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Merry Christmas – Some Last Minute Advice

Izzy Extends His Holiday Wishes

Last Minute Gift Giving

My wife Christina and I have both been incredibly busy. Me working – with your help – in spreading the word about At Home; and, Christina on re-settling our Fairmount Avenue operation into the Franklin Institute where we have begun operating the restaurants. (Come to our Cajun Christmas Festival at The Franklin Institute from December 26th to January 3rd.) So neither of us have had much time for holiday shopping. Christina has extended the period of our holiday celebration to Twelfth Night which, over dinner last night, we calculated to be January 5th. In the event you have tighter gift giving deadlines, here are some last minute suggestions:

Dessert Wine
Dessert wines are sorely under appreciated. Read the following note from At Home and then see some suggestions below.

High-Quality Sweet Wines
They may not be very popular, but I’ve never known anyone who tasted a high quality sweet wine for the first time who wasn’t delighted and amazed. Sweet wines range in price from relatively inexpensive to extraordinarily expensive, and pairing them with food is not a simple business. With few exceptions, sweet wines are dessert wines. The pinnacle of these are Sauternes from Bordeaux and lateharvest German wines. California also produces some sweet wines of distinction. They’re generally produced from grapes that have been allowed to stay on the vine beyond a typical harvest time. The term late harvest refers to this sweet process. In sweet wine–producing regions, a fungus that occurs naturally in the soil attacks the wine grapes. The fungus effectively punctures the skin of the grape and allows some evaporation of water and concentration of the natural sugars in the grape prior to picking. This lets the winemaker ferment the wine and produce the desired level of alcohol while maintaining a natural sweetness. The high-quality product contains extraordinary depth and complexity, with a honeyed sweetness that’s not cloying. These wines are the true nectar of the gods.

The following wines should be available in Pennsylvania State Store. If not available, try to find something similar at about the prices indicated. If possible, seek the advice of a store employee. Typically you drink small portions of dessert wine so a 375 ml or half bottle will provide enough wine for 4-6 servings.

Bonny Doon Muscat Vin De Glaciere   ½ bottle  $17.99
Bonny Doon Viognier Doux  ½ bottle  $18.99
Eos Tears of Dew  $19.99
Robert Mondavi Moscato D’Oro ½ bottle $16.99
These next two are premium French sauternes — extravagant, but worth it.
Chateau Rieussec Sauternes  $93.99
Chateau Suduiraut  $93.99

A Good Bottle of Sake
I will spend more time in the new year talking about sake. But, if the only sake you know is none or not much, there is an entire new beverage world waiting for you or your gift recipient. Sake is actually brewed like beer – though other than technique there is no flavor similarity. Made from rice and served chilled, fine sake is more like fine white wine with much of the flavor notes found in wines. In Pennsylvania we have a very limited supply, but there are a few good bottles. Expect to pay at least $25 for a good sake and much more for great sake. Worth it.

A Good Sparkling Wine
Sparkling wine is to gift giving as the black dress is to cocktail dresses – not original, but always appropriate. If you are going to bother giving sparkling wine, give something a notch or two up from what you would buy for yourself. You can’t go wrong with a Veuve Cliquot – a French champagne with the iconographic orange label. ($59.95) For an American selection think about a Schramsberg Brut Rose ($39.95). Schramsberg is the classic American vintner of sparkling wine.

A Promissory Note for an Herb Garden
You don’t need a green thumb to plant and nurture a successful herb garden. Giving the promise to plant an herb garden come Spring – in containers or a sunny spot in a backyard — is a very special gift and one of those proverbial gifts that keep on giving. The following is a note from At Home.

Ingredients
Planting an Herb Garden
Here’s a list of herbs for a nice but not exotic herb garden. Basil (Thai if you can find it). Thyme, preferably lemon thyme. Sage. Cilantro. Fennel, preferably bronze for the color. Chervil (though this is very heat sensitive and doesn’t do well in the height of summer). Lemon verbena. Rosemary. Several varieties of mint. It’s also fun to add a Thai pepper plant. Since parsley and dill are plentiful and pretty inexpensive in the supermarket, I usually don’t plant them. Also, I don’t think of dill as a summer herb, but one associated with cuisines of colder climates. Get the herbs in as early as you can. Herbs like sun, but don’t require it all day. If you get more than you can use for your normal cooking, add them to a salad. The ultimate herbal extravagance is an all herb salad with just a bit of olive oil, a touch of lemon juice and good salt and pepper.

