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A Triumphant Kitchen Remodel with a Toaster Oven

Cooking out of the dank basement for 11 months as their dream kitchen took shape upstairs didn't stop these readers from eating in—and dining in style

Cooking Endurance

Photo by Courtesy of Deborah Hall and Don Post

You've heard about beautiful kitchens where no one ever cooks. How about a couple who enjoy cooking so much that they endured a year-long DIY redo while also preparing all their meals—in the basement?

"I don't like to eat out that much," says Deborah Hall, one-half of this gourmet team. "I would rather be in the kitchen, making food the way I want to make it."

Shown: The new kitchen has a special spot for wife Deborah Hall's favorite countertop helpmate.

Before: A Sour Vintage Flavor

Photo by Courtesy of Deborah Hall and Don Post

That applies even if the "kitchen" happens to be an ad hoc affair anchored by a toaster oven. "Sometimes we ate in the basement too; it was easier than climbing the stairs and carrying our food through the wreck of a kitchen to get to the dining room," Deborah says.

Shown: Original gumwood cabinet fronts, seen before the remodel, were repurposed during the renovation.

After: Vintage Look Preserved

Photo by Courtesy of Deborah Hall and Don Post

The couple had torn up the existing kitchen in their 1927 Tudor Revival, in Rochester, New York, to add a pro-style range and vent hood and update the countertops, sink, and floor tile. To preserve the kitchen's vintage flavor, husband Don Post salvaged the original gumwood cabinet fronts and built new boxes, something he had never undertaken before. "We did everything ourselves except the tile and counters," says Deborah.

Going Underground

Photo by Courtesy of Deborah Hall and Don Post

Dust and disorder ensued. But not the usual takeout. "Don hooked up our gas cooktop, along with two tiny fridges my son had at college," Deborah says. They kept the old fridge plugged in, too, so that she could freeze meals made in advance. Kitchen gear went in labeled boxes stacked in the dining room "so if we had guests or I needed something, I could easily get it out."

Don stapled plastic to the laundry room ceiling to block debris loosened by the work overhead. The laundry sink became the dish-washing station, and the microwave and a clever rice-cooker accessory joined the party.

Shown: Homeowner Don Post mans the cooktop in a temporary kitchen with towel-covered planks for countertops.

Toaster Oven Feast

Photo by Courtesy of Deborah Hall and Don Post

The below-ground setup came in handy when Deborah decided to make a decadent beef Wellington over the holidays. "I'd been doing this for 10 years," she says, suggesting that a little chaos wasn't going to get in the way of a family tradition.

Tasty tenderloin out of a toaster oven? All the more enjoyable when a new kitchen is emerging upstairs.

Shown: The new, light-filled kitchen is a luxury for homeowners Don Post and Deborah Hall, who fueled their DIY renovation with homemade meals.

Basement Beef Wellington

Photo by Lauri Paterson/iStockphoto


For the duxelles:

4 ounces cremini or other fresh mushrooms

1 shallot

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt, pepper, and thyme (season to taste)

For the beef:

1½ pounds center-cut beef tenderloin, tied with twine to hold its shape

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 ounces fine pate, mashed

9 ounces puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper (season to taste)

1. To make duxelles, finely chop mushrooms, shallot, and garlic. Add butter and oil to large saute pan; when hot, add mushroom mixture. Saute over medium heat and stir until moisture evaporates. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cool in fridge.

2. To prepare beef: Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Sear in hot frying pan, about 1 minute per side. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

3. To assemble: Remove tenderloin from fridge and cut off twine. Spread pate on top and sides of beef. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry to create a rectangle big enough to enclose beef (about 10 by 13 inches). Spread duxelles on dough, leaving a 1-inch margin. Place tenderloin in center of dough, pate-side down. Fold over the long side of dough and seal with beaten egg. Fold up ends as if wrapping a present, trimming any excess, and seal. Sprinkle with salt and place seam-side down on toaster oven's metal pan.

4. To finish: Preheat toaster oven to 425 degrees F. Bake beef about 25 minutes, then start checking temperature; when it reaches 120 degrees F, for medium rare, remove beef and let it rest 10 minutes so that juices can gather.

Serve upstairs on sparkling plates.

Shown: The fruits of their labor included a mid-redo beef Wellington assembled in an ad hoc cooking space in their basement laundry room.