Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Slackers.

They hang around our kitchen like a gang of delinquents and old fashioned drug-store hooligans (arousing the kind of fist shaking and rage from me that inspires such phrases as drug-store hooligans). They lean against my counters and shelves casually cracking gum and occasionally raising an eyebrow in my direction, as if to say, 'Whadda you want? Wanna make a cappuccino? Oh yeah. We both know that ain't happening, lady' (my cappuccino maker is, mystifyingly, from Brooklyn) 'I been sittin' here for two years now, you ain't foamed or steamed a thing.' They are The Slackers. Allow me to introduce this colorful cast of characters.

The Crème Brûlée Kit. The ramekins that came in this box assimilated immediately, like work-eager immigrants, into the general population of the kitchen. After all, they are helpful little ceramic vessels when it comes to holding condiments or a pinch of chopped herbs, or in which to whisk a quick vinaigrette before tossing it on a salad. But this was a Crème Brûlée Kit, after all--we had high hopes of making our own classically French, creamy vanilla-infused custards with the perfectly caramelized crunchy tops. Which brings us to the crème brûlée torch. This would be used, except for one crucial thing.

We need to buy butane.

'We need to buy butane!', we remind each other every time the 'hey, wouldn't homemade crème brûlée be nice' urge strikes, and much earnest hand-wringing commences. This is, of course, because butane can obviously only be purchased at the far-away place known as The (Just) Butane Store, or better yet hand-harvested by moonlight by squeezing it drop by drop from the delicate petals of endangered Alpine flowers. It's certainly not readily available at every grocery store, everywhere, if only you could remember ahead of time to put it on the grocery list and actually buy some. That can't be it.

Another word on those torches. Almost everyone I know that owns a kitchen torch (listening to that, it sounds like I know a whole horde of torch-wielding fellow chefs, doesn't it? Actually, off the top of my head, I can't actually think of one, except for us......surely they must be out there, ignoring their crème brûlée torches just like we do?) owns it for the sole purpose of putting the traditional burnished sugar crust on the tops of crème brûlées--and absolutely nothing else. What else do you do with it? Brand your name into a steak? Some extreme kitchen ant removal? A spot of light weeding in the backyard? Suggestions, both funny and serious, will be entertained. After all, we're going to buy butane. Someday.

The Potato Ricer. This is one of those funny things that I don't think I actually believed existed, growing up (we were strictly a potato masher family). Then somewhere along the line, I was made dimly aware of its existence but I had the idea that it was some torture device for somehow combining both potatoes and rice into some uber-starchy American side dish nightmare. Finally I learned the truth, probably via Alton Brown and some believable scientific evidence on glutens, that it was the only way to make fluffy, sublime mashed potatoes that would sit on your fork like heavenly clouds and not line your stomach like rocks.

The word on potato ricers is this: because they force warm, cooked whole potatoes through tiny holes, also incorporating air along the way, 'mashed' potatoes produced this way are finer, more even, and lighter in consistency than those glutinous lumps made more traditionally with a masher. This supposedly makes wonderful mashed potatoes, the Platonic ideal of all mashed potatoes according to some ricer enthusiasts. I must say 'supposedly' because, despite having had one taking up valuable real estate in my kitchen for the better part of a year, we have yet to make a single batch of mashed/riced potatoes. But I hear they're delicious.

The Pasta Roller. This one is a relative newcomer to the gang, having spent only a few weeks so far on my kitchen counter, but he's already starting to make me uneasy. He actually belongs to my parents, and I've been angling to borrow him for months now with ideas towards making fresh golden sheets of pasta in which to tuck tiny lumps of savory ravioli filling, or else tall, twisted piles of tender linguine. But I'm nervous. The pasta roller bears suspicious signs of under-use, and I had to retrieve it, in its box and under a thin layer of dust, from the back of a kitchen cupboard at my parents' in order to borrow it in the first place. He may turn out to be a Slacker yet. But in the meantime, I'm leaving him out in plain sight on the kitchen counter as a subtle reminder to put him to work soon. Does anyone out there have a good ravioli recipe?

The Cappuccino Maker. I'm not sure whether this should make me feel more or less guilty, but we acquired this secondhand from some well-meaning friends. Less guilty because after all, it was free, but perhaps more guilty because they were passing it along after having discovered that, much to their surprise, they never used the thing. When they offered it to us, I swore up and down that I'd be different. After all, I love coffee. My husband, a tea drinker, does not, but I drink plenty of it daily to justify owning a--free!--cappuccino maker. And so we took it. And it turns out that while I do love coffee, what I actually love is my morning French press routine (Boil. Dump. Plunge. Drink.), and not fiddling around with handles and pitchers and steamer wands before my eyes have even opened properly. And so it sits.