Here are links to previous blogs about gift suggestions.

At Home’s Stocking Stuffers

At Home’s Top 5 Holiday Gifts for Home Entertainers

Last Minute Advice for Guests

1. Do Not Arrive Early. (My goal always is for your host to get one relaxed hour prior to your arrival. Your early arrival does not help my goal, or, more importantly, your host, who does not need you as an un-scheduled distraction from getting ready for you.)
2. Stay out of the kitchen unless helping or invited.
3. Help out.

Last Minute Advice for Hosts

It’s great that you are hosting a holiday celebration. Whatever you do is good enough. Do not fret. Relax. Ask for help. Enjoy yourself.

Merry Christmas

I want to thank you for the support you have provided since the mid-October launch of At Home. It is a wonderful feeling to know At Home is already helping hosts and that over the next several days lots of people will be receiving At Home as a holiday gift. I am confident they will enjoy At Home for many holidays to come. It has also provided me with great joy to have spent many an hour sitting in the amazing Reading Terminal Market “hawking” At Home. More people than I could count shared with me their appreciation of their tattered and worn Frog Commissary Cookbooks — seemingly everyone’s favorite cookbook — and their their own joy over many years dining at Frog, The Commissary and my other restaurants. It has made for a Merry Christmas for me.

Christina and I are off to brother-in-law Larry and Susan’s in Tuxedo, NY, for a Seven Fishes Christmas Eve (including my Mediterranean Seafood Cakes with Green Olive Tapenade) followed by what I am sure will be a wonderful Christmas day meal. Larry and Susan are wonderful hosts and though I am sure the food will be delicious, what is most important by far, is that family is gathering to celebrate. Whatever your Christmas tradition, my wishes for many delicious moments…at home.

Thank you for visiting. Merry Christmas.
Steve

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The Best Granola I Ever Ate: A Delicious Holiday Gift from At Home

What to give as a gift? People already have so many things. Past blogs have made suggestions for Twelve Days of Stocking Stuffers and my Top 5 Serious Gifts for Home Entertainers. But what about the more casual and less cook-focused gift? A gift for your office Pollyanna, a next door neighbor or the legion of family members gathered at the tree? My suggestion? The gift of made-at-home food. Homemade food — like entertaining at home — is a gift from the heart. It can be savored and remembered.

A year ago this week I was testing At Home’s recipe for granola. My goal was the best granola I ever ate. Something wildly extravagant — for granola.

I imagined my Nutty Maple Granola – loaded with toasted nuts (almonds and pistachios) and seeds (sesame, flax, sunflower and pumpkin) and dried fruit (apples, apricots and cranberries), nestled in rolled oats and lightly sweetened (brown sugar and maple syrup). An irresistible snack, ice cream or yogurt topping or Christmas morning cereal treat.

Recipe development begins with an idea. From there, I sit at my computer, think through and type and print a recipe draft. The draft includes the ordered ingredient list, with my best guess as to the quantity of each ingredient, followed by the numbered steps in the procedures as I imagine them. This part all occurs in my head.

After shopping, I go into my kitchen with my recipe draft for my first and carefully measured run-through. I must say that the “carefully measured” part is always a challenge for me. I am a cook. I love the spontaneity of cooking –“measuring” ingredients by how they feel in my fingers. Careful measuring takes every ounce of discipline I can muster. Occasionally I have to go back to the beginning to re-think and re-test a recipe. Usually I come pretty close with my draft and testing notes such that when I taste the tested result, I can make modest “on paper” adjustments to the specified ingredients and certify a tested recipe ready for editing.

Here’s a side note along with two great Pascal Lemaitre illustrations about the difference between Cooks and Bakers from At Home:

Technique
Cooks and Bakers
There are cooks and there are bakers, and they are fundamentally different. Cooks are by nature impatient and improvisational. Bakers are patient, and although great ones learn to improvise, baking generally requires a steadiness, consistency and a willingness to let things happen slowly and on their own. With cooks, measuring is optional. Bakers must measure. Cooking is alchemy; baking is chemistry. This characterization may not be entirely fair to bakers—but I am most assuredly a cook.

