A bag of basics for the traveling chef
it's summer and up here in Canada that means one thing: cottage season. For those of us who don't own our own cabin or cottage, this also means renting and frequently putting up with less than perfect kitchens.
I am thinking about putting together a box or bag with some essentials, anchovies, olive oil, some tomato puree, spices, a decent knife and a steel. Perhaps a cast iron pan. Would a Dutch oven be overdoing it?
Has anybody else put together a kit like this, perhaps for camping? And if so, what are you packing and how did you go about this? Did you built a box, use a bag? I'm eager to learn.
For the last several Thanksgivings, I've taken a whole batterie de cuisine to my mother-in-law's. What's worked well as a container is a very sturdy woven basket. A cardboard box that's sufficiently sturdy will work, but the handles give the basket the edge.
If I were in your situation I'd take the knife and steel, a bamboo cutting board, a skillet, a pot big enough for boiling potatoes or pasta, and a colander. At minimum. Pretty sure I'd take my stainless tongs, my favorite blunt spoon, the tomato/utility knife, and a peeler. On vacation, it's even more important for cooking not to be a drag...
Over a span of two decades, I did the cooking while camping thing. A lot of the trips started by airplane, so I was really limited in what I could carry.
My method (cooking for two) ended up being based on a propane powered tripod one burner and a small Revere ware fry pan. That's it. First thing in a new city: stop at KMart and get a small propane tank and a styrofoam freezer chest. Buy butter. Have salt and pepper. two knives and forks, disposable paper plates. A spatula.
Veggies- stir fry them. Meat light pan fry. Fresh fruit. Etc.
So simple. So good. many well remembered meals.
I pack the cooking gear form car camping in one or more Rubbermaid totes (Rubbermaid Roughneck Tote, 37.9 L). With a compact stove I can fit most of the pans, table ware and tools in one such box. Another box has most of the dry food (spices, boxed, canned etc). If I want to use a dutch oven with coals top and bottom, that (a compact 10" model) goes in a third box, along with associated tools and some charcoal.
A convenient knife is Kuhn-Rikon with sheath, like this one
The blade is thin and lightweight, but well protected by the sheath, and quite sharp. They also have sheathed paring knives.
We always take some level of travel kitchen. When we travel for business, we're in hotels but have a big zip lock with a good 5 inch knife with a sheath, silverware, paper plates, salt, pepper and a few little pkges of condiments and a corkscrew.
When I am cooking, in a condo, I have rubbermaid container with a half sheet pan and release foil, a cast iron skillet, coffee grinder and coffee, a couple of good knives with sheaths, tongs and disposable cutting sheets. I bring a few spices and a small pepper grinder.
I've been in this situation in the past, and found that some of the most basic things are the easiest to forget. For example, I'm so accustomed to freshly ground black pepper that I never realized that there would be no pepper mill in the kitchen (just a shaker with listless pre-ground pepper). I make sure to bring knives and spices, pepper mill, and kosher salt (I don't like cooking with table salt).
Good tool suggestions already up in this thread (like tongs!). Pans have been less crucial for me, because you can usually make do with crappy pans for a few days. But it can't hurt to bring a pan for any larger or special thing you have in mind (like a roast). Heavy duty foil could help a lot in a pinch.
re: Bada Bing
GSI Outdoors makes a nice traveling pepper mill - compact with a cap for the open end. Many backpacking/camping shops carry GSI products.
has other camp kitchen tools, some gimicky, others innovative and useful.
MEC (Mtn Equip Coop) sells GSI in Canada
Boating stores can also be a good source for portable kitchen tools.