2012 Holiday #FoodieGiftGuide
Be careful out there, everybody. Dangers lurk around ever delicious corner.
Together, we can eradicate corn dog oil burns forever (but probably not). Happy Holidays!
About ten years ago, I bought an 8-inch Lodge cast iron skillet from a hardware store. I lovingly seasoned the raw cast iron, over and over, until it was ready to use. Even so, it would be years before the bumpy, dark gray piece of metal that I I bought transformed into the black, smooth, nonstick skillet that I love today. Some day, I will give this skillet to my son, and he will say, “Up yours, old man! I don’t want to be like you!” But many years later, he will thank me (maybe).
The good news is, you don’t have to spend years seasoning your skillet any more. At some point, the good people at Lodge decided that selling them pre seasoned and ready-to-use is a better deal for pretty much everybody. Pull it out of the box, and it’s ready to make the perfect grilled cheese. With a little bit of maintenance and common sense (don’t put it in the dishwasher, etc.), cast iron only gets better with time. Perhaps someday you too will pass along a well loved cast iron skillet to your disappointed child.
There is a good reason why every cook you know loves cast iron cookware.
Day 11: OXO Good Grips Pepper Mill
Does this ever happen to you? You are merrily reading through a recently discovered recipe for Double Fried Triple Stuffed Jalapeño Chicken Tenderblasters only to reach “fresh ground pepper” on the ingredients list. Your excitement transforms into dread as you imagine the painfully slow torture of grinding 2 teaspoons of pepper by hand. Why? Because your pepper mill sucks.
Well friend, not all pepper mills suck. (Most of them suck. But not all of them.) And if you think it doesn’t make a huge difference in the preparation of any recipe (including garnishing your morning grits and gin), then you can… wait, you eat grits and gin for breakfast?
This pepper mill will knock your socks off. It’s that good. And it’s cheap.
Day 10: The River Cottage Meat Book
Warning: Don’t buy this book for a person who is squeamish about animal butchery. The River Cottage Meat Book is comprehensive. Seriously, this is probably the only butchery reference you’ll ever need. I have owned a copy for about five years. (It’s also a hell of a good read, by the way.) Highly recommended :)
Meat starts with animals, so that’s where this book starts too. You’ll learn in painstaking detail how and why some animals produce better meat than others. Then you’ll learn how to butcher the animal (if that’s your thing), learn how to select superior cuts, see step-by-step guides to common preparations, and choose from hundreds of related recipes.
The vivid photographs make The River Cottage Meat Book a weird and interesting coffee table book, especially for L.A. Don’t expect your vegan friends to take kindly to your choice of reading materials.
This is a perfect gift for the amateur chef who is dissatisfied with the meat at the supermarket.
Day 9: Toddy T2N Cold Brew System
Cold brew coffee is less acidic, tastes smoother, and is more appropriate for cold coffee drinks than its steamy counterpart. Overall, many coffee drinkers agree that the cold brew method simply makes better coffee overall, hot or cold.
Our friends at Secret Squirrel Cold Brew (that’s Ben’s hand in their Facebook banner image holding the exact same bottle of coffe concentrate from the video below), sent us a sample a while back. Here is a very short video with Ben’s first impressions.
We liked the cold brew coffee so much, that we went out and bought our own Toddy Cold Brew System. Now we can make our own cold brew any time we want.
Be warned that it takes many hours (most people seems to prefer to let it sit overnight) to brew a batch of coffee concentrate. But once the cold brew process is finished, you’ll have a bottle of concentrated coffee “syrup” that you can dilute with water, milk — whatever floats your boat. And the concentrate will keep fresh for days.
The Toddy Cold Brew System makes an awesome gift for coffee lovers. Just think of the White Russians that you can make with this thing. “Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
(Photo credit: Liquid Planet)
When I moved into my first apartment, one of the first things that my mom bought me was an electric skillet. Her mother, my grandma, was an (oddly) outspoken electric skillet proponent, so I guess the love of this electric kitchen workhorse just rubbed off.