I'm considering passing it along to someone else who will no doubt leave it sitting on their own countertop for another two years, until giving it to someone else and so on and so on until one day, two thousand years from now, alien archaelogists will uncover it from the rubble and wonder how such a thing could be simultaneously so old and yet appear so completely untouched. And then, most likely, they'll take it home and put it on their own countertops and proceed to not use it themselves for two years.

The Ebelskiver Pan. Look, I don't know how many of you are married, but there is this crazy thing that sometimes happens around the pre-marital time, and it is known as 'the wedding registry.' And it makes even the most level-headed folks a little overly ambitious, to say the least. Worse yet, there is an evil presence out there in the world that preys on these folks just as wedding planning is making them soft and weak-minded......and his name is 'WILLIAMS-SONOMA.' Beware of Williams-Sonoma. Williams-Sonoma will show you things like The Ebelskiver Pan and make you believe that not only would you perhaps like to own one (once you figure out what it is in the first place), but that you will actually need one for the weekly brunches you will be whipping up every Sunday morning for friends & family, just like the ones shown in the two-page catalog photo spread. This is because Williams-Sonoma is, in fact, an evil and dangerous demon from hell. Be ye warned, hapless newlyweds! Don't go into the woods.

Look, okay, I actually like the idea of the Ebelskiver pan quite a bit. According to the photos, it makes adorable little round pancake nuggets, filled with anything from jam to goat cheese to Nutella, and it has an adorable name on top of everything else. And the lady who bought us our particular Ebelskiver pan is awesome, and...and......and we're going to use it. Really! Before our first wedding anniversary, I swear that there will be adorable pancake nuggets, or my new nickname isn't Ebelskiver Jones. Which, by the way, I really think it should be.

So this, apparently, is my challenge. Round up The Slackers and put them to work, or kick them to the curb once and for all! Will there be cappuccinos? Freshly extruded ravioli or riced potatoes? Plump, steaming ebelskiver? Or will there only be failure, degradation, and red-faced gadget-induced shame? Stay tuned, dear readers. Stay tuned.


  1. My mother in law has an Ebelskiver pan, and every time we've visited Seattle for the past four years she's mentioned that she should pull it out and try it. I think it still has it's label too.

    The ricer is indispensable for gnocchi. I was shocked at how easy homemade gnocchi was to make, but the masher just does NOT cut it for getting the potatoes right.

  2. I love this post! I bought my sister a cappuccino maker when she got married 20 years ago, and it never got used... She said she wanted one since she's a coffee addict, but apparently it was too much work!

  3. Hey, divine Miss M, do you have a good recipe for homemade gnocchi?? I'd love to try it.....and I'll totally give you credit in any resulting blog posts! :)

  4. Goomie, guess what? It was Jodi from PAG that gave me our cappuccino maker! I guess she and Mike never used it, either. We coffee addicts always say we want these things, then turn out to be spectacularly lazy--I used to be a barista, even! I could probably pull espresso shots in my sleep! But you know, so it goes. Ha ha. ;)

  5. Great post! We all have "stuff" like this around the house! LOL

  6. Hello Laurel! This is Rusty's wife, Megan. He passed along your blog. This post cracked me up, b/c we ALSO need butane for our creme brulee kit. We've had it for over a year. I even have a snazzy creme brulee recipe book.

    I actually made creme brulee a few months ago, not realizing the torch didn't have butane in it. We attempted to use one of those plastic candle lighters to burn the sugar. Yeah, we went through about three of those in under 10 minutes, and didn't get much of a result. However, the creme brulee was still delicious.

  7. Hey! Megan! I'm sorry, I meant to reply to this, like, a month ago, because it cracked me up. So you're in The Slacker Club with us, eh? ;)

    I'm impressed by the cigarette lighter method, it definitely shows.......perseverance??

  8. I have had a "salad shooter" (as seen on TV!) that has been residing in the cupboard for 17 years. I'd send it your way 'cept that when it arrived your unused appliances would be all like " there goes the neighborhood!"

  9. Noooooo salad shooters!!! That, and one of those RonCo chicken roaster things, would really put us over the edge. ;)