What we all need are more kitchen gadgets.
Actually, not really. It’s looking more and more like we’re going to be spending a lot of time at home this winter, and if there’s a chance we’re going to be in lockers (as our friends across the pond charmingly call lockdown), we might as well be cooking up some amazing meals.
So maybe you’re making your wish list, shopping for the food lover in your life or buying yourself a 2020 self-care gift. As a sucker for a good kitchen gadget or tool, I’m here to share a few gift ideas a few that can make wintering at home a little more delicious.
Filed under that thing everybody talks about but I didn’t see the point of … until now. I finally added a sous vide set-up — the Anova Precision Cooker Pro — to my kitchen. After one steak dinner, I already can’t wait to see what else is possible.
So what’s the deal with sous vide? It’s used a lot in restaurants, and in fact, my interest was sparked when I had the most meltingly tender steak at Marrow, a restaurant in Detroit, that was prepared sous vide.
Essentially, it’s a circulating water bath that cooks food in sealed containers at highly precise temperatures. You literally stick what looks like a tech-y wand into a pot of water (or a beer cooler, I kid you not, if it’s a lot of food) and tell it what temperature to bring the water to. There are some benefits to living in such a year as 2020 because you can do this with your phone on the Anova app.
Cooking a steak on a range or grill brings challenges with controlling the temperature, and sous vide eliminates that. You can also hold food to temp without it overcooking, so it’s not just tech for the sake of tech.
Like kids with a new toy, my husband and I went straight to The Country Meat Co. at Logan Street Market, 1001 S. Logan St. in Shelby Park, and got some thick ribeyes to test it out (thick is what you want for sous vide). I picked a simple recipe in the Anova app, one from Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt, and literally tapped a button that said “Cook This Recipe,” which sent the temperature and time setting to the device via bluetooth.
We used a cooler for the water bath for the three steaks and set the wand in it to preheat the water while we vacuum sealed the ribeyes with some fresh rosemary, sliced garlic and shallots. Then we just dropped the steak in the 129-degree water for an hour (and held it a while longer while we made chef Dallas McGarity’s gnocchi from The Fat Lamb) and seared it off in a blazing hot skillet with canola oil and butter.
The finishing touch was a pan sauce made with the juices from the bags. I even took it next level by browning the gnocchi in the sauce.
Consistently cooked to medium-rare all the way through and tender enough to use a butter knife, the steaks were perfection.
With that kind of rave review, it’s no wonder these aren’t cheap. At $399, this is definitely up there with those other kitchen investments like a Kitchen Aid mixer or a Vitamix. But I foresee many a winter weekend, sous vide in action, in my future.
But why stop there? Here are a few more winter kitchen essentials that will help you get through any inevitable lockdowns in the next few months:
Remember when everybody started making sourdough bread? Baking will probably continue to be big this winter. And whether you’re leveling up your pastry game or trying your hand at Neapolitan pizza, you have to be able to measure your ingredients precisely. A digital scale is worth the space in the cupboard and will make the difference between a flop and something you can brag about on Instagram. You can get a good digital scale at almost any big-box retailer. We like the Escali Primo Digital Scale for $30.
I know, I know, this seems frivolous. But you wouldn’t believe how many conversations I’ve had about what a treat it is to have one of these in the kitchen, and ours is used every single day. During post-meal coffees at a dinner party last year (remember those?) a friend raved so much about the difference it makes to have warm, frothed milk in coffee that I had to run out and get her one. (She loved it). We like the Instant Milk Frother for $30.
Look, I don’t know if there’s anyone left who doesn’t have one of these multi-cookers yet, but if so, I’m talking to you. I thought it was a gimmick when I first got one a few years ago, but it’s become maybe the most indispensable tool in my kitchen. Especially this time of year, it’s amazing to be able to go from dried beans to a comforting stew in an hour, but you can also whip up incredible soups, meat dishes and even knock-offs of those Starbucks sous vide egg bites. Instant Pots vary in price depending on the size and model you choose.
Now this may not be solely a kitchen tool, but we keep ours in the kitchen. As hard as our dogs try to keep our floor clean, we invariably make a mess with every meal. Fire up the vacuum robot (we have a Neato) after dinner, and come back to a floor free of crumbs and all the bits and bobs that land on the floor while you’re cooking. Sorry, pups. There are so many models on the market you really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose, but we like the iRobot Roomba i7 for around $600. (This robot vacuum actually empties itself.)