Why an electric skillet? If for no other reason, buy one just for the pineapple upside down cake. I’m quite serious. People will ask you to make it again and again, and the best part is, it takes almost no time at all to prepare and cook. Here is the recipe:
Electric Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake:
- 1 Box of yellow cake mix (plus the ingredients required to make the cake — usually eggs, oil, and water)
- 1 Stick of butter
- 1 Cup of brown sugar
- 9 Maraschino cherries, drained and dried
- 1 Can of pineapple rings in juice
- Drain the pineapple rings, but reserve the tasty juice.
- Prepare the cake mix according to the package, except add 1 extra egg and use the reserved pineapple juice instead of water. Heat the skillet to 250 degrees.
- Melt the stick of butter in the electric skillet, and then add the brown sugar. Stir until the brown sugar is wet.
- Arrange 9 pineapple rings in a grid at the bottom of the skillet.
- Place a cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.
- Carefully pour the yellow cake batter on top of the brown sugar and pineapple goo. The goo, by the way, is going to squoosh all over the place. Don’t worry — you definitely want it to squoosh.
- Place the lid on top of the skillet, close then vent, and increase the heat to 280 degrees.
The cake will take between 25-30 to cook. Check with a toothpick at 25 minutes. When the cake is done, let it cool for 10 minutes, and then carefully (c a r e f u l l y… CAREFULLY) invert it onto a platter that is much larger than the electric skillet (there will be molten sugar syrup oozing about).
This cake is great served warm, room temperature, or chilled. Vanilla ice cream and whipped cream are both acceptable accompaniments. But really, it doesn’t need anything. By the way, you could make the yellow from scratch pretty easily. Your call. It’s a bit better. But in my opinion, the box cake is fine and being able to go from ingredients to baked cake in less than an hour is pretty cool.
This electric skillet is one of L.A. Foodie’s favorite appliances in the kitchen. It’s great for pancakes, fried chicken, and that sweet, badass pineapple upside down cake.
Day 7: Kitchen Art Ham Dogger
Quick! What’s the #1 problem facing America today? If your answer was “our national inability to properly fit a hamberger patty onto a hot dog bun,” then you are AWESOME, but you probably don’t read the news much.
I can’t think of a more fantastically useless gift than the Kitchen Art Ham Dogger. Here’s what it does: It forms hamburger meat into a tubular hot dog shape. Hallelujah! Here are a list of features:
- Makes 1/4 lb. hot dog shaped hamburger patties
- Easy to use
- Durable plastic
- Dishwasher safe
- Unclear purpose on Earth
You will be a white elephant gift party superstar. Your coworkers will tell the water cooler tale of the weird hamburger hot dog thing for years to come.
"Honey! We have lots of ground beef and lots of hot dog buns! Now what?"
Photo credit: The Green Head
The holiday season is so wonderful in this country because we are incredibly lucky to have so many different cultures who seem to celebrate at around the same time of year. From a culinary point of view that says DELICIOUS no matter what your background or mother tongue happens to be.
While everyone is pretty familiar with some of the many contributions that people of the Jewish faith have given us, Joan Nathan’s book (for many of us) opens up our taste buds to an amazing new array of delicacies. Delicacies that will make you scream “Why have I not tried this before!?!?!?!” to the gods of food.
So, what are you waiting for? These recipes are delicious!
Guys, did you know that you can make gingerbread cookies in the shape of NINJAS???!?!?!
Let me say that again: YOU CAN MAKE GINGERBREAD COOKIES IN THE SHAPE OF NINJAS!!!!!!!
We stumbled upon this little gem in our hunt for cool foodie gift ideas, and couldn’t resist putting them on our list. Consider these the perfect capstone to your arsenal of Festivus goodies. Or heck, get them be your first piece of metaphorical artillery.
