This post will be the first installment in a regular series of posts about specific kitchen tools and gadgets. Given the title of the blog, it makes sense that I begin with the whisk.
Of all the tools that I use in my kitchen, the whisk is one that most makes me feel like a bona fide cook. It’s a damned serious item. Those who wield it comfortably exude a sort of culinary gravitas that implies years spent in cooking school.
Few other manually operated tools can match its transformative power. Spoons and spatulas don’t aerate or froth; forks don’t scrape pot bottoms and sides. Yes, a hand-held mixer can do those things, but not with the same elegance and sophistication.
Want to turn egg whites into meringue or mayonnaise? Want to emulsify oil and vinegar to make salad dressing? Want to rescue fond from the bottom of a roasting pan for gravy? Want to prevent custard or curd from seizing? Want to look like a classically-trained chef in the process?
The whisk is your tool.
I use three different whisks: one large French whisk and one small one (that’s the small one in the header photograph). My favorite whisk, however, is the flat whisk.
Here are two of my favorite “whisk-ey” recipes.
Olive Oil Lemon Curd
From Gourmet–so easy make and too perfect to alter.
3 large lemons
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 whole large eggs plus 2 large yolks
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fruity olive oil (preferably French)
Grate enough zest from lemons to measure 1 tablespoon, then squeeze 3/4 cup juice from lemons.
Whisk together lemon zest and juice, sugar, cornstarch, whole eggs, and yolks in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil, whisking, 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and oil until smooth. Makes about 1 cup of curd, enough for one nine-inch tart, like the chocolate drizzled lemon tart here.
This dressing is the simplest thing in the world to whisk up, and it completely revolutionized my salad-making. I’ll never go back to bottled dressing.
3 tablespoons of good quality vinegar or citrus juice (I like a combination of balsamic and sherry vinegars)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
About 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (or some other nice tasting oil–hazelnut, walnut, or pumpkin seed are all great)
In a large measuring cup (I use a four-cup sized Pyrex), whisk together the vinegar or juice, salt, and pepper. Briskly whisk in the mustard. Continuing to whisk, drizzle in the oil in a slow, steady stream. Whisk hard! Whisk like you mean it! The vinaigrette is ready when it becomes thick and sort of sludge-like. You can let this sit at room temperature until you’re ready to use it. It may need a quick whisk just before using.
You could prepare the vinaigrette by shaking it into an emulsion in a lidded cup, but then you’d deprive yourself of the pleasure of using the flat whisk, surely the most coolly elegant tool in the kitchen.