Ode to a Cast Iron Skillet
I love you, cast iron, I must confess
You make a great panini press
You're wonderful when I bake
Whether it's a cobbler or a cake
You're naturally non-stick
You sear a steak so quick
You are forever steadfast
Passed down the generations because you last
I coat you in a bit of oil to keep you good lookin'
Because, if I take care of you, you'll take care of the cooking!
In case you couldn't tell, I love my cast iron skillets! They can do so many things and last forever. One of my most prized possessions is a cast iron dutch oven that belonged to my Maw Maw. It is so well seasoned, I don't even have to add oil when I cook in it. It holds heat so well and it just looks cool! So rustic and great to serve from, it keeps the food warm longer. If you don't have anything cast iron, go buy a skillet now! They are inexpensive and so versatile (use it on the stove top, in the oven, even on a campfire). Plus, with a little TLC, it'll outlast everything in your kitchen.
TIPS FOR CARING FOR CAST IRON
You can buy them pre-seasoned, but if not here's how you season it:
Coat it well with vegetable oil (or shortening) and place it upside down in a 350 degree oven (put a cookie sheet on the rack below it to catch drips) for 1 hour. It won't be black yet, but it'll get there. The more you cook with it, the more seasoned it gets.
After you cook, you must clean. Never let it soak in water! That will cause it to rust. And this may sound weird, but don't use soap. Rinse it with hot water right after cooking (while still hot). If something is stuck on, scrub it with a plastic scrubby sponge or use kosher salt as an abrasive.
Always dry it completely or it will rust! This is what I do: After cleaning, dry it with a clean cloth, then put it on the stove on medium heat until dry. Then, coat it with a bit of oil (not too much) using a paper towel or some wax paper. Be careful - it's hot! Then let it sit to cool. Do this and you'll have a naturally non-stick skillet!
It may seem like a lot of work (compared to just throwing a pan into the dishwasher) but it is so worth it!
Here are some recipes using cast iron:
CHICKEN AND BISCUITS
2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 can mixed vegetables
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom)
1 can refrigerated canned biscuits
1 TBS melted butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken in cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Drain and rinse vegetables. Add to skillet. Add cream of chicken soup and stir well. Bring to a simmer. Then remove from heat. Separate biscuits and place them on top of chicken and veggie mixture. In a small bowl, mix butter, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Brush on top of biscuits. Put skillet into the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve directly from cast iron skillet.
Have you ever had cornbread with that great crust on the bottom? It was baked in a cast iron skillet. The trick is to heat the skillet on the stove before you add the batter.
BACON CHEDDAR CORNBREAD
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1/3 cup milk
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (use more if you want it cheesier)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix everything together. Heat cast iron skillet on the stove. When it's hot, add cornbread batter. Put it in the oven and bake 20 minutes or until golden.
Cast iron is also great for dessert. It's perfect for making a cobbler like in the pic below (see my recipe for Maw Maw Joy's Peach cobbler in an earlier post) or a cake.
PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 can pineapple rings, reserve juice (or you can use crushed)
1 small box Jiffy yellow cake mix(if you can't find Jiffy, use half of a regular cake mix)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and brown sugar in cast iron skillet on low heat. Meanwhile, mix cake mix, egg and 1/2 cup pineapple juice (use the juice from the can of pineapple rings). Set aside. Once butter and sugar are melted, remove from heat. Be careful not to burn the sugar! Place pineapple rings on top of butter mixture (or crushed pineapple). Place a cherry inside each ring. If using crushed pineapple, just place cherries around in a pretty pattern. Then pour cake batter on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool a few minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.
So, if you really want to cook
then take another look
at a cast iron skillet!