So your uncle/girlfriend/boss/mother is showing a growing interest in all things culinary--that makes Christmas shopping easy. The only problem is that the array of choices at cooking stores can feel overwhelming to the already frazzled shopper. Is a spatula insulting? Are dish towels too boring? Cookie sheets too bush league? Luckily Marie Dwyer of Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul simplified the shopping trip into five easy options that will impress anyone on your new-to-the-kitchen list.
1. A microplane grater, $15.75 This wand-like tool can zest fruit, grate hard cheeses or ginger, mince garlic, shave chocolate--you name it. "This is something we recommend for every single new cook, because every time we're cooking we use the microplane," says Dwyer. "It's a great multipurpose tool."
2. The Wusthof chef's knife, $49 When your new cook is ready to upgrade from a block of Ikea knives, Dwyer recommends easing them in with this impressive piece. "The Wusthof chef's knife is great because their version is six inches instead of the classic eight, so it's more manageable for new cooks," says Dwyer. If you're going to invest in a piece to start building a knife collection, this is it.
3. What to Drink With What You Eat, $35 Chefs in the Cooks of Crocus Hill cooking classes get more questions about wines and wine pairing than anything else, says Dwyer, so cut out the middleman and get your newbie chef What to Drink With What You Eat. "This book demystifies wine," says Dwyer. "Our chefs here love it, and our culinary director promotes it whenever wine questions come up."
4. Mauviel 8.5-inch copper pan, $99 Dwyer can't say enough about Mauviel, one of the first copper cookware manufacturers in France. In fact, Cooks of Crocus Hill has such a great relationship with the company that it is offering this key pan, normally $189, on special for Christmas. "Copper is great for cooking because it heats evenly and very quickly. This is a great entry-level pan for a new cook."
5. Salt, $8, and salt box, $26 Spice up the life of your new cook with a package of sel gris--a multipurpose salt from the ocean floor--and a salt box made from indigenous Minnesota wood. "If you're new in the kitchen you realize how important salt is as an ingredient," says Dwyer. "Put this salt box next to your stove and you can reach over and add pinches as you cook."