Tools of the Trade

The kitchen gadgets these chefs can'tor won'tcook without.


Gadgets? I guess my favorite gadget is my heavy-duty Waring juice extractor; it can juice anything: asparagus, squash, celery root, beets. Gives you just the pure essence of the vegetable. Bring that to a boil, add a little butter, and you have a great sauce. Of course, the machine costs about $2,400 [the compact model costs $199 at]. I [also] love Silpat baking sheets. They cost about $40 for a pan size, but they last a long time. And I don't use them just to bake on, I put them on top of puff-pastry tarts and so on, so they rise evenly instead of sometimes flopping over to one side and looking ugly. ThenI don't know how practical this would be for a home cookI like to wear a carpenter's belt with a hammer-holder [$12] to hang my tongs on when I'm moving from station to station. You don't want some other cook picking up your tongs, do you? And it's kind of a nice macho touch.


Well, I'm not a huge gadget person. My favorite gadgetand I think everyone should have oneis a Japanese mandoline [$49.95]. Not the fancy French one that's really expensive; the plastic Japanese one that you can get at Uwajimaya [600 Fifth Ave. S., 206-624-6248] and Sur La Table [84 Pine St., 206-448-2244]. You know, I use it for everything from slicing potatoes very thin for scalloped potatoes to doing really fine julienne and ribbons of vegetables. I just kind of use it for everything like to put pears and apples in a salad. I like to make a Christmas salad with cranberry vinaigrette and apples and candied walnuts. And so, you know, from that to making fine garnish or homemade French fries. And people buy all those really expensive mandolines, which I don't like. The blade gets dull really quick. I've had mine for years, and it never dies.


I am a low-tech cook, preferring to do most tasks by hand whenever possible. Although I've taken classes and even read the manual, the food processor still intimidates me and largely sits unused! That being said, my favorite piece of kitchen equipment has got to be my trusty, restaurant-grade, spring-loaded tongs [$13.95 at Sur La Table]. I have them in three sizeslong, longer, and longestand use them for everything from turning delicate sea scallops gently searing in a skillet to stirring sauces. They've become like an extension of my hands, and by using them, I often save dirtying up another toolspoon, spatula, knifewhen performing many common kitchen procedures.


At my house, I don't know what they're called, but . . . well, it's a grater. But it's in an oval box, and I like that. It's an oval box and it grates into the box. It has two different tops. I got it for $2.99 at IKEA [600 S.W. 43rd St., Renton, 425-656-2980]. It's a little oval box, and you grate right into the box, and then it stays relatively fresh in there, too. I like it. There's no mess!


Gosh, I like all the little gadgets in the kitchen! You know, we don't have a lot of fancy gadgets here. We do have a shredder that makeslet's say you're doing beets, you can stick them in there and turn a lever, and they come out as really fine shreds, like ribbons. Like spaghetti or ribbons. Now this isn't a fancy kitchen gadget, but I love whisks! [$9.95-$22 at City Kitchens, 1525 Fourth Ave., 206-382-1138.] I just am drawn to whisks. There are many different kinds of whisks, you know. There are ones that are to whisk something up fluffy, and there are other ones you use for different purposes. I like tongs, tooI like firm-grip tongs, not the loose ones. There's nothing like a pair of tongs that has a good spring in it. It's not loose. Nothing's worse than a loose pair of tongs. And you know, I'm a believer in going to secondhand stores, and I've picked up a cherry pitter at a secondhand store. You know, hand crank. And I can get these things for a good deal sometimes. And then I found a can opener at a yard sale, and I brought it in to work. It's just for people who have a lot of cans to open, and it makes it less dangerous, because when you open up the can, the lid comes off, and it's really sharp. And the people who deal with the garbage can cut themselves. So this can opener takes off the edge, so you can't cut yourself on it.


My favorite piece of equipment at home and at work is a food mill [$39.95-$99.95 at City Kitchens]. It's great for mashed potatoes, tomato sauces, and purées of all kinds. Two things make it better than a robot coupe or food processor: First, it does not overwork a starchy vegetable, turning it gluey. Second, it gives a uniform coarseness to a sauce that I like in rustic preparations. Now that you've got me thinking about it, I like my molcajete, too. It's a mortar-and-pestle kind of thing from Mexico. It gives table salsas a texture that you can't get with a blender or food processorrustic, but well blended. And it's calming to stand in one place and grind for a while. It's awful to be in a hurry all the time, isn't it?

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