Juan’s Spatula

This post is not about a cookbook, but about my favorite silicone spatula.  Well, not really MY spatula — it’s Juan’s spatula.  I don’t know who Juan is and I hope I don’t ever meet him because I’d feel really guilty.  Juan’s spatula is almost identical to one that I owned except that it has Juan’s name written all over the handle in giant letters. 

I was in culinary school and in my final class when my spatula went missing one night.  My initials were on the handle and I almost successfully made it to graduation without missing a vital kitchen tool (I did lose an Ateco pastry tip in an earlier class, but managed to do without it by using other sizes).  So imagine my sadness when I realized that I lost the one tool that I had been using almost every single day!  I think it was the day after my loss that I came across Juan’s spatula — just sitting there on the floor, underneath my station, with no Juan in sight.  None of my classmates were named Juan, so it didn’t belong to any of them.  So I took this spatula and washed and sanitized it and made it mine.  That was five years ago.  To this day, my husband makes me feel bad by saying how poor Juan must be missing his spatula.  So Juan, if you happen to be reading this, I apologize for taking off with your spatula, but hopefully you’ve become a successful chef and don’t even miss it!

By the way, if you’re interested in obtaining a spatula of your own, you may purchase one at:  http://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-Professional-Heat-Resistant-Scraper/dp/B0000CFO2S/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I15VQFSO16TU32&colid=TGTCZ3K9VPCD

I love this spatula so much that I even posted a review on Amazon.com.  I’m the one named “Funfoodie”.

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Published in: on May 31, 2010 at 10:46 pm  Comments (3)  

“The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook” (2005)

This is one of my favorite cookbooks.  It is the book I go to if I’m looking for a basic recipe.  Want to know how to poach eggs?  That’s in here (although I have yet to poach an egg).  Wondering what to do with leftover turkey?  There’s a great recipe in here for “Turkey Noodle Soup” with broth you make from the turkey bones and some meat.  There are a ton of tidbits about the best products to buy and the difference between varieties of cornmeal — after all, it is from America’s Test Kitchen. 

I have the first edition and I remember being very excited about it when I saw it available at Costco.  The first edition is flawed in that the pages are thin and prone to tearing off of the binder.  The second edition has much thicker and seemingly durable pages, but I didn’t see the need to replace my copy yet.  I just tape up the torn holes with reinforcements. 

Almost everything I’ve made out of this one has been really good; the exception was “Collard Greens with Bacon and Onion” in which the greens were too bitter for my taste. 

I recently tried a new recipe from this book called “Cold Sesame Noodles” because I needed a lunch for our trip to the zoo the next day.  I’m blessed enough to live near an Asian supermarket where I was able to easily procure fresh Chinese egg noodles for this.  I added cold, shredded chicken as the recipe suggested and it really did make an excellent picnic food.  This was so much better than what they serve at the zoo.  (Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the actual dish I made, so the photo I’ve posted here is actually from the book itself.)

There are so many great recipes in this cookbook that produce excellent results.  Some are a little time-consuming, but definitely worth it.  A few of my favorites in this cookbook include:  “Beef Burgundy”, “Roast Lemon Chicken” (excellent when you first brine the chicken as suggested),”Roasted Ratatouille”, “Gingerbread [Cake]”, and ” Corn Muffins”.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about these dishes.

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Baking Illustrated” by Cook’s Illustrated (2004)

I’ve made a few recipes out of this book and have yet to be impressed.  A while back, I tried to make a birthday cake for a co-worker and failed miserably.  It was the recipe for “Genoise” (a tender and light cake if done properly).  The recipe’s method of using the stand mixer to incorporate flour into the batter is a little rough on such a delicate cake.  I’ve made a genoise with a different recipe before; that method involved gently folding the batter with a spatula.  I figured that Cook’s Illustrated puts their recipes through numerous tests so I thought that maybe their method would work.  The cake turned out extremely hard and inedible, so I tried again.  The second cake also went into the trash.    The “Almond Buttercream” that accompanied this genoise cake was a little too greasy for my taste, but I ended up using it anyway.  It was late at night and I promised to bring in a cake, so I used a box of brownie mix to make a layer cake and filled/frosted it with the buttercream.  Which leads me to my discussion about brownies…

I love brownies but have not been able to make a good batch from scratch.  I can make a very moist from-scratch chocolate cake and really good red velvet cupcakes, but I cannot make brownies!  I’ve grown accustomed to eating the kind that comes from a boxed mix.  One of my friends makes great homemade brownies — without measuring!  I welcome you to share any delicious homemade brownie recipes that you may have.

I decided to try this recipe for “Chewy, Fudgy Triple-Chocolate Brownies”.  I think I overbaked by just a few minutes, but even so, I’m not in love with the flavor enough to try this recipe again.  I don’t know how much of a difference it would make if I did make this recipe again and was more careful.  The fact that none of the recipes I’ve made in this book have been good means that I’m probably doing something wrong every time — since I can’t replicate their results (which are described in great scientific detail in this book).  This also probably means that the recipes do not easily result in good product.  I’m not alone in thinking this.  I went to a book signing event for Cook’s Illustrated and several other cooks secretly felt that several of their recipes are flawed.  However, I absolutely the “America’s Test Kitchen’s Family Cookbook”.  The recipes in that book almost always turn out well for me.  I’ll write about that one next. 

That said, I’m still willing to try a few more out of this book before I cast it off.  Do you think their recipe for “Foolproof Sponge Cake” is really foolproof?  I shall have to try it and see.

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment