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What I Take With Me

May 26, 2011

Oh, cast iron, you're my only friend.

I recently moved.  A small move, practically down the street, but a move nonetheless.  This fall, I’m likely doing a bigger move – out of state to parts unknown.  While I’ve lived in S.E. Portland for the past five years, this is my sixth residence.  As I unpacked my kitchen, I thought about the cookware that I’ve carried through nearly all six of those homes.  Colanders come and go, but cast iron is forever.

Chef’s Knives

If you have decent knife skills, you can use a chef’s knife for just about everything.  The blade is long and heavy enough to chop piles of vegetables and sweep them into a pot.  The slender tip of the blade is fine enough to pop between the joints of a chicken or core bell peppers.  I have two, which is probably one more than I need.  The first is a  Pure Komachi 2, which is of exceptionally good quality for a ten dollar knife.  It’s light and nimble, and, most importantly, hot pink.  The second is a heavy duty Victrinox.

I also bring their honer/sharpener along to keep them fresh.  Don’t get an electric one, as they’ll chew up your knives.  A simple manual one is all you need.

Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge is generally considered the best.  Mine’s a no-name skillet from a restaurant supply store.  Sautes and stir fries, shallow frying, steaks, cornbread, frittatas, eggs and bacon, dutch babies…  If you can make it on top of or inside a stove, you can probably make it in a cast iron skillet.  Cast iron has a lot of nice properties.  It’s sturdy, holds heat well, and develops a nonstick patina, or seasoning, over time.  Unenamled cast iron also leaches small amounts of iron into your food, naturally supplementing your diet.  They can go straight from the stove top to the oven, or vice versa.  They require a little extra love, but if cared for properly they can last a lifetime or two.

Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Braises. Bread. Casseroles. Deep frying. Soups and stews. Stocks. Boiling water for pasta.  In a pinch, I’ve even used it as a mixing bowl.  I was lucky enough to inherit a battered Le Creuset, but Lodge also makes fine ones.  Enameled cast iron dutch ovens are relatively expensive compared to other pieces of cookware, but I think they’re worth it for their versatility alone.  Like unenamled cast iron, they can also last a lifetime if cared for properly.  Unlike unenamled cast iron, you don’t have to worry about keeping them seasoned.  My Le Creuset is probably as old as I am.

But

These don’t, of course, make up my entire cooking kitchen.  I have cutting boards, a non-stick frying pan, a wok, paring knives, a bread knife, a box grater, steamers, a colander, sheet pans, and a roasting pan.  I’ve got plenty of stuff.

But the things above are the only ones that have followed me from home to home like loyal, iron pets.  And they’re the only that’ll come with me when I move on from Oregon.

Nice Resources for Setting Up A Minimalist Kitchen

The Minimalist (of course)

Stone Soup

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