Q: I’ve been building my pots and pans collection for a while now. On the frying pan front, I have a 12-inch All-Clad, a 12-inch nonstick, and 10-inch and 8-inch cast-iron pans. What I feel like I’m missing is a smaller stainless steel pan for smaller dishes. Basically, I want the same pan that restaurant kitchens everywhere keep stacked 10 high above their stations. What is that pan? Is it just a smaller All-Clad?
A: It is not a smaller All-Clad. It’s a lightweight aluminum fry pan, blackened and warped from the high heat of the restaurant’s stove. For the size you’re looking for, it’d run you about $5 at a restaurant supply shop.
Should you buy one? I called Chris Jaeckle, one of Manhattan’s better chefs, to ask. He said, No, home cook, no. Restaurant cooks like those aluminum pans because they heat quickly and they wash up easily. At home, “use cast iron for everything,” Jaeckle said. “Use the pan, wash it out, hang it back up on the wall. That’s it.”
So there you go. I’d ditch the nonstick while you’re at it, and get what the cast-iron aficionados call a chicken fryer instead. It’s a deeper version of a fry pan, and comes with a lid. Imagine what you could cook in that.
Q: Don’t have a smoker. Do have a sous vide. Do you think sous vide brisket would be any good?
A: I think it could be excellent, though I think there’d be some challenges to cooking a full-size one. I use 2-gallon freezer bags to cook turkey breasts sous vide, and I’d imagine that bag size would work well on a half brisket.
If given the choice, I’d take the second-cut half, known as the deckle. It’s tastier. I’d brine it overnight, put it in the bag with some salt, brown sugar and a little liquid smoke, and then cook it sous vide for a full 24 hours at around 150 degrees. I’d take it out and dry it off, put a sugary-salty-peppery dry rub on it and blast it in a 300-degree oven into melting bark. Rest, slice and serve.
Q: To peel tomatoes, especially if you need only one or just a few: Before you core the tomato, run the back side of a paring knife over the skin of the fruit, bruising it slightly as you scrape. After you cut around the core, the skin will pull off easily. So much better than boiling a pot of water to add to the heat of the kitchen!
A: Um, do you have a question? I kid. Good tip!
Q: How on earth does one make bone-in pork chops juicy? Is brining the only way?
A: Brining is among the best ways to keep a pork chop juicy, but it is not the only way. You could also follow the teachings of Melissa Clark, a food reporter at The Times, who developed this incredible recipe for porchetta-style pork chops a couple of years ago. Sear and bake. Perfection.
Porchetta Pork Chops
2 bone-in pork chops, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus a pinch
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
Large pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds, more for garnish
2 tablespoons olive oil.
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pat pork chops dry, and, using a very sharp paring knife, cut a large pocket into the fat-covered edge of each chop. Season chops all over with 1 teaspoon salt, including inside pockets.
2. Finely grate zest from lemon and put in a small bowl. Cut lemon lengthwise in quarters for serving.
3. Using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a knife, mash garlic with a pinch of salt until you get a paste. Add to the bowl with the lemon zest and stir in rosemary, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, 2 tablespoons fennel fronds and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
4. Divide filling between pork chops, stuffing some inside pockets and rubbing the rest on the outside.
5. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sear pork chops on one side for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Gently turn over chops and cook for another minute, then transfer skillet to oven. Cook until meat is just done, about 5 to 10 minutes longer. (Internal temperature should read 135 degrees on a meat thermometer). Transfer pork chops to a plate, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fennel fronds and lemon wedges.