I cannot believe I forgot last week to talk about my beloved cast iron skillets. I use them often for searing steaks, browning chicken to finish in the oven and for making legendary cornbread.
Randy got me started using cast iron years ago. My mom never used them, so I wasn’t used to how to care for them. It’s really quite simple. If you’re lucky enough to inherit one from someone, guard it. There’s nothing like a really well-seasoned cast iron skillet. We have all sorts of sizes of them, ranging from small enough to just fry an egg or two to large enough to make gumbo for a crowd.
You can purchase them almost anywhere: Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath and Beyond, Amazon and even the hardware store. The price tag won’t set you back much – on Amazon, a 10-inch skillet is just over $13.
Knives are one of your most important tools in the kitchen. You don’t need a big, fancy set, though. You need a good chef knife, which ranges in price from $10 to prices that will make your eyes bulge out of your head. Purchase the best you can afford, and take good care of it. You’ll need a serrated knife to cut tomatoes and bread, and a good paring knife.
With these three knives, you can do pretty much anything a home cook needs to do in the kitchen. I have a super-fancy custom-handmade knife called an Aura One, which can be purchased online at aurachef.com. Mine was a gift, and it’s about the only thing in my kitchen I don’t care for others to handle. It has a carbon blade that’s extremely sharp, it’s made from California redwood, and it has pink turquoise at the end of the handle. It’s literally a piece of artwork and chops like a dream.
You’ve already read about my love for my Vitamix blender, so I won’t bore you with that. But it at least deserves a quick mention, because it’s one of my favorite kitchen appliances.
I’m also a big fan of the 11-cup Cuisinart food processor. My Grandma Marge gave it to us for a wedding gift, and I’ve used it and wiped it down so much the Cuisinart writing is long gone from the front of the machine. Cheaper versions of these exist; however, the Cuisinart ones last years and years. I think my grandma’s lasted for more than 20 years, so think of it as an investment. It’s great for making hummus, chimichurri, grating carrots (with a different attachment), making pie dough and countless other uses. It’s a real workhorse in my kitchen, which is why I keep it in a place it’s easy to access.
My top four favorite kitchen gadgets are my wide Microplane grater, my Chef’n citrus juicer, my OXO wide-handled vegetable grater and my drizzle spoon. I zest a lot, and the traditional Microplanes are narrow, making it easy to nick your finger when you’re zesting. The wider version has a handle and means fewer strokes back and forth, plus it lowers your chances of nicking yourself. Because nobody wants part of your fingernail in their zest. The wide-handled vegetable peeler is amazing if you have lots of potatoes or carrots to peel. The handle is rubber, has grips, fits nicely in your hand and doesn’t slip out. Peeling used to be something I didn’t enjoy, until I found this version of a peeler.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, this recipe is worth purchasing one for – this cornbread was made by an intern for a potluck when I worked at Sullivan Higdon & Sink. I had a bite and needed the recipe. She’d made it in a glass 9-by-13-inch pan, but believe me, it’s much better in cast iron. It’s one of those embarrassingly easy recipes that you want to share but don’t because a 4-year-old could make it. I promise your friends will ask for the recipe, and it’s up to you whether you share or keep this one between us. Oh, and it’s not low-cal, so eat it before you bust out your spring wardrobe.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 8.5-ounce boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 cup cottage cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet. Meanwhile, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and pour it into the cast iron skillet. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with more butter and/or honey.