There are a select few that we still shop for, but for us the holidays are more about cooking, eating, baking, eating, drinking, eating, and seeing our people. For those who are buyers (or askers), here's a little list of things we've bought this year that we wholeheartedly endorse.
Eastman Outdoor Wok $169.99
I have a an enormous aversion to the smell grease in my house. In fact, I can't stand the smell of beef or anything else lingering around long after the meal has been eaten. I cook all of our meat on a Big Green Egg, so that takes care of those smells. That being said, I love fried chicken and hush puppies. I don't have a hood that can pump that stuff outside, so I just decided I wasn't going to deep fry anything.
Until I saw this.
One thing you notice about Hawai'i is that there is a lot of outdoor cooking going on. While we were there last winter, I saw someone using one of these and had to have one. Cooking oil goes from 80 deg. to 350 in no time flat. The counter top fryers get overwhelmed easily and struggle to maintain higher temperatures, but not this. The larger wok allows for less crowding.
There is a big difference between the kind of heat you get from a stovetop wok and the beastly amount of heat generated by this thing. This is stir fry at it's finest. Modernist Cuisine has a great picture of the hot wok in action. The smell stays outside while you enjoy your dinner inside.
Click here to purchase or read more info.
AND EJ-1500 Newton Series 1500g x 0.1g Digital Scale $164.95Of the things we've bought this year, this gets the most use. We've basically taken our recipes and converted them all to grams, if they aren't already. Since we don't have any kids, much of what we cook is scaled down. Metric measurements make it so much easier to scale things in either direction. This particular scale is pretty much instantaneous. There's no fluctuation like we used to get with our old Salter that would jump all over the place. You set something on the scale and within a second it gives a readout on the weight. Being able to scale down a recipe based on weight when you get into small measurement ingredients is where this little number really shines. The only issue is that it only goes up to 1500 grams; so if you zero out a ceramic bowl you may only be able to measure out something that goes up to 700 g. Sure there are scales capable of more capacity, but like most things - it comes at a price. We found this one offered the best value.
Click here to purchase or read more info.
BooksWho doesn't love books at Christmas? I know we do. These are two books you're not likely to find at the local Barnes and Noble, or even at Amazon. We had to get them from The Book Depository in the UK. The Herme book has been especially problematic since it keeps selling out at places like Amazon, Omnivore Books in SF, and Kitchen Arts and Letters in NYC - not to mention the price at TBD is very cheap. While we were a little leery of ordering books from across the pond, the package arrived within a week and a half and they only charged four bucks for shipping!
Bourke Street Bakery I Allam and McGuinness
I thought the Tartine Bakery books were good, but this one is unreal. Until the dollar gets stronger, this is the closest I'm going to get to making my way to their Australian bakery. A cursory look reveals quite a collection of recipes, but more importantly the commentary is very readable and extremely informative. Meat pies anyone? Caveat: All recipes written in metric weights [see above EJ-1500].
Click here to buy from The Book Depository [England]
Macarons I Pieree HermePierre Herme's Macaron has been out for some time - in French. A couple of months ago it was finally published in England. We didn't buy the book so much for its macaron recipe as much as we did the fillings. The range of ganache recipes goes anywhere from vanilla, to basil and lime, to foie gras, to *gulp* ketchup. We have a shell recipe that works for us, so we haven't really messed around with the one in this book. However, once you've settled on a shell technique - it all comes down to fillings, baby!
Click here to purchase from The Book Depository [England]
Pourfect Mixing Bowls $14.99 and up
Kitchen gadgets and holiday gifts go together like peas and carrots. I'm normally more of a traditionalist when it comes to kitchen equipe, but these bowls are great for making additions to a stand mixer. We haven't got the Kitchenaid that lowers up and down, so adding dry ingredients have always been a PITA. Regina's been able to find stray bowls at TJ Maxx Homegoods stores. Keep an eye out.
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Volrath (Wear Ever) Half Sheet, 13 gauge, Aluminum Baking Sheets $13.79These baking sheets were the biggest revelation we had this year. Olivier Dessyn of Mille-feuille turned us onto these when we were in New York for his macaron class. When I asked why our macs were getting slightly toasted on the bottom he had this to say [to the best of my memory]:
"Zee shits zat zay have here in zee US are jhunk! Zay are too seen. You cannot cook good macaron wis zis seen, dark jhunk. Zeez pens I use reflect zee heat so your macaron are more comfortable. Zee pens do not warp (like zee jhunk pens), because zay are very, very sick."
There you have it. The man speaks truths. These are the thickest baking pans I've ever seen. If anything is going to resist warping, it'll be these. The aluminum reflects the heat so that the pan just doesn't seem to get so hot. (I'm sure the thickness also helps with that.) These pans are very stable and do not burn. For the price, we haven't found anything that's even in the same universe as these. Since we got these, we've been "toast" free. The thinner steal pans were our problem.
No rust. No warping. No burning. Good-bye Chicago Metallic. I couldn't find anyone in Cleveland that carried them (Dean Supply and SS Kemp). Wasserstrom in Columbus got them to me in about a week.
Click here to purchase or for more info