Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday Favorite: Kitchen Tongs

For the longest time, I only used a spatula for sauteing. I'm not sure why I got these kitchen tongs - I think I wanted to feel chef-y. I guess it worked, because now they are one of my favorite kitchen tools! I use them for lifting and turning pieces of meat, turning over veggies as I saute, and holding a hot item steady for slicing. They are really practical.

This pair has all the characteristics valuable in tongs: sturdy, scalloped points to help you grip large items, a stay-cool material on the handle, and a locking catch that keeps them closed in the drawer.

If you are adding a pair to your kitchen, check out Cook's Illustrated's Tong Recommendations. It's a good bang for not much buck.

Here's my favorite simple preparation for asparagus. Call me crazy, but I think they taste better when cut before cooking. I have no idea why this would be (ideas, cooking-science folks?). You can definitely avoid a stringy texture by cooking them this way, which is something that tends to turn kids off from asparagus.

Sauteed Asparagus
1 T olive oil
dried thai chilis, to taste (my grocery has these next to the garlic - very inexpensive)
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
coarse salt
squeeze of lemon juice and grated Parmesan for garnish, if desired

1. Heat oil and chilis in a large skillet. Cook the chilis a few minutes to let the flavor infuse the oil (leave them whole if you want flavor without heat).
2. Turn up the heat and add the asparagus. They should sizzle and cook without liquid pooling in the pan - that way they will be sauteed rather than boiled. Cook until tender, allowing a little brown (not black) char to form on a few edges of the asparagus. This gives a sweeter flavor.
3. Finish with salt to taste and serve!
Sometimes I squeeze some flavor-brightening fresh lemon juice on top, in which case I add a little grated Parmesan to balance it out.

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