes Sept. 8 at 2 p.m.
Watching nine vending machines, like the one pictured here, auctioned on the block--priced at $2 upon time of publication--it's tempting to raise a paddle. Just think of it: Hook up one of these bad boys in the house, stock it with a range of junk food and healthy snacks and calibrate the prices in some way as to instill a sense of value--or at least caloric value--in my children. A dime for the whole grain treats, five bucks for the empty calories...I see the applications for a public health care system. Paging Dr. Obama....
Anyhow, nine Model GO127 / 137 Electronic Combination Snack and Soda Vending Machines by Genesis Manufacturing, Inc. can be yours come 2 p.m. Sept. 1, when McLemore Auction Company closes the bidding.
Just for fun, let's say you got one, what would you stock in it?
This place has closed
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