I loved my Nutty Maple Granola. With little time to holiday shop and in need of holiday gifts last year, I couldn’t think of a more delicious gift for my holiday list. I made three very big batches, packed my Nutty Maple Granola into clear bags, wrapped with ribbon. This granola is not like any granola someone could buy in a store because the ingredients would be too expensive and drive the retail price too high. But as a make at home gift, $50 worth of ingredients will go a very long way. So, this weekend, think about making my Nutty Maple Granola and cross off a bunch of gifts from you list. Tripling the recipe will yield nearly 4 quarts or four to six generous gift bags. Bake in batches rather than crowding your rimmed cookie sheets. You’ll get into a rhythm and before you know it you’ll be done.

Nutty Maple Granola

No store-bought granola is this good. Honey tends to overwhelm everything else, so in this honey-less version, maple syrup serves as the glue. Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients—that’s just shopping.

do ahead Granola may be made up to six months ahead and stored in the freezer or up to two weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container.

2 cups rolled oats
1⁄2 cup shelled pistachios
3⁄4 cup slivered almonds
1⁄4 cup hulled sesame seeds
1⁄4 cup flax seeds
1⁄2 cup sunflower seeds
1⁄2 cup pumpkin seeds
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1⁄3 cup maple syrup
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil (any except olive oil)
1⁄2 cup dried apples, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
1⁄2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
1⁄2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, almonds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brown sugar and salt. Mix well. Add maple syrup and mix well. Pour oil in a separate bowl. Add granola mixture to oil and toss well. Spread mixture on 2 parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheets. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. When granola is nicely tanned, remove from oven and cool. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in apples, apricots and cranberries.
yields 61⁄2 cups

Buy At Home

If you enjoy my At Home blog, but are not yet a book owner, you have a sense of my approach to cooking and entertaining at home. I am suggesting that you buy the book, first and foremost for yourself. I promise you will immediately consider it one of your most cherished books — cooking or otherwise. Honest! Next, it is the perfect gift for everyone on your list who enjoys reading about food, cooking and entertaining. The book is available online at athomebysteveposes.com.


Upcoming Book Signings

The Reading Terminal Market to include next Tuesday and Wednesday
I will be at Reading Terminal Market lots between now and the end of the year. This Saturday two elves will be manning the table while I travel to Weaver’s Way. I will be at Reading Terminal after 3 PM, but books will be there all day. Look for At Home’s table in Center Court across from Meze on Saturday’s and near Spataro’s Cheesesteaks — across from the pig — on Sundays. I will also be at Reading Terminal Market on Tuesday, December 22nd and Wednesday, December 23rd across from Meze. Buy a book or stop by to say hello.

Saturday, December 19th at Weaver’s Way
I will be at Weaver’s Way in Mt. Airy this Saturday, December 19th from 11 AM to 2 PM. Weaver’s Way’s Mt. Airy is located on 559 Carpenter Lane.

Plus Two Retail Locations
You may also buy At Home at Beth Cooper’s Coopermarket at 307 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd where you can also buy wonderful prepared food. In addition, books are now at the Joseph Fox Bookshop at 1724 Sansom Street in Philadelphia. (Note: In the past I have said that At Home would not be available in bookstores. Joseph Fox is no ordinary bookstore. It is one of the great independent bookstore and for nearly twenty years my Commissary restaurant was a Sansom Street neighbor. You may buy signed copies of At Home at the Joseph Fox Bookshop.

Thanks for visiting.

Steve

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At Home’s Top 5 Serious Holiday Gifts for Home Entertainers

What to get the home entertainer you love? Or what a much-loved home entertainer might suggest to those who love them. Use this list as a guide to your shopping or pass it along as a not so subtle suggestion to those who love you.

