I recently purchased a Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Square Grill Pan and the matching Panini Press after getting a hankering for some panini. I also I thought that it’d also be great to do some indoor grilling for quick meals where breaking out the charcoal grill is just too much work. Le Creuset sells a beautiful enameled grill pan, but for something like this I really can’t justify the extra cost. The Lodge Logic grill pan is $19 and the panini press is $15, compared to $88/$80 for the Le Creuset. And from what I’ve heard about the Le Creuset, even though it’s enameled, it’s really not much easier to clean than the Lodge. Don’t get me wrong, I like Le Creuset enamelled cast iron and aspire to someday purchase a French oven from them, but I think in this case the premium isn’t justified. Lodge also sells a round grill pan, which some have said that they prefer as it matches a typical stove’s heat distribution pattern, but I feel with cast iron this shouldn’t be much of an issue if you’re preheating properly. The square shape is nice if you’re dealing with skewers. The high sides limit spatter, but may make handling delicate foods like fish tricky if you don’t have a flexible spatula. A good oven glove is a must for moving this puppy around. Amazon lists this as being 8.3 pounds – surprisingly, that’s 1.7 pounds heavier than my Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet at 6.6 pounds. It’s a good thing they both have helper handles.
My first dish with the pan was some grilled shrimp on bamboo skewers. Simple preparation – first, just scrub the peeled shrimp with salt a few times, rinsing after each scrub. Drain well, then add sesame oil and white pepper and mix well. When skewering, don’t crowd the shrimp on the skewer otherwise they’ll mostly steam rather than sear. Pineapple is a good complement on the skewer as well, but keep the chunk size small to prevent overpowering the shrimp. Brush the pan with vegetable oil and heat on medium-high. When the oil is just smoking, put the skewers on. The shrimp will cook pretty quickly – a few minutes is all it takes. When it turns orange, it’s done. I prefer a slight crust on my shrimp, but definitely avoid overcooking. Very tasty with some coconut rice.
Never buy “fresh” shrimp from the grocery store unless they’re live or you know for a fact that it’s direct off a boat – this is unlikely unless you live in a serious shrimping region. Buy frozen, ideally shrimp which are individually quick frozen. Most shrimp available in the US is frozen right on board shrimp boats and the “fresh” shrimp available in your typical supermarket is defrosted from frozen. Since shrimp deteriorates quickly once thawed, it’s much better to defrost the shrimp yourself, which happens pretty quickly anyway.
I also made an excellent French Dip panini using the recipe from Panini Happy, which is just chock-full of great panini ideas. I’ll definitely be spending some time there as I break-in this pan. Duck confit with fried goat cheese and strawberries? That, I have to try.
Back to the French Dip – that turned out quite well, though I burnt the bottom a bit as I’d left the heat on while making the sandwich. I had preheated both the pan and the press on medium heat for about 4 minutes. I’ll have to tinker with the heat settings on my next panini. I’m thinking there might be enough heat in the cast iron that I could just shut the stove off. Used Acme Bread Company’s excellent sweet batard French bread, selected by SF Weekly as the best bread of 2009. Saag’s roast beef. Vidalia onions, slowly caramelized. For the au jus, I swapped the beef stock and bouillon crystals the recipe calls for with Better Than Bouillon Au Jus base. The result was amazing. It’s a bit of work for a sandwich, but it’s totally worth it. Slight crunch on the outside with the grilled bread flavor yielding to soft, pillowy bread soaked in au jus, thinly sliced beef, caramelized onions, and melted cheese.
Yes, the slightly burnt bit is on the bottom.