The third in my triumvirate of favourite skillets is this one. I think I bought it from Ikea in the 1980s. It measures about 25cm across the top- that’s about 10 inches for my fellow oldies out there. The lid also does double duty on my cast iron skillet. So, why have three skillets?
I believe that the pots and pans we have should serve us well and be used often to justify taking up valuable real estate in the kitchen. My skillets are not all interchangeable based on whim. I reach for this one when I need to do any of the following:
- sauté/fry fish. It doesn’t take on the fishy smell in the way that the other “seasoned” pans might do and, as it is totally stainless steel with no non-stick coating, it can be scrubbed with plenty of washing up liquid and a wire cleaning pad, as necessary. For two plain, unbreaded, fish fillets, any sort, I add a TBS of butter to the pan as it is warming (keep the temp low so as not to burn the butter) and, when frothing, add the fish fillets. Add about 60ml (2 TBS), of white wine to the pan and squeeze a wedge of lemon over the fish and add a bit of salt and pepper. You can bet that wine doesn’t get measured by me. A splash of whatever I am drinking, or about to be drinking, goes in the pan. If the husband comments on how quickly my glass emptied, I blame it on the fish. Put the lid on and cook slowly for 7-8 minutes? This timing is NOT exact. Use the digital thermometer we talked about the other day to test for doneness (start getting twitchy as it reaches 60 degrees) and be aware that the fillets may not match in size. I usually pop the skinny one (if it’s getting there first) on top of the fatter one so they get done at about the same rate. When the fish is done (and cooking with the the lid on steams the top so you don’t need to risk breaking the fillets by turning them over) I do the same process of deglazing the pan to make a sauce as I describe below, add capers and bring more lemon to the table in case it is wanted.
- cook something that is tomato based. Tomatoes are acidic and that can damage the seasoning on a cast iron pan if left in contact, during slow cooking for instance. I make tomato sauce in this stainless steel pan before adding it to the very best Spaghetti Bolognese recipe in the world, which is found in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book, The River Cottage Meat Book, page 497. My most splattered and annotated recipe, it makes loads, which I freeze down for future use for one of two people in a way to be described in a future post.
- Cooking something where I know I am going to need to “deglaze” the pan to add the cooking juices to a dish as with the fish described above. After gently frying a chop or chicken breast (usually in its own juices), a beautiful, sticky brown residue is left in the pan. After removing the meat to a warm plate in the oven, a tablespoon (2, more?) of appropriate wine can be added to the warm pan, the brown bits all scrapped into the mix and stirred until mostly smooth, a bit more butter or wine added if needed, seasoned if needed (taste, taste, taste- don’t guess) with salt and pepper and then reduced by cooking some more until you have just a couple of small spoons of intense sauce to spoon over your meat.
I know how stressful cooking can be at times. You have hungry people to feed and you are tired after a long day of whatever you have been doing. I used to stress so much if I didn’t have a recipe that exactly suited what I had to hand. Many times I would make elaborate shopping lists to include ingredients for a specific recipe from one of my shocking number of cookbooks. I was terribly uncomfortable with the idea of what I now call “Jazz Cooking “.
As with music, who’s here on the gig today? (Onions, garlic and carrots are always welcome). Late arrival? (Oooh, I just found this in the back of the fridge that needs using up). Turns up every single session? (That will be me and my trusty pots and pans). Having Time (in the literal rather than the musical sense) does make a difference to being less stressful. I know that, and I do have more time now than I had for many years in my working life. But, having developed a few “works every time to make an edible dinner” riffs, Theme and Variations, rinse and repeat ideas, I mostly get away with it. I always have fish fillets, various meats and chicken cuts and frozen veg in the freezer. All Jazz Cooking gold.
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