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.

Bundt Pan problem – redux.

Dear lord, I do understand that I have too many bundt pans, but when you are a real Southern baking woman, can that really be true? Or are you a real baker? In my head, that is a no. Never too many bundt pans and never too many recipes for pound cake either. This is one of my William-Sonoma Gold Touch Pans. They are just too amazing. The bake is great – not too dark and not too light. They say they are non-stick-ish, but I never trust that and spray with baking spray, especially to get in the corners and what nots of these pans.

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All my Williams  Sonoma bundt pans are from Nordic Wear – a made in America company that has been around for ages and a day – since 1946. This one is the heritage bundt pan based on the German design of the kugelhopf. To be honest, this is one of the simplest of the bundt pans that I have, but it is one of my favorites.  It still is rather architectural and looks good with a simple bit of confectioners’ sugar on it.

Hey – look at that – I spelled confectioners’ right the first time – slightly amazing.

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.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting 

So I have been interested in cupcakes and muffins lately, and this was a request – lemon cupcakes. And I also want to use the new cupcake liners that I got from the Amazon. They are really kind of pretty. Not very fall like, but I do like the pink. dd_1645
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 Tbs lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbs canola oil
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in lemon zest.

In a bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, sour cream, lemon juice, oil, and lemon extract. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, folding with a spatula until just combined. Do not over-mix.

Fill muffin cups half full and bake 29 – 31 minutes or until toothpick come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Set on a rack to cool.

Frosting:
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
juice of one lemon and zest that lemon too, if you are going for it. You should
8 ozs powdered sugar, sifted**

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and lemon juice. Once smooth, sift in powdered sugar (sifting keeps the frosting smooth).

I think next time I will leave out the lemon extract from the cupcakes. It just seems to take over. Bugger all. I really think I like lemon extract less as time goes on. No, I know I do.

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.

 

Thermopen

This was a bit of a splurge but it has been so well worth it.  I first saw this instant-read thermometer on America’s Test Kitchen and did not order it at first because the price put me off. I had a little thermometer that I really kind of liked and it worked just fine, but it was a bit pokey in indicating temperature and kind of meh, but it was ATK best buy and I did get along with that for several years.  So when America’s Test Kitchen sent an email that they were giving a discount on their “most trusted” Thermopen, I just had to go for it.

And I am glad I did. I am beyond thrilled with my Thermopen. No kidding. It is great for casseroles and even better for meat temperatures.D&D_0320But it is best for me for pound cakes. I know the skewer thing works, but this makes me feel so much better.

Nothing worse than slicing into a pound cake and finding out it is a bit raw inside. Blech. Yeah really blech.

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.