My first time hosting Thanksgiving in my big girl, one-bedroom apartment was back in 2018. My mother, the queen of the kitchen, was in town and my two (very opinionated) Puerto Rican aunts were coming over as well. One aunt was the one who has hosted and cooked a countless amount of these dinners so I was shook. Talk about the pressure to impress!
The scariest part of my meal was the turkey and I spent weeks looking through different recipes before settling on one that featured a compound butter that had various herbs and citrus zest. My mom gave me a zester years ago but I never used it because I didn’t know what it was for. Well, now was my chance to take it out of the package.
After running my zester over my lemons, oranges, and limes and assembling the compound butter, I slathered it all over the bird. The result was a golden brown juicy centerpiece that had me mentally doing body rolls when my mom carved it up. I anxiously watched my family take their first bite of the turkey and it was a hit. I knew then that this was a secret weapon I’d been sleeping on.
Zest, the outer layer where all the natural oils are, is ten times more flavorful than the actual juice. It packs so much deliciousness that I’m convinced it’s what impressed my aunt when she took her first bite of that Thanksgiving turkey. And it’s not just limited to turkey — I love adding citrus zest to a juicy roast chicken or in the icing of a pound cake to give it that extra oomph.
My zester also comes in handy with aromatics -- it’s the perfect solution to soften up the harsh bite of garlic, ginger, or onions. The sharp holes create a fine grate so you can add them to salad dressing, stir fry, tzatziki, or mayo for extra flavor, without overwhelming the sauces. As for the post-meal bad breath? Can’t help you there.
The last thing I’ll use this tool on is cheese: it’s a match made in heaven. Since we’re still limited on dining options (and practicing social distancing) it’ll make home cooked meals feel like you’re at a fancy Italian restaurant where the waiter asks “Would you like freshly grated cheese over your pasta?” Umm, hell yes! Grating fresh parmesan cheese over a rich, decadent spaghetti is a pleasure you deserve in your life.
While there are plenty of zesters out there, this one by Oxo is my favorite. It has a non-slip top, so you can rest it on your cutting board without worrying that it’ll slide off. The handle has a wide grip so you can get a good hold — you don’t have to be scared of cutting yourself. Plus, the holes are sharp and give the perfect sized curls of cheese or citrus rind for your needs.
I love this little tool so much that when I cook at a friend’s house, I’ll bring it with me. I literally recommend it to everyone in my life and usually wind up convincing them to buy one. Should you get your own and want a recipe that really makes the best of this device, I highly recommend my pasta carbonara. I promise you’ll fall in love with a zester like I have and find even more ways to upgrade your meals.
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