Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All I Want for Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth Sinking into a Mouthful of Homemade Pasta

I think that there are a lot of reasons why people, myself included, like to cook. There are dark, deeply-psychological reasons like a desire to control one's environment, or gain acceptance from other people by serving them. And there are shiny happy people reasons too. Cooking is adventure. It's trying new things without ever leaving the house. And cooking is play. Some of the best dishes and best food experiments come out of the sense of play. All the more so when playing with new toys. So, here is my list of food-related toys (and cookbooks), for people who are looking for stuff to buy their beloved foodie friends and family members for the holidays. Incidentally, they are also things that I don't currently own and would like to. So, you can connect the dots on that one, I'm sure.

Gadgets and Equipment

1) Mundial 10 Inch Chef's Knife - $20.40: This knife was described in Bon Appetit's September 2009 issue as "The Best $20 Chef's Knife." Normally, I say you get what you pay for when buying cutlery. But, I trust Bon Appetit. Those people make my life better everyday. I prefer the red handle, but that's just cause it matches a lot of other red kitchen items that I have. They also have an 8 inch version that is available, but I like the 10 inch for dealing with bigger cuts of meat.

2) 6 Inch Cast Iron Skillet - $9.99: If this isn't the most adorable little piece of cast iron that you've ever seen, then I just don't know what is. First of all, using a cast iron skillet will make you wonder what the hell you were doing before you got one. They last forever, they aren't expensive, and if seasoned properly, they are more-or-less nonstick. Not to mention that you can bake with them, which just makes them all the more versatile. I already have a normal 12 inch one that I use for most of my everyday cooking and a giant one that I use if I'm cooking for company. This little guy is great for anything from eggs to sauce. This thing is pretty cool too, it's a cast iron grill skillet, so indoor grilling.

3) Le Creuset 5½-qt. Round French Oven - $229.99 : Those of us whose inner child still has the power to dominate our sense of humor may have a hard time telling the Macy's sales clerk that they are looking for a dutch oven, without giggling. Be that as it may, there is simply no substitute. This is one of those kitchen things that will last forever and be used for a near infinite number of recipes and techniques. The dutch oven, the gift that keeps on giving.

4) Sassafras 15 inch Round Pizza Stone with Rack - $11.69: I borrowed my neighbor's pizza stone for last weekend's experiment. Now I'm hooked and I want more. Besides, it is surprisingly hard to find good pizza nowadays. Might as well just make it myself.

5) VillaWare V177 Al Dente Hand Crank Pasta Maker Machine - $29.95: Look, you can have your stale year old pasta from the box, or you can make it on Sunday while you're stewing your spaghetti sauce. Do you really think you can't taste the difference?

Cookbooks

1) Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking

2) Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery by Jane Grigson

3) Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

4) Momofuku by David Chang

5) Jacques P├ępin's Complete Techniques

6) Cooking by James Peterson

7) What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water by Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg

8) The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg

9) All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking by Molly Stevens

10) The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America

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