Monday, July 25, 2011

Happily Ever After: Tales from an arranged marriage

The truth is we did not know each other well before taking the plunge. There was no pre-marital canoodling to test each other out. I found out as much as I could beforehand, but had no idea how well we would match up. He might have thought me an amateur. He is so handsome that I doubted his ability to perform.

This is the arrangement we all have with new cars and appliances. You do the research, you ask around, then you hand someone a wad of bills and hope for the best. Will it be reliable? Will it be a lemon? Will you have to adapt your technique or cooking/cleaning/driving habits just to get the best performance out of it?

When we moved into our new home I had to select and purchase multiple new appliances. This was a total treat - especially the range in the kitchen. I chose well. His name is still evolving, but he's either Wolf or Wolfie (a la Puck or Mozart). Like his canine cousins he is eager to please, territorial, and awesome.

Wolfie has six-burners and a griddle. After cooking on a barely functioning Jenn-Air cooktop for the past six years (I cannot bring myself to knock the brand because we have a Jenn-Air outdoor grill that is a rock star*), Wolfie appeared one day as the clouds parted, angels sang, and four sweaty dudes grunted and heaved him up the steps to the kitchen. Years ago I had a Viking. Each of its six burners required planetary alignment before igniting and I had to replace the hinges on the oven door three times over seven years. The Viking did not so much like to run at high temps and I regularly cook pizza at 500. I'd cook it at 800 if I could, but you can't get that kind of heat out of a residential appliance. Anyway, that appliance was a total disappointment. The Viking brand was conceived to fill a void in the market. Nothing more than eye candy for the kitchen.

I'm often asked about my affinity for all gas ranges. But before that I'd like to take this opportunity to air my grievance with the so-called dual-fuel range. There's uno fuel: natural gas. Dual energy would be better.

I wouldn't consider an electric cooktop. Gotta cook with flames. And I do prefer the unified range to the separate wall oven and cooktop.  When you have a cooktop you have to deal with that awkward cabinet below it and I prefer my cabinetry have a sense of confidence. The cabinet under the aforementioned Jenn-Air was like Eeyore, always presuming he'd been forgotten or that it was going to rain.

A gas oven cooks with more moisture than an electric oven. This is great for roasting and baking cakes. Some things, cookies and granola in particular, seem a bit better off in an electric oven, especially one with a convection setting. Wolfie doesn't convect, but he does have a fan that helps out immensely. The first time I made granola in the Wolf it didn't dry out sufficiently. Now that I run the fan it's fine.

The griddle has been the best surprise. I almost skipped it in favor of more burners and that would have been a major oversight. You should see how well the Wolf griddle handles eggs. Unreal. I'd like to fling my nonstick pans off into the alley but I still need them for tarte Tatin and crêpes.  The only design flaw with the griddle is the drip hole. The dual energy model has a sweet drip tray that is a cinch to clean. I don't care for the hole on my Wolfie. We don't generate enough drippings to even really use it but the whole area around it gets splattered. The tray is genius, but unavailable on the gas models.

Another decision that was not hard to make was about the burners. I really, really like open burners as you get a much better flame. I don't have any issue with that drip tray, either. With closed burners all your mess stays on top and waits for you to clean it. With opened burners the unwatched pot boils over a bit but everything is contained in the drip tray.

It's been a two-month honeymoon and Wolf is a well-seasoned partner in the kitchen, and shows every indication of having the stamina to go the distance. May you all experience similar wedded bliss.


* If company history intrigues you as it does me, Jenn-Air was acquired by Maytag in 1982. In 2006 Whirlpool bought Maytag.

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