Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tools of the Trade

How have I just learned about America's Test Kitchen? I am in food nerd love. Not only can I watch their geek-not-quite-chic show on PBS, but for $30 a year I have access to a dozen years of knowledge online.

I can lose hours reading their product reviews, and since I am cooking so much right now I found the following directive on cookware sets to be incredibly useful:

Our ideal set would include a roomy 12-inch traditional skillet (or fry pan—we use the terms interchangeably) that’s big enough to fit four chicken breasts; a 10-inch nonstick skillet for cooking delicate omelets and fish; a 12-inch cast-iron skillet for frying and searing; a 4-quart covered saucepan for vegetables and other side dishes; a 2-quart covered saucepan for heating soup or cooking oatmeal; a 6- or 7-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven for braising, deep-frying, and even baking bread; and a large stockpot that can do double-duty for pasta, lobster, or corn on the cob.

This "ideal set" doesn't exist, but I am using this list as a guide to build my own collection one piece at a time. Having the right tools makes any task more enjoyable, especially if it's a task that you love. I'm also a big proponent of buying a quality item and taking care of it rather than buying something cheap and having to replace it every few years.

Quality pieces already in my collection include 10- and 12-inch nonstick skillets (Calphalon for Mother's Day last year - thank you, Jude), a #12 Wagner 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 3-inch sides (100 years old - I'll post soon about restoring this yard sale beauty), a 6-Qt enameled dutch oven (Lodge is a totally functional $55 alternative to the $300 Le Creuset that I covet...), and a 6-inch Le Creuset enameled skillet (not on the list, but incredibly useful for reductions and reheating single servings).

My newest love? A 12-inch traditional skillet by All Clad.

Glorious. Even the packaging was wonderful. I was looking at cheaper stainless steel sets and singles, but ATK gave this their highest rating and I now trust those public access food scientists with all my culinary needs.

As with all things, you get what you pay for. But I do love a deal so I waited to buy this $155 treasure until Macy's had their Friends and Family special. 20% off plus an old $15 store credit and she was all mine for $106 with free shipping. If I were Julie Andrews, and part of me has always wished that I were, I'd be singing to you about three of my favorite things right now - food, quality American-made products, and a sweet sweet bargain.

We christened the pan last night with sea scallops - easily fitting 8 in the pan without crowding them. I didn't take pictures, but here's the fool-proof recipe for melt-in-your-mouth scallops.

As for my lovely pan? Ah, she did just fine.

(serves 2)

8 sea-scallops, cleaned and patted dry
2 Tbsp EVOO
salt and pepper
1/2 C dry white wine
3 Tbsp butter

Preheat your pan over high heat with 2 Tbsp EVOO and 1 Tbsp butter. Liberally salt and pepper your scallops. After butter foam starts to subside, add scallops to the pan and let them cook 2 minutes until they release easily and have a nice dark crust. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes on the second side and then remove to a warm plate where they will continue to cook slightly as they rest. (Do not overcook them - they get tough and gross. I didn't think I liked scallops for years because I had rubbery restaurant scallops the first time I ordered them.)

Deglaze the pan with half a cup of dry white wine - reducing by half while you scrape the nice crusty fond from the bottom of the pan to create a lovely sauce. (I used our go to chardonnay by Cupcake Vineyards. Half cup in the sauce, half bottle in my glass.) Remove sauce from heat and thicken with 2 Tbsp butter.

Spoon pan sauce over scallops. Cry because they are so so good.


Rooskie said...

Glad you're on board now with ATK! :)

Claudia said...

Sounds delicious. Let me know when you feel like doubling the recipe or kicking Gabe out and feeding me his portion. (Sorry Gabe)

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