TND – No really, say what now?

May 11, 2011

I name dropped epicurious the other day at work and was met by an extremely blank stare and had to mentally rewind the conversation and remind myself that not everyone stalks the new content on epicurious.  Anyway, I moseyed on over to epicurious on Monday to see what was new and was greeted by a whole spiel on weddings – wedding showers, wedding menus, wedding registries, etc.  I clicked on the bit about the wedding registry because I have friends who are getting married in a few weeks and earlier this year they asked around at Dinner for kitchen registry recommendations – what we considered essential kitchen equipment, what kitchen equipment we coveted, and useful vs. useless kitchen gadgets.  

The epicurious suggested wedding registry comes in two flavors – for novice cooks, and for expert cooks.  My initial reaction to both lists was, what?  No really, what?  On further reflection, while the expert list remains baffling, the novice list is less bizarre than it appeared at first glance.  I still have quibbles with elements of it, but then I’m also not setting up a brand new kitchen with no experience of what I might like/dislike.  I am, at this point, set in my ways and possessed of firm opinions about what’s worth the space and what isn’t.  This probably disqualifies me from being a novice cook (although, clearly I’m not foodie enough to qualify for epicurious’ expert designation either).

Wedding Registry – Novice
You can click on the link for their explanations of why they choose what, but I’ll summarize.

1 – Good set of pots and pan
Yes.  I’d order my pots and pans a la carte because I know what I’m likely to use/not use, but for a starting cook a general range is useful.

2 – Carbon steel wok
Really?  I’ve never had a need for a wok.  Do they even work well on non-gas stoves?  I’d suggest a cast iron skillet instead – cheaper, and oven safe.

3 – Knife Set
Overrated.  Big chef’s knife, yes.  About 12 small paring knives, yes.  All the things in between?  Fairly pointless.  Unless you’re really into boning chickens and filleting fish I can’t think of a good reason for them.

4 – Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
Yes.  This is what wedding registries are designed for – expensive things that aren’t strictly speaking essential, but you want anyway.  Also, if you don’t get it in a fun color you’ve completely missed the point.

5 – Food Processor

6 – Blender
I’ll be honest I have never worked out the point of a blender if you have a food processor.  The blender has always seemed very one note to me, you make smoothies, milkshakes and puree soups in it.  Except, I don’t make smoothies all that often, I never make milkshakes and I can puree soup in the food processor.  Plus, the food processor grates, chops and can be used to make pizza dough, none of which can be done in a blender.  And actually these days I puree soups in the pot with a handheld immersion blender, which you can also use to make smoothies and milkshakes and frankly takes up a lot less space than a blender.

7 – Sets of glasses
Sure.  Matching (unchipped) glasses are always useful.

8 – Platters
Also serving bowls.  One can never have too many serving pieces, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself every time I find myself buying one.  I was accused this week of approaching Ina Garten levels of servingware.

9 – Linens

10 – Utensils

Wedding Registry – Expert
Prior to having read this list I’d probably have classed myself as an expert cook.  However, I have no idea why I’d want half the things on this list, or what I’d do with them if someone gave them to me, so maybe I’m not.

1 – Fine china
Doesn’t everyone regardless of skill level in the kitchen register for this?
2 – Vacuum sealer, immersion circulator for sous-vide cooking
Real people cook things sous-vide?  This isn’t just something that’s the province of overly fussy molecular gastronomy gurus who show up on Top Chef?

3 – Smoker
It’s safe to say I’ve never felt the need for my own private smoker.  Of course I also have excellent barbeque up the road from me (yes, it is possible to get good barbeque in the heathen North).

4 – “Slow” Coffee Making Supplies
Eh, I’m willing to spend $2.09 every morning to get someone else to make me really good coffee.

5 – Crystal Punch Bowl & Decanter
Oddly enough I own two silver punch ladles, but no punch bowl.  There is approximately one day a year when I have even a fleeting need for a punch bowl, in which event I either make do with something else or borrow one from a friend.  The other 364 days of the year I appreciate the eight other things I have room to store because I don’t own a punch bowl.  The decanters, on the other hand, I endorse.  We currently own a wine decanter and a whiskey decanter, and I aspire to decanters for port, sherry and possibly one for a second variety of whiskey.

6 – Pizza oven
Really?  At $5,000?  I can think of a lot of other things I could buy with $5,000 that come much higher up my list of desires than a pizza oven.

7 – Home brewing kit
I’d be snide about this, but I do actually know people who brew their own beer.  They actually served home brewed ale for their wedding toast instead of champagne, which was both very tasty and perfectly representative of who they are (in the best way).  So, while I’m not one of them, I admit that there are (many) people who are into this kind of thing.  I still reserve the right to think that home brewed wine is just kind of tacky.

