Friday, March 17, 2006

Favorite Wooden Kitchen Toys

It's been way too long since I last wrote about some of my favorite kitchen toys...and really, I use them every day - the unsung heros that help me be creative. So Today I thought I'd talk about some of the wooden toys I have on hand.

No, although I did say "Toys", these are not Pick-Up-Sticks, although I have thought about using them that way when my niece comes over and we've run out of things to do. They are my trusty bamboo skewers, bought primarily for kebabs (you need to soak them for 30 minutes before using) on the BBQ. But I do have a few other great uses for them:

1. When stuffing a turkey, chicken or veal brisket, I use the skewers to "sew" up the pocket. Just snip off the extra part that sticks out. It's so much easier than really sewing it up the way my grandmother did with a darning needle and kitchen twine.

2. When making a multiple layer cake, I use the skewers to hold all the layers together (the frosting between the layers really does make the whole thing precarious especially if you're transporting it somewhere else. I usually put 3-4 skewers in the cake once it's completely iced and let it set in the fridge. Naturally, I remove the skewers before serving and smooth over the holes. (It also keeps the wrap away from the cake.)

3. When I'm out of wooden toothpicks, I've been known to use these to test the readiness of cakes. If it comes out dry, when poked in the middle of the cake, it's done.

Next up is my handy juicer. I use this almost everyday. Yes, I do have an electric juicer for when I'm making something that requires the juice of many lemons, limes or oranges, but most of the time I just need the juice of one or two fruits for any given dish....most often lemons and limes for marinades or salad dressings. It's quick, terribly efficient and a quick rinse is all that's needed - no umpteen parts to clean, no mess...I love it.

Wooden spoons are a must. I do have tephlon spatulas, and they come out almost as often. But there's something wonderful about the feel of a wooden spoon in my hand. It reminds me of my grandmother and her letting me taste some delicacy to decide if it had enough salt or whatever. I keep some for savory and some for sweet as they do have a tendency to absorb some of whatever they are stirring.

And finally...what the heck is that you say??? Well for those of you who can't guess from this shot, it's a meat tenderizer. I don't really use it for that purpose, although I'm sure when I bought it a gazillion years ago, I did. These days, I don't use it all that often except for these two things:

1. To flatten and even out boneless chicken breasts so they'll cook evenly rather than be raw in the middle and dried out at the thin end. Just put the breast between two pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and starting at the middle, press the breast or cutlet until it's pretty much even all over.

2. This one may sound silly, but it works so much better than my mortar and pestle or electric grinder. When I want to crack pepper corns or mustard seeds and I don't want them flying all over the kitchen, I put them in a small zip lock baggie, seal it and then hammer away with the flat side of the tenderiser. It's takes no time, you can see just how cracked the corns or seeds are, so you have more control over the end result. And best of all - no little peppercorns all over the place.

I'd love to hear what some of your favorite kitchen toys are and if you have any other uses for the ones I've mentioned here.

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Anne Coleman said...

YES! My favorites are my "wooden toys" as well. I can't seem to find (nor would I really want to!) a good alternative to wood that I really enjoy.

Joe said...

I keep saying I need to get one of them handy wooden juicers!