Chickens, I am nothing if not a true Gemini.
The dichotomies I possess are infinite and mostly ridiculous. I am so often of two minds about things that it is staggering and exhausting, requiring many naps. For example, I have long believed in the following truths:
1. If I cook a lovely dinner for my sweetie, I have worked long and hard to bring him pleasure, and he should clean up the kitchen.
2. If my sweetie cooks me a lovely dinner, he has messed up the kitchen and should clean up after himself.
You can see the problem.
(I mean, beyond that I am lazy and hate to clean the kitchen.)
When it comes to kitchen tools, I am at perfect odds with myself. On the one hand, I do actually believe that one only needs possess a dozen simple basic pieces of equipment in order to produce wonderful meals.
On the other hand….
I genuinely believe in my heart of hearts that as long as you have a good sharp paring knife, 8” chef’s knife and one serrated blade, there is nothing you cannot accomplish.
I know, I know. It is embarrassing.
But I have no choice but to embrace it, and recognize that I can support both sides of the coin. So you can imagine my delight when Shun knives, long respected for the superior quality of their products, sent me a care package! I had connected with them at the Housewares Show in Chicago this Spring, and was drooling over their products, as was Charming Suitor. Shun knives are made using traditional Japanese methods of steel production for blades that are super thin, super sharp, and gorgeous to look at, with Pakka wood handles specially shaped to fit in the hand solidly for perfect control. I only previously owned one Shun knife, a lovely little mini cleaver vegetable knife that I find myself turning to again and again for small work for garnishes, and making supremes of citrus fruits. So I was very excited to open a box to discover four new knives that they were offering to let me test.
All of these knives appear at first blush to be specialty knives, which would put them solidly in the “only if you can afford it/are a crazy person like me who has compulsion to collect things” category. But one of the fabulous things about writing this blog is that many companies recognize that their products need actual testing, and are generous about letting people like me play! What I discovered was that these knives are much more useful than their “specialty” appearance might make you think.
The 8” rocking knife has become my go-to for anything that needs fine mincing or chopping. It makes quick work of delicate herbs, but tackles toasted nuts equally brilliantly. Its large flat blade is perfect for crushing a clove of garlic.
The Serrated Offset Bread Knife does indeed make genius slices of bread, goes like a dream thru crusty baguettes but doesn’t crush or tear tender brioche. But it does so much more. In the heart of tomato season, nothing does a better job of slicing smoothly, as thin as you please. I love it for trimming artichokes, and slicing steaks right off the grill. I haven’t touched my regular serrated knife since it arrived.
I’ve talked about the usefulness of an 8” Santoku knife before, since the little divots in the blade mean that the items you are cutting don’t stick to the blade. Shun’s version is wonderful, going thru meats and cheeses and veggies smooth as silk. A new favorite task? Melons of every size and shape. The large blade takes off rind like a dream, but the dimpled blade ensures that as you cube, the cubes stay on the cutting board.
Finally the little Bird’s Beak paring knife, with its flat cutting surface, I’m using for slicing shallots and spring onions, peeling small fruits and veggies, and creating strips of citrus zest for cocktails.
And because they are fabulously cool, Shun has given me one of their fabulous paring knives to give away to one lucky reader!
So, comment below with a tale of a piece of kitchen equipment that surprised you…something you thought was a unitasker that has revealed multiple uses, or something you use for an unusual or unexpected purpose before 11:59pm on Thursday July 29, and our friends at Random.Org will pick a winner who we will announce on Friday.
In the meantime, thank you to all who wrote to tell me you saw Off The Menu mentioned by Jennifer Weiner on CBS Sunday Morning, it was very exciting. If you missed it, you can watch it HERE, I cannot recommend all of the other books heartily enough, and of course, Jennifer’s new book The Next Best Thing is one of the best things I have read this summer, so be sure to check it out as well.
And if you loved Off The Menu, I do hope you will continue to help me promote it…word of mouth is everything, and those great Amazon reviews don’t hurt either! Don’t forget that if you missed being able to see me at one of my appearances, you can always get signed or personalized books shipped to you. Just head to my snazzy new website www.staceyballis.com and go to the Contact page.
