Misen Chef’s Knife – one of my new favorite things.

Incredible Knives
Honest Price

That is what Misen says about itself and at this point I do believe it.

I have been a fan of Misen since I first saw them and so I subscribed to their email. A few weeks ago I received an email about a discount and some really decent shipping costs. I loved the idea that Misen was trying to make a knife that normal people could afford, but could be appreciated by people that really wanted a good knife. Is it possible to make a really good knife without it breaking the bank? Yes, yes indeed.

D&D_1836I have to say that when I took this knife out of the box it was so comfortable and balanced that I was astonished. Granted it came sharp as hell, but it just felt right. If that makes any sort of sense. I have rather small hands, but I handed it to the MotH and he understood that there was a balance to it. I think that tells you a lot about the construction of this knife.

I know it sounds dorky, but it made me really happy – yes, really happy. I have kind of stopped doing Thing of the Month and just turned it into Favorite Kitchen Things and this fits that bill, um, perfectly.

Get it Right – my favorite kitchen company.

Several years ago I saw a New York Times posting on great kitchen things to give for Christmas. The one that caught my eye was Get it Right spatulas. I had pretty much your every day crappy spatulas at the time – you know – too big, stained easily, couldn’t put in the dishwasher because of wood handles, etc. and so these were really intriguing. They were pharma grade silicon, all one piece (no wood handles), in pretty colors and I had finally found an ultimate spatula that fit my small hands.* So I ordered a couple. And then a couple more. And then a few more. Shipping was free if you spent a minimal amount – no brainer. I really do need to get the bacon spatula if no other reason than just to say I have a bacon-colored spatula. Someone has a sense of humor and I appreciate it.

When I am in a baking mood, I can really go through spatulas and the GIR spatulas were dish washer safe – hell – they were safe up to 464 degrees F. I bought colors to go with my kitchen and then with my mood – first it was lemon yellow, and lime green, and orange – all my favorite colors and my favorite citrus. Then when winter turned bleak I ordered grey and black. Finally when spring started to come around again, a robin’s egg blue.

Well, this past year Get it Right had a kickstarter for there newest venture – a ladle and a spoonula – a cross between spoon and spatula – so I signed up. I have never been disappointed in anything from them and once again, I went the citrus route – orange and green. This was my Christmas present to me. And I know I made a good deal of it and I do love supporting a company that I feel like I’ve been with from the beginning. To be a bit of a dorky food geek – this is my football team. dd_1743

The coolest thing is that I have recently seen America’s Test Kitchen endorse them and use their spatulas in there show – how about that.  Get It Right has lots of other things too, but these are just my favorites. Please check them out – you will be really happy you did.

*This was important for me. I really have small hands and some spatulas are just too difficult to work with.

Shortbread

Shortbread is an odd little cookie if you ask me. It is not sweet, much, and can be a bit difficult to work with, but I am a fan. Although it is not the first thing I would go for in the baking/cookie department. I think is pretty much amazing with tea though, I guess that is because it is a Scottish biscuit in origin. And I have to say, I do sort of mess with the general idea of shortbread – see: vanilla and sanding sugar.dd_1583

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted*
1/2 -3/4 tsp vanilla (optional, well, not really)
Sanding sugar (optional, nope, not really)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until slightly lighter in color and smooth. Sift confectioners’ sugar and salt over a piece of waxed paper. Beat with butter until light, fluffy, and smooth. Add a bit of vanilla if preferred.

Sift flour over waxed paper. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Scrape soft dough onto plastic wrap. Cover with more plastic wrap and pat until a bit thin. Rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour – it needs to be firm to the touch.**

Using flour, roll out shortbread dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters (my mom’s) or a biscuit cutter and put the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool the cookies in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sanding sugar or whatever sugar you feel inclined to use.

Bake until the tops are golden, about 12-14 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

* confectioners’ sugar always needs to be sifted. It is just a given.

** I chilled overnight because I am kind of lazy that way. Well, not really. Here’s the deal – I make a dough one night and bake it later, usually the next day. It works because I can do each step – make and then bake the next day – because during the week my baking occurs after work. I also justify this by the fact that I have read that cookie dough gets better with a bit of time in the fridge. Sure – that works for me – after all I’m making cookies during the week, not just on the weekend.

