leave your inhibitions at the door
We’ve been in this house for almost two years and in that time I’ve made some really lousy meals. Whether they were recipes I’ve rocked previously or new ones, the concept was always fine but the execution was all over the place. It’s not like I was hit over the head with a Guy Fieri stick and all of a sudden lost all my culinary talent. It’s just that I went from this beautiful Italian-made Fratelli Onofri range…
To a piece of crap KitchenAid electric cooktop.
I love to play golf, but I’ve never been one of those guys that gets the latest and greatest equipment. My philosophy has always been that Tiger Woods could probably smoke the average golfer with Walmart clubs. (Do they even have clubs there?) I used to think the same with cooking – a great chef can make an excellent meal regardless of equipment. Heck, all that’s needed is a fire.
It does make a difference. The electric cooktop had the glass surface, so it was easy to maintain and my pans were cleaner, too. But the advantages stop there.
The first thing I noticed was that my wok was completely useless. With a gas cooktop, the flames come in contact with the sides of the wok, as well as the 4-5 inch flat bottom. On the electric one, the only part that gets heat is the flat part, so it never got as hot enough.
But the big difference is control. With gas, I can bring liquids to a boil and then lower it right away to a simmer. With the electric cooktop, the heating element stays hot and takes forever to cool down, so things burnt easily. To prevent overcooking, I learned to run two burners at the same time – one really hot to bring to a boil and the other on low for simmering. I’d keep the hot one going in case the pan needed to be get hot again because it’d take too long to get the pan up to boiling.
I came to realize that, yes, Tiger can beat almost anyone with shitty clubs. But the question becomes, “Why should he have to?” In my case, not only can I switch to gas pretty easily I can also afford to buy a damn good cooktop.
After a lot of research, I bought this Capital gas cooktop.
The company’s not as well-known as other high-end brands like Viking, Wolf, La Cornue, or Thermador, but it does have the pedigree. The company’s founder – Surjit Kalsi – developed the first Viking Ranges and later was co-founder of DCS. After some ownership issues, he started Capital a dozen years ago. Since it’s still a little under the radar, it’s not as ridiculously priced as the others.
It’s one of the most powerful cooktops around – the burners put out some serious heat. The middle one alone puts out 20K BTUs, so I can finally get my wok hotter than Hades. And all of the burners can get down to extra low for simmering. So I could finally make dishes like…
Pears poached in Almond Sparkling Wine
We were having dinner with neighbors and were responsible for dessert. I’ve made pears poached in spiced merlot several times, but this one looked interesting. I got it from Bright Eyed Baker and it turned out pretty good. I’ve never seen almond sparkling before and I quickly found out why – it tastes like crap.
So it’s no surprise that I found it at that place I absolutely detest. I bought extra so I could make the optional chocolate sauce. For that sauce I winged it and it came out pretty good. I’ve made similar with regular sparkling wine and it was delicious.
– 1 750 mL bottle of almond sparkling wine
– 1.25 cups water
– 1.5 cups sugar
– 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
– 4 firm pears
– ½ tsp almond extract
1. Combine wine, water, and 1 cup sugar in a pan that’s big enough for the pears, but small enough so that the pears are covered by the liquid. Whisk in the seeds from the vanilla bean and the pod itself. Bring to a boil
2. Core pears from the bottom using a small spoon or melon baller and peel. I made an off center cut on the bottom so that they would stand at a little bit of an angle on the plate. Add to the pot.
I placed a lid on top of them so that they could stay submerged.
3. Add to the pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. They should be soft enough to pierce with a fork. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in another container or on a plate if serving warm.
4. Strain the remaining liquid and then return to pan and bring to boil. Stir in ½ cup sugar and reduce until one-quarter of the original volume. Pour over pears and serve with almond whipped cream.
Almond Whipped Cream
– ½ cup whipping cream
– ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
– 1 Tablespoon sugar
– 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
– sliced almonds
1. Pour cream in a mixer’s bowl and add vanilla seeds. Beat on medium high until thickened. Reduce speed to low and add sugar and extract.
2. Dollop onto pears and garnish with sliced almonds.
Chocolate almond sauce (Optional)
– Melt 12 ounces of dark chocolate in a bowl – either over a pot of boiling water or in a microwave for a minute.
– Stir in a tablespoon of butter
– Whisk in ½ cup of the almond sparkling wine
I was really happy that this all turned out so well. But not as happy as I was to get the new cooktop.
Which do you prefer – electric or gas? Have you ever had almond sparkling wine?