Just imagine what your holiday party will be like once you own these. Everyone’s having a great time and they are enjoying all of the delici- BAM!!! Ninjabread Man Cookies! Your guests’ lives are complete. You win holiday parties from here until the end of mankind, nay, until the end of time.
Look at these ninjas, they’re ready to ninja-kick your taste buds!
I don’t understand why you are still reading this post and haven’t ordered these yet.
If you have ever watched an episode of America’s Test Kitchen or read what goes into the formulation of a Cooks Illustrated recipe, then you know that these folks don’t f#%k around when it comes to testing. They put this scale through the ringer, and it came out on top with a “highly recommended” rating.
So I bought one. And damn. This scale is great. The readout pulls out. And the display is connected to a retractable tether, so you can read it even if your gigantic bowl of brownie batter is hanging over the sides. But the best part about owning a reliable and accurate scale is that your cookies (and cakes and breads, etc.) taste amazing. Measuring dry ingredients by weight instead of volume is magical. Find a well-reviewed recipe online that lists ingredients by weight (a lot of Alton Brown’s recipes do this). With this scale, you’ll finally get the proportions exactly right. (Remember that flour is especially tricky to measure by volume because it settles so much.)
Oh, and you can also weigh the big envelopes and packages that you’re always putting in the mail. With this scale, you’ll know exactly how much postage is required, and you won’t have to wait in line behind 2 homeless dudes and a grandma at the post office.
Alton Brown is my hero. He’s always been my favorite TV chef. His innovative Good Eats series taught me how to cook more than any other person. Seriously, Alton Brown almost singlehandedly taught me how to cook. Let’s just say I spent a lot of my five-and-a-half year (undergraduate) college career drunk on the sofa watching Alton wax poetic about peas while measuring a half-cup of honey in that cool plunger measuring cup. If you’re lucky, he’ll dispense some beans or cereal out of those enviable clear plastic cereal dispensers on his counter.
But Alton isn’t just a gadget nut. I’m Just Here For The Food reduces cooking to its basics. And I mean really basic. The point of the book is to teach you how to control the 3 basic elements of cooking: (1) heat, (2) salt, and (3) water.
While this might sound like a book for beginners, it is definitely not. Alton goes into great detail about vital things to know about some of the most common American ingredients, like chicken, for example. You get a full diagram of every part of the chicken, how to butcher it properly, instructions for different cooking methods, and then a few useful and simple recipes.
Plus it’s funny. Yeah, a funny cookbook. What a novel idea :)
Drew and Hot Dog The Rapper ponder Alton Brown’s sage advice about cooking sausages on an outdoor gas grill.
Day 2: Alphabet Cake Pan
Yes, according to the image below, you can make a cake in the shape of the letter “S” or the number “5.” Want to make an “8?” No problem. You can even make a “2,” which doubles as a collegiate “S” if you’re feelin’ fancy. You see, this cake pan has movable pieces that allow you to mimic letters, numbers, or characters. “Wait a damn minute…” you say. “Is this thing ALPHANUMERIC?” Yep. It sure is.
But let’s be honest about the things that you will really spell with this cake pan. Here are some suggestions:
- EAT ME
(photo credit: Amazon.com)
Day 1: Microplane
You cringe every time you read “zest of one orange” (or “lemon” or whatever fruit is staring at you mockingly from your kitchen counter) in a recipe because you don’t own one of those cool microplanes that you’ve seen on TV. You’ve tried using your box grater, but instead of forming a nice little pile of delicious orange zest essence like you had hoped, the box grater gets clogged up and you get pissed off.
Come on, now. You’re a grown person. Act like an adult, and buy the right tools for the job. The now-ubiquitous microplane is so common for a reason. There is no other kitchen tool that does what it does. Shred hard cheese like Parmesan and Pecorino for a velvety topping on your ‘sketti and meatballs. And breathe a sigh of relief as you correctly zest a citrus fruit for the fist time.
(photo credit: What’s 4 Dinner Solutions)