I had my first immersion blender years before I needed it. In the right hands, an immersion blender can bring a new dimension to a soup, smooth out a sauce, and generally keep you from having to go through the painstaking and sometimes dangerous task of transferring a hot, sticky liquid to a regular blender and back. In the wrong hands, an immersion blender is a way to make milkshakes without having to dirty the blender.
Well, that's not true. In the wrong hands, an immersion blender is a terribly inefficient and messy way to get yourself to the top of the FBI's most wanted list. Using it for milkshakes and smoothies is kind of handy, if only the briefest touch of its full abilities.
Once I started getting into cooking, I broke out the 20-year-old immersion blender that I got from my dad after a house cleaning/purge. It works, sure, but what I didn't realize at the time was that it works poorly. It tears through vegetables like a chain-saw through human flesh: sure, popular culture tells you this should work well, but when you actually try it, you start to think that maybe it was really designed to do something else.
Hmmm, this entry is pretty gruesome. I blame chapter two of Near a Thousand Tables: A history of food. Those who have read it probably know what I'm talking about. Those who haven't, well, you can pick it up for yourself. I wouldn't want to get in trouble with the Vegans.
Anyways. While visiting Melanie's parents over the Christmas vacation, I was convinced to make some Roasted Vegetable Soup, as Melanie loves it so. I asked her parents if they had an immersion blender, fearful of the limb-burning prospect of the stand blender, and I was relieved that they had one.
I immersed the blender, prepared for five minutes of dedicated grinding, pushing the blender against the fully-cooked broccoli and hearing it struggle like the drill of a dentist who is working on what will eventually become his next yacht and summer home once the bill is paid. After all, that's what I did with my old blender. Instead, a quick fifteen seconds later I had virtually eliminated all recognizable vegetable matter.
After remarking aloud that I intended to discard the old blender and buy this model immediately upon my return home, Melanie and her mom disappeared in a cloud of mystery and returned with what I eventually discovered was my new Christmas present of a Braun 200-watt Immersion Blender. Hooray!
It has removable attachments, so the bits that get dirty can be washed in the dishwasher. It even has a handy food prep attachment, for when you need to seriously chew through a small amount of vegetables and you don't feel like dirtying a knife or the food processor.
Apparently, there's a 400 watt version, but I can't see why a home cook would need such a thing. Maybe one day I'll find out, but I think the 200-watt is the way to go.