Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Poverty Kitchen: What do you really need and what can you do without?

I have been meaning to write a post about equipment for some time. As I walked through several of Paris' well known cooking stores, I realized it was a must-write post.

I love going into these shops. Home cooks and professional chefs everywhere know all the names, of course. The mecca of all of these shops is probably E.Dehillerin's. Reportedly Julia Child's favourite shop in Paris, E.Dehillerin's was founded in 1820 and it is the amateur and professional cooks nirvana! Particularly if you are a copper cookware aficionado, this is the place to come. It is a great store! One of those old Paris shops that has not changed much since 1820. The same wood fixtures, the same old staircases and the same dank cellar full of even more cookware! In the basement you will find the industrial sized merchandise, for making soups and stews for a hundred or more servings. The heavy duty cast iron skillets and industrial sized potato ricers take up quite a space. Upstairs you will find bins of various sized knives, oyster shuckers, lemon zesters, rolling pins, cake pans, terrine moulds, garlic presses, ramekins, madeleine pans and on and on and on!  Whatever pot, pan or kitchen gadget you can imagine, they have it.

Yet, all those beautiful copper pots and gizmos aside, each time you have to ask yourself, "What do I really need? And what can I do without?" After all, what have most people in France done with and what have they done without, still producing the great food that they do? After my various trips into endless Parisian kitchen shops, I offer my quintessential list of must-haves for your cooking needs. If you think the list is too brief, then this will come as a challenge to your culinary skills!

                                             One Chef's knife
                                             1 serrated knife (like a steak knife)
                                             Forks, spoons from your flat wear set
                                             One potato peeler
                                             Set of measuring spoons
                                             Set of measuring cups
                                             2-3 rubber ringed canning jars with latch closure
                                             One couscoussier (serves as a steamer, pasta maker and general all  purpose stew pot) They are great!
                                             One 18inch sauté pan with lid
                                             One 10 inch fry pan with lid
                                             One (or ok 2!) terra cotta baking dishes                                                                                          
                                            One cake pan
                                            One terrine mould (ideally in terra cotta)

That is pretty much it folks! Spartan you say?  Really? What else do you really need? If you are thinking, "What about my Thanksgiving Day turkey? Where is the pan for that?" Well, depending on the size of your baking dishes, you may be able to prepare that in one of those. "What about my cookies?" Well, I have personally used terra cotta bake ware for making cookies and they come out great! "What about my soups? " Well your all purpose couscoussier or stew pot of course! And what about that lemon zester you so desperately need? Why, your serrated knife  or potato peeler will do the job just fine! And food processor?  Use the old fashioned ones. They're called "knives".

I would love to have more gadgets for the kitchen! I truly would! But space and money are limited so I do as the French have done and still do! I make do and keep cooking!

Bon Appetit!


PS. Looking for a couscoussier and can't find one? Contact me!

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