Friday, December 25, 2009
When All-Clad asked me if I’d be interested in testing out its new Stainless with d5 Technology line of cookware, I jumped at the chance. All-Clad is my favorite brand of cookware (I have quite the collection to prove it, including a number of Stainless pots and pans, one Cop•R•Chef pan, one LTD pan, and a few Specialty Items. I’ve been collecting my All-Clad for over a decade…What can I say? Some women have a designer shoe fetish, I happen to have a weakness for designer cookware. But I digress…) and the one I recommend to students in my cooking classes. And no, I’m not even a paid representative. (Not that I wouldn’t be—All-Clad, are you listening?) I wanted to be the first to see how they had improved on the classic Stainless line. They offered me a free sample of the pan of my choice. I went for the 12” fry pan, figuring it would be the most versatile piece to take for a test drive. Then I waited anxiously for it to come in the mail, wondering what it would look like and how it would perform.
The pan arrived the day after Thanksgiving. It looked pretty much like any pan from the original Stainless line, with the same gleaming stainless, the same sexy lines, and the same solid feel, but with two new details: a logo, including pan size, on the bottom and a nifty little gripping notch on the handle. (By the way, I actually breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that they hadn’t changed the handle substantially—that handle is good to my little wrists, unlike others…) But here’s the real difference: while classic Stainless is made of just three layers of bonded metal, the Stainless with d5 Technology, as the name implies, is composed of five: a stainless steel interior and exterior, 2 plies of aluminum, and a stainless steel core. Would a couple of extra layers of metal matter? I was about to put my new fry pan through its paces with a series of tests to find out.
The Pop Quiz: As I mentioned, the pan arrived right after Thanksgiving. Considering I had spent the entirety of the previous two days in the kitchen, I was not particularly inclined to perform any great feats of culinary virtuosity, despite having a brand new shiny pan. Besides, there were too many leftovers to work through. So I threw together two roast turkey, provolone, and sage pesto paninis. They browned evenly. But let’s be honest, even a cheap pan can turn out an acceptable grilled cheese sandwich.
The Midterm: Pan-frying demands more of a pan, so I made Chicken Parmigiana.
I originally developed this recipe using the classic Stainless 14” fry pan, but I put the d5 pan to the test with just a half batch. I preheated the pan over medium-low to medium heat, and the pan didn’t seem to cool down one bit when the two chicken breasts were added. The panko crust browned nicely, and even the parts nearest the edges of the pan browned evenly. It was not necessary to rotate the chicken breasts 180-degrees like it sometimes is in the original Stainless pans to achieve that even browning. When dinner was done I popped the pan into the dishwasher, and it came out looking like new. If only my stovetop were as easy to clean.
The Final Examination: As far as I’m concerned, searing is the ultimate test of a pan’s performance. And *wink* you can trust me when I talk about searing—I’ve written a book on the subject. (Insert shameless plug here: my cookbook Seared to Perfection will be published in October, and for the record, I developed and tested every single one of its 100 recipes using my own Stainless All-Clad pans.) Anyway, as I was saying, you can just about judge a pan’s worth by how well it can sear. With that in mind, I endeavored to brown over three pounds of chili grind for a large pot of my Real Texas Chili. I broke the beef up into smallish crumbles, then preheated the pan thoroughly over medium-high heat on my largest burner. I added the oil to the pan, swirled it around, and added just a small portion of the meat so as to avoid overcrowding. After a couple of minutes the meat began to exude moisture and stew in its own juices. I immediately increased the heat, and the meat began to brown nicely. I seared the remaining chili grind in several batches over medium-high to high heat. The meat became a most appetizing shade of brown, it never scorched, even when I became distracted and turned away from to the stove, and to my great surprise I never had to add extra oil to the pan. It’s safe to say that the d5 pan passed the searing test with flying colors when I cranked up the heat. But the fine people at All-Clad insist that the d5 line is so efficient that you’ll never have to increase the heat above medium. If I had followed this advice, the searing test would’ve been a miserable failure. Anyway, the pan seemed very stable at high heat, and there were no signs of warping.
Grading: So, would I run out and replace all of my old Stainless with d5? No, of course not…Well, maybe I would if I were independently wealthy. But would I choose d5 for my future cookware needs? You bet. The new generation preserves or improves upon all of the features that make the original Stainless line so great, and it cooks even more evenly. Yes I did just say “even more evenly”. All-Clad Stainless with d5 is the best cookware out there, as long as you’re not afraid of the heat.
New All-Clad Stainless with d5 Technology cookware launches on December 26th and will be available exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. Hopefully you got a Williams-Sonoma gift card for Christmas.
1 large egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Canola oil, for frying
1 cup Basic Tomato Sauce
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, drained, sliced, and at room temperature
Whisk together the egg and 2 tablespoons of water in a large, shallow dish. Mix together the panko, Parmegiano, oregano, and a generous pinch of pepper in another large, shallow dish. Gently pound out the chicken breasts to an even thickness with a meat pounder and season generously with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast into the flour to coat and shake off any excess, then into the egg wash, and then into the panko mixture to coat, patting so that it adheres. Arrange the chicken breasts in a single layer on a plate and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Add enough oil to a very large, heavy frying pan to come to a depth of ¼ inch. Heat over medium heat until a pinch of the breadcrumb mixture sizzles immediately when added. Add the chicken breasts and fry without disturbing for 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown. Using tongs, turn the chicken breasts and fry another 4 to 5 minutes, or until just cooked through and golden brown. The chicken breasts will be firm to the touch and the juices will run clear when they are just cooked through. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and bring the tomato sauce to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove the chicken breasts to a paper towel-lined plate and drain for about a minute. Transfer to a rack on a baking tray, top each one with ¼ cup of the sauce, and divide the mozzarella among them, arranging the slices in a single layer. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mozzarella melts. Arrange on individual plates and serve immediately.
Serves 4. Drain the mozzarella thoroughly on paper towels so that there's no excess moisture to turn the panko breading on the chicken soggy. The sweetness of fresh mozzarella is absolutely delicious with chicken breasts, but when I’m in the mood for a more pungent cheese, I like to substitute provolone. If you don’t have a pan large enough to cook all of the chicken breasts without overcrowding, fry them in 2 batches or use 2 pans. Veal and eggplant can also be prepared in this manner. Serve spaghetti with additional Basic Tomato Sauce on the side.