Kitchen 101: Holiday Kitchen Essentials
Kitchen 101: Holiday Kitchen Essentials
Hamilton's Smokehouse Smoked Picnic Ham (Photo:Dmytro Chernykov)

Are you ready for Christmas niceness? You know, the frenzy of planned and unplanned cooking necessary to feed the good vibes? The holiday season starts today, so it's time to take stock of all the essentials you'll need to cook and celebrate like a pro. The great thing about these kitchen tools is that you'll use them all year round.

Wooden cutting board

Given how much you'll be chopping, slicing, mincing, and dicing this season, investing in a high-quality cutting board is one of your best culinary purchases. Cutting boards made of wood are preferable since they naturally contain antibacterial properties and can recover from a knife's edge. Any slicing done on a plastic cutting board will remain there indefinitely. If you want to keep your wooden board in good condition, wipe it down immediately after use and oil it periodically.

Chef's knife

Having one good knife is better than having a block full of average ones. The 8-inch chef's knife, with its rocking curve of the blade, fine razor tip, and deep, sturdy heel, is among the most useful and adaptable knives available. Look for one constructed from high-carbon stainless steel, and if your budget allows, also purchase a sharpening steel to sharpen your knife's edge. Any chef will tell you that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one since you have to use more energy to cut with a dull knife, and that's when accidents happen, while a well-sharpened knife gives crisp, clean cuts.

Kitchen shears

Kitchen shears will work just as hard as your chef's knife, from snipping herbs to spatchcocking a bird.

Cooling rack

Whether baking or frying, a cooling rack is your best protection against soggy or overcooked food, as it allows air to flow under meals or cooking containers. So, appetisers like these ham and feta toast squares won't "sweat" as they cool.

Rimmed baking sheets

A rimmed baking sheet is a multi-tasking hero, from setting mise en place to roasting a bird. However, while non-stick coating sheets are great for cookies, they don't work well for roasting meats, as they require longer cooking times with more significant moisture loss when compared to uncoated sheets.

Meat thermometer

A meat thermometer is a lifesaver, eliminating any room for error when cooking ham and poultry. With precise indicators on meat temperature, you won't have overcooked, tough meat.

Food storage containers

You may think you have enough containers, but Christmas cooking brings lots of leftovers, so you may want to rethink your stock. Snap-seal glass containers are best, but plastic works just as well. Choose shapes and sizes that make for clutter-free storage in your fridge and cupboard.

Salad spinner

Moisture-free greens and herbs are always a win. Look for a large salad spinner with a rubberised base that provides stability.

Food processor

A food processor is a workhorse for doing just about everything: creating pie crust, fast party dips, cutting your mirepoix or slicing potatoes.

Hamilton's Smokehouse Ham and Feta Squares

Ingredients:

2 cups Hamilton's Smokehouse Ham, diced

1 pizza crust

1 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup feta, crumbled

1/2 cup sliced olives

1/2 cup diced potatoes, cooked

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp rosemary

Method:

Prepare pizza crust as per package instructions. Brush with 1 tbsp olive oil. Top with Hamilton's Smokehouse Ham, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, olive and diced potatoes. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Place pizza crust on a cooling rack to cool and then cut it into squares. Top with remaining olive oil and rosemary to serve.

Editor's Note

Win! Win! Win!

The Best Dressed Chicken is giving away a Hamilton's Smokehouse Ham. Here's how you can win. Read the article carefully and answer the following question:

HOW DO YOU CARE FOR A WOODEN CUTTING BOARD?

The FIRST correct answer received at whyten@jamaicaobserver.com will be gifted with a Hamilton's Smokehouse Ham.

Hamilton's Smokehouse Ham and Feta Squares.
Having one good chef's knife is better than having a block full of average ones.
Lettuce spinner.
A rimmed baking sheet is a multi-tasking hero, from setting mise-en-place to roasting a bird.
A food processor is a workhorse for doing just about everything.
Using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to determine that your meat is cooked correctly.

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