Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Pan for All Seasons

A Pan for All Seasons


Without apology to Robert Bolt for a silly pun on his "Man for all seasons", pans eh’, you’ve got to have ‘em. When I had to fend for myself in marital discord, I found that the pans had been wanted on voyage by my travelling ex-wife. My venture into the culinary arts required some equipment; I bought Le Creuset, a full set, including a large and small casserole and a marmetout. While everyone else says they are good, I found the actual pans to be an awkward shape, squat and all too small. I laboured with them for getting on for 20 years cos they was a lot ‘o dosh. Recently I replaced them with a traditional shaped pan after the style of the old copper pans, except these are stainless steel with a copper bottom, not even too expensive. In town there’s a posh cook shop that sells French pans, solid copper, tinned inside with black wrought iron handles. Bloody marvellous, thought I, my food heroine Julia Child recommends these, one 2 litre pan £400, the full set would require a mortgage!

30 years ago, I bought my first wife a sauté pan, 29cm diameter very heavy with a thick base and a domed lid, it is a Fissler, a German Company still in existence, a similar pan without a lid now costs £100, and I paid at the time about £50. It was a present, but she thought it extravagant, and to boot she didn’t like it because foods sticks. Naturally that item was not wanted on voyage. That pan is my greatest asset (in the kitchen! I wasn’t forgetting my natural good looks), yes when you throw in a steak it sticks, but after the second turn it sticks no more. The main advantage of such a pan is all the meat juices during frying stick in the pan and coats the base. Lift out the meat onto a warm plate, splash in wine and deglaze and reduce and you have a jus, add cream you have a sauce. Such a basic manoeuvre, but how can this be done with a non-stick pan? I have non-stick pans yes, but they fry eggs. The large sauté pan with a lid is so versatile, pan fry a whole fish, steaks etc., a risotto, any number of one off meals that can be braised on the stove top. (Braise = sautéed, then gently stewed in liquid) Most definitely “A Pan for All Seasons”

I mentioned non-stick pans, any starting out wannabe cook probably wouldn’t understand how life could exist on the planet without Teflon. I was about 15 yrs. old when this came on the market, and it was as soft as butter, I reckon that, with all the pans I’ve seen come and go I must have eaten quite a lot of Teflon. Assuming one doesn’t digest Teflon, then, since it’s non-stick I assume it merely passes through with alacrity. My mam had a couple of frying pans, black as the ace of spades, I’m guessing they were bright when new, I suppose they were probably wrought iron, and probably only cost a shilling from Woollies. These had to be conditioned, then, never washed, and they were non-stick, why did NASA bother to invent Teflon for re-entry tiles, they could have just stuck my mams frying pan onto the re-entry module.

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