Yours in Good Taste,
Love using my egg slicer for strawberries & mushrooms!ReplyDelete
Have a pastry cutter for pies and stuff like that- but I use it mainly for cutting bell peppers and other veggies- it's got a wide handle on it which is perfect for my hands.ReplyDelete
My beaters from my hand mixer. I keep them in the silverware and use them for beating 1 or 2 eggs, small amounts of salad dressing, etc. I hardly ever use the hand mixer, but I couldn't live without those mini whisks!ReplyDelete
I use my bench scraper to cut bars/brownies.ReplyDelete
I use my LeCreuset Bouillabaisse pot for everything from jams to chili. Nothing ever sticks or burns.ReplyDelete
I love using my kitchenaid stand mixer to turn poached chicken breasts into perfectly shredded chicken to use in any number of ways, in only about 10 seconds. Thanks to pinterest!ReplyDelete
still amazed at all the things a pizza slicer can do!ReplyDelete
I'm just starting to get into knives, wow that makes me sound crazy, but realizing just a good simple pairing knife can be to cook most of my son's daily vegan meals. Boring but it's been my go to lately I guess since use way more produce then I used to.ReplyDelete
I use my tea strainer to keep lemon seeds out of the juice, and I use my stainless steel spoon rest to make an impromptu panini press (with a can of tomatoes on top).ReplyDelete
I use my tea strainer to keep lemon seeds out when I'm juicing over a bowl, and I use our stainless steel spoon rest to make perfect paninis/tuna melts (with a can of tomatoes on top for weight)ReplyDelete
I use my pizza cutter for all kinds of things. I cut up herbs, slice brownies and other pan cookies, and cutting crust off bread.ReplyDelete
The hard cheese grater where you turn the handle? Works really well on chocolate.ReplyDelete
I use my pastry dough cutter to mash sweet potatoes! I also make apple cider in the crock pot! I use my pizza cutter to slice quesadillas!ReplyDelete
My melon baller gets much more use taking out the core of an apple that has been halved. It wastes so much less apple than coring with a knife.ReplyDelete
Thanks to a past post of yours I am now a HUGE micro-plane grater fan. Most recently I've used it to grate delicious parmesan into olive oil.ReplyDelete
I use my kitchen aid mixer to make mashed potatoes (among other things) and they become perfectly mashed. YUM!ReplyDelete
My favorite Shun knife, by far, is the 8" Chef's knife. I think that I use it for just about everything. It is one of the best!!!ReplyDelete
I use my immersion blender for purée-ing soups, blending sauces, and making smoothies. Mostly so I don't have to clean the blender or food processor.ReplyDelete
My pizza slicer is my 'go-to' when I am in the kitchen. I put millions of miles on it when my kids were little by using it to cut through hot pancakes and waffles. It's perfect for cutting thinner brownies, fudge, and bars. Cuts perfectly square cornbread. The possibilities are endless. Maybe someday I can see how my good friend, the pizza slicer, compares to Shun knives *wink wink*!ReplyDelete
We use our wok for pretty much everything but stir fry. Its great for reductions, evenly browning meat, stewing tomatoes, etc.ReplyDelete
For years I fought using my KitchenAid to make cooky dough, but time has shown me the error of my ways - I cannot imagine NOT using the paddle attachment for this purpose.ReplyDelete
Just finished "Off the Menu" and eagerly await your next...and truer words were never spoken than the items #1 and #2 that led off this blog entry.
My husband says our Kitchen Aid - which we now use for everything from cake batter to charcuterie (with a good clean in between). I think it is my Pampered Chef chopper (the only PC item I own). I thought it wouldn't last long but I use it for chopping EVERYTHING and it makes a super quick job of chopping anything!!ReplyDelete
They're not really typical kitchen equipment but I use Ball jars for everything! Of course there are pickles, jams, and veggies, but also drinks (you can even do cocktails before a party and put the lids on and drinks are ready to go!), salad dressing shakers, individual pudding dishes, leftovers, and flower vases.ReplyDelete
I use my pizza cutter for so much more than pizza! It cuts so much more smoothly than a knife in so many situations...maybe that means I have really crappy knives????ReplyDelete
Egg slicer is great for mushrooms, strawberries, etc!ReplyDelete
I use my small OXO ice cream scoop for tons of uses - to make small meatballs, scoop for cookie dough, scoop for pancake batter to make mini-pancakes, and to scoop pate a choux batter for profiteroles. Thanks! Pippa GriffinReplyDelete
Cuisine art for making pie crystal.ReplyDelete
This is getting a little high-end, but I use my Vitamix daily. My record is 4 times in one day: humus, walnut butter, morning smoothie, and soup. It was worth every penny. I've only had it a year, but I have the goal to require a replacement under warranty. We'll see.ReplyDelete
Cast iron griddle pan is not only awesome for anything on the griddle...but also great for chocolate covered treats (I freeze the griddle in advance and then plop chocolate covered whatever on top...almost an instant freeze....). Although why I feel it is helpful to have them freeze quickly I'm not really sure, now that I think of it.... :)ReplyDelete
My grandmother's old tablespoon and teaspoon. They are made of heavy metal and make perfect scoops of anything your heart desires. My favorite so far - mini icecream balls. Scoop different flavors of icecream into little balls. Lay on a plate put back in freezer for a little bit. Roll in Oreo cookies or nuts or frostingReplyDelete
I love my kitchen knives -- but absolutely love my chef knife the best. In fact, I cut up some sausage for a picnic and one of my friends asked me if I had a "special sausage slicer" because the slices were so thin!! Yeah, I'm THAT specialized!!ReplyDelete
I LOVE my Shun knives. I have a few, including the 8" Santoku and the Bird's Beak paring knife. How did I function without them? But my favorite item that I'm surprised how much I use is my egg slicer--I slice hard boiled eggs, boiled potatoes (for potato salad), strawberries, kiwi...a seemingly one use tool becomes a wonderful multitasker!ReplyDelete
Do you mean aside from using a soup spoon as a pop-top can-opener to spare my nails or a cheese grater to make homemade soap? :)ReplyDelete
I how about a small ice cream scoop to scoop out cookie dough for even cookies, or to make melon balls?