8 – Rotisserie oven
Clearly they’re envisioning newlyweds who have significantly more space in their kitchen than I do, I barely have room for a toaster oven.  Plus, how often would you have to roast chicken to make a rotisserie oven worth the counter real estate?

9 – Blender
Nope.  Still don’t understand the point of the blender.

10 – Restaurant Registry
Actually this I think is genius.  Nearly 10 years ago (I can’t believe they’ve been married that long) a number of us pooled resources and gave friends a gift certificate to a fancy sushi restaurant in New York as a wedding present.  Possibly this is the only time we’ve ever been ahead of a trend.

Having dismissed epicurious’ attempt at a Top 10 Registry list, the question then becomes what would I recommend for a wedding registry (which is different than what I’d ask for personally).  The ad hoc list (as in, we came up with it as we stood around doing dishes one night after Dinner – and then for the next several week’s we’d stop conversations to say, “oh, and also, you should have a _______”) we came up with  a list that looked a little like this.  In the spirit of the list above, there are the top ten I’d suggest, and then another ten (+ one) that are a little more frivolous.

1 – Knives – a heavy Chef’s knife + large quantity of small sharp paring knives (I’m partial to the Victorinox ones)
2 – Assortment of really good quality pots & pans – one or two non-stick, at least one oven safe large saucepan with a lid, and throw in a cast iron skillet while you’re at it
3 – Dutch oven
4 – Casserole pans in a variety of sizes (I’d include ramekins and gratin dishes, but that’s me)
5 – Hand-held immersion blender (my favorite new toy)
6 – Food Processor
7 – Microplane zester (top of my list of actually useful gadgets)
8 – Cooking utensils – wooden spoons & silicon spatulas (including some of the small ones you think you won’t use – they’re perfect for scraping molasses out of cup measures)
9 – Multiple sets of measuring cups and spoons (I have two of each, and could easily field a third set of each)
10 – Baking pans in a variety of sizes and shapes (8”/9”/10” round/square/springform/tart) & muffin tins (regular and mini) & heavy duty rimmed baking sheets

Ten Optional Extras + 1
1 – Garlic press (I don’t own one, but other people seem very enamored)
2 – Carving Board/Carving knife/fork (ask for an electric carving knife if you want to make whoever it is who carves the turkey in your house exceedingly excited)
3 – Slow cooker (this is the one that I don’t have yet and covet, but haven’t bought because where would I store it?)
4 – Digital scale that weighs in both ounces and grams
5 – Mandoline (I don’t use it often, but when I do there’s really nothing else that comes close to its sheer efficiency)
6- Grill (really only applicable if you have a porch or backyard)
7 – Spoons – specifically ice tea spoons (how else are you supposed to get the peanut butter out of the bottom of the jar?) & grapefruit spoons (even if you don’t eat grapefruit, they’re awesome for scraping out the insides of squash)
8 – Stove top grill pan (I use this constantly – get the double sided one that has a griddle on the other side)
9 – Large roasting pan/roasting rack (I only recently achieved this, courtesy of a friend who got one as a wedding present that turned out to be too big to fit in her oven)
10 – Gift certificate to Penzys so that you can outfit your kitchen with the full range of herbs and spices
+ 1 – Waffle maker (I probably wouldn’t use it, but friends of ours use the one they got for their wedding constantly.  We should really try and inveigle brunch invitations at their house more often.)

Chicken in Riesling
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Chicken in Riesling

This came out soupier than it did last time, I’m not sure if it’s because I was making more of it so it gave up more liquid, if I didn’t cook it down as much this time, or whether my leeks were just waterier.  Whatever the cause it was still very tasty and I just served it in a bowl instead of on a plate.

Recipe previously given:  Suffering for Aesthetics

Yukon Gold Potatoes
Seasoned with a little salt/pepper/olive oil and lemon zest.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
(serves 6)

While Dinner was frankly disturbingly excited by the prospect of brussels sprouts this is the only was I like to eat them, thus adding further proof to the assertion that roasting makes everything better.

2.5-3 lb brussels sprouts (figure about 1/3-1/2 lb raw brussels sprouts/person)
1-2 red onions
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Take the rough outer leaves off the brussels sprouts and trim the stem and cut in half.

Cut the onion into rough 2” chunks and then separate the layers.

Toss the brussels spouts and onions with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2-3 Tbsp olive oil.  Toss to coat thoroughly.  Arrange so that the cut side of the brussels sprouts are down.

Roast for 12 minutes, then flip the brussels sprouts so that the outer side is down.  Roast for a further 12-15 minutes (yes this is marginally fiddly, but the caramelization you get going on is what makes them tasty)

Serve.  Watch them disappear.


One comment

  1. It adds an extra step, but if you blanch the brussels sprouts first, some of the bitterness is removed.

    Also, yes, it will be 10 years in October and that was definitely one of our best wedding gifts (and the KitchenAid mixer of course).

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