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CHEF'S CORNER

 

 
Iron Skillet Cooking
By Deirdre Cooper
 

One of the most versatile pieces of equipment, which could probably replace most of your frying pans, is the tried and true cast iron skillet. Chances are your mother or grandmother had one and probably never put it away. From giving a good sear to a steak to baking an upside down cake, this workhorse of the kitchen is durable and affordable. There are other advantages too. Cast iron pans are naturally non-stick, getting better over time developing a "seasoning" which releases food easily without the use of harmful chemicals. Cast iron heats evenly making it perfect for browning, searing, frying and baking. As if all this isn't enough, cast iron is virtually indestructible. Just clean after every use by wiping the surface with paper towels to remove excess food. Rinse under hot water scrubbing with nonabrasive material using a small amount of soap, and lightly oil afterwards.
 
Here are some ideas for using your cast iron skillet:
 

Iron Skillet Cornbread
This is a dense, flavorful bread which we served warm next to a bowl of chili for a lovely snowy night dinner.
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
 
1 cup fine grind cornmeal
 
1 tbsp baking powder
 
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
 
4 large eggs
 
1- 15 oz can of creamed corn
 
1 cup grated or shredded mild white cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese (or combo of both)
 
3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
 
2/3 cup sugar
 
1 4.5 oz can mild green chiles, drained, chopped*
 
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
 
*optional
 


 

Preheat oven to 400 and place 10" cast iron skillet on middle rack to pre-heat the pan.
 


 

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in small bowl to combine. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl to blend and mix in creamed corn, chiles, if using, and cheese.
 
Mix butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon just until butter absorbs sugar but butter is still in small pieces. Add egg mixture and mix until just combined. Mix in dry ingredients, just until incorporated.
 
Remove skillet from oven and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Scrape in batter (it should sizzle on contact and stay slightly mounded in the middle). Bake cornbread until top is golden brown and springs back when gently pressed, approximately 35-40 minutes. Let cool a bit before cutting.
 


 
 

Upside Down Cakes


 

Upside down cakes originated in North America and were baked in cast iron frying pans. The cake batter is the same for all and it follows:
 
4 eggs, room temperature, separated
 
One cup sifted cake flour
 
One cup granulated sugar
 
1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp sale
 
1 tbsp butter, melted
 
1 tsp vanilla extract
 
Keep ready for your topping: 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed and 1/2 cup unsalted butter.
 
Preheat oven to 325. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. At high speed, beat egg whites just until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar gradually and beat well after each addition. In small bowl of electric mixer, at high speed, beat egg yolks until very thick and yellow.
 
Using an under/over motion, gently fold yolks and flour mixture into whites until well combined. Fold in the one tablespoon of melted butter and the vanilla extract. Now your batter is waiting to top your fruit mixtures.
 
For your topping (which will start on the bottom) melt ½ cup butter over low heat. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle brown sugar over butter until combined. Now add your apples, berries, bananas, pineapple decoratively arranging over sugar. Now pour your batter over all and bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool and turn pan upside down over your serving plate for a gorgeous upside down cake.
 
 
Cuban Sandwiches (Cubanos)
 


 

Now your iron skillet becomes a panini press for this delicious sandwich which is appearing on menus everywhere.
 
You will need approximately half a pound each of sliced deli ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese; soft sandwich rolls, sweet pickles (or dill if preferred), mustard, mayonnaise and butter. This is enough for two or three sandwiches.
 
Spread one side of the roll with mustard (to taste) and the other side with mayonnaise (a good slather). Layer the ingredients on the roll starting with the cheese and ending with the pickles. Butter the outside of the roll and lay in skillet which has been pre-heated. Press the sandwiches with a heavy lid or another, smaller pan. When golden brown on one side, flip to toast the other side until the cheese has melted. This is a great way to use up the remains of a pork roast as we did the day after Easter.
 


 

 

 

Honey Garlic Skillet Chicken


 

This easy, Asian inspired dish is a one pan wonder when you are ready for something a little different. You pour the sauce over the chicken before it bakes and again when it comes out.
 
1/4 cup soy sauce
 
3 tbsp honey
 
2 tbsp garlic minced
 
Juice of one lime
 
2 tbsp sesame oil
 
1 tbsp corn starch
 
4 chicken thighs (or boneless breasts if preferred)
 
Scallions for garnish
 


 

 

 

Preheat oven to 350. Make the glaze by mixing soy sauce, honey, garlic, lime juice, sesame oil and corn starch in mixing bowl.
 
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and sear in skillet over medium high heat, until golden, approximately 4 minutes per side. Pour the glaze over the chicken and transfer skillet to oven and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Spoon glaze from pan over cooked chicken and broil approximately 2 minutes to brown the glaze. Garnish with chopped scallions. I served this with herbed jasmine rice and it was a perfect, very tasty and quick dinner. The sauce is so good we started thinking of other ways to use it. We came up with pork, shrimp and salmon and plan to try them all.
 


 

As they say in the song "everything old is new again". If you have an iron skillet, dig it out of the cabinet, give it a fresh rub of oil and start using as your new go to pan. Otherwise, treat yourself to a new one which will last for generations.
 
 
 
 

Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
 
 
 
 

2017
 
Jan.  | Feb.  | Mar.  | Apr.  | May  | Jun.  | Jul.
 
 | Current Recipe
 
 
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