Sunday, December 19, 2010

All I need For Christmas, I already have

Colander, a place to rest your chicken

I remember reading somewhere that before your children write a list of what they want for Christmas, it's good to have them write a list of what they already have. This hasn't been tried at my house yet, but maybe this is the year. I secretly hope that home, and being loved would top the list and not the Wii.

As I look at a copy of the Sur la Table Holiday Gift Book,( also known as cooks porn) resting next to me, with pages carefully marked to everything I want, I realize it's nothing I really need. So, I put together my own list of what I use to cook both professionally and at home. Just so you know, appreciative family, friends and clients to cook for are at my secret top.

Here is a few of my favorite kitchen things I find impossible to live without. Most items are simple, obtainable and affordable, just what a cook needs and what I remind myself I already have!
good stuff
Sheet pans - 1/2 sheet pans they are called fit home ovens. Restaurant quality available at a supply store.
Instant read thermometer - Never try to guess the internal temp of your chicken! 
Tongs - all sizes from springy heavy duty to light weight small pinchy ones. Can't have enough tongs!
Colander- simple stainless steel with feet for better draining.
Nesting glass bowls - I bought mine at Williams-Sonoma. I'm on my second set, wore the first ones out.
Standing Kitchen Mixer - I have a old white one a Kitchenaid, probably an antique by now.
High quality stainless steel measure cups and spoons - I like my set from Williams-Sonoma.
Glass measure cups - I love the 8 cup from Pampered Chef as well as Pyrex 1 and 2 cup.
Wooden spoons - classic tool, kind on pans and hands.
Neck timer - great for when you have to leave the room with cookies in the oven.
Wire whisks - wood handles are best for leaving it in a cooking sauce to keep from being burned.
Pastry brush - I don't like the plastic or silicon ones, give me a wood handle and traditional bristles.
Pastry bags and tips - I keep several sizes of each for cake decorating to filling deviled eggs.
Scoops - several different sizes, to perfectly portion meatballs, cookies and the like.
Food processor - large capacity is best, simple easy to clean is what your looking for.
Ceramic white platters, plates bowls - all sizes, best for entertaining in any season and for food photos.
Bamboo cutting board - I love how it wears.
Microplane - easy to use grater for fine zest.
Cheese knives - all sizes, essential tools for appetizer serving.
White flour sack towels - (no paper towels) a habit I developed from working in commercial kitchens.
Le Creuset -  51/2 Qt. nothing better for sauces, soup, stews.
8" Chef knife - my two favorites are Wusthof- Classic and a Shun. I had to get the Shun when prepping for a cooking demo for Alton Brown and ended up really liking it.
Le Creuset, birthday gift from my husband

My favorite item is in a class by its self a 13" old Magnalite skillet, well seasoned by daily use. Not sure where you can get a pan like that nowadays, (mine I nicknamed Serious Black) he's ugly but well loved, but has been with me about 30 years. If your reviewing your own needs, or looking for a gift for the cook in your life, I hope this list helps.
Serious Black in action

If I don't get another chance before Christmas, I wish everyone a happy and wonderful holiday season, Chef Renee. 
essential cheese knives make great gifts

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Catering Boat Parade Party

Big surprise, it's record breaking cold back east. If you are from any of the frozen states, you may not want to know that Saturday and Sunday were balmy and beautiful here. Not that it's unusual weather for Orange County, California, but in the middle of December, guests wanted to trade their Christmas sweaters for shorts! Though snow drifts and winter scenes are holiday inspiring, good things can also be said for eighty degree evenings under swaying palms at Boat  Parade Christmas Parties.

Catering a party Saturday and Sunday, was the best way for the host to accommodate their many guests in their home, that's a little tight. I set a cooking station with a butane stove on a stretch of counter space in the kitchen to prepare Black Jack Chicken Quesadillas, (tortillas filled with black beans, pepper jack cheese seasoned chicken) and fresh salsa.

Next to it, a paninni grill worked perfect to make Patty Melt Sliders with sharp cheddar, grilled onions on nicely toasted reversed french rolls. 

The other appetizers were served on the dining table decorated in festive gold and red.
- menu -
black jack chicken quesadillas
patty melt sliders
crab, green chili dip with red tortillla strips
endive leaf with candied pecans, pear and chevre
spicy sausages wrapped with bacon
ginger sesame pork loin platter with chinese noodles
tri-tip steak skewers with chimichuri sauce
twice baked mini potatoes
artichoke cheese cake

Working cooking station for patty melt sliders and black jack quesadillas

patty melt sliders with grilled onions
appetizer buffet in low light
ginger sesame pork loin platter sitting on a bed of Chinese noodles
crab green chili dip with red tortilla strips

My attempt at a boat parade picture in the dark
The hostess made macadamia torte dessert and the host took guests on his colorfully lit boat to parade around the lake.