#5. Ice Cream Maker

You can store-buy excellent super-premium ice cream, but nothing in stores compares to what you can proudly make at home with an ice cream maker. Making ice cream is easy. Once you master the basic technique of making a custard base, your only limit is your imagination. My first at-home dinner date with Christina concluded with my homemade lavender ice cream — lavender picked from my garden. I guess it worked. A big batch  of my homemade lavender ice cream was dessert at our wedding last November. Another  favorite is my Thanksgiving-perfect Pumpkin Pecan Praline Ice Cream. And for the Christmas holidays, I love my Peppermint Ice Cream.  See the recipe below. At Home features a Mastering Ice Cream lesson, recipes for the above referenced ice creams plus Bing Cherry Vanilla and Sour Cream ice creams.There are also recipes for Pink Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Pineapple-Coconut and Wine-Poached Peach Sorbet.

I use a large electric Cuisinart ice cream maker that retails for about $250. I see that Cuisinart has since introduced a less expensive version that retails for less than $100 and makes two quarts — as much as my more expensive version. I have also been perfectly successfully making ice cream with the inexpensive variety that does not have an electric compressor, but does have an electric motor to turn the ice cream. You simply pre-chill the ice cream’s freezing container in your freezer and it’s ready to go. It’s limitation is that you can only make one or one and a half quarts — depending on the brand — and you cannot make successive batches.

Peppermint Ice Cream Sundaes
A word of caution: Serve this special ice cream treat one Christmas and folks will want it from you every Christmas. It’s the gift that you’ll have to keep on giving. Crushed candy canes provide a festive look and crunch to the ice cream. Garnish your sundaes with miniature candy canes stuck into the ice cream, hooked ends up. The ice cream is very rich, so keep servings small.

do ahead Ice cream can be made up to two weeks ahead. Sauce can be made up to a week ahead and refrigerated. Microwave briefly to loosen before serving.
11⁄2 cups crushed candy canes (about 15 51⁄2 -inch canes), divided
milk chocolate sauce (see p. 420)
8 egg yolks
11⁄2 cups sugar
pinch of table salt
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 pint heavy cream
1 pint half and half

1 In a mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar and salt. Whisk until pale and creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in peppermint extract.
2 In a small saucepan, combine heavy cream and half and half over moderate heat and simmer until nearly boiling. Remove immediately from heat.
3 Add cream mixture in a slow, steady stream to yolk-sugar mixture, using a whisk to stir continuously. Transfer combined base mixture to a large measuring cup and reserve the bowl for the following step.
4 Slowly pour base mixture back into the pot over low heat. Stir constantly until lightly thickened. Do not boil. If using a thermometer, bring to 170º, about 10-12 minutes. Otherwise, heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. To check, put spoon in mixture, remove and run your finger down the back of spoon. It should leave a distinct, clean line for a moment. Remove from heat at once and pour into the reserved bowl to stop cooking.
5 Chill custard completely, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
6 Freeze ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once it is ready, turn frozen mixture into a bowl and fold in 1 cup crushed candy canes. Place in freezer for at least 4 hours for final freezing.
7 Top ice cream with chocolate sauce and remaining crushed candy canes.
serves 12

#4. Enamel Over Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Braising is a cook’s great pleasure. And a heavy enamel over cast iron Dutch oven is the perfect pot to braise.

To paraphrase a maxim: Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for a lifetime. That’s my approach to much of At Home where I aim to teach you how to cook or improve your technique and not simply provide you with recipes — though there are 432 of those. At Home’s Chapter 10: Braises, Casseroles & One-Dish Entrees includes Mastering Braises, an primer that will give you all you need to braise for a lifetime. Braising recipes include Beef Bourguignon, Lamb with Fava Beans, Pearl Onions & Minted Creme Fraiche, Black Beans with Smoked Ham Hocks and Soy & Honey-Braised Pork Belly.

My favorite braising pot is my 9-quart orange Le Creuset enamel over cast iron. I also have one about 2/3rd the size, but braised dishes freeze so well that I never fear making too much. The 9 quart costs close to $300 as a list price. Pricey, but lasts a lifetime.

An At Home margin note than runs alongside Mastering Braises.

