Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Cook's Christmas

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that many of my gifts this Christmas related to food or its preparation. It is pretty much a sure thing that something related to food would be welcome under my tree. So what gifts warmed the cockles of my culinary heart? My husband gave my kitchen an upgrade by purchasing a brand new set of pots and pans. These are a beautiful set of Tramontina Domus cookware, well-made enough to have "helper handles" and heavy enough that you might need them once they are full. My old set of cookware was also Tramontina, and I have been happy with it, but this set had more and bigger pieces, an important consideration when both "Evil David" and I are cooking on tapas night. I am not a fan of nonstick coatings so I wanted something that I could scrub with a Brillo pad if necessary. I have been using these pots and pans since Christmas, and I have to say that I love the "professional" look and feel of these pots and pans, not only when I am cooking, but the way they look on my stove (see for yourself at left and right where they were pressed into service during the cooking marathon that was Chinese New Year's Eve).

What else does a cook (and my kitchen) really need to do some serious cooking? Knives, of course. Everyone knows that knives are base equipment for chefs, so much so that they are included equipment when students enroll in culinary school. Now, I have written before that my knife inventory has been seriously crappy since my son left with his real chef's knife. So I wasn't really surprised that I received a lot of knives for Christmas (apparently my family hasn't heard of the old superstition that giving a knife cut your love for the recipient in half!) Before Christmas, I did a lot of research on knives, what quality and materials to look for, how a good one should feel in your hand. I even consulted Consumer Reports. In the end, my husband bought some knives made by Tramontina. While we knew the reputation of Wusthof , we needed so many knives that to buy Wusthofs would have broken the bank, so my husband selected knives that were made of high carbon steel made in Solingen, Germany and the handles are antimicrobial. I was thrilled to get two chef's knives, two paring knives, two utility knives, and two Santoku knives. Since I haven't used a Wusthof, I can't say how these compare, but I can tell you how they compare with my old knives (which I promptly threw out!)- they are incredible! I can chop and slice properly, and with great precision. My husband got these knives at Sam's Club, and I have to say that I would highly recommend them if you want good quality knives at an affordable price.
What other cooking goodies have I been enjoying since Christmas?
Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, The Cook's Illustrated International Cookbook, and the one gift that was in my stocking that I need your help with- a bottle of white truffle oil. I have never used truffles or truffle oil before, but I know it is highly prized, and you should know by now, I am game to try almost anything. So if you have recipes or good ideas on how I might utilize this new culinary ingredient, all suggestions are welcome. And I'd love to hear what cooking or blogging-related loot you scored this Christmas.


Laura said...

Keeping in mind that I have never used truffle oil myself :) I believe it is supposed to be really good drizzled on high end macaroni and cheese. You might try doing a search for it.

When I made beef wellington (once a long time ago) I feel like it called for truffles--maybe the oil could sub in some way?

Rachel said...

guess what this was the first xmas that received gifts catering to cooking as well!! they included baking pans, white tableware that I so very wanted and a hand-made apron and mittens..

Deborah Dowd said...

Laura- Thanks,I will experiment with that, and thanks for stopping by!

Deborah Dowd said...

Rachel- Sounds like your friends and family want you to keep on cooking too!

amysep said...

Hey, Deborah! We have been wanting to invest in some kick-butt knives recently as well. We just got married and hoped someone would spoil us with a gift of at least a good chef's knife but, no go. Ah well, I'll look into the kind you bought. NOW, as for white truffle oil - congrats on getting some. We love ours and use it often, but sparingly cause it's super strong and delish. For me, it's not as much the taste, but the essence that brings dishes to another level. We recently made homemade pizza's and one was a white pie with leeks and mushrooms and we sprinkled some truffle oil over the top right before we served it. We also have topped hot, grilled steak with a few drops - fabu. Obviously, pasta is a good match - I like mine over some simple ravioli's. Finally, you will find people putting a few drops over some fried eggs, just as they may shave truffles on them. Experiment, you can't go wrong cause it's a wonderful condiment (and an expensive one to boot!). amy @

shannon said...

Hi Deborah,

In the last few months, you may remember receiving an email invitation to become a part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program. With all the recipe-writing and food photography to be completed, we know emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, so Foodbuzz would like to re-extend our offer of inviting you to be a part of our food blogger network. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at

And it seems like you got some great goodies to try out! I got 2 books myself, resulting in a combined 1000 desserts to prepare. I've got some work to do. =)


Shannon Eliot
Editorial Assistant,

Deborah Dowd said...

Amysep- Thanks for some really great ideas- I will be putting them to good use in the weeks ahead!

Shannon- I will have to check out the details, but I am always excited in anything that expands my blogging community (more new friends to meet, more great ideas and inspiration!

Glenna said...

New knives--yes!!! Nice cookware. I'm going to be in the market for new cookware this month too. I'll have to check yours out.

Deborah Dowd said...

Glenna- I am using my new pans every day and they are great- nice weight, heat conduction, helper handles on the larger pots and a good assortment of sizes in the set- you can also buy these open stock but their a bit moreexpensive that way.

freebird said...

I have 3 knives that I use, a chef's knife, a parer (pointed tip, not the blunt tip) and a serrated bread knife. I just never use anything else. Maybe I don't experiment enough but I do cook enough (lucky if we go out for lunch once every couple weeks and that's a lot compared with past years).