I went a bit crazy at Costco today. Well, I've been building up to it. I've been looking at stainless steel pan sets the past few days and bought the Kirkland Signature set today. The non-nonstick should be better for sauteing and...well, just about everything except maybe eggs. (My old set was thin aluminum nonstick...on every piece including the stock pot. Never really understood the nonstick stock pot and sauce pans even when I knew less about cooking.)
I also loaded up on food: a 12-pack of big boneless skinless chicken breasts, 8 pounds of ground beef, big 2-lb blocks of cheddar, monterry jack, gouda and parmigiano-reggiano cheeses and some other stuff.
First thing is that I want to get over my fear of cooking chicken. I'm also eager to try making some Alfredo sauce and some other cheese sauces.
So I quickly broke in the new big skillet and sauteed a couple of the chicken breasts. Jeez, I just realized I was in Indianapolis the last time I tried this, so it's been at least three years. How time flies. Anyway, I tried for just enough oil to get the pan covered but think I still put in slightly too much. I got the oil as hot as I dared and laid in the washed, dried, pounded a bit (to try to make them uniform thickness), salted and peppered chicken breasts "show" side down. Apparently I didn't pound them well enough because they immediately resumed their original shapes with a thick side and thin side each. I watched them and waited for the top to well up with a lot of juices, but it didn't juice up a lot, and I finally turned them when I thought they were just over 75% cooked.
This time I was also armed with an instant-read thermometer, although their interpretation of "instant" and mine are quite different by an measure of 45 seconds to a minute at least. I wanted to pull the breasts (ha) off when they were 160-165 degrees in the thick part and let them "carry over" off the heat. The smaller piece--the size difference was really magnified after they started cooking--got there first, of course, so I took it out. The bigger piece didn't seem to want to get past 145 degrees in its thick part. I tried turning the heat up and waiting, but it seemed stuck at 145. The fond started burning and I decided that was enough because I wanted to make a sauce, so I pulled the big piece off and made a mental note to make sure it finished cooking when I reheated it later. (I was going to eat the smaller one immediately.)
I poured cold beer into the pan to deglaze it, and I added some dried onion, cayenne powder, thyme and some more thyme. (I thought I had some old rosemary from Jen & Sean, but now I think it's thyme...oops.) After reducing it a bit I decided I wanted to thicken it, so I melted a pat of butter in the microwave and mixed in some flour to make a roux. I added it to the sauce and didn't think it was working at first, then it really started thickening up. It looked and felt about done, and I realized I hadn't tasted it and should really taste it to see if it needed more seasoning. It needed salt and was quite burned. Damn. I added salt for the hell of it and tasted again, and for a split second it tasted great and then the burn taste kicked in. Yuck. I had to abandon the sauce. Damn, it could have been so good.
The small piece of chicken was pretty dry but edible and seasoned quite nicely. I guess I need to pound the chicken breasts thinner for sauteing and perhaps use lower heat, although I'm still a bit confused about why the bigger piece seemed to refuse to get hotter than 145. I haven't cut into the big piece yet; it's wrapped and in the fridge. If I stay up late enough my next attempt will be to make some Alfredo, and I'll cut up and drop the chicken in to moisten it and finish its cooking, if necessary.
Actually my first bit of cooking done with the new cookware was to boil some water for tea. I used the 1.7 quart saucepan which doesn't quite cover my small burner, cranked up the heat and set the timer for 5 minutes. My old pans can boil tea water in about 4 or 5 minutes. It took the new pan longer. I thought it might because the new pans have a thick layered metal foot on the bottom for even heating, and the foot mass has to heat up. So for boiling tea water or pasta water I think I'll continue using the old sauce pan.
I do plan on getting some veggies and making some mirepoix and perhaps some vegetable broth. I'll probably use a cheesecloth bag (bouquet garni) or puree the veggies as I am picky about veggies. But Costco only had shitloads-of-onion bags and no celery or carrots, and I didn't feel like going to another store at the time.
EDIT: Okay, from reading some comments from the Cooking Coarse videos in my previous post I see that burnt fond is a sign that the temp is too high. I also need lower temperature for thicker meat. At least my mistake was edible. (Well, the chicken was, but not the pan sauce.) I also realize that my roux was doable as I did it but really should have been cooked first. Also, in the saute video he finished his chicken breasts by poaching in the pan sauce. That could work well for me, but I'd still like to get better at a full saute. Also, I think when I started seeing any juices at all it might have been time to turn the breast to help seal them in? I realize now I expected the chicken to gush liquid, but there is only so much in there and it needs to stay in there if I want tender, juicy meat.