Technique
Braising Tips From the Babe Ruth of Braising
Here’s a quote from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food that I find helpful: “But the magic word in the magical phrase is mijoter. It describes the condition of near suspension in which there is, nonetheless, a whispering movement, a tiny bubble rising here and there to break the stew’s surface— and it means, at the same time, a slow ripening. The comfortable satisfaction felt upon lifting the lid and glancing at the stew’s surface—a sense that, merely because a liquid’s surface is sustained at precisely the right point of hardly perceptible movement, all is well, the stew’s progress out of one’s hands and its success assured— is familiar to all cooks.”

#3. Cast Iron Grill Pan

About four years ago I moved into Christina’s Center City apartment. Lots of benefits came with the move, but not included was the benefit of a yard and outdoor grill. I was an all-season griller and I still am — thanks to my cast iron grill pan. Let it sit over heat for ten minutes and it gets searingly hot. A grill pan produces grilled foods equal to what you would do over the outdoor grill — minus a little all-weather cooking romance. Like the enamel over cast iron pots above, a grill pan will last a lifetime. Cleaning occasionally requires a screwdriver to scrape between the ridges to remove the garlic bits from the marinade that feel away and became encrusted. A 12-inch square Lodge Cast Iron pan costs only about $40.

At Home has an entire chapter devoted to Easy Entrees: From the Grill. Here’s a favorite:

Thai Thighs
Chicken thighs pack far more flavor than breasts and are much more forgiving of overcooking. They take to the grill particularly well. Given their low price and myriad assets, they’re pitifully underutilized. The sugar in this marinade makes for an extra level of caramelization—and a messy grill. You can also use any of the marinades in this chapter and follow the marinating and grilling procedure below.

do ahead Thighs can be marinated up to three days ahead. It’s best to cook them the day you are serving them.

2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 bird’s-eye chiles or 1 jalapeño, seeded, ribbed and sliced
1⁄3 cup lime juice
1 stalk lemongrass
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
leaves from 5-6 fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)
1 lime, cut into 6 or 8 wedges, for garnish

1 Cut the root tip and dry end of the lemongrass stalk, leaving a length of about 8-10 inches. Peel away the outer leaves, leaving the tender core. Finely chop.
2 Combine lemongrass with ginger, garlic, chiles, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Add chicken. Toss well and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
3 Just before grilling, add oil to marinade. Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from marinade, and allow marinade to drain off, but don’t wipe it dry. Place chicken on grill, smooth side up, and grill until nicely charred, about 4 minutes. Turn and grill the other side, about 4-5 minutes.
Serve whole or thinly sliced, either hot or at room temperature. Serve with lime wedges. Tear cilantro and sprinkle it over the chicken.
serves 6-8

#2. Large Wooden Cutting Board

I am a lucky guy. My entire kitchen counter is wooden cutting board. Absent having wooden counters, there is nothing like a large, thick, hard maple cutting board. Checking the internet, I found an ample 18-inch by 24-inch by 2 1/4-inch hard maple cutting board from Butcher Block for $138. Look for it locally as shipping is probably pretty steep for this heavy sucker.

#1. Shun Classic Knives

Excellent knives comes right after excellent organization as the key to turning prep work from a chore to a pleasure. My recommendation is to buy the best knives you can afford. I have used many different knives in my forty plus years doing what I do. My all-time favorite are Shun Knives. I much prefer these Japanese knives, that trace their origin to the ancient samurai tradition, to the heavier German premium knives. Razor sharp, Shun knives hold their blade well and a few strokes of a honing steel restores their sharpness. And their sculpted wooden handle fits comfortably in your hand.

Basics are the 10-inch Shun Classic Chef’s Knife and that’s the first knife I would give to a cook you love. This lists for about $169, but is typically on sale. Next, a Shun Classic Paring Knife listed for $75. Any cook will love these for a long, long time.

My favorite knives — the Shun Classic Chef’s Knife and Paring Knife

Montgomery Newspaper’s Ticket

See Ticket Editor Frank Quattrone’s wonderful story on At Home in Montgomery Newspaper’s Ticket. Frank gets At Home.

Post-script: Top Cookbooks of 2009?

