I thought I had a great kitchen at home.
Then I moved into a professional kitchen, and promptly realized that my home kitchen was crap.
A home kitchen is set up to look nice. A commercial kitchen is set up for efficiency. Efficiency of space, efficiency of equipment, and most of all efficiency of work. And if you’re a form-follows-function type like I am, then the home kitchen’s efforts to look good are dripping with irony: when compared to the elegant, streamlined functionality of a well-designed commercial kitchen, a home kitchen just looks ugly (Sub-Zero-type paneling be damned).
Getting a home kitchen to function exactly like a commercial kitchen takes some serious doing and isn’t worth it for many; however, there are a few quick, cheap things you can do that will make your kitchen a bastion of efficiency for years to come.
1. Get a speed rack. Key items in a commercial kitchen are all based on the 18 x 26-inch dimensions of the sheet pan. Commercial refrigerators and ovens are sized to accommodate the sheet pan, and the link between them is the speed rack, which holds loaded sheet pans in a vertical stack. Having a speed rack in the mix means that you can cook something in the oven, take it to a nearby speed rack to cool, then stick it into a refrigerator afterwards – all without changing the original baking tray and without spreading out all over your precious counter space.
You can replicate this at home – your oven and fridge probably can’t hold a full-sized sheet pan, but they can most likely accommodate a half sheet pan (13 x 18 inches), which the speed racks are designed to hold just as well.
Just do it. A half-height speed rack, which can hold ten full or 20 half-sheet pans, can find a home in most kitchens. It can replace a section of adorable-looking cabinetry that you’ve got near the oven, and will do you a lot more good. When you’re not cooking, the speed rack is a highly efficient and easily reconfigurable shelving system, which you can use to hold utensils for the stovetop, half hotel pans (#4 on this list), and key shelf-stable ingredients like salt and oil. Here’s one.
2. Get a small bain marie and leave it by the stovetop. A bain marie is a metal container with vertical walls, narrower than it is tall. They’re great for holding liquids, but in this case it serves a more essential purpose for the home cook: it hangs onto all of the utensils you’re using to cook securely, without taking a lot of space and without letting the mess from that oil-covered spatula spread all over your kitchen like wet leprosy. This one would do fine.
3. Get rid of single-purpose kitchen gadgets. That the silicone garlic peeler? The tomato knife, with its very fine serration able to gently cut through the ripest tomato without bruising it further? Out. You’d be surprised how much you can get done with a single knife – if you don’t want to gangster out with something from Korin then go with the totally rad and very inexpensive Victorinox chef’s knife. And keep it sharp.
4. Get a bunch of half hotel pans. These are great for holding the food you’ve just cooked on the stovetop, freeing up your favorite pan for its next assignment. They also fit nicely in the fridge and, if you get lids, stack nicely.
5. Store your pot lids vertically and separately from the pots and pans they cover. It seems like a natural choice to store your pots with the lids on them. No. Separate ‘em, and store the lids in something like this. This will make the lids more accessible and will allow you to nest all of your pots, saving a lot of space. Pot lids have an annoying habit of moving around in the cabinet and falling out avalanche-style when you open it. (amazingly, the Internet seems to have zero videos of someone opening up a kitchen cabinet and getting buried under a pile of pot lids – I looked. And looked. But it does happen).
6. Get your serving stuff out of the kitchen. Most of the storage space in a home kitchen centers around presentation items: dishes, glasses, and silverware, and serving bowls take up much of the prime real estate in a home kitchen. This is a lot of space that can’t be used for, you know, the tools that you need to make food. In a commercial kitchen, this stuff is out of the way. The kitchen I use has all the serving stuff is in the basement. At home you don’t want to do that (as the flatware is most likely in frequent use), but give some thought to taking the less-used service items – which are totally useless in the preparation of food – and get them out of the way in favor of the stuff you need to cook.
And boom! You’re on your way to ultimate efficiency in the kitchen. Use the time you save to watch the greatest television show in history.
The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of the Portable Chef: Excerpt from p.384, “‘Dang! Paleo cooking at the Carstensz Pyramid”
The most difficult thing about my speed climb of the 4,884-meter peak Puncak Jaya, the tallest and most technical climb in Indonesia, was not repelling the near-constant sexual advances of climbing partner Rosario Dawson.
Neither was it managing to keep my custom-made climbing tuxedo, made entirely of technical fleece and waterproof soft-shell material and stitched together by the reanimated corpse of Ermenegildo Zegna himself, looking crisp on the ascent. …Read the rest of this article »
Say this about headcheese: it’s the worst-named food of all.