I have had this recipe in my cookie binder, yes, I have that, for a long time and I think trying to find the source of this recipe when the title is only “shortbread” is nigh on impossible. So I won’t but will thank the gods that be for a pretty good recipe that I messed with just enough to make be really happy.

 

Cookie Cutters

I do not have a lot of things from my mother, but these she gave me these cookie cutters years ago. I do remember them from when I was a kid. They are cookie cutters in the shapes of suits of cards – heart, diamond, club, and my favorite, a spade.

My aunt was just two years older than my mother and the third to the last girl born – there were eleven children in the family – my mom was the last single girl born at my grandmother’s age of 41 – yes, that wasn’t really a sentence in the proper sense of things. So, my aunt was born when my grandmother was 39 and we won’t even mention the twins that were born after my mom when my grandmother was 44.  I just do not understand being married at 16 and having kids into your 40s. That was a very different time – I get it, but that just seems wrong.

Either way, my aunt and my mother would love to play cards – gin rummy. My aunt would come down from North Carolina and there were cards or scrabble every night at the kitchen table in our little house. They tried to include me, but I just do not have the brains for cards. I wish I did, but …. I did love to sit there and listen to the two sisters talking.  They were so much alike, but I am so glad that my mother left North Carolina. It made our lives so much easier growing up in Florida away from such a rural situation in North Carolina. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy visiting North Carolina. I did, especially when we would bring home a full cooler of Revels BBQ – the stuff that heaven is made of. No, I am not exaggerating.

As we enter the beginning of sugar cookie season –  yes, it is a real season in my mind anyway, I thought I would share my cookie cutters. I have no idea how old these are, but they have been in my life as long as I can recall – that means they must be pushing an age I would rather not say.  I have other cookie cutters that I have purchased, but these are a sentimental favorite of mine. They remind me of my mom and my aunt and gin rummy and my inability to play cards.

dd_1560

 

 

 

Magnum Pepper Mill

This is my Thing of the Month (which month, honestly, I have lost track. I may just have to stop naming these posts that way) – the Magnum Pepper Mill from Unicorn Mills.
This is another product that was recommended by Cook’s Country and it does not disappoint. It is simple and easy to work with, and at only $45 it is a great value for something you use multiple times every day. And I do use it multiple times a day.
The grinder is fast, and though a large size – the grinder is 9 inches tall – it is not too big for my rather small hands.D&D_1525

The large storage capacity for my Tellicherry Peppercorns is easy to refill – way easier than the one I was using, that is for certain.
Another thing I love about this pepper grinder is that it is made in the USA – on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts and the company has been in business since 1986.
Looking at the site makes me really want a travel-sized grinder to carry with me. Yep, I am that dork. But it really does not bother me. Much.

I am thinking of getting a salt mill but that opens an entirely different train of thought – salt – and my slight obsession with salt. Lord, if I went on with all the salts I have – once again, a dork.

 

Mac n Cheese – the best ever

This is another no recipe thing – but in the tradition of Michael Ruhlman – it is a ratio –
though I am not good at math. There it is. My mom made the best mac n cheese ever. We never had anything out of a Kraft box (ugh — so gross). I do think I picked this up my osmosis (cannot believed I spelled that correctly on the first go – woo hoo!). I really don’t remember paying that much attention to how my mom made it, but I knew how to do this by instinct  – again, in my head it was osmosis.

So this is a total ratio thing, but to me the easiest way to tell someone how to make it is to show them how to make it. It can be a little vague otherwise. This was the subject of one of the early Wednesday Cooking School nights for the Boy. It is one of his favorite things, not surprising, since it also one of my favorite things. It is also vegetarian, which means I had it in the freezer while waiting for him to be born and I remember distinctly that I had some the night I came home from the hospital with him.D&D_1397

I have this lovely ceramic dish from Portugal (I did not go there to get it, but did buy it from a store in Durham, NC) and it is a pretty dish and I bought two because of that. But here is where the ratios come into play. No matter what dish you have, to make mac n cheese for whatever sized dish you have measure out dry pasta* in the dish to about the half way full. Once you cook the pasta, then it will fill the dish — see, a ratio – who knew from math? But I knew that before Ruhlman (still love you guy).

