Kitchen Essentials by Jim
I figured it would make it easier to explain how I cook by putting all my kitchen essentials in one note. I move around and travel alot but have found I always bring a few things with me wherever I go. Here goes:
Cooking without the right tools is like being a caveman. Here is what I pack when I go someplace new (even for just a few weeks):
- Shun Ken Onion 7″ Santoku Knife. This is the katana of kitchen knives. I use it to perform French-quality butchery on American-quality meat (read Anthony Boudain if you don’t get the references).
- All Clad 10″ Non-stick Fry Pan. This one is the best. It lets you saute and pan sear thinner meats and fish without destroying it. Just hide it from the maids because a dishwasher will destroy it.
- Lodge 10″ Cast Iron Skillet. When you need heat, this one is the original. It also makes a great forearm workout. Remember to clean with warm oil and kosher salt (not water as rust does not taste good – thank Alton Brown for the tip)
- Digital Thermometer. I know how to cook my own food to the right temperature but I need to be more careful with guests.
- Digital Timer. This goes hand-in-hand with the thermometer. It is critical when searing ahi tuna (40 seconds is *very* different from 60 seconds in terms of what you get).
- Pyrex 12″ 9″ x 13″ Baking Dish. Non-reactive and great for finishing anything in the oven.
- Good Grips Measuring Cup and Spoons: I like being able to read the cup from above (my bad lower back thanks me).
- Orka Silicone Oven Mitt. These babies go up to 500F. They have saved me several times from bad oil burns.
- Amco Silicone Tongs: Much Better than a flat spatula for controlling meat, fish and veggies. They also don’t scratch.
- Mario Batali Silicone Spatula. Great for scrambling eggs and stirring sauces.
- Laguiole Steak Knives: You see them in all the best restaurants for a reason.
- Combined Bottle Opener / Cork Screw. Nothing ruins a bottle of wine like not being able to open it
I always remember how much I miss this stuff when I cook at a friends. Hint: if you want me to come cook at your place, get this stuff:
- Kosher Salt. Great for cleaning, perfect for seasoning meat. It all comes down to the geometry of the flakes (thanks, again Alton). Morton’s is fine.
- Fleur de sel (Top Grade Sea Salt). The running debate is Guérande vs. Algarve (I have a favorite but do not want to start an international debate ; ) I use this to finish nearly everything that is savory (remember this when Tom Colicchio tells someone they underseasoned something on Top Chef)
- EVOO for Flavoring: Salads or post-cooking. Tuscan Olives are best. My current favorite is Pasolivo.
- EVOO for Cooking: A good Arbequena or Manzanilla will do. We Olive sells by the liter.
- Whole Black Pepper Corns (and a Peugeot grinder). Salt and pepper are still the core of all cooking.
- Balsamic Vinegar of Modena – Great for salads, great for sauces, but crappy for Martinis.
- Fresh Herbs. I miss the herb garden in Thousand Oaks. However, I will often get the mixed fresh herb pack (usuall called Poultry Mix) and keep in the fridge. My second choice is fresh mint.
- Fresh Lemon. Lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon segments… Olive Oils perfect foil — for cooked foods.
- Ancho chile powder. I use this a lot. It is a great touch up that is not too spicy.
- Pimenton De La Vera. Spanish Paprika. Rich, smokey, sweet. It makes a great paste (with olive oil and garlic for a rib eye).
- Garlic. How do you cook without garlic?
- Panko. Another great thing from Japan. Essentially crustless bread crumbs.