THE FREQUENCY-OF-USE TEST
Some items in my kitchen I find myself pulling out day after day after day. These are the "go-to" tools whenever anything needs to happen, the tools I consider my sidekicks. First on the list? My trusty cutting board and knives:
What a strange pair!
Alongside my fanciest and most expensive ergonomic chef's knife, a cheap serrated paring knife that was in Peter's kitchen when I arrived, and which I have used 3,258,884 times since. (It's now up to 3,258,885. I just cut a slice of apple to give to the dogs.) The chef's knife performs all manner of chopping, slicing, mincing, dicing, and even smashing of garlic cloves (with the flat side of the blade) to make them easier to peel. Its broad blade also conveys the chopped food to wherever it needs to go.
The little cheap guy peels and slices fruit, removes pits and cores, and does a pretty good job with many tasks which other tools may have been better designed to do, but which I'm too lazy to fetch out of the drawer. I've considered upgrading to a "superior" paring knife — and indeed, I already have a nice one by Cutco in said drawer — but I get such great results from the cheapie that there's no real reason to look elsewhere.
Anytime I use the knives, of course, I also use the cutting board. My board is small — to fit the tiny counter space I have available — but it's sufficient for most tasks. Only when I have to chop a bunch of greens do I wish for a bigger cutting surface; I usually end up processing the bunch of kale or whatever in several batches.
(By the way, I do have in my drawer other, less-frequently-used knives that I keep around because they do jobs not suited to my star pair: among these a bread knife, a meat knife, two nifty pairs of kitchen shears, one of which can even cut through chicken bones, and a super-sharp serrated knife that is perfect for tomatoes.)
Other tools I use so often that they don't seem like gadgets, more like part of the kitchen itself, are my pots and pans. I have a big stock pot/steamer, a large stewpot, a medium saucepan, a small saucepan, a frying pan or 2, and a huge cast-iron wok. These live in the oven of my range when they're not being used, since we do virtually all of our baking in the countertop convection oven. (No space goes to waste in MY kitchen!) Down under the counter I keep another medium saucepan and a double-boiler, which are in danger of not qualifying for retention, at least not under the frequency-of-use rule. We'll have to see whether I end up considering them indispensable....
Over the years, my approach to cooking — and therefore, the tools I've reached for with frequency — has evolved. I used to bake a lot, and amassed a huge (HUGE!!) collection of the most specialized equipment: spritz cookie press with dozens of inserts, frosting bags and a myriad of tips, springform pans, bundt pans, muffin tins in various sizes, an aebleskiver pan to make one single type of Danish pastry, pastry cloths, rolling pins, cookie cutters, bread pans, cake pans, pie plates, cookie sheets — well, you get the idea. And I was living in small apartments then too!
But now my approach to baking is to walk on over to Café la Bergamotte and pick up a Napoléon. Or to the Big Booty Bread Company for cheese rocks. So all that "stuff" would be serving no purpose in my kitchen. Gradually, it has found its way downstairs to a box in the recycling area of my building, where I hope it was found by someone who will use it often and who appreciated the thrill of getting something great for nothing. Lately, I've been feeling the baking bug again, so I hope I don't regret having dispensed of almost everything I would need to resume that activity.
Nah.....if there's anything I've learned in my four plus decades on this planet, it's not to regret anything. What a sad waste of time, to spend it wishing things were otherwise!
I'd rather use my time to show you a few more of my kitchen items that I use nearly daily:
|Let me know if you need a baster. (Do I look Amish in this picture?)|
And now that I've admitted to you my love affair with a set of graduated bowls in circus colors, it's time for you to open up to me. What is your absolute favorite piece of kitchen equipment, and how did it win your heart?
Tomorrow: the wide-applicability test