Cooking in the Kitchen

December 28, 2009 § 6 Comments

While we wait for the installation of the refrigerator (yes, it’s still not installed), we’ve been cooking and baking (me baking) away in the new kitchen. This along with trying to get everything into its place and then trying to remember where those places are later.

The very first meal was (drum roll please) hot dogs and baked beans. Yes, thank you, I am a cooking wiz. All kidding aside, the first real meal was a stir fried potato string dish my grandmother and mom used to make. It’s one of the few Chinese dishes that I actually know how to make and it’s one of the Mister’s favorite. Sorry, no pictures but kind of in the same spirit as Kirk’s Sichuan Stir Fried Potato Strings. Gram’s/Mom’s versions aren’t Sichuan but include pork, soy sauce, green onions, lots of garlic and a pinch of salt. My version is with chicken. The focus here is not the dish but how the new Wolf 48″ gas rangetop did in its first wok meal.

Can I just say “Oh my gaw, was it awesome having a gas cooktop again!” It may not have been the 55K BTUs eye-brow searing power of the Eastman Big Kahuna but 16,000 BTUs is more than adequate for me after 7 years sans a gas cooktop. Although there was another brand I could have gone with that offered 22K BTUs but after weighing pros/cons, I’m still glad I chose Wolf. I also like the fact that I can get 16K BTUs/500 BTUs on all burners as standard, not just 1-2 specific burners for simmering.  Oh yeah, I now want a wok ring. 🙂

Speaking of simmer, I think one of the best feature is the ability to simmer at 500 BTUs. I had no real concept of this until I made a raspberry sauce for a cheesecake that I had to simmer on low. The flame was so low I was thought it might go out but never did.

Christmas dinner was the true test of the kitchen. We no longer were limited to just a small corner of counter space for meal prepping or people separated by a bank of upper cabinets and a peninsula. I used almost every available counter space during prep and serving. Before, I had to clean as I went along just to keep space and sink area open but no longer. It’s amazing what a slob I can be with so much space. But then, I can afford to be now. hehe

The island, as we knew it would be, was the center of all activities. Although the family room is now set up as part of one large living space with the kitchen, no one left the kitchen island. Everyone sat around the island munching on appetizers while I prepared dinner. Of course it also helped that we now have a Sony 26″ LCD TV mounted in the kitchen where people can watch while sitting at the island. Secretly, I think that’s everyone’s favorite part of the kitchen. Although we still have a dining table in the dining room, we all wanted to eat at the island and enjoy the new space (think the flat panel had something to do with it).

Appetizer – cheese and prosciutto puff pastry (MIL/SIL brought over stuffed portobello mushrooms which were delicious)
Dinner – rack of lamb with mint salsa verde, mushroom risotto and white asparagus with parmesan dressing
Dessert – cheesecake with raspberry sauce

The puff pastry appetizers were very easy. Defrosted 2 store bought pastry sheets. Cut them into squares, I used 3″ squares. Spooned Laughing Cow cheese (you can use any kind of cheese) into the center of squares and seal with another square on top, making pillows of sorts. Layered some procuitto on top and shredded some fresh parmesan cheese on top of that. Baked at 35o degrees F until golden brown. Serve hot!

For the risotto, the broth was a combination of the liquid from reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms in boiling water with the stalks of fresh mushrooms (white and portabello) as well as low sodium chicken broth. Then I just followed the directions on the arborio rice package, pretty easy. Make sure the broth is hot/boiling when adding to the risotto.

I can’t remember which food magazine I got the parmesan dressing from (I’ll add it once I find it). White asparagus was drizzled with EVOO and sprinkle of kosher salt, baked at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. The parmesan dressing was 6 oz of shaved parmesan cheese boiled in 1 1/2 cup of water. The water will become milky and the cheese will start to get very stringy. After 10 minutes, strain to remove the remaining cheese chunks (discard) and what’s left is about 1 cup of liquid. Place the liquid in a small saucepan and reduce by half over medium heat. Pour liquid into a bowl. Add one large minced shallot and 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and whisk to combine.

The rack of lamb and the mint salsa verde was the absolute stars of the meal. I loved the mint salsa verde! I seared the rack of lamb in a cast iron pan. It was nice to finally have a pan that’s heated evenly. The rack was finished off in the Wolf oven. Just regular bake function, not the convection feature. I’ve still yet to play with the convection feature.

For dessert, I baked the cheesecake a little less than normal. I baked it just until the edges were just starting to brown and the center was still a bit wiggly. This results in a very creamy texture, which my MIL loves. The raspberry sauce is very simple. In a saucepan, boil 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar. Rinse and drain 1 pint of fresh raspberries (frozen works just as well). Add raspberries to saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Strain to remove the seeds, optional. If you like a thicker sauce, forgo the water altogether or use a thickener (gelatin, cornstarch, etc.). Add kirsch or almond extract for flavoring if you like and have it. I just went with the simple raspberry and sugar combo.

Although there are many many things to love about the new kitchen, here are some of my most favorite items from a cooking perspective (not including the appliances):

  • Two sinks (we no longer have to wait for one another to use the faucet)
  • Spice drawers where everything is at my finger tips
  • The island (spread out!)
  • The flat panel TV (how else am I suppose to watch all those cooking shows from the kitchen??)

Okay, maybe that last one is a bit reaching but it sure is the finishing touch IMO.

Hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year’s celebration!


§ 6 Responses to Cooking in the Kitchen

  • Sandy says:

    Congrats on the newly finished kitchen! I’m so envious of the Wolf gas rangetop. I have a basic gas cooktop, and I’d love to upgrade it.

    • CAB says:

      Thank Sandy! It’s so nice to just to be able to cook with gas again. If we hadn’t gone thru a whole reno, a new gas cooktop would have been my biggest wish. It would have been a major expense since we didn’t have gas piped into the kitchen but it would have been worth it to me.

  • mike says:

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to seeing the dishes that come out of the new cooking digs!

    • CAB says:

      Thanks Mike! Oh-oh, the pressure is on. I think it’s wishful thinking on my part having new appliances will improve my cooking. But a girl has to have dreams! 😉

  • Kirk says:

    Hey CAB – That was pretty fast remodel! I don’t think you want 55k BTU’s indoors, unless you’ve got some major ventilation! ;o)

    • CAB says:

      Hey Kirk! Compared to friends’ remodels, mine did go by much quicker. I also have a wonderful general contractor and crew, which was key.

      hehe, the new hood is only 1200 cfms so maybe 22K would push it to its limits. I can’t imagine cooking with 55K BTUs!

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