In October 2009, I wrote a nostalgic post about expandable steel-wire baskets after finding a vintage one by Mouli in its original box at a rummage sale.
These baskets were the original "salad spinner," designed so you could fill them up with leafy greens, rinse under running water, and then shake the entire basket to dry the veggies off. My wife's family used them to gather eggs from the henhouse back in the 40's and 50's (the same use we put them to decades later when we had a backyard flock.) And we also use them for picking baskets out in the garden.
They're still available out there, at church rummage sales, tag sales, and so on. Usually, when I find them I pay about 50 cents or so for them. Eventually, sometime over the summer tag sale season, I'll come across at least one of them for sale. But if you're impatient, you can now get one from the ridiculous "As Seen On TV" people.
Now, of course, they're called the "Chef Basket 12 in 1 Kitchen Tool" and they're selling them for $14.95 at the local Walgreens.
I saw an ad for these on television last night, and it was an awesome display of bad actors trying not to embarrass themselves while acting clumsy doing things without the help of a Chef Basket. Whatever. The very fact that this kind of advertising sells stuff makes me ashamed of American consumerism.
Anyway, whether you find one at a rummage sale or pay the outrageously inflated $14.95 for one, I have some advice for you: Don't use it as a frying basket. Seriously. Regular wire baskets are hard enough to get clean - repeated use as a fry basket will leave this one with cooked-on oil resins because you'll never get it cleaned well enough. Stick to using it for non-grease-related culinary duty - you'll still find plenty of uses for it.