Category Archives: Cookware

What kind of pot is best for making sauce (gravy)?

image source - flickr.com/photos/myhsu
image source – flickr.com/photos/myhsu

I love the enameled, cast iron Dutch oven from Le Creuset.

The proper pot is important when making a tomato-based sauce, especially one that cooks for a number of hours like a ragù Bolognese or a traditional Sunday gravy. High-acid foods require high quality cookware, and tomatoes are high on the acid scale. A low quality pot may not last with continuous high-acid cooking, and elements from an inferior pot may even contaminate the food that’s in it.

A pot with a thick bottom is a must when making a sauce with a long cooking time. The two best choices here are stainless and enameled cast iron. Both are great at retaining heat, even over uneven heating sources. Stainless is the choice for most restaurants because they are not only lighter than cast iron, but quite a bit cheaper. For home use, I recommend a high quality enamel-coated, cast iron dutch oven like Le Creuset.

I’ve got to hand it to the French on this one; the quality of Le Creuset is unsurpassed. There are a number of other companies that make enamel-coated, cast iron cookware, but quality varies between them. Staub is another high quality brand, but beware the cheap knockoffs. When it comes to cast iron cookware, you do get what you pay for. My first pot was one from the celebrity cookware line of a certain domestic goddess (you know, the one who did a little time some years back), and after my first few times making sauce, not only did the inside of the pot begin to discolor, but the enamel began chipping off. Luckily, none of those chips ended up in my sauce. Le Creuset has a lifetime guarantee on their cast iron products and is resistant to chips and discoloring. Not to mention, clean up is a breeze.

I know, I know. Le Creuset is pricy, and spending upwards of 300 dollars on a pot is a little hard to justify, but it is possible to find a great LC pot for much cheaper. If you are lucky enough to live near a Le Creuset outlet store, you can find great deals on most of their products, especially on discontinued colors and styles. Occasionally, there are sales running where you can save up to 40%. Home Goods is another great place to find discounted Le Creuset. It goes quickly, so you have to be a bit assertive and check the stores early and often. Because they are guaranteed for life, eBay and garage sales are worry-free options, as well. Once you’ve made the investment, you will never (ever) need another pot.

Is it possible to make authentic gelato at home?

gelato

Yes, but not in a standard home ice cream maker.

The two main differences between gelato and ice cream are fat and air. Unlike ice cream, gelato has more milk than cream, making it lower in fat. While a simple change of recipe might sound like an ice cream maker should still do the trick, it’s the churning speed that prevents the maker from making gelato. Ice cream churns at a higher speed, so there is more air in the final product. A slower churn and less air is why gelato has a much denser consistency.

Though they are priced a bit more, there are a few home gelato makers available, and they make fantastic gelato. Unlike many of the ice cream makers on the market, almost all of the gelato makers have a built in a self-refrigerating compressor. This makes it possible to make many batches at one time. It is also ready to eat when finished.

Cuisinart, Lello, and DeLonghi all have makers available on Amazon at the time of this post. I personally own the DeLonghi GM6000, and I love it. The finished product is comparable to some of the best gelati I’ve had in Italy. Though the current $260 price tag may seem a little steep, each batch (about a pint and a half) costs about a third of what a pint of grocery store gelato would. I’ll be sharing some of my gelato recipes in future posts…coffee toffee crunch, anyone?

Does anyone really need another pot just for pasta?

pastapot

Yes…ok, no, but you will love it.

It’s the Bialetti Pasta Pot, and it can be found for under 30 bucks at most stores that carry housewares. Bialetti is the company that makes the Moka Express stovetop espresso maker. You know, the one that was always sitting on Nonna’s stove. If you don’t have one, then shame on you. It’s an essential item in all Italian kitchens.

For starters, the Pasta Pot has a locking lid with a built in strainer. The handles are heat resistant, so you don’t need pot holders when draining the pasta, and they are set far enough from the pot that the heat from the steam won’t burn your hands. At 5 quarts it’s the perfect size, and it comes in a variety of colors. It has an oval design, so you don’t have to break long spaghetti. The pot has a non-stick surface, so once your pasta is finished cooking and drained, you can add your sauce directly to the pot of pasta and not worry about messy cleanup.

There’s an entertaining video about the pot featuring Top Chef’s Fabio Vivianni on Bed Bath & Beyond’s website. Check it out.