SW Scallion and Green Onion Slicer and Shredder
SCALLION RIBBONS MADE SIMPLE
It’s no secret that we use a lot of scallions in Milk Street recipes. They are more convenient to cut than onions or shallots, cook faster than either and can serve dual duty as flavorful aromatic and attractive garnish—especially when sliced very thin. It can take practice to slice the scallions into floss-thin ribbons, or you can buy a $10 scallion stripper. This easy-to-use, razor-topped tool shreds them quickly and easily.
DON’T THROW OUT YOUR WOK!
It turns out I was wrong about woks. I went to Taipei in January and visited Shin Yeh, the first white-tablecloth restaurant in town. The kitchen featured six huge woks in a row, with massive burners and chefs who know how to use them. I watched a demonstration of Three Cup Chicken. The chicken is deep-fried for 2 minutes, the oil recycled, the wok cleaned, the aromatics quickly stir-fried, the chicken put back in along with soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil, and the mixture is braised for 10 minutes. On Milk Street Radio, I also interviewed wok expert Grace Young, who waxes poetic on the unique aromatics generated by the wok, hence the name of her 2004 classic, The Breath of A Wok. When I got home, I grabbed my wok (we just designed a heavy-duty wok with Kuhn Rikon—it will be available at Sur La Table stores nationwide in March) and stir-fried spinach among other things. Although I wrote a piece years ago entitled, ”Throw Out Your Wok,” I now renounce that point of view. Buy a wok and use it—a skillet just isn’t the same thing.
The Breath of a Wok
EASY HOMEMADE VANILLA SUGAR
Our kitchen has been experimenting with spiced salt-and-sugar blends lately, burning its way through the motors of several coffee mills. One of our favorite blends is one of the simplest: vanilla sugar. Chop up half a vanilla bean and pulse with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a spice mill until the bean disappears. Blend the powdery sugar into another 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar spiked with a pinch of salt. This will work fine with just the vanilla bean pods as well, if that’s all you have left after using the seeds. Also feel free to add a pinch or two of your favorite warm spice—cardamom, cinnamon, allspice. We stir the mix into our coffee or black tea or use it to flavor whipped creams or dust over fruit salad. It’s a warmer flavor than vanilla extract and makes the most of now-expensive vanilla bean. (We also sell Original Baker’s Blend Pure Vanilla, which is warm, complex and has a lot of depth.)
The cooks in our kitchen are forever toying with flavors. After developing our recipe for Harissa—a blend of chilies, sun-dried tomatoes, cumin, caraway and garlic—the spicy Tunisian sauce found its way into countless dishes. The best application, however, is harissa butter. Blended smooth, the two prove a combo far greater than the sum of the parts and make most anything better. It’s terrific smeared on toast or tossed with any number of roasted, blanched or sautéed vegetables—Brussels sprouts, green beans, Delicata squash, sugar snap peas. There’s little it can’t improve (especially when drizzled with a little honey to finish). Luckily, store-bought harissa works equally well. We sell a terrific brand, Villa Jerada Harissa, that has a nice touch of sweetness with notes of cumin and caraway. Although it does not back down from the heat, it’s background flavors include coriander, preserved lemon, mint, tomato paste and a mild acidity. We also offer an excellent brand of capers in EVOO, Azienda Agricolo Caravaggio, and Iasa Anchovies in Olive Oil.
MILK STREET MAGAZINE: HARDBOUND EDITION
Just a note to point out that each fall, we collect all six issues of Milk Street Magazine from that year and turn them into a beautiful hardbound edition that will last for generations. It also includes an index to find that article or recipe that you are looking for. Order your copy of our 2017 annual today.
KNIVES AT WORK
Despite looking hardy enough, kitchen knives have delicate edges best reserved for what they are designed to cut: food. To that end, we encourage cooks to keep a utility knife in the kitchen for opening those boxes and bags or cutting the woody herbs you might otherwise grab a paring knife for. Any will do, though we prefer the classic French Opinel folding knife, which can serve double duty on picnics and camping trips. The thin blade locks open for safety, and its modest price ($19) means it’s not a disaster if it gets left behind in the great outdoors. We have also designed three knives with Zwilling J.A. Henckels: a 7-inch cook’s knife, a 5.5-inch serrated knife and a 4-inch paring knife. The knives are a blend of western design and the Japanese santoku. They are light, easy to use and moderately priced. Check them out at Sur La Table as well as in Bed, Bath and Beyond stores.
Christopher Kimball & Zwilling J.A. Henckels 3-Piece Knife Set
Most Milk Street recipes are designed around 12 ounces of pasta, not the 16 ounces that typically come in American packages (Italians serve smaller portions of pasta and hence market smaller packages). You can either save the extra 4 ounces for future use or go ahead and cook it, putting it aside before saucing the rest for dinner. Toss the plain pasta with oil to prevent sticking and refrigerate. The plain cooked pasta is perfect to stir into a simple frittata or it can be fried crisp and topped with grated Parmesan and a fried egg. Use a nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast iron set over medium-high heat and cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp in spots. Toss with plenty of crunchy kosher salt and black pepper. Poppy seeds are delicious as well. Any type of pasta works, though chunky shapes like orecchiette develop the best browning and the most addictively chewy texture.
FILMING SEASON 2 OF MILK STREET TELEVISION
We start filming the new season of our popular public television show in late February. This year, we travel all over the world from Taipei to Senegal to Madrid to Paris. If you would like to view our first season, it is available on your local station and on Create TV. You can also stream the first season and find your local station.
SWEET VERMOUTH IS BACK
I came back from a recent trip to Madrid extolling the virtues of a popular spritzer called the Yayo, which is flavored with gin and sweet vermouth. Since then, we’ve been playing around with spritzers in the kitchen and have a newfound affinity for sweet vermouths, especially those with a deeper, more complex profile. We’re particularly fond of inky, herbaceous Punt E Mes. For a simple spritz, combine 3 to 4 ounces of Punt E Mes with an orange wedge, dash of bitters, seltzer and plenty of ice in a highball. It packs the satisfying depth and savor of a cocktail without all the kick. If you want to try Punt E Mes in your cocktails, it pairs perfectly with spicy rye whiskies in a Boulevardier or Manhattan.