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All I want for Christmas is…

THIS.

Bosch IXO Vino Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver with Corkscrew Attachment

The Bosch IXO Vino Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver with Corkscrew Attachment. Have you ever lived through the very special Hell of having been stuck house-sitting in the house of talented and prolific winemakers? Talented and prolific winemakers, I should add, whose house has a fully stocked cellar, a hot tub, wraparound views, a fridge specially stocked with treats chosen just for you, and a fireplace?

And, apparently, not. one. freaking. corkscrew.

I tried the shoe-banging method. I tried the push-the-cork-down method. I finally tried the put a long screw in the cork and pull it out with pliers method. But this handly little gadget would have saved me a great deal of stress as well as looking innocuous and coming in handy every time I buy something from Ikea.

The Shoe-Banging Method, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it because you are not French and Desperate:

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Snipping parsley

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What does Christina Hendricks eat? Anything she likes, it seems.

On her divine frame those extra winter pounds find graceful placement.

While winter sinks its chill fangs deep into our bones, a fortunate few may take comfort in knowing they can sink their own teeth into a hearty meal without worrying too much about over-indulging.

In winter it’s more difficult to find fresh vegetables with exciting flavor. More than in the warm months, meat dominates the menu, perhaps more than it should. The menu’s balance shifts towards foods dense in calories and fats.

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It’s a great time for big red wines, a good digestive aid, but the craving for greens remains. Salads are a mainstay, and that’s fine. But what do you do when even the lettuce is boring?

Parsley has intense chlorophyll. It’s a natural cure for bad breath. Even the Henry’s noble hound Pepper loves it. (By the way, it cures bad breath in dogs as well as in people.)
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But when chopping parsley with a knife, sometimes the little leaves lose their appealing shape.

The solution is to use a simple pair of kitchen shears. Wash and dry the parsley well before snipping so the leaves will be crisp enough to cut.

The AGA con

Gong.Li.jpgMr. Henry likes to get the best. Failing to get the best, he prefers to do without. Back in the 1970’s when fine wine was scarce and expensive, for example, he opted for a libation more dependably available and cheaper, namely, whiskey – Maker’s Mark sour mash bourbon, to be precise. (Oh, the corn. He shudders to remember it now.)

Over the weekend in Florida he saw his first AGA cooker. It was beautiful, more beautiful than the Jaguar XK-E, more beautiful than Gong Li.  He rushed up to its enameled cast iron surface and promptly burned his fingers.
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The AGA cooker, you see, always remains hot. You fire it up and leave it on…..forever. It has no knobs or switches. Designed in 1920 by a blind Swedish Nobel-prize winning physicist intent on alleviating household drudgery for his long-suffering wife (you know the type), the AGA is ideal for a farmhouse in Upper Scandihoovia where the heat stays on all summer but awkward, and hugely wasteful, for a southern clime like Florida.

Manufactured in England, today the AGA has become the signature appliance of the British upper-crust über foodie. Each oven remains perpetually at its given temperature – 475˚, 350˚, and 175˚ respectively – with two griddles, one at a constant 800˚, the other at a constant 400˚. To effectively make use of this antique system a cook must learn how to shuffle pots from hot to warm.

If you want to make breakfast muffins, the thing is wonderful. You don’t have to wait for your oven to reach temperature. Bread bakes to perfection. Toast on the griddle is especially delicious.
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The price, however, is gargantuan. The elegant four-oven model costs more than $15,000.

Price notwithstanding, in your covetous heart of hearts don’t you want the best oven money can buy? No. It’s a con. Like designer luggage, the AGA is an indulgence best left unfulfilled.

Four years ago when Mrs. Henry decided to renovate their kitchen she quickly concluded that a Wolf or Viking professional range was simply too big for household needs. Although the Thermidor had its attractions, the Dacor 30” gas range in stainless steel finish won the day. Its cast iron range top is sturdy, handsome, and easy to clean. The convection oven (used principally to brown baked goods) works well to eliminate hot spots. Its most important feature, however, one used almost daily, is the ceramic radiant heat broiler. Fish is cooked perfectly in 10-12 minutes. Asparagus browns in half that time.

