Friday 21 August 2015

New pots and pans... from the USA again

How to make a cook happy.

Much used Calphalon.
Once was black, now naked aluminium.
I've always used American pans. Not by choice - I mean, I didn't know they were from the US. Belinda and I asked her parents for a set of Calphalon for our wedding present. No idea why. Possibly because they were on sale in Habitat (for anyone under 35, Habitat was Ikea for the aspirational sorts in the 80s). Calphalon was/is an anodised aluminium (aloooominum) with metal handles and lids that would go in the oven. We have them still, twenty two years later, although some are going on a long holiday with Fabian when he leaves us for uni in the autumn. There's no way I'm sending him off with the ubiquitous IKEA student set of tin can pans that will warp and buckle and burn almost everything, unevenly, even soup. Even air. 

With pans, like knives and baking trays... my advice is to buy the best you can't afford. In the long run it is cheaper and in the short run you will have a tool that is useful and pleasurable. Buy from chef's suppliers; they can't afford to stock crap. You will be saving your children and grandkids money too. This is heirloom cookware. But that's maybe not what concerns you when you're 19 and wanting to heat some super noodles.

I do have a few Frenchies now: a copper pan or two, some fibrillatingly expensive Le Pentole and a Le Creuset casserole (of course). There's even a couple of German SKKs with their extraordinarily good non stick surfaces. But I find I return to the States for my cookware. It's one of those things America does well, like smartphones, movies, nuclear weapons, pornography, operating systems and diabetes. (Things they do badly include: cars, adopting the metric system and, ahem, weight measurements in recipes. Come ON America!)

I recently bought a American cast iron skillet. It's a Lodge; basically a bit of the earth's core, beaten into a bowl shape. It cost £43. It's very heavy; the stupidly short, stubby handle will sear your hand; it's not non stick nor dishwasher safe. It's brilliant. My only regret is not buying one years ago. Nothing sears meat better than cast iron. It gets very, very hot and stays like that. I honestly believe that the lamb chumps I've served recently, that guests have adored, were made delicious by the deep, crispy, crusty sear the Lodge delivered. I could write lots about the non-issues of cast iron but I'd only be repeating this from the always excellent
Lodge. The Daddy. The very heavy Daddy.
But I did want to let you know about my new discovery. I was actually ordering my first saucier - a round bottomed pan used, unsurprisingly, for sauces. The shape of the pan makes it ideal for whisking, ensuring no corner for substrate to cower, catch or clag. I went for a stainless steel All Clad. Let's see how long that mirrored finish lasts.

The All Clad (it's a brand) stainless steel 3 quart saucier. Gorgeous.

I was using an American web site - Chef's Catalogue - partly because they sell a range that just doesn't seem to be available in Europe and partly because Lodge and All Clad are cheaper, even after postage and packing. While I was browsing (chef porn - look at the copper on that!) I found these beauties. Hob jugs! This is the reason for the blog. let me say that again: HOB JUGS! It's a jug that you can use on a hob.

I've been after a hob jug for ages. I didn't think anyone made them; I thought they were the stuff of my post prandial whimsy. So useful with their volume measurements. They have built in strainers too. Anyone who's reduced stock or had to trickle melted butter at right angles into a juddering hand blender beaker will appreciate them. The jug like handles also mean they use less real-estate in my increasingly crowded pan drawers. Your place must be earned there. The all metal/glass construction means I can put them in an oven too. The fact the lids are glass allows me to check ingredients easily. I'm overjoyed with them. Overjoyed... with a pot. Oh, what? 

Bloody cups!

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