We chatted with Dave Cuntz, executive chef/owner at Durango staple Carver Brewing Co., about the most versatile tools and ingredients everyone should keep in their kitchen.
What instruments would you recommend?A good blender. Vitamix is my favorite, but Cuisinart can do the job.
Good pots and pans; heavy, solid base, copper-lined is the ultimate. Wooden spoons, spatulas, strainers. Durango Coffee Company has lots of fun kitchen gadgets – anything on that wall is something you can use. Ace Hardware also has great blenders, kitchen aids and knives.
Good set of knives. You need a French knife, 8 to 10 inch. Just make sure you’re able to sharpen them. There’s usually a gentleman at the Farmer’s Market who can help you keep knives sharpened over time.
What are the most useful ingredients to have on hand?Salt and pepper, for bringing flavors out of everything.
Corn starch to make slurries to help thicken sauces and soups.
It’s always nice to have fresh herbs; basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, the mothers herbs of cooking. Throw some oregano in Mexican or Italian dishes ... they work in pretty much any ethnic or American food. Cayenne is always good to brighten things up, put a little heat in there.
As far as the refrigerator is concerned, I always have carrots, onion, celery, lettuces and tomatoes. Things that you can bring together to finish a lot of different dishes out.
What are some quick, simple meals you enjoy?Spaghetti and meatballs. Ground beef, make your homemade meatballs, and roast those in the oven. And while that’s happening, get your pot of water going. For sauce, there’s nothing wrong with pouring out a little Prego if you don’t have a lot of time.
Tacos are really fast and easy. Roast a chicken or buy a roasted chicken, pull it off the bone, add cumin, red chili, coriander, a little oregano, make a broth, and put that in soft shell/hard shell tacos.
Any other tips? Think about what you make from scratch and what you need. You want to buy things fresh – and when they’re on sale, buy a lot and freeze it. There’s nothing wrong with freezing and pulling as needed. I always break up my frozen packages into smaller packages in Ziploc bags, so I don’t have to pull out a big thing. I’ll save broccoli stems and the carcasses of chicken stock. After you’ve eaten a rotisserie chicken, you can make a good chicken noodle soup with the carcasses – they really enrich it and add flavor.