Thursday’s  Philadelphia Inquirer featured their choices for top cookbooks of 2009. While I appreciated the Inquirer’s substantial coverage of At Home in October, I confess to disappointment and some befuddlement to At Home’s absence on their year-end list. I have been “reviewing” cookbooks since the age of 18 and I am now 63. (You do the math!) I know a great and enduring one when I see one — even if it’s one that I wrote. I know when a cook’s book speaks with a friendly authority, is peppered with wonderful illustrations by a world class illustrator, has great and accessible recipes and is crammed with advice and information that will aid and inspire users to entertain at home more. Better. And easier. Add At Home Online — an innovative digital companion website that I will nurture, like I did my little storefront Frog in 1973, for your involvement and enjoyment for years to come. A “self-published book,” as mine is — without the national big-time publisher and a Food Network imprimatur, not available in bookstores –somehow placed At Home beneath the Inquirer’s pile of books radar. There may be a time when the cookbook publishing industry marks the publication of At Home with its companion website and regular blog as the time that a new cookbook publishing paradigm was established. Maybe the Inquirer missed all that.

I guarantee you that you will find At Home the best, most useful and most fun cookbook you have purchased in 2009 and, well, maybe since The Frog Commissary Cookbook. If you purchase At Home and do not agree, I will refund your purchase price including shipping! Just call me at home at 215.731.0722 or send me an email at steve@athomebysteveposes.com..

Upcoming Book Signings

You can’t buy At Home in bookstores but you can buy it at our online store or at book signings featured below.

Beth Cooper’s Coopermarket this Monday, December 14th
Beth opened Coopermarket in 1995 and since that time Coopermarket has been an everyday and special event Main Line source for wonderful prepared foods and catering. Beth’s first restaurant job was at The Commissary and she also cooked for me at the 16th Street Bar & Grill. Sara, Beth’s key assistant, worked for me at The Market of The Commissary where she single-handedly introduced Philadelphians to fine cheeses long before fine cheese became a food store staple. I will be visiting with Beth and Sara and signing At Home on Monday, December 14th from 3 to 6 PM.
Coopermarket is at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd.

The Reading Terminal Market on Weekends
I will be at Reading Terminal Market weekends between now and the end of the year. Look for At Home’s table in Center Court across from Meze on Saturday’s and near Spataro’s Cheesesteaks — across from the pig — on Sundays.

Weaver’s Way on Saturday, December 19th
I will be at Weaver’s Way in Mt. Airy on Saturday, December 19th from 11 AM to 2 PM. Weaver’s Way General Manager Glen Bergman is an old friend and former General Manager of The Commissary. Weaver’s Way’s Mt. Airy is located on 559 Carpenter Lane.

Happy Hanukkah.

Thanks for visiting.

Steve


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At Home’s Stocking Stuffers: The Twelve Days of Christmas (Also works for Eight Days of Hanukkah)

Everything on this list makes an excellent stocking stuffer and welcome addition to the kitchens of home entertainers. (Well, the grill press would need a very sturdy stocking and the Repositonable Labels a very wide stocking.) The side margins of At Home by Steve Poses are filled with advice like this on equipment as well lots of other advice designed to inform and inspire.

1. Dough Scraper
My dough scraper to scoops up and transfers chopped vegetables from my cutting board to bowl or pan. I also use it keep my prep area clean and tidy. It is an invaluable assistant. I would not think about prepping vegetables without it. See my Setting Up for Prep on Page 21 of At Home or see the dough scraper in action on my Setting Up For Prep video. View Video.

2. Stainless Kitchen Tongs (Spring-Action)
Everyone needs a pair of stainless steel spring-loaded kitchen tongs. Kitchen tongs are an extension of my hands when handling anything hot. Much more handy than a kitchen fork or spatula. Read more about how I use Kitchen Tongs on page 182 of At Home.

3. Microplanes
These super-sharp graters come in a variety of sizes. They are perfect lemon zesters — removing only the zest and leaving behind the bitter white pithe. I use my microplane to grating a little nutmeg or big hunk Reggiano Parmesan. Read more about Microplanes on page 129 of At Home.

4. Instant Read Thermometer
Thermometers are your x-ray vision. They enable you to see inside anything you can poke and tell you the temperature. Use them to tell if your premium sirloin steak on the grill is medium rare and if your Mac ‘n Cheese heating in the oven is sizzling hot inside. Read more about X-ray Vision: Instant Read Thermometers on page 167 of At Home.

