Most women receive their Christmas bonuses and use them to buy pretty dresses, cosmetics, gorgeous (albeit uncomfortable) shoes, and jewelry. I, however, am not like most women. I’d rather spend my money on more useful things: notebooks and pens for scribbling, aromatherapy gear to help relieve my stress and that of those around me, and – of course – cooking equipment and proper ingredients. For this Season, I finally went and got myself a grill pan.
I guess I could blame my father for this acquisition; he’d seen a TV advertorial touting the merits of using a grill pan as opposed to a standard-issue non-stick frying pan for cooking meat, fish, and veg and had opined aloud that such a piece of equipment would not be out of place in the family kitchen. I’d seen several types at various department stores and kitchen equipment shops, some costing as much as P 2,000.00 (about US$ 45.08) for a thin, cast-iron piece with rather flimsy hinges and a wobbly handle. Fortunately, I was able to grab a sturdy non-stick grill pan with a properly screwed-on handle and a grooved surface for a fraction of that price at The Landmark in Makati, seeing how I managed to squeeze into the kitchen gear sale for year’s end. (It was a steal at P 350.00 – just roughly under US$ 8.00!)
It has become a key piece of equipment for me. Since it’s non-stick, you don’t have to grease it before using it. (Though you do need to wash it out thoroughly prior to first use.). It’s been a handy thing for cooking most of the family’s favorite foods: soy-marinated chops, gorgeously meaty and succulent sirloin steaks, eggplant simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and even whole fish stuffed with a fragrant mix of tomatoes, onions, and ginger. Really: all you need to pair with these dishes is a crisp, green salad with a tart dressing and a hot platter of rice and you are set.
For those of you who have grill pans but haven’t had the opportunity to use them, here are a few tips:
- Take US Iron Chef Cat Cora‘s advice and make sure that you make your pan smoking-hot. To do this, heat your pan over medium-high heat till steam starts wafting up and adjust the heat;
- Don’t be afraid to use flavorful marinades, though – especially in the case of fish or beef steaks – a generous sprinkle of sea salt and some cracked black pepper make your food flavorful enough;
- Don’t, under any circumstances, overcook your food! No one likes nibbling on charcoal, after all;
- If using the pan to cook steaks, the rule of thumb is to cook your beef for three minutes on each side for rare meat and five minutes on each side for medium;
- Vegetables best suited for grilling are large mushrooms (Australian buttons and portobellos are perfect), eggplants, bell peppers, beefsteak tomatoes, and courgettes (zucchini);
- Whole fish such as tilapia tend to cook a bit longer than fish steaks, so allow 10 – 15 minutes per side.
To get you started, here’s a little recipe for pan-grilled pork belly that is deliciously flavorful and cooks rather quickly – a perfect choice for midweek dinners.
Sweet Pan-grilled Pork Belly
- 1 kilo pork belly, butterflied so it lies flat on your grill pan
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or cooking sherry
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled, and minced finely
- generous dash of ground black pepper
In a non-reactive bowl, combine the wine, soy sauce, garlic, honey, and pepper until well combined. Add the butterflied pork belly and massage in the marinade. Cover and leave to soak for at least 1 hour. (You can also save time by mixing the marinade in a covered plastic container and allowing the pork to soak in the fridge overnight.)
Heat your grill pan over medium-high heat till smoking hot. Place the butterflied belly onto the grill, brushing any leftover marinade on top. Grill for five minutes or till the underside the nicely charred on the surface; turn over and cook the other side for an additional five while brushing more marinade on the cooked side.
Remove from heat and allow to rest for five minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Arrange on a serving platter and serve with either a green salad or spicy pickled vegetables such as Korean kimchi.