For someone that has been cooking as long as I have, and is a pretty good cook at that (so I’ve been told), it is hard to admit that I have spent the majority of my cooking life without a cast iron skillet. WHAT?!? Yes. I. Said. It. Most of my cooking life. The cast iron skillet did not make an appearance until six months ago. Oh, my long lost friend, how have we not been together for so long?!?
Living without a dishwasher (husband aside – I am referring to the electric appliance version) is one thing, but no cast iron skillet? I must now admit: unacceptable. It is one of the true workhorses of the the kitchen. And unlike that knife set, that is almost a mortgage payment, ye ole cast iron skillet will put you back about $20 and outlive you on top it (provided you take care of it, but we will get to that).
Not sure if it was a craving for fried chicken, and reading that a cast iron skillet is ‘the only way to fry chicken’, or the novel idea (thank you Martha. yeah Stewart. first name basis don’t you know) to make pizza in said skillet, that prompted the run out to Target to purchase one. Yeah, no need to order online (thank god, that would cost a small fortune. p.s. they are heavy), or go to a fancy cooking boutique (ala Sur la Table). Heck, back in the day the cast iron skillet was a stock item at the ‘general store’ or ‘Five and Dime’.
Unlike what you would have picked up at the ‘general store’ most cast iron skillets (pans or dutch ovens as well) come pre-seasoned. Phew, lazy girl here is all about saving extra steps. And speaking of saving steps — no washing! Ok cleaning, but that usually means wiping clean with a cloth or paper towel, rubbing with some vegetable oil and putting away. Of course if you do have a bit more mess (say from caramelizing sugar for the upside down cake I mention below), try heating the pan, adding some salt, and rubbing with soft cloth (or paper towel. hey, it worked for me) until the salt picks up all the leftover gunk. Worst case, under the water with a sponge it goes, but resist temptation to use soap as it can ruin the ‘seasoned’ finish. And for the love of all that is holy, dry the skillet ASAP – you dont want to deal with rust.
Well I didn’t make the fried chicken (still avoiding the temptation) or the pizza (stuck with pizza stone with that one). The first thing I did make was potatoes. OMG, life changing. So simple. And a quicker fix than roasting in the oven and if you are like me and like your spuds soft on the inside and uber-crusty on the out, then the cast iron skillet is the way to go. And don’t even get me started on brussels sprouts – oh my heck, once again, oh did I live so long without you cast iron skillet?!?
Sadly though (for my waistline, not my tastebuds) the thing I having been making the most in the cast iron skillet of late is variations of Martha’s Peach and Cornmeal Upside Down Cake. If you are a fan of not too sweet desserts, this cake is for you. I have followed the recipe to a ‘t’ as well as strayed (cuz god forbid I leave a recipe well-enough-alone) off into using other fruits of the season (hello Stanley plums, nectarines, blackberries, apples), swapping lemon thyme or rosemary for the lavender (though gotta tell ya, loving the flavor the lavender infuses), or swapping yoghurt for the ‘opps, didn’t have on hand’cream. Speaking of the yoghurt, a dollop of it makes a great addition to a slice of cake. Well that or a scoop of vanilla ice cream…just sayin’.
* this cake is a great way to use up those mealy peaches that are just nasty to eat as nature intended.