5. Electric Spice Grinder
The best way to extract maximum flavor from spices is to toast whole seeds and pods in a dry pan over moderate heat until they release their fragrance, allow to cool and then grind in an electric spice grinder. (These are commonly sold as coffee grinders.) I regularly grind small batches of black peppercorns and keep a small wooden box of fresh ground pepper next to my stove. I strongly advise against ever using pre-ground pepper!

6. Juice Reamer
A juice reamer – typically wood – is about 5 inches long with a pointed end with grooves along its sides. This turns out to be the ideal shape to extract juice from a lemon or lime — much more effective than squeezing.

7. Repositionable Labels
Repositionable Labels are Post-It’s for Kitchen Professionals and an indispensable tool for the Organized Entertainer. I use them for everything from making and arranging my prep tasks, arranging (and re-arranging) my work schedule — allayed on my refrigerator or kitchen cabinets — to labeling my platters and bowls so I know what goes in what. Make sure you get the removable type. Pictured here are Avery #6460. For a fuller explanation see Page 12 of At Home. In addition to a pretty bow, you may need to include some explanation as to why in the world you would give these as a gift. But trust me, they will revolutionize the life of an entertainer.

8. Flexible Fish Spatula
People unnecessarily fear cooking fish. Turning a fish filet in a pan can be a challenge — unless you have one of these flexible fish spatulas.

9. Silcone Pastry/Basting Brush
Silicone pastry brushes are ideal for basting as they remain pliable while holding up to heat. They also are simple to wash in the dishwasher.

10. Grill Press
This weight with a stay-cool wooden handle improves and speeds your grilling by pressing against the top of whatever you are grilling, increasing contact of the underside with the grill and helping form a better grill marks and crust. Also excellent for cooking burgers in a pan or grilled cheese.

11. Remote Oven Thermometer with Alarm
The only infallible way to know whether a roast is done is to know its internal temperature. Using a guide of minutes per pound is just not reliable because oven temperatures are often not true and roasting time depends on the starting temperature of what you are roasting. (Ideally you should bring a roast to room temperature before roasting.) Certainly you can use a simple meat thermometer and check often, but these useful gadgets have a probe that goes inside the roast and an external thermometer that sounds the alarm when you have reached your programmed temperature.

12. Timer
The less you have to think about and remember when cooking the better. Read about The Value of a Timer of Timer on Page 159 of At Home.

At Home – The Perfect Gift for Hanukkah or Christmas
Of course, the best gift you could give would be At Home — the book with the companion website. But at 500 pages and three plus pounds, it surely would not fit in a stocking. At Home is not available in bookstores but only at our on line store or at book-signings around Philadelphia. Here’s the current line-up.

The Reading Terminal Market on Weekends
I will be at Reading Terminal Market weekends between now and the end of the year. Look for At Home’s table in Center Court across from Meze on Saturday’s and near Spataro’s Cheesesteaks — across from the pig — on Sundays.

Beth Cooper’s Coopermarket on Monday, December 14th
Beth opened Coopermarket in 1995 and since that time Coopermarket has been an everyday and special event Main Line source for wonderful prepared foods and catering. Beth’s first restaurant job was at The Commissary and she also cooked for me at the 16th Street Bar & Grill. Sara, Beth’s key assistant, worked for me at The Market of The Commissary where she single-handedly introduced Philadelphians to fine cheeses long before fine cheese became a food store staple. I will be visiting with Beth and Sara and signing At Home on Monday, December 14th from 3 to 6 PM.
Coopermarket is at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd.

Weaver’s Way on Saturday, December 19th
I will be at Weaver’s Way in Mt. Airy on Saturday, December 19th from 11 AM to 2 PM. Weaver’s Way General Manager Glen Bergman is an old friend and former General Manager of The Commissary. Weaver’s Way’s Mt. Airy is located on 559 Carpenter Lane.

At Home Visits The 10! Show
I was a guest on The 10! Show on Monday. I demonstrated Pan-Fired Jerk Peanuts and offered suggestions about Multi-Ethnic Snack Mixes.Here’s the video.

Thanks for visiting.

Steve

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