Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cast Iron

8" Skillet Fryer
I see survey's fairly often on foodie websites asking potential survey takers to name the one thing that's most important in their kitchen's; what's their favorite go-to, must-have item. So I go through my mental list of appliances, dishes, toolie type gadgets, glassware and even certain herbs/spices currently in my kitchen and pantry. Truth is I have several things I love and use with great delight, happy to have both the luxury of a well stocked pantry and a handy wooden lemon juicer. 

I love my KitchenAid Stand Mixer for all the obvious reasons and I can't imagine a week going by without using my Food Saver to 'slurp' (my word for vacuum sealing) extra food items to toss in the freezer.  Also, I don't know what I'd do without my antique drip-style coffee pot.  I experience an almost Zen-like moment while patiently waiting for the Community Coffee to drip into the bottom half of my old pot.  The bonus being the aroma of the dripping coffee...ahhh!  I love my first morning cuppa.

But when I get serious about the absolute bomb as far as culinary tools are concerned, I must admit it's Cast Iron cookware.  Good old American forged Cast Iron.  I have tons (it's really heavy too) of Cast Iron cookware.  The one I reach for the most is probably the 8" skillet shown in the picture above.  If you look closely, you can see just how smooth the inside of the pan is and how aged the color has become from repeated use and loving care.  No stick, no worries, no kidding, this is my go-to pan.

Square Grill Pan
My grill pan is handy too.  For a quick and super delicious steak, it's unbeatable.  I have a propane burner rig on my patio that I crank up to about medium heat, position my griller over the blue-flickering flame and heat until it's rockin' hot.  Then I lay a nice thick steak over the grill ridges and watch the smoke roll.

Here's the plan.  Marinate your choice cut of steak (mine is NY Strip) in a bit of olive oil, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, diced fresh garlic and chopped fresh rosemary.  After the grill is hot, toss in the steak and allow 2-4 minutes to cook on both sides.  The time may vary due to the thickness of the meat, so plan accordingly.  Remove to a platter, scatter on a couple pinches of Kosher salt, a generous grind of black pepper, cover with aluminum foil and rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Perfect every time.

I also have a large rectangular grill pan that does double duty.  On the flip side is a griddle perfect for lots of 'whatever' for a hungry crowd.  This thing is huge and heavy, but really handy for outdoor applications.

Flat Griddle
Pancakes anyone?  This griddle pan is also the lid of a Dutch Oven, hence the handle.  I've used the griddle/lid far more than the accompanying pot.  It's great for pancakes, hoecakes or French toast at breakfast, but my favorite thing to cook in this shallow pan is cornbread. 

You see, I love cornbread that's really crispy and thin.  Those big ole thick pieces are not for me.  Crunchy thin slices with a thick crust and lots of butter are the best and this little pan works perfectly.  While I'm making my cornbread batter, I add some oil to the griddle skillet and get it fairly hot.  When I pour the batter into the pan it sizzles and spits and that's what makes a thick crunchy crust.  Oh boy, get the butter!

Itty Bitty & 6-1/2" Skillets
Both these little skillets are really handy, but I don't use them as often as others.  The one I call Itty Bitty is perfect for single servings of egg dishes or even hot appetizers straight from the oven and piping hot.  The larger one I use for scrambled eggs and Spanish Tortilla.  So cute too!

Biscuit Pan
I know this is a biscuit pan and I do use it for that very purpose, however, it's also fantastic for individual corn bread.  I also have one of those cornbread pans that shapes the bread into an ear of corn.  But like most of us agree, they aren't the best.  This pan, however, is really great. Although I've never done it, I think tiny little pies would bake nicely in this pan.  Maybe an apple pie with a double crust brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar.  Or something totally different such as meat loaf or tiny pizza.  I'm going to promise myself to use this more, and in different ways.

Butter Warmer
I don't actually need a butter warmer very often, but isn't this sweet.  It's a tiny pot with feet which raises it just enough to keep lemon and butter sauce warm, not hot.  Grill sauces, such as barbeque work well in this little cast iron bowl too.  Just pour the sauce into the pot and set it on the grill for use when needed.

Dutch Oven
Outside of the 8" skillet, the Dutch Oven is undoubtedly the most ubiquitous cast iron piece anywhere.  Soup, stew, gumbo, casseroles, even peach cobbler or chicken fried steak can be cooked as easily in the home kitchen as on the dusty trail.  An essential for sure.

I also have a ginormous Dutch oven that was actually invented for the campfire cook.  It's lid has a deep lip edge around its circumference for holding hot coals and embers, and feet around the bottom to position over coals in a campfire.  It literally becomes an oven, browning on both top and bottom.  It was custom-made for real campfire cooking.  I saw a show a few years ago on Food Network that featured various ranch cooks in competition for the best cook on the trail and this pot was used for everything from biscuits to fruit cobbler. Granted, I don't use it very often, well hardly ever, but it's a very cool pot. I love Cast Iron!

Deep Fryer
Deep frying is almost a religion in my part of the country.  Chicken, Fish, Taters, Hush Puppies, you name or dream it, we can fry it and usually do.  The Deep Fryer is definitely a plus for those of us who routinely have a crowd of folks gathered for a summer fish fry.  This is the pot I love to hand to my son with a big bowl of fresh catfish fillets and fish-fry (seasoned cornmeal) and point him toward the patio with a request for Fried Catfish.  He's really, really good at cooking Fried Catfish.

Very Small Pot with long handle
This little pot is a 2 quart size that can be used for anything.  It's really old, antique actually, and a gift from a very dear friend.  It is a treasure to me and one that I use all the time.  Every single time I use it I remember my friend and her generous spirit.  Our friendship is eternal, although I don't see her very often anymore, this little pot connects us.  

Cast Iron is passed down from one generation to another, and in my world that's a very big deal.  Eternal friendship gifted me this small pot, and it will be around in that same eternal manner for me to pass along.  That's special to me indeed. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm thinking this piece on cast iron would make a good article for The Bodock Post. We like to use stories shorter than 1100 words. Would you consider submitting this as an article? You can email me at