As long as you don’t mind being known as Dr. Thrifty, it would behoove you to print Mark Bittman’s column in last week’s New York Times and hand out copies to the grads and newlyweds in your life.
The column, entitled “A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks,” details how to outfit a new kitchen for under $200 by shopping at a restaurant supply store.
I take issue with some of his recommendations; I’ve used the $10 knives he’s talking about, and I think you’d be better off with a $30 Forschner. But I can’t argue with the overall gist. The new issue of Fine Cooking just came, and it has a review of six medium saucepans, none of which is under $100. I have two 3-quart saucepans, one of which cost about $120 and the other $30; neither is really superior to the other, except that the $30 one has a better handle. I do feel loyal to my ten-inch All-Clad saute pan, which has unusually perfect dimensions, at least for my stove.
At the end of the column, Bittman lists ten “inessentials” that he thinks you can live without. I use my microwave every day (mostly for melting butter and defrosting Armour Brown & Serve sausages, an essential if ever there was one) and my stand mixer once a week or so.
Bittman didn’t bother to list “meat grinder” on his list of inessentials. Around here, however, it’s essential and becoming more so.
A couple of weeks ago, Iris and I were at QFC shopping for ingredients for ants on a tree. Iris looked at the ground pork and asked, “Why are there squiggles?” I explained how a meat grinder works. “Hey, would you like to grind some pork at home instead, so you can see how it squiggles out?” She agreed. We bought some country-style ribs instead, brought them home, and hooked up the grinder attachment to the Kitchenaid. I let Iris operate the stomper, which is what you call the wooden dowel that pushes the meat into the worm gear that shuttles it to the blade. Iris was transfixed, and the meat was much better than QFC’s packaged ground pork, which was ground off-site days ago and is too low in fat.
I’m making ants on a tree again tonight. I put the meat in the freezer for twenty minutes (which results in a better grind) and set up the grinder while it was chilling. “If you need Iris, she’s over there playing with the meat grinder,” I told Laurie. Then Iris taught Laurie how to grind meat. If she becomes a butcher, I will officially kvell. Especially if she’s a punk rock butcher.