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Pot Luck

Got a simmering problem? Chef Scott Conant takes us shopping, and shows that serious kitchenware doesn't have to cost you pots of gold.

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After burning rice for, say, the eighteenth time, you'll probably realize that the solution lies not in blaming alien conspiracies or your mother but in dumping that dime-store saucepot you've been using since college. According to City Eatery chef Scott Conant, that's a necessary step toward reinventing your cooking self. Since your kitchen is a reflection of you, Conant explains, your pots and pans should be a mirror into your world.

Holding out for a cookware windfall on your wedding day? Then aluminum will tide you over. Only Johnson-Rose's carbon-steel skillets ($10.50 at Chef Restaurant Supplies) -- which look as though they were banged out eons ago by a caveman with a rock -- are cheaper. A 2.5-quart pot from Eagleware ($10 at Paragon Restaurant World) is lighter than most steel pots its size and features a rubber Dura-ware handle, which won't melt in the oven. Bear in mind, though, that aluminum tends to warp with prolonged heat and, unless handled properly, can react with citrus, wines, vinegar, and dairy products, often leaving a metallic taste or turning milk gray.

For rustic types, Conant suggests trying Teflon-coated pans like the De Buyer blini pans ($7 at Zabar's) for eggs, and cast-iron pans like the Lodge ten-inch ($15 at Paragon) for bacon. "My father used cast iron," he says. "It reminds me of New England."

Following the Conant credo, though, you'll find the most satisfaction with stainless-steel or copper pans. "You only need to buy these things once in your life," he says. Seek out the Bowery's restaurant-supply stores or specialty cooking stores, which often discount from list prices and stock hefty commercial ware you won't find at Lechter's. Aluminum-core pans, like the decent Leyse one-quart saucepan ($20 at Zabar's) or the high-end Sitram Profiserie eleven-inch frying pan ($54 at Bridge), offer price advantages without the disadvantage of having your food touch aluminum. Copper, though, is by far the most prized metal for its fantastic conductive powers. If you're worried about fingerprints, you can buy a Sitram stainless-steel 1.69-quart casserole with copper bottom ($46 at Chef), but Conant argues that there's "nothing sexier" than All-Clad or Mauviel pure copper pots. "If you're trying to impress people, go for broke," Conant says of a 2.5-quart Mauviel that goes for $100 (Paragon). "It's the difference between a Rolls-Royce and a Chevy."

Chef Restaurant Supplies, 296 Bowery (212-254-6644); Paragon Restaurant World, 250 Bowery (212-226-0954); Zabar's, 2245 Broadway, at 80th St. (212-787-2000); Bridge Kitchenware, 214 E. 52nd St. (212-688-4220).

Picks of the Week
Henri Bendel has all the cotton sweaters you'll need for next winter, discounted 30 percent. 712 Fifth Ave., at 56th St. (800-h-bendel); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.- Wed., Fri.-Sat. 10-7, Thurs. 10-8, Sun. noon-6; through 5/30.

Gabriele Sanders has cashmere sweaters, Comme Toujours leather pants, Domani underwear, and Kooba and Mitzi Baker handbags, at below-wholesale prices. 33 Bleecker St., second floor (212-260-5600); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 10-6; 3/26-4/6.

Vera Wang is selling her coveted bridal and ready-to-wear gowns of satin, tulle, organza, and silk marked down 50 to 75 percent. Hotel Pennsylvania, 401 Seventh Ave., near 32nd St., eighteenth floor (212-575-6400); A.E., M.C., V.; Sat. 9-5; 3/31.

White + Warren's sample sale means classic cashmere sweaters from $20 to $100 and plain T-shirts for $15 each. 80 W. 40th St., third floor; A.E., M.C., V.; Fri. 9-4; 3/30.

Jamson Whyte's giant warehouse sale offers handmade Indonesian teak desks and wardrobes, discounted up to 80 percent. 139 Charles St. (212-965-9405); A.E., M.C., V.; Fri.-Sun. 10-5; 3/30-4/1.


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