Regardless of the size of your kitchen or your culinary expertise, if you cook, here are ten eclectic items that you must have. They are all relatively inexpensive, easy to find and essential if you want to create great food.
- PAM COOKING SPRAY…total control using a spray can so you use just enough fat/oil when sautéing or searing large items like chicken, steak fish filets or vegetables. It can also be used to create a super nonstick surface when making everything from crab cakes to cupcakes. There are seven different options available depending on how you’re cooking and what flavor you want. And there are usually store brands available at reduced prices.
- PARCHMENT PAPER…terrific pan liner for roasting or baking that makes clean up a cinch. Eliminates scrubbing grease and grime off baking pans. Won’t stick like aluminum foil. Reynolds makes a product that is foil on one side and paper on the other…very versatile. Can be used to line roasting pans, lasagna and brownie pans and sheet pans when baking cookies.
- VEGETABLE PEELER… if you don’t own one of these please leave the kitchen.
- CHEF’S KNIFE 8”-10”… most important tool in any kitchen; you cannot cook properly without one. Please purchase a good one. The best value we’ve found is the Victorinox Forschner Fibrox 8” chef’s knife is used exclusively by “America’s Test Kitchen”, http://www.americastestkitchen.com/. After testing most brands in every price range this is their top choice at ONLY $29.99. Look for it at Target or on the web…we use it at CVK and it’s excellent. Calphalon also makes a very inexpensive but terrific knife that runs about $30 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If you want to make an investment look at Shun, Wusthof or J. A. Henckles at $150-$300.
- ACCUSHARP KNIFE SHARPENER…a dull chef’s knife is useless. This is another tool recommended by “America’s Test Kitchen”…in a test it out performed all the other sharpeners ranging up to $250 in price…$11.99 at your Carmel Valley Ace Hardware Store.
- LODGE 12” CAST IRON SKILLET…The heavy black one exactly like your Mom’s and Grandma’s. It’s inexpensive and indispensible. You can use it to boil, sauté, sear, fry, bake and roast. It’s terrific for making pan sauces and roasting a turkey up to 10 lbs. It withstands the highest oven temperature and it’s a snap to clean. Buy it “seasoned” at Walmart for $18.97 or check out the lodge.comwebsite. Le Creuset, available at most high end purveyors, makes an 11 ¾” cast iron skillet with porcelain coating in a variety of colors at $154.95 on sale. And which is the better value you ask!!!
- DIGITAL READ THERMOMETER…anything you roast or grill, especially beef, pork and poultry will be done to perfection when you use a digital read thermometer. About $10-$25 depending on how many “bells and whistles” you want.
- CANNED OR BOXED LOW SALT CHICKEN BROTH…you can create a myriad of sauces in minutes with a little flour and butter mixture (a roux) and some milk and chicken broth. Simply add a flavoring agent like whole grain mustard, fresh herbs, curry powder, a little cheese or minced shallots or parsley. These sauces are terrific for fish, poultry and vegetable dishes. Any extra can be stored in freezer proof containers for future use.
- U21-25 FROZEN SHRIMP …these can be thawed in a little cold water in minutes and the recipe options, especially the quick ones, are endless. Grilled, scampied, stir fried, cold in salads, great to stuff an avocado or tomato half are only a few. Buy them when they’re on special or at COSTCO where the U15 tiger shrimp are usually about $10/lb during the weekend. They are usually sold split and deveined.
- FROZEN BONED CHICKEN BREASTS…ditto shrimp. Chicken can be curried, divaned, sautéed, fricasseed, stir fried, roasted, tacoed, burritoed, a la kinged, casseroled, parmeseaned, sauced, chiled and you name it. Thaws in about 30 minutes in a water bath and you’re good to go.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees; put 4 oven proof serving dishes on the bottom rack in the oven
½ lb dry spaghetti or linguine
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ lbs defrosted, peeled, deveined, rinsed and dried U21-25 shrimp
3 large garlic cloves minced
1/3 cup coarsely chopped sun dried tomatoes in oil
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup good extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente; drain in a colander. Save the hot cooking liquid.
Put your Lodge fry pan in the oven until it comes up to temperature. Add the shrimp, garlic, sundried tomatoes, butter, olive oil, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Cook for about 5-7 minutes stirring a couple times until the shrimp are almost done (pink to red color).
Place the pasta back in the hot water, drain in the colander again and add to the pan with the shrimp. Toss to combine and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, toss the pasta/shrimp with the Italian parsley and garnish with the basil. Serve in individual dishes. Serves 4.
Make the pasta and do the prep while the shrimp is thawing.
Put the pan in the oven when you turn it on so it comes up to temp with the oven.
Total time from freezer to table about 45 minutes.
Dave Clegg is a self-taught amateur chef and recipe creator who has always been inspired by his mom’s great cooking. He has been cooking for over 40 years and has lived in Carmel Valley with his family since 1985. He created “Carmel Valley Kitchen” as a way to share his passion.
Dave was recently selected as a semifinalist in the “Next Great! News Instructor Cooking Challenge” and his basic cheese cake took third place at the 2011 San Diego County Fair. Dave has a comprehensive knowledge of ingredients, equipment and cooking techniques that he is always happy to share.