Kitchen Incidentals

March 5, 2008

There are just some kitchen tools you cannot live without. And even though my mother always said that the best tool in the kitchen is a pair of hands, I still need my stuff. Call it needing a little bit of “culinary couture,” but my tools empower me to tackle any job. And being an Italian chef, there are certain favorites that are a must….

My beloved black cast iron pan, inherited from my Neapolitan grandmother, never fails to produce just the right crusty topping for seared scallops or chicken cutlets. It does wonders for stovetop lasagne and can create a serious frittata.

Sharp is the word for my favorite 8-inch chef’s knife. It chops, dices, slices, minces, and juliennes with the percision of a samurai.

No serious Italian cook would be without a pentola per pasta (pasta pot) and a scolapasta (strainer). They go hand in hand for cooking pasta correctly.

Of course in order to cook perfect pasta you have to be able to make perfect pasta. And that neccessitates a hand-crank pasta machine and a matterello (rolling pin) … but not just any rolling pin: a narrow one (it does the best job for getting that pasta as thin as possible).

And what is plate of pasta without perfectly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top? For that you need a sturdy grattugia di formaggio (cheese grater).

A baking stone and pizza paddle (also known as a pizza peel) allow me to easily be the Queen of the Oven at home as I turn out paper-thin pizza crusts and professional bakery-style domed bread loaves.

A battecarne (meat pounder) keeps meat and poultry on an even keel for even cooking, and an immersion blender can puree soups in minutes in the very pots in which they cook (plus, it can smooth out any lumpy blunder!).

Every now and then it is advisable to take a break from the kitchen, and that’s when I make myself an espresso in my stovetop espresso maker.

My newest “kitchen incidental” is a digital scale that easily converts from pounds and ounces to metrics. No more guesswork, especially when it comes to baking!

Good cooking does not happen by accident: it happens by the pots, pans, and baking sheets we keep … and often throw away, as is the case when we’ve become disenchanted by a product that hasn’t lived up to our expectation. So whenever possible, buy the very best items you can, because the cheapest thing you buy will eventually be the most expensive thing you own if you are always replacing it! Heavy-gauge stainless steel works for me.

So yes, although Mom was right about a pair of hands being the best tool in the kitchen, between you and me, a little power tool doesn’t hurt either.

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