Archive for ‘HOT STUFF’

September 5, 2012

Nespresso Citiz w/ Milk

There was one culinary trend that stayed with us from our vacation this summer in South Africa – coffee. It’s hard to find a regular American style cup of coffee anywhere. Your choices are instant coffee, French Press coffee or cappuccino/espresso. We found the French Press coffee very strong and instant wasn’t an option, but the cappuccino was fantastic! Alan’s brother had us over to his place for a cappuccino from his new Nespresso machine. It was so good that one of the first things we did when we got back to the States was order a machine for ourselves. Seriously… I think we ordered it the same day we got home.  We purchased our machine in red from Bed Bath & Beyond online. It’s not available now through BBB, but they do still have a number of other Nespresso machines to choose from. You can order the Citiz w/Milk from Nespresso directly.

South African Cappuccino

Nespresso offers a number of machines. Some don’t have a milk frother integrated in the machine, which Nespresso calls an Aeroccino. You’d need to buy a separate Aeroccino to froth/steam your milk for those machines. If you prefer espresso, you won’t even need this. We selected the Citiz w/ Milk machine because we wanted to make cappuccino and I didn’t want to purchase two separate appliances.

This Nespresso Citiz machine is super easy to use and easy to clean. The integrated Aeroccino can be used to both steam and froth milk and it cleans up easily. The machine’s high bars of pressure produce that perfect crema on top of every cup – just like the professionals. You have to use the Nespresso capsules, called Grand Crus, which can only be purchased from the Nespresso website or from one of their store locations. Not a big deal, but you do have to pay for shipping when ordering online. The machine comes with a sleeve of 16 assorted capsules to get you started. We tried a few until we found the coffee we liked best. On an intensity scale of 1-10, we like our espresso somewhere between an 8 and 10.

I should add, the machine looks great on our counter! At .60 per capsule, if you’re a Starbucks junkie, a home espresso machine might actually save you some money in the long run.

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June 12, 2012

Super-Fast Thermapen

I think I’ve found the answer to my biggest cooking challenge, knowing when meat is properly cooked. I know there are a number of methods out there, and some of you can tell when your steak or chicken is ready just by pressing on the center, but this has been my greatest culinary struggle. I like to cook meat to temperature, 130 degrees for medium-rare when cooking steak, and if I remove it at 125 degrees it will be perfectly cooked after it rests. Roasting a whole chicken can also be a challenge. Farm raised, organic chickens don’t come with that pop-up timer, so you definitely need an accurate reading using a thermometer. You will find a number of instant read thermometers on the market. I have been through a couple small dial display instant reads, but I swear they become less accurate over time. I thought buying one professional quality thermometer  might be the solution.

Before I start praising my fabulous new Thermapen I must warn you, it’s $89. I know that’s a lot of money and there are certainly meat thermometers out there for substantially less, but I have to say this is the best thermometer I have ever used. This Thermapen is fast. Rather than waiting for the dial to go up on my old instant read, while the oven is open and heating up my kitchen or my arm hair is catching on fire over the BBQ… the Thermapen is truly instant.

I discovered this thermometer reading an article on Serious Eats. They have a great guide to grilling steaks and Tip#10 is Use a Thermometer! To quote: “Yes, you may look a bit less macho when you whip out a nifty Thermapen Splash-Proof Instant Read Thermometer from your back pocket, swing out the slender probe and insert it gently into the very center of your steak to register a reading, but believe me: perfectly cooked meat will earn you more praise and appreciation than macho posturing any day of the week.” And there began my search for a Thermapen. I was only able to find it on Amazon. It comes in a few colors. I chose pink, thinking I would always be able to find it in my cluttered gadget draw.

I was going to list some additional tips on grilling, like remembering that the meat’s temperature will continue to rise even after you take it off the grill or that you should always let it rest before cutting into it, but the article above from Serious Eats is fantastic. Have a look if you’re interested in some guidance to cooking the perfect steak. I recognize that you might think I’m nuts for investing in my Thermapen, but I would urge you to find a meat thermometer you are comfortable with. I think it’s certainly the best method to cooking meat perfectly, and we have a whole season of delicious grilling ahead of us.

Happy Summer!

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