THE TIME for serious gift-giving is upon us. In an effort to assist with the process I have looked through the catalogs of virtually every manufacturer and importer and selected cooking utensils I would truly enjoy giving or, for that matter, receiving.
Sauteuse Evasee means saute pan with sloping sides. It is a pot that does everything. With a diameter of 8 3/4 inches and a depth of 3 1/4 inches, it has a capacity of 2 1/2 quarts. Heavy guage copper has been hammered on the sides to give the pot extra strength. But it is untouched and smooth on the bottom for better burner contact (eithergas or electric) and higher heat conduction. To make sure there will be no interaction between ingredients and the copper and to keep the heat transference at its maximum, the pot has been lined with a tin wash.
Cooking for extended periods directly on copper will produce compounds that are poisonous so copper cooking pots must be lined. Tin and stainless steel are the most common materials used for this.
Copper is an excellent conductor of heat which basically means it will get heat from the burner to the food quicklyand efficiently. Copper is also a material that will give up heat very fast. The moment you remove this pot from the burner it rapidly loses its high temperature. This quality is indispensable when you have brought a sauce to the point of perfection and wish to end the cooking immediately.
The pan's unique design (the sloping sides expose a maximum amount of surface to the air) makes it useful for almost every stove-top function. At about $80 it's an expensive but very useful gift.
The Brisker is a chromed, steel box that measures 18-by-10-by-10 1/2 inches. It is designed to hold crackers, cookies, cereal and other dry foods in an almost humidity-free area. An electric heating element in the bottom creates a dry chamber and reduces the humidity to a point where foods are kept fresh and crisp. At about $40, it is a perfect gift for anyone who lives in a area with high humidity.
The brick Oven Bread Pan was developed by a group of people working with the ceramics department at Alfred University. This pan uses an ancient Greek coating called terra sigillata, to produce one of the best possible bread-baking surfaces. The pan must bepre-heated and seasoned before its first use but from then on it can give you the kind of baking surface associated with old-fashioned stove hearth ovens. The retail price is $10.
The Caffarex Espresso Machine is made in Switzerland, but modified for American electrical current. These machines really belong in European espresso bars and not in a family kitchen, but as more and more "restaurant supply" pots and pans find their way into homes the big electrics will follow. The Caffarex holds enough water to produce 40 two-ounce cups at a time and turns out the finest espressoi have tasted. There is a separate valve system for steaming milk for cappucino and a third spout for plain hot water for tea or hot chocolate. There is no lever. Everything has been electrified. Just press the central button on the machine and steam is sent through the coffee until you press the button again. The coffee bean holder must be filled after every two cups but this is not great inconvenience. For $695, you have given some lucky person the rolls royce of the espresso world.
The Atlas Omelet pan is made of copper on the outside, stainless steel on the inside, with a core of pure aluminum between the two. The copper gives the pan high heat conductivity and good looks. The core of pure aluminum continues the conductivity while reducing the pan's weight and cost. The stainless steel prevents interaction of food with the aluminum and produces acooking surface that's very easy to clean. Thebrass handle and gently sloping sides are nearly perfect in design. It is 10 1/2 inches in diameter and retailsfor about $45.
The Krups Electric Pasta Maker takes on flour and eggs in its mixing box and kneads them into a ball of pasta dough. The mangle-like rollers produce a thin sheet of pasta which is then fed through the cutting blades to produce a great tasting flat pasta.The retail price is $150.
The Cultured Food Solarit Cooker from Crayon Yard is a very attractive thermos system for making yogurt and other "cultured" foods. The ingredients are mixed, brought to the proper temperature and placed in the Solarit jar. The jar is covered and placed in a canister. The canister holds, then slowly reduces the temperature in the jar while the live cultures produce the yogurt. There are no timers and no electricity or gas is used in the process. It can also produce buttermilk cottage cheese and sour cream. It is priced at about $20 and comes with a 1-quart glass container, dairy thermometer, recipe booklet and, of course, the insulted cannister.
Clay Cookers, in use for thousands of years, are merely unglazed baked clay pots, more or less oval in shape. They are a means of simulating the primitive, but effective, method of cooking in wet clay. Before use, the pan is soaked in cold water, then filled with ingredients and placed in a cold oven. When the heat is turned on steam forms and the food is cooked. With clay cookers you can produce tender meat, fish and poultry without the use of fats and oils, and with the nutrients kept inside. They are available in many sizes and range in price from $18 to $35.
The Cork Retriever is my favorite stocking stuffer. This nifty tool saves the day and the wine whenever the cork slips into the bottle. Three long, flexible wires of nickel-plated steel slip easily into the bottle. The tiny fishhooks at the end of each wire catch the cork which, once caught, is held firmly by slipping the small plastic ring down the wires. By slowly and carefully pulling on the wooden handle the cork is removed from the bottle. Cheap at $3.