Now here is the next ratio – fat to flour – also knew this before Ruhlman. I always prefer to have more cheese sauce than I need, so for my pan (need to measure and figure out how big that dang this is). I start with 4 Tbs of unsalted butter, which I melt over low heat and then add basically the same amount of all-purpose flour and a bit of salt and pepper. Then cook the flour for a minute or two, stirring the whole time. It  would be a good thing if you had taken your whole milk out prior to starting this and I probably should have said that before now. But as long as you add the milk a little at a time, it will be okay. Some people warm the milk in a sauce pan, but my mom never did, so I don’t either.

Here’s the thing – when you first start adding the milk it will look like a clumpy mess with the butter mixture. You really are making a light roux and then you are going on to make a bechamel sauce sort of. Anyway. Use that whisk to eliminate lumps, but pretty soon you need to switch to a good spatula (Get it Right spatulassee this link, and this one, then there is this one, and .. well you get it.)  because you don’t want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the sauce pan – that would be a disaster (i.e. start over – no other choice, nope none).

So again, this is where it is where it is so much easier to show than explain, but the ratio, is about the same amount of cups of milk as butter – in this case 3 1/2 to four, but add a bit at a time. Let simmer over low heat and let thicken over time.

Then the cheese comes into play. In my case, always extra sharp cheddar, white or yellow, your choice, but once the bechamel thickens it is time to take it off the heat and add the grated cheese, setting aside a bit to put on the top. Add the cooked pasta (you did that already, right? Dumped the pasta you measured in the pan into a nicely salted pot of boiling water and cooked until al dente) to the sauce and tip into the baking dish, top with a little extra shredded cheese and cover with foil. But in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 – 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

You need to let it cool a bit before diving in, but that is a necessary thing.

So to you from me – My Mom’s not-recipe for the best homemade mac n cheese.

*I typically use penne or rotini, but elbow is good too. Some pasta that will hold the cheesy goodness of the sauce.

Thing of the Year 2015 – Get it Right spatula

I have suffered through many a bad spatula (haven’t we all?) in my time in the kitchen. But never again! At the end of 2014 the New York Times had a gift guide for Food. In which they had some strange things on their list  – Macaron purse?, Whisk necklace?, although a baking steel which I already have – is totally practical for pizza. So as I am checking out the list I found the holy-friggin’- grail of spatulas. No, I am not kidding. I may be the biggest Get it Right fan, um, ever. I purchased my first spatula in December of 2014 –  yellow – one of my favorite colors, and have added to the collection all of 2015. And as I add them, I get rid 0f all the inferior spatulas that I have – there were many. Sad, but true.

D&D_1118.jpg

Best Spatulas EVER – Get it Right

It is kind of amazing when you do not realize that you are dealing with an inferior product until you get one that is damn-near perfect. Yes, I spend $15 for a spatula, but the first one (yellow) convinced me, and these spatulas are awesome! And there is no shipping — if you spend more than $10.00 –  that’s a deal!

Let me expand on the concept. These are pharmaceutical grade silicone (“Because we love you.” love it!) unibody food-safe silicone, dishwasher-safe spatulas. They are BPA free (I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing – right?), and heat proof to 464 degrees (wish I knew how to make the cute little degree symbol). And to me, the “ultimate size” fits my kind-of small hands. They really just work for me on all sorts of levels.

So at first I just added to the “lemon” one with “lime” and “orange” and then it got colder and I went “black.” Then this winter wasn’t (to start with) too horrible, but rainy, so I added “grey” and a hopeful “teal blue.”  I really need a red one and I would love if there was a Navy blue one (anyone listening??). We will not talk about the “bacon” ones. Who was smoking something that night? Just asking.

I love that there is so much science in the way these are made and you can read more (and probably understand more than I do) at the Geek Out page. Pretty cool, even if I don’t quite get it. All I know is I love these spatulas – that seems like hyperbole, but I do not say this lightly. They are now a fixture in my kitchen. I hope to encourage others to give them a try. They are so totally worth it.

Get it Right – can I come and hang out with you guys? (I know no science, but do love excellent design). I have ideas. Or maybe we can have beer or two. Just a thought.