There are many lists of things you should have in your kitchen on the Internet. This is ours. After cooking many meals and trying out kitchen gadgets, this is our list of things you should have. This isn’t a “you MUST have only these things”, but more of a “here’s where your money goes the furthest”. We’re assuming you have a stove and oven.
Cast iron is awesome. Plain and simple. You can fry, saute and bake all in the same pan. Want to make a top notch steak? Cast iron. Want to fry chicken? Cast iron. Want to bake a cookie cake? Cast iron.
Cast iron, while awesome, does require some special care. Minimize soap usage when washing your skillet. The best way to clean it is to rub salt in the pan while it’s still warm. It’s a natural and safe abrasive that cleans without removing the seasoning of the pan. Eventually, all cast iron must be reseasoned, and it’s not a terribly hard process to go through.
- Preheat your oven to 350.
- Put a spoonful of shortening (Crisco) in the skillet and put it into the oven.
- When the shortening has melted, pull the skillet out of the oven and use a paper towel to rub the shortening on the entire skillet (inside, outside, and handle). This is a bit tricky and may require assistance (one person holding the skillet, the other rubbing in the shortening)
- Put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of your oven and return the skillet to the oven on the top rack, upside down. This way any excess shortening will drip out onto the cookie sheet below.
- Bake the pan at 350 degrees for an hour, and then turn the oven off and let it cool.
Ta-da, brand new skillet.
We had some family in town a few weeks ago and decided to make steak salads for everyone. Simple, easy meal that everyone enjoys. Being from Pittsburgh, there’s one thing that MUST go on a steak salad: french fries. Most people would go to the grocery store, buy a bag of frozen french fries, bake them and serve. They end up being crunchy for 30 seconds and then turn into limp, mushy fries.
I decided to make my own french fries. It’s way easier than you’d think. Here’s how I did it:
- 1 Gallon of peanut oil
- 4 baking/large potatoes
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Cut the potatoes into fries. It’s easier with a mandolin or fry cutter, but you can do it by hand (like I did). I cut the potatoes in half length wise and then cut them into two layers. I then cut them lengthwise into fries. Put the fries into the cold water. This will bring starches in the potatoes to the surface.
After all the potatoes are cut and soaked, drain the water and use a paper towel to dry off any excess water on the outside of the potatoes.
Remember: water + hot oil = BAD.
Fill a dutch oven or electric fryer with the oil and heat the oil to 320 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on top for the cooked fries. Place some of the fries into the oil. You’ll need to do this in batches, being sure to not overcrowd the fries. They need room to move around.
They’ll turn generally stiff and not change in color much. Use a slotted spoon or a mesh spider to pull them out of the fryer and place them onto the cooling rack. Salt the fries. Repeat until all of the fries have been fried once.
They’ll end up looking like this:
As they cool, they’ll soften a bit and if you hold one straight out, it’ll look like this:
Turn the temperature on the oil up to 375. Line a bowl with paper towels. Put the fries back in (in batches) until they turn a nice golden brown. Pull them out and put them in the bowl. Salt the fries. Repeat until all of the fries are done.
They should look like this when done:
There’s no extra spice or coloring on those. That’s purely cooked and salted.
We went and saw Alton Brown tonight in Sewickley as part of his Good Eats 3: The Later Years book tour. He gave a wonderful talk and an incredibly funny Q&A session. Afterwards, he signed everyone’s book and spoke with us briefly. I asked what his favorite restaurant in Marietta, GA is (The Colombian place that burned down, and then Chicken And The Egg) and Abby asked if he would oblige our awkward photo needs.
And he did.
And then he signed our wooden spoon under the condition that it be retired from active duty. Done.
There is no doubt in my mind that should the opportunity arise to see Alton Brown in your town that you take full advantage of it. The ticket prices seemed a bit steep, but were worth every penny.