Why a Dustbuster Belongs in Your Kitchen

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One day, food director Carla Lalli Music walked over to my desk and said, “WHY HASN’T ANYONE WRITTEN ABOUT BRAD’S DUSTBUSTER ADDICTION?”

So here we are.

In the Bon Appétit test kitchen—a place where Claire makes gourmet Gushers and where dreams come true—cooking also happens, and so do messes. Which is why test kitchen manager Brad Leone keeps a dustbuster always charged and at the ready. Maybe too ready.

“Coffee beans, flour, he’s down there with that Dyson,” Carla told me. Brad clarified: “Whoever said Dyson? It’s Black and Decker.”

“It’s Brad’s thing,” added Carla, “It’s hilarious when he goes crazy [vacuuming everything]. When you say, Brad, dustbuster this up? [Carla imitates Brad vacuuming like it’s the Last Crusade.] He likes to get in the shelves, too.”

black decker vacuum 2

Photo by Emily Schultz

Brad’s one true love.

In the test kitchen while he was making some breakfast tacos, Brad told me about all the ways he uses his trusty dustbuster. “You’re chopping onions,” he said, picking up some onions from a bin to show me specifically the vegetable of which he speaks, “and suddenly that stuff’s all over the floor,”—he points to some onion skins on the floor— “it always happens. Or you’re dicing carrots and you get a couple carrots there, and real quick boop-boop-boop, it’s so easy. The filter is washable, a crucial detail. At home, he has a slightly smaller, cheaper model that can hang on the wall so as not to use up counter space.

Other things that need dustbusting in the kitchen, according to Brad:
“A little spice mixture on the floor.”
“Some ground beef. Wait, not like raw meat.”
“People are always dropping herbs.”
“You get the flour bag out, and boom-boom, there’s always some flour that falls on the ground.”
“In the fridge crisper drawer, maybe there’s a green bean dehydrated back there.”
“As long as it’s not greasy, in the oven.”
“Toaster oven, lift up the little thing and zzing-zzing-zzing.”
“Around my coffee grinder, the general coffee station.”

Sure, a dustpan could also clean these things, but you never get it all, said Brad, “You need that suction.”

You. Need. That. Suction.

“It really came in handy when Emily Eisen broke a full jar of dried turmeric INSIDE HER PURSE,” recalled Claire “Half-Sour” Saffitz. “No one asked why she had it in there in first place. But boy, does Brad love that thing.”

And it’s a passion he’s passed down to his toddler. “Griff loves it, he walks around like this [imitated baby using dustbuster.] It’s just a really, really, handy tool.”

black decker vacuum 1

Photo by Emily Schultz

Related: A Riveting Conversation with Brad Leone, the Star of It’s Alive

Watch Brad make kimchi:

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This Spicy Garlic Vinegar Belongs In Your Fridge at All Times

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“It’s funky,” Andy Baraghani said as we cracked open a Ball jar of garlic-chile vinegar, which was around two months old at this point. “But also addictive and delicious.” We tasted spoonfuls and coughed the good cough. The Thai chile hits, and then poof! (Andy’s hand mimicked a Genie evaporating into his lamp), it disappears.

After recent trips to Vietnam and Thailand—with great flight deals, I might add—Andy knew there was a condiment we needed a recipe for. A universal garlic-chile vinegar like the Vietnamese version, dam toi, that he found on every restaurant table (and the more pickle-like prik nam som in Thailand). Use it to finish fatty cuts of meat, braises, noodle soups, and a thrown-together fried rice dinner with a shot of unapologetic heat, funk, and above all, acid. You can find variations on the ingredients (palm sugar or no sugar here, rice vinegar there), and Andy’s recipe adds some ginger for more heat, of a different style than the straight fire of a Thai chile. “It’s in the background—it rounds everything out.”

roast pork belly with chile vinegar

Alex Lau

Immediately drooling. Angela Dimayuga’s roast pork belly with bottle of chile vinegar (top left).

The assembly takes around five minutes: White vinegar is heated with sugar and salt until dissolved, then poured into a jar with sliced garlic, sliced ginger, and a handful of whole chiles. The recipe calls for Thai chiles, but I made mine with a few habaneros, which bring a tropical and fruity note. After it cools, it can be refrigerated for, let’s say one to two months, at user’s discretion.

“Americans don’t usually use condiments that are this assertive,” Chris Morocco chimed in, watching me and Andy go in for second spoonfuls to really wake ourselves up. “But it completely transforms the flavor of a dish, it brightens everything—it’s a secret weapon.” He pointed out the recipe for Angela Dimayuga’s succulent roast pork belly with chile vinegar, where you make the condiment right in the vinegar bottle itself, stuffing the chiles inside.

snapper with blistered bean salad and chile vinegar

Peden + Munk

Chris’ grilled snapper with a blistered bean salad tossed in chile vinegar.

“It brings a heat that’s IN YOUR FACE, even though it disappears,” Andy said. Other than as a finishing condiment, he uses a few spoonfuls in dressings for crunchy cucumber salads, or mixed into mayo or yogurt for creamy dressings. Chris makes a version with brown sugar to spoon over this grilled snapper recipe.

After he uses up the infused vinegar, Andy likes to chop up the peppers and use them in a relish or salsa. Then it’s time to buy another head of garlic, and get the next batch going.

Get the recipe:

garlic-chile-vinegar.jpg

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