WND – Making it up as I go along

February 19, 2009


An infinite number of lists exist detailing what the absolutely essential pieces of cooking equipment are.  When it comes right down to it I think the only things you absolutely have to have are a frying pan, a pot, a cutting board and a knife.  However, for those of us who aren’t living like minimalists there are a number of other things that feel essential.

I feel the need for at least two large pots, one smaller pot, two frying pans, a pie plate, an uncounted number of small sharp knives made by Victorinox, a large chef’s knife, a zester and at least 5 bowls in a range of sizes.  Pretty much everything else in my kitchen is a nice bonus, but I could live without it*.I love my blender, and having spent a childhood making cookies by creaming butter and sugar by hand I am completely besotted with my stand mixer, but I don’t actually need them.  Anything I can do with them, I can do by hand, it’ll just take a little longer.  I can and do live without a microwave, and there are honestly very few times when I genuinely miss having one, although I’m more than 90% sure that my roommate disagrees with me on this.  We don’t have one for space issues, not because I’m a tyrant and refuse to get one – I save my tyranny for more important issues like PAM Cooking Spray and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  I confess to not understanding the appeal of electronic can openers, not because the theory of why they’re useful eludes me, but because I am completely incapable of making them work.

I would have said that a really good quality frying pan was on the list of things that it would be nice to have, but wasn’t completely essential to my life.  And, then I actually got a really good quality sauté pan for my birthday and I realized how wrong I was.  It’s amazing and I’m more than a little in love with it.

It does all the things that frying pans in cooking shows do, which I previously thought was the result of television magic and didn’t happen in the real world.  The oil will shimmer across the pan.  Fond will be created without burning on the bottom of the pan (just look at the beautiful fond in the picture below – from Dinner a couple of weeks ago).


Fried eggs don’t stick.  Food browns evenly, and I can tell you exactly how much my floor slants and at what angle because the bottom of the pan is perfectly flat and unwarped.  Between this and my cast iron skillet I swear I will never go back to a Teflon coated frying pan again.  Also, it has a lid that fits, and it has high enough sides that I can make soup for two in it.

All of which proves the point that I am (a) occasionally spectacularly boring because I not only ask for kitchen equipment for my birthday, I get really excited by it when people give it to me**, and (b) that the (apparently) very expensive oven safe sauté pan that my parents gave me for my birthday this year was absolutely and totally worth it.  I say this because I’m not entirely sure that my father’s convinced of this and went along with it more because my mother told him to than because he really thought it was that interesting a present.  For the record, it’s wonderful.

* Okay, I also couldn’t live without a whisk, a wooden spoon, a spatula, a fork and one of those rubber things you use to scrape the sides of bowls.

** No really, I have in the past asked for, received, and being wildly excited by casserole dishes, ramekins, a cast iron skillet (it came with a pair of velvet gloves, because I have the kinds of friends who are awesome enough to make bad puns when they give birthday presents), and a giant (purple) colander.  I would say I’m spectacularly easy to buy presents for, but everyone says this and it’s never true.

Lemon-Garlic Pan-Roasted Chicken
Corn Pudding
Green Beans

Lemon-Garlic Pan-Roasted Chicken

(serves 4-6 – depending on size and whether you serve the chicken breasts whole or with the meat sliced off the bone)

I freely admit that I made this up as I went along because Wednesday crept up on me unexpectedly and I’d forgotten to figure out what I was going to do with the chicken breasts I bought.  Fortunately, it’s fairly hard to go wrong with butter, lemon and garlic.

4 Tbsp butter
4-6 cloves garlic, minced (I think I might add more next time)
1 tsp dried thyme
Zest of ½ lemon
4 bone-in chicken breasts
2 lemons, cut into quarters

Mash together the butter, minced garlic, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper (or throw it all into a food processor and blend – this is easier if your butter is straight from the fridge and hard as a rock).

Gently lift the skin from the chicken breast and slide your finger under it to create a pocket.  Insert 1 Tbsp of the garlic butter into the pocket and spread it directly on the meat.  Trim the excess fat from the chicken breast, and then salt and pepper the outside.

s-raw-chickenAdd enough olive oil to an oven proof skillet to slick the bottom of the pan and heat it over a medium-high flame.  It’ll take 5-6 minutes to really get the pan hot – you want the oil to shimmer, and to be able to feel the heat coming off the pan if you hold your hand about ½” from the surface.

When the pan is hot enough, add the chicken breasts skin side down and allow to brown for 8-10 minutes (do not move them, just let them get brown and crispy).  If you have a vent over your stove, this is a good time to turn it on.


After 8-10 minutes flip the breasts over so that they are bone side down, add the quartered lemons to the pan and put in a 425 oven for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts) until done (170 on a meat thermometer).


Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken and lemons to a serving dish.  Deglaze the pan with a little white wine, sherry or chicken stock, scraping to get up the brown bits and allow to cook down slightly (I cooked mine for the amount of time it took to drain the green beans and add a little bit of left over garlic butter to them).  Pour into a bowl and serve with the meat – it’s got a nice lemony garlicky kick to it.

Corn Pudding
Ask and ye shall receive.

Recipe previously given:  Corn Pudding & Other Gateway Drugs



  1. Aww…you ARE actually easy to shop for.

  2. OK, OK; I won’t question it the next time.

    Can you use the pan for pancakes – the real product?

  3. The other thing about that really good saute pan is that you can leave it in your will 😉

    And before this Christmas when I received that extremely good chef’s knife I did not know that they were indispensable. I find myself making things that I will need to use it for.

  4. I haven’t tried making pannenkoeken in it, but I imagine you could.

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