Faster in the Kitchen in 2010!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season (and your pants still fit). Despite the efforts of Mother Nature and her nasty Nor’Easter storm that dumped a record 26″ of snow on South Jersey, I did finally make it back to the east coast after 4 days, 8 flight schedule changes, 4 layovers, and 17 hours in transit. 3,160 miles in the air, which amounts to practically 1000 extra air miles traveled. (OH, I checked.)  The point is, I made it there.

And I’m back in Seattle now, just in time for New Year’s. I have to admit that I’m not a NYE nut; I guess it’s nice to celebrate the passing of time. But we all know that it’s really a holiday meant to guilt everyone into making token resolutions about self-improvement. I’d love to know how long the average resolution lasts? 5 weeks? 5 days? 5 minutes??

Anyway, in an effort to avoid being labeled a NYE scrooge, I made my list. And here it is:

 

  1. Read 2 books a month. (cookbooks don’t count.)
  2. Master my new pasta maker.
  3. Run in two more marathons.
  4. Quit dawdling in the kitchen!!

Actually I’m sure I could come up with a much longer and more ambitious list, but that will just have to do to appease all you NYE resolution makers out there. And actually, unless someone uses their resolution power for good and figures out a way to make each day a few hours longer, #4 could be huge. You see, the problem is, time seems to stop when I step into the kitchen. I could spend hours in there and never know it. I’m 100% convinced that slowly stirring a pot of something delicious on the stove slows down the hands of time. It’s how I detox and unwind from a crazy-hectic day.

The problem is, this means I regularly eat dinner at 9:30. And it’s not because I’m making elaborate meals, it’s because I’m a slow poke. SO. You can imagine my delight to find a contest on Michel Ruhlman’s blog for a signed copy of his newest book (co-authored with Thomas Keller) Ad Hoc at Home. Actually it wasn’t the prize that got me going (though who wouldn’t love a copy?), it was the submission requirement: your favorite Kitchen Tip. Ruhlman ended up with over 1000 comments! Now approximately half of them were to save parmesan rinds in the freezer to add to soups and sauces (which if you’re a dedicated Seattle Palate reader you already know!), but there were some gems in the long list. And while I can’t say that I actually each and every one of them, I read an awful lot of them.

In hopes of increasing YOUR kitchen efficiency in twenty-ten, here are my favorites from Ruhlman’s list. You’ll have to check back later this week for part 2 of the list because it was too long to post. If you have a favorite tip that isn’t here, leave it in the comments. Maybe we can come up with another 1000 to add to the list! Enjoy!

  1. Use a box grater to grate frozen butter for biscuits and pastry doughs – much easier and more effective than cutting in the butter. Also works with cold butter when a recipe calls for room temp.
  2. Store your pepper grinder in a ramekin on the counter – loose grinds will be contained instead of all over the counter.
  3. Use your microwave as a bread box. It’s a perfect use of space for those of us in urban environments, and it’ll keep your bread, chips, etc. fresh.
  4. Over salt a sauce or soup? Drop a peeled potato sliced in half in – it will absorb salt.
  5. Cover the stand mixer with a wet towel to catch the flour from flying over the kitchen.
  6. Place damp cloth under cutting board so it doesn’t slip when using.
  7. Use a bundt pan to slice corn off the cob. Use the pan’s hole as a holder for the corn while slicing off the kernels – which fall directly into the bundt pan.
  8. Peel and freeze extra ripe bananas to use later for smoothies or banana bread.
  9. Stick corks under the uninsulated top handles of pots – you’ll be able to grab the hot lids without burning yourself.
  10. For a little extra counter space, open a drawer and lay a cutting board across it.
  11. Ditch the sifter and use a food storage container instead – put all the dry ingredients in, cover tightly with the lid, and shake like mad.
  12. Roll citrus fruits under your hand on the counter top to soften them up for juicing.
  13. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place them a bowl with warm water for about ten minutes.
  14. Trim herbs using kitchen shears directly over a pot or a dish – no messy cutting board to clean up.
  15. After lightly spraying the bottom of a cake pan, spray a large round coffee filter flattened out to line the bottom of a cake pan. Easy clean up and peels right off bottom of cake.
  16. When spraying non-stick spray in a pan, place pan over the open dishwasher door so that mis-sprays land on the inside of the door and are washed away with your next dishwasher cycle.
  17. Toss a pinch of kosher salt on the garlic you’re mincing, it will help break it down faster, especially if you drag the flat of the knife back and forth every few (dozen) chops, and adds traction so it’s easier to chop.
  18. When canning at home with a hot water bath, sanitize and keep the cans hot by putting them through a dishwasher cycle with no soap. This eliminates the step of boiling the cans right before you fill them and keeping them warm. Simply leave them in the dishwasher until your food is ready to be canned, and the cans will be clean and warm, ready to use.
  19. When making gravy, speed up the fat separation step by slipping a few ice cubes into the separator. The melting ice will chill the mix quickly, moving the fat to the top. The floating cubes and the resulting water will stay on top and the good stuff pours out clean.
  20. After boiling pasta or potatoes, cool the water and use it to water your house plants. The water contains nutrients that your plants will love it.

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