Tools & Utensils

L’Aide de Cuisine

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

[The KitchenAid]

I have given in to the demon of temptation, and I can tell you this: it is poppy red, it weighs twenty-two pounds, and it comes with a dough hook, a flat beater, a wire whisk, and a stainless steel bowl (which conveniently doubles up as a kitchen mirror).

After so many years of lusting and wishing and yearning, resisting the urge because a stand mixer is not exactly cheap and counter space is a scarce commodity, I finally caved in and ordered one from a French online store. Just three days later, my shiny new friend showed up on my doorstep in its styrofoam jewel box, and I’ve been admiring it with the eyes of love ever since.

As one might guess, my recent brush with brioches is not entirely unrelated to this lavish purchase, and was certainly instrumental in getting Maxence’s blessing — he owns half of said counter space after all, so we make that kind of life-altering decision together. I chose red because everybody knows red cars drive faster, and my kitchen looks beside herself (yes, my kitchen is a she) with pleasure from this new accessory.

So, what have I used it for so far? Well, after carefully considering what recipe would be the most suitable for its inauguration, I decided on a simple pâte brisée to make the tartlets I was testing for a magazine article. The simplest ceremonies are often the most elegant, no?

Now I wish I could take it on the train with me to my parents’ mountain house for Easter so we could make hot cross buns with it, but that sounds like a stupid and back-breaking thing to do, so perhaps I won’t.


If you would like to know how and where such stand mixers are grown and harvested, you can read all about it in David and the KitchenAid Factory — perhaps Tim B. would like to buy the motion picture rights for that?

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Introducing… la cocotte!

La Cocotte

Finally! It’s here! My birthday present and new best friend, my stupendous cast-iron cocotte by Staub!

My parents came by my apartment yesterday and were kind enough to lug it on the metro with them, after driving it all the way back from Les Vosges, snuggly bundled up in multiple layers of bubble-wrap.

31 centimeters in length (12”), weighing in at 6.3 kilograms (14 lbl) when it’s empty — I’ve been buffing up my arms with dumbbells in preparation for its arrival — it can hold 6 liters (6 qts) of something yummy and stewy and even-better-the-next-day to feed six happy friends.

And how could anyone resist a kitchen implement that so proudly brandishes its name? Ever thought how convenient that is, when you see it lying around somewhere in the kitchen and think, “hey what is this thing?”, and you get closer, read what’s on the lid, smack your forehead and exclaim, “but of course! it is la cocotte!”

The secret of the Staub cocotte, I am told, lies beneath the surface (am I scaring you yet?), on the underside of the lid, where all around the cocotte’s belly-button are tiny little pikes — the technical word I believe is picot — that gently invite the evaporated liquids to drip back down onto the food, thus preserving all the flavors and juices.

I feel a little like Calvin when he collects the points from his boxes of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs* to receive a propeller hat, with which he thinks he will be able to fly all over the world. I really believe my cocotte is a magic wand that will make whatever I cook so good my guests will go into tastebud shock and faint.

*Calvin describes these cereals as “tasty, lip-smacking, crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside, and they don’t have a single natural ingredient or essential vitamin to get in the way of that rich, fudgy taste”. Quite the little food writer.

Fondue Pot

Fondue Pot

This is the fabulous gift that Maxence’s mother got us for Christmas: an electrical, nonstick, multiuse fondue pot!

We’ve already broken it in with a fondue bourguignonne shared with Maxence’s aunt and uncle: fondue bourguignonne (literally “fondue from Burgundy”) has you cook little cubes of beef in oil, to be enjoyed with a variety of dipping sauces (whipped up with talent by Maxence). This was my first fondue bourguignonne ever and I loved it: undoubtedly rich, but delicious and highly convivial.

Fondue is a great dish to serve for a casual dinner: most people find it fun to cook their own food (and if they don’t, do they really deserve to be your friends?), and everything can be prepared beforehand so you can fully enjoy the company of your guests. One word of advice: close the door to your bedroom before you start, unless you enjoy sleeping in the lovely fragrance of supersized fries.

As suggested by the multitude of recipes in the little accompanying booklet, our beautiful fondue pot can also be used for fondue savoyarde, fondue chinoise (slices of beef cooked in broth), fondue armoricaine (fish cooked in broth), or better yet, fondue au chocolat!

Egg Poachers

Egg Poachers

I finally caved in and bought a pair of stainless steel egg poachers, for 3€ each.

When even the best advice and tips don’t help and your poached eggs are ugly ducklings everytime, you can either settle for a life without home-poached eggs (too terrible to contemplate), or humbly admit to your own failings, and resort to the tool that some genius designed — probably because s/he was missing that same gene.

We tested the poachers the other night, bringing water to a boil in a large saucepan, breaking fresh eggs inside the buttered hollows, and lowering them carefully into the water. We left them in for three minutes, shuffling anxiously around, worrying about the hovering white filaments, relieved when they eventually disappeared. We lifted the poachers out by their convenient tails, drained the eggs on paper towels, and served them on warm slices of garlic-rubbed toasted bread.

The result? A slightly unnatural shape (a sharp half-oval with tiny spots from the holes in the cups), but a perfect consistency. Not to mention, the poachers look like cute little rodents that work as fuzzy inverted mirrors, should you feel like practising goofy faces while you wait for the water to boil. And just how many kitchen utensils will do that for you?

Marble Mortar Finds True Soulmate

Mortar & Pestle


Finally, I have acquired a pestle to go with the marble mortar my dear grandmother gave me as a birthday gift last summer.

Okay, I make it sound like I’ve been searching high and low for one but it’s not quite true. It’s been on my mind all that time, I was thinking well, isn’t it a shame to have such a marble beauty and just use it as a vide-poche, a catchall for keys and loose change — but for some reason a part of me could not believe anyone would ever sell me a pestle without a mortar : who in the world would they then sell the pestle-less mortar to? (Well, whoever holds hostage the pestle that should go with my mortar, that’s who!)

So in fact I never gave the quest a real chance, until just recently when I found myself (an utter fortuity, I swear) at Dehillerin. I enquired about mortar-less pestles, preferably wooden, and the salesguy shook his head no. But his colleague, overhearing the conversation (they’re always eavesdropping on each other’s sales pitches, contradicting whatever is said or adding their two centimes, it’s fun to watch) said they did in fact have one left. He even went so far as to fetch it and hand it to me — probably they don’t see too many 25 year-old female customers.

Holding it in my hand, feeling its nice, balanced weight and waving it around a bit (causing the salesguys to look at me with alarm and take a half-step back), I had the sudden, almost magical certainty that this was a perfect fit for my lonely marble friend. This was confirmed when I got home and placed the pestle in its hollow, where it nested itself with an audible sigh.

They go everywhere together now, and look so happy it’s a joy to everyone who sees them. Ah, matchmaker to the cooking utensils, there’s a new career to consider!

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