my cast iron dutch oven... I have found myself using it more for baking breads that stews and roasts. It is AMAZING!ReplyDelete
My vitamin is the bomb of blenders. Worth the price.ReplyDelete
I love my Tovolo king cube tray. Its great for making homeade hot cocoa, freezing broth, saving fresh herbs....basically anything I want in an individual portion size.ReplyDelete
I use the turkey fryer to can vegetables and make jams, jellies, preserves, etc. We've never actually fried a turkey though.ReplyDelete
Thanks, to Pinterest, I learned that you can use cake stands, you can use them in a bathroom to set all your toiletries in a presentable way.ReplyDelete
I use a pastry cutter to make my guacamole come out the perfect consistency.ReplyDelete
My one kitchen tool that I use all the time - a boiled-egg slicer from the dollar store. The type that has a plastic base, hinged to a wire frame with thin wires running the length? I use it slice mushrooms, kiwis, strawberries, avocado... any soft fruit or veggie. One fell swoop, and done! Easily replaceable, easy to clean, cheap, and doesn't take up much space.ReplyDelete
Squee indeed! I adore my Ken Onion Shun knife. Of all things, I find myself reaching for my silicone poached egg cup and using it as a "gripper" to open stubborn jars.ReplyDelete
I don't cook much, so I don't really know of any appliances that have a double duty. I would like to win these knives though because I only own two steak knives. I do not own a good chef's knife for chopping things. It really frustrates my girlfriend when she visits me and cooks for me and can't chop anything.ReplyDelete
I have a very small kitchen with no dishwasher and hardly any storage, so I admit I use my microwave as storage when I'm not using it to reheat something.ReplyDelete
A lot of my pots, Tupperware and spoons have turned into toys for my son. I bought him a toy kitchen for his birthday, and he often swipes my kitchen stuff to use in his!ReplyDelete
I have one large metal pot that I use for everything. It is great to make corn in or even stews and soups. It's not expensive and I've had it for 38 years, but I love it.ReplyDelete
I don't have a meet mallet, so I use my frying pan to pound out chicken cutlets.ReplyDelete
I use a pizza cutter for smoothly trimming excess fondant from around wedding cakes. So smooth! So easy!ReplyDelete
ive been known to use a dough cutter to do multiple tasks; cutting brownies/ pastries, cutting peppers, onions mushrooms, coring pineapple, as a base to make buttercream flowers, as well as cut pieces for sugar displaysReplyDelete
My microwave is by far the "utensil" I use the most in my kitchen. It heats, it thaws and, when my 7 year old made her own "Easy Mac"...without water (of course she remembered the cheese, before it was cooked)...it turned into a bit a chimney. Despite thorough cleaning, it continues has now also become more of a re-odorizer (rather than a deodorizer) each time we use it.ReplyDelete
Otherwise, I agree with many. I love my pizza cutter! It definitely is very useful at cutting much more than pizza.
I now use my fancy blender to make the best macaroni and cheese. I love my blender for making blendy-things, but it sure surprised me to learn I could make amazing macaroni and cheese!ReplyDelete
I know now, that I wish I had more of my mother's kitchen gadgets. Mainly, her miracle maid slicer, aka a mandoline. They were all metal, and you slid it up or down for thinner/thicker slices. Mom also had at least two dial-o-matic slicers, which I think may have been Ronco products. To get a decent one these days requires having an armored car full of cash, or settling for a piece o'crap.ReplyDelete
The other thing I never thought I'd miss was her old grinder. They were used for making everything from sausage, to homestyle cranberry sauce. I think they were called food mills also, and were heavy cast metal that clamped to a table and you put bowl (or cookie sheet during canning season) under and cranked for all you were worth. You have to have 4 or 5 tools to replace all they did, and nothing is as easy to tear down and clean like those were. If you can afford Kitchen Aid, you can get attachment to do grinding like that, but price is out of this world. Oh, and they made the best "ham" salad out of baloney and pickles! Ah, the good old, bad old days.
Sometimes, we should remember, the simplest solution was often the best. If it "ain't" broke, don't fix it. Today's versions just can't compare!
My age, younger than you would think - 51, not 101!!