Which whisk, which dish, which cook…?

December 19th, 2009
Favorite basic whisks

Favorite basic whisks

How do you whip up a quick mayonnaise, a meringue or sweet sabayon? The essential, basic whisk comes in all sorts of sizes, some with stiff handles, others shaped more ergonomically.  And each chef fancies a particular variation on the bundle of looped wires that blend eggs into a mousse or add air to egg whites.  To whip eggs, most chefs join Michel Roux in choosing a large balloon whisk as the wonder tool to incorporate maximum air volume.  His clear instructions about Eggs steer me clear of disasters in the seemingly simple process of whipping this most basic – but fragile – ingredient.  So the balloon is the wunderkind, most useful member of the whisk family, but other whisks are better suited to specific preparations.  Whenever I use my Mom’s old spring whisk, I remember her smooth béchamel for green beans and cream soups.  A vinaigrette needs another type of whip to bring oil and vinegar into an emulsion, so to sum it up:

*A flat or roux whisk with horizontally arranged loops is suited to cream sauces in shallow pans, de-lumping gravy and delicate operations.

*A vinaigrette whisk is a single loop with wires wound around it to blend oil and vinegar for sauces and dressings – also my standby for making yogurt.

*A ball whisk has beads on the end of each wire to swirl into corners and incorporate flour with butter in a roux, and is good for frothing milk- but don’t use it in cephalon or coated pans.

* A spring whisk, also called a spiral or twirl whisk with its conical shape, does wonders for béchamel, reduces lumps in gravy, and works well blending quick sauces in shallow pans.

* A jug whisk is a very long and narrow balloon type tool, suited for odd jobs like mixing settled sugar back into lemonade.

* A silicone wrapped balloon whisk is designed for use on fragile surfaces and delicate operations like a buerre-blanc sauce.

* A mini whisk comes in handy for blending small quantities of chocolate sauces, and is perfect for mixing up cocktails (if you go with the stirred, not shaken formula!)

As you tick off your list of gifts for a favorite cook, why not pop a whisk into his or her stocking – or tie it onto the top of a larger, wrapped culinary surprise?

DSC_0007 Happy whisking!

Eggs, by Michel Roux, published in 2005 by John Wiley in the US, makes a super gift on any occasion.  ‘Tis the season for his Truffled Eggs en Cocotte (page 111) and the ‘pickled’ Pear & Cinnamon Omelet (p. 134) can be served as an appetizer….some welcome winter inspiration!

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