A two-oven kitchen, convenient if you routinely serve state dinners at the White House, is for most people a waste of money and space. One oven, one refrigerator, and one LARGE kitchen sink are all any family kitchen needs.

In truth the choice of oven is not all that critical. The cook’s capabilities are more important. If you use an oven thermometer, you may ignore the readings on your oven’s own thermometer, readings which are often misleading because temperature varies from front to back and from side to side within the oven. Moreover, if you cook in an enameled cast iron dutch oven pot, you can achieve the highest quality braised meat dishes in a perfectly ghastly old oven like the one that graced the Henry’s apartment when they bought it, an avocado green contraption they swore would be out on the street in minutes but which gave yeoman service for 20 years.

Stocking stuffers

Mr. Henry wants you to live well. Consequently, when rich, practical-minded, no-nonsense aunts ask you what you need for the home, he encourages you to choose from the list below:

Cuisinart 14-c. Premier Series Custom 14 Food Processor, Brushed Stainless
Cuisinart food processor
. The original.

KitchenAid 2-slice Toaster, Onyx Black
KitchenAid 2-slice toaster
. Simple and foolproof.

Bodum 12-c. Chambord Coffee Press
Bodum French press coffee pot.
The classic.

Cuisinart 14-c. Brew Central Programmable Coffee Maker, Black
Cuisinart drip coffee maker
. For big cup drinkers.

Microplane Grater, Fine, Microplane, Each, Stainless
Microplane spice grater.
Excellent for zesting.

Wusthof 2-pc. Classic Black Cutlery Set
Wusthof knives, 2.
The most basic set.

Aerolatte Milk Frother
Aerolatte milk frother
. Affectionally known around the kitchen as “the zip-zip.”

Palm Brush
The Chef’n palm brush
for scrubbing vegetables. Nifty finger-holding grip.

MinoSharp Knife Sharperner
The MinoSharp knife sharpener
. You won’t cut your fingers.

Zyliss Silicone Fry Spatula
The Zyliss stir fry silicone spatula
. For non-stick pans.

Zyliss Salad Spinner
Zyliss salad spinner
. Achieves escape velocity.

Style ideology

The topic of blenders drew mixed response.

According to Little Henry, weekend couch rat and Food Network devotée, the Australian-made Breville Ikon blender is the Iron Chef “Kitchen Stadium” choice. To clean it, however, demands disassembling the blades from the canister, something Iron Chefs are not required to do.schulze.jpg

Since Mr. Henry does not handle sharp objects early in the morning, he would not use the Breville to mix Dr. Schulze’s “SuperFood” green goo smoothie.

(Before this blender business gets resolved, however, Mrs. Henry may get bored with the suspicious Dr. Schulze and move on to some new herbal quackery that doesn’t require a blender at all.)

Although Cameron asks forgiveness for buying the stand mixer in metallic chrome, Mr. Henry should be the penitent. She hit upon an important omission in his rule of black and white, and by doing so obliges Mr. Henry to issue a new dictum, one that holds equally for furniture and for architecture:

Machines should look like what they are.

By this measure the chrome stand mixer is not only an appropriate choice, it may be the best color choice of all.

Although there was much virtuosity in Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau, both movements in their inception harked back to an earlier era of handmade objects, an imaginary prelapsarian paradise when happy craftsmen took joy in their work. This is faith-based, anti-scientific, Luddite nonsense.

Art Deco design is more satisfying because it celebrates the functional, the scientific, and the industrial. Its focus is forward, embracing the future. A chair supported by metal features metal as its essential design element. It is not hidden by curlicue wicky-wack.

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Style harbors ideology. Faux American colonial furniture holds within its green Carolina hardwood an implicit longing to return to Gilded Age aristocracy, an imaginary gentility based on family, class, and race. The prominent survival of debutante balls reflects the same backwards belief system.

Mr. Henry likes sitting in an honest chair.

As for Funoozer’s suggestion to relegate microwave ovens to the basement, while certainly a suggestion with merit, here in New York City basements are called “garden apartments” and they belong to other people.