In effort to introduce myself, my kitchen and my blog, I offer to you a short list of my favorite tools, equipment, indulgences and pantry staples:
1. Salt: The best, standard rule of thumb is never, ever EVER cook anything without salt. Since you should always abide by this, you should also have a strong supply of various gourmet and finishing salts on hand in addition to cooking salts (they’re fun to discover and collect, too!). Some of my favorites include Fume de Sel (a grey salt smoked over Chardonnay Oak), Kala Namak ( aka “Black Salt”; a strongly sulfuric salt from India and my absolute favorite), Bolivian Rose (a slightly sulfuric pink salt, quarried from a dried lake bed in the Andes), and of course the standard Fleur de Sel.
2. Individually sized foods: Individually sized entrees, sides, or desserts are like
tapas in your own home. They encourage people to participate in the greatest
aspect of food: a time to share, talk and interact with each other They’re also a
convenient way to test out multiple recipe variations all at once – just remember to label which is which.
(see #3 and Bacon Mashed Potatoes Pie)
3. My Round 4” Non-stick Baking Dishes and/or 4″ Round Custard Ramekins: Perfect for individually sized anything. (see #2)
4. Truffles: Yes, I know that this is everyone’s favorite, but it can’t be overlooked. Truffle oil, truffle salt, truffle cheese (see below).
5. Al Tartufo StagionatoTruffle Cheese: Since I restrained myself from listing 25 different salts as my favorite things, I deserve two for truffles. This one in particular is a dream come true. A sheep’s milk version of the original Al Tartufo, its harder and dryer. I’ve heard complaints that it doesn’t melt as well as the original cow and sheep blend, but I ignore this because I don’t care to know or understand any kind of lunatic that would manipulate the make up of such a perfect creation by melting it. (I even once saw a recipe for a truffle cheese grilled cheese. Idiots.)
6. Stuffed Foods: Stuffed foods are a really fun way to experiment with the
creativity that goes along with good cooking. It’s also a good way to practice and test your ability to pair tastes and textures with one another. They also are usually easy to make pretty, and make you look like you know what you’re doing, even if you barely do. Some of my favorites: Duck breast stuffed with baked goat cheese (I actually turned a vegetarian with this dish); Pork chops stuffed with brie and pancetta, Roasted bell peppers stuffed with chipotle roasted lime couscous.
7. Liver: The only thing I could imagine being more delicious than truffles, or having a better richness in both flavor and texture than liver could possibly be liver confit in duck fat with truffle oil. Oh, mama.
8. Cameron’s 11″x15″ Stovetop Smoker: I first discovered this while cooking in a restaurant in San Francisco, where we used it for the house smoked bacon. It’s small, but perfect. Tomatillos, heirloom tomatoes (reserve the juice to make a mind-blowing tomato sauce), eggplant, and tofu are only a few in the long list of items that, when smoked, are a tasty way to move vegetarian or vegan dishes from the sides menu to the entrée menu. I also suggest experimenting with pizza toppings.
9. Duck fat: While that truth remains that I was vegan for 12-or-so years, things have changed and I am now a very strong advocate of always having duck fat on hand. A
pound or two goes a long way – makes you look impressively creative in the
kitchen, and isn’t excessively expensive. It’s a simple way to add
richness to anything when you’re happy to indulge in a dish that is well worth
turning a blind eye to saturated fat and calories. And let-me-tell-you …. Some stuffed pork chops browned in duck fat ….. well, I think you get my point. Duck fat is easy to obtain from your local butcher. Even a grocery
store butcher would probably be able to order it (ask ahead), though I strongly (very strongly) suggest going to a butcher, not your grocery store. The quality is incomparable.
This list will surely grow, but for now, for your peace of mind. don’t worry, the dishes mentioned here will all have recipes posted shortly. Take the time between then and now to pick up a few of these items. Especially the duck fat.