Headcheese needs a new marketing department. Really? We couldn’t come up with a better name than “headcheese?” I did a quick search to see what the French had come up with – surely, they’d come up with something a little more, how you say, sophisticated. Suprisingly, they came up with fromage de tête – literally, “cheese of head.” …Read the rest of this article »
Last night I was on Janette’s Show on SiriusXM. The show’s host, Janette Barber, is an Emmy-winning producer, writer, and stand-up comic. And she is lovely. We covered lots of ground over about 20 minutes and she has a great touch with a radio newbie like me (this was my first time in a recording studio since I was mixing KC and the Sunshine Band instrumentals with Spiderman spoken-word adventure stories at my college radio station).
The best chocolate cake ever was discussed (recipe available here). We also enjoyed Moroccan-style lamb tagine, whose recipe follows.
MOROCCAN-STYLE LAMB TAGINE
5lbs lamb stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped onions
4 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoons salt
Take ingredients and put in a heavy-bottomed pot. The lamb should be covered in liquid; if it isn’t, add some water. Bring to a simmer on the stove and put in a 300-degree oven. Cook for two hours, stirring occasionally.
12 ounces chopped pitted prunes
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Add to pot and cook for 1 hour more, stirring occasionally.
You’d think bacon and chocolate would be the best combo ever.
You’ve got the sweet-and-savory thing going on. And, of course, there’s the matter of the resulting combination BEING MADE ENTIRELY OF BACON AND CHOCOLATE.
Vosges makes a chocolate-bacon bar, and I don’t like it. I wanted to like it; however, it just doesn’t deliver the goods. I always attributed that dislike to the company’s use of milk chocolate over dark (almost never, in my opinion, a good idea). So the idea remained pure: Bacon and chocolate. Chocolate and bacon. The holy two-inity of lusted-after foods in this country.
By happy circumstance last week, I had a strip of awesome pastured bacon left over and a freezer full of flourless chocolate cake squares. So I could put the combo to the test with no excuses for poor choice of chocolate, or ingredient quality in general.
You’d think this would be a synergy-type situation, with each flavor getting on the other’s shoulders for a complementary boost. Instead, it’s like the two flavors are in a Thrilla in Manila-style brawl, beating the hell out of one another only to emerge, forever changed for the worse. The bacony bit tastes not as good as bacon, the chocolatey bit not as good as chocolate.
So stick to this method to make chocolate cake, which is the most addictive thing since… well, something really, really addictive.
Don’t get any porky ideas.
SELL-YOUR-MOM’S-TELEVISION CHOCOLATE CAKE
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1 1/4 lbs dark chocolate (I use the 60% Jacques Torres disks, available at their place in Brooklyn; Valrhona at about 65-70% also works wonderfully and is much easier to find, as is Lindt at 70%).
5 oz. coffee
Melt the chocolate completely in the coffee. Use a covered heavy pot over the lowest possible heat.
1/4 cup sugarBeat together (I use a hand mixer) until eggs are pale yellow and doubled in size.
1 cup heavy cream
Beat until soft peaks form.
With a rubber spatula, fold together the eggs and chocolate. Then fold in the cream until the mixture is a solid color.
Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper and oil or butter it up lightly. Pour the batter into the baking dish and smooth the top flat. Place the baking dish into a larger dish; fill the larger dish with water so it comes up halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove baking dish from larger dish and let cool. Run a knife around the side and invert onto a cutting board. And hello, what have we here?
You’ve been warned. In the headline, no less. If poo and the discussion thereof makes you uncomfortable, please check out a more wholesome blog entry, like this one or this one. Still with me? In that case, great – let’s move on.
About half of my business is making meals for people following the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet’s basic premise is this: don’t eat anything that wasn’t available to your ancestors before the advent of agriculture. Vegetables, meat, nuts, fruit, eggs. The logic goes that the 10,000 years since man first dipped his toe in the non-hunter-gatherery waters of an agricultural society is no time in evolutionary terms, and man’s gut has not figured out how to handle other foods properly in that time. By contrast, man has had millions of years to adapt to eating paleo foods. …Read the rest of this article »
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about beef.
Not the beef you eat (we will get to that, though). The beef you have. …Read the rest of this article »
Truffles may be the most expensive canned thing in the world. …Read the rest of this article »
In the Uri’s Favorite Rap Album Olympics, Raising Hell, Paul’s Boutique, and The Chronic are on the podium in some order.
Which of the three would bring home the gold? …Read the rest of this article »