Cooking Gift Sets: No, Says the Grinch

[ Here's a popular article from last year's holiday postings. Tom ]

Who Hash Gift Set, $49.99.
Includes one can Who Hash produced by hash artisans
from rural Whoville and one inexpensive can opener. 

I'm not a big fan of cooking gift sets. Especially Any Gift Set That Includes a Food Product. The quality of the food and gadgets is likely poor and the price likely high. In one catalog alone I saw gift sets for:
  • Paella
  • Pizza
  • Whoopie Pies
  • Donuts
  • Ebelskivers
  • Fondue
  • Cupcakes
  • Grilling with BBQ Rub
  • Moroccan Tagine
  • ....and my favorite, the Himalayan Salt Block set
None really looked like a fair value to me. The sets included gadgets you probably wouldn't use, the quality looked questionable, prices high-ish. Bah.

Grinch with 3x larger heart.
No gift sets - just plates, knife, fork and roast beast. 

Yet, in appreciating that the Grinch himself opened up to new possibilities and embraced the positives of Christmas in Whoville, I too, can open up with a positive ending to my Grinchy ramblings today.

Months ago you may have read my thoughts on the Kitchen Tools You Can't Live Without. It's a pretty short list of essentials that every good cook should have. Picking a few items from that list, and a few others we rely on, here's a very short list of favorite kitchen tools. Most are easily found even during last minute shopping, or might be worth exchanging for if there were some impractical cooking items in your stocking.

Keeping a knife sharp is far more important that what you paid for it.

Less expensive than Pam, better taste from your own choice of oil.

How well does a rounded spoon scrape a pot / pan?

Easy to clean up, replaces many blender and food processor tasks
Better than a mesh strainer, a key for sauces, large capacity,
easy to clean, and can double as a regular strainer / colander.

Wow - those eggs must be good....

...because I see that I just wrote an entire post without realizing that I had posted this separately about a month or so ago.

Eggs with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Herbs

First - my sincerest apologies for the long break between articles. Many of you may know that I've returned to the corporate world from the consulting world....I thought I was working long, hard hours before, but now......:)

Here's a simple dish inspired by Judy Rodgers of the Zuni Cafe (in S.F.). Toasted breadcrumbs along with fried eggs seems like an obscure combination - until you've tried it. Then it will seem to be an obvious combination, and one you'll return to often. The gentle crunchiness of small breadcrumbs with fried eggs is surprising. I've also used crumbles of leftover grilled polenta in this dish. 

Eggs with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Herbs
  1. Coarsely grind a few slices of rustic bread. Alternately, use Japanese panko breadcrumbs. Reserve a few tablespoons of crumbs.  
  2. Add a few leaves of fresh herbs (thyme is great). 
  3. Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick or stainless skillet. Add the bread crumbs. 
  4. Right after the crumbs begin to brown, break 2, 3 or 4 eggs into the skillet, sunny-side up style.
  5. If you care to flip the eggs, sprinkle a the reserved crumbs over them first. 
  6. Top with an herb sprig, or a thin slice of crispy pancetta or bacon. 



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