As we emerge from the tenebrosity of yet another cold January, the attitude toward life sparked by the anticipation of good things to come in the near future brings a bit of energy back to these old bones.
All of the seed orders have been placed and received. Plans for new garden patches have been scribbled on scraps of paper and filed in a folder nearby for easy access. Gardening tools oiled and winterized last fall have had their wood handles re-oiled with linseed oil. It looks like I’m ready for the season. Now I can feed the wild birds and mammals and enjoy my coffee.
Feb. 2 is the kickoff of springtime for me. Groundhog Day means there are only about six more weeks until spring and I can handle anything for only six weeks.
Cast-iron skillets make the best bake and fry pans there are.
Recently, I received an email from a reader who asked me about the types of pots and pans I use in the kitchen. Within a couple of days, I received another email from a different reader asking me if I ever used any cast-iron skillets and, if so, how did I season them?
I have already answered the emails, but I’ll share that information with the rest of you.
I primarily use cast iron and stainless steel. Cast-iron skillets make the best bake and fry pans there are. If you need to sear some meat or quick-brown a crusted meat pie, cast-iron skillets are the answer. They can easily handle 500 degree temperatures without damaging the pan. And, for cornbread, there ain’t anything better to bake it in … more about that later.
Copper-bottom, 18/10 stainless steel pots and saucepans make up the whole of my kitchenware of that type. There is nothing like the vintage, heavy-gauge Revere Ware for boiling up fresh purple-hull peas or making a raspberry- balsamic reduction. Most of my Revere Ware was made in the 1960s, but I found some older pots from the 50s at an estate sale a few years back that brought my collection to nearly 50 pieces of the cookware. Folks have asked me if I’m a hoarder, and I replied, "No." There are no lonely pots, pans, lids, skillets, knives or anything else that I own. Everything gets used either for a specific purpose or because it is in its regular rotation.
USDA-choice rib roast, cut and tied, dry aged for 14 days in a 32 degree refrigerator. The rib rack was cut off, fat was trimmed away and then the rack tied back on.
Rosemary, garlic chives and minced garlic are mixed with lemon-rosemary- infused olive oil to create the rub for the rib roast.
Olive oil and herb mix is rubbed onto the roast. Cover it tightly with foil and roast it in a 325° oven until the inner temperature reaches 120°. Remove foil and finish roasting at 425° until the inner temperature reaches 125°. Remove from oven and let rest for about 20 minutes. The roast will continue to cook. Serve when the inner temperature reaches 130°, medium-rare.
Teflon? Yes. I own one nonstick coated pan. It’s a crepe pan made by Calphalon before Rubbermaid (Newell Brands) bought the company and took down the quality. The only reason I own that particular crepe pan is because I haven’t yet acquired a cast-iron one.
All of my cast-iron skillets are virtually nonstick because of their continued use, proper prep and essential care.
You can even make food stick to a Teflon pan if you don’t prepare the surface properly.
Seriously, if you can’t fry an egg in a cast-iron skillet, then you aren’t a true cook. I have one cast-iron skillet that is designated as my egg pan and it resides on top of the stove. Only eggs get cooked in the pan, no exceptions. It is an 8-inch skillet made by Lodge Manufacturing in South Pittsburg, Tennessee; it is properly seasoned and impeccably conditioned.
Quickly, let’s talk about proper seasoning, use and care for cast iron. When you buy your cast iron, buy the brands manufactured in the United States. It is worth it. Buying seasoned vs. bare? All of my cookware was purchased bare, because seasoned cast iron wasn’t available when I got it. Nowadays, most cast-iron cookware manufacturers offer seasoned products as a choice. Some companies offer seasoned exclusively.
If your cast iron is bare, it can be seasoned in your oven; or, if you’ve messed it up, it can easily be re-seasoned. Strip down your messed-up pan by scouring off all of the caked-on food or carbon buildup using hot soapy water. Rinse well; then dry thoroughly with a dish towel. With a paper towel or soft cloth, coat the bare pans with vegetable shortening. Coat the whole pan, inside out, handles included. A thin coating rubbed into the iron is best.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place freshly coated pans, upside down, in oven on racks. Cover the bottom rack of the oven with aluminum foil to catch drips. Bake for one hour; then let the pans cool in the oven.
There. You have just seasoned your pans, and, if you use them often, they will most likely stay seasoned. Over time, your pans will probably become like mine: smooth and slick like black glass.
Here are a couple of tips to help you maintain your pans:
Always preheat your cast-iron skillets over medium heat before adding oil and food. About five minutes is usually enough.
Never use cast iron on ceramic or glass electric cooktops. This will damage your stovetop and replacements are expensive.
Always wipe your cookware clean after use. To wash your pans, use hot water and a natural or plastic bristle scrubber. With my egg pan, I just wipe it with a paper towel. If it has a lot of fat buildup or a stuck egg bit, I put salt into the pan and scour it with a paper towel. My egg pan rarely gets washed with water, never with soap.
Never soak your cast-iron pans because they will rust. Always wash then dry. If you have stuck on food, place the pan on the stovetop, put in hot water and simmer. This usually loosens anything stuck so you can scrub it away.
Never put your cast iron into the dishwasher! If you don’t get it, email me and I’ll draw you a little picture. Not much gets me going quicker than hearing somebody say they wash their pots and pans in the dishwasher!
My main pans stay on top of my stove. I use them daily. They include three breakfast pans and a cornbread pan. The other skillets stay in the oven until it’s time to bake something or use the pans for other cooking.
Cabbage wedges, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with red pepper flakes, sea salt and fresh black pepper. Roast in 325° oven until desired tenderness. Spritz occasionally with water while roasting.
Just the other day, I was admiring my egg pan, showing it off to a friend who stopped by early enough to have breakfast with me. I gave her my instructional on caring for the pan, cooked us some eggs, then I explained that cooking my eggs every day in that skillet is one of the simple pleasures in my life.
I promised you two recipes for this month. I’ve provided them in picture form. Enjoy!
Until next time, remember to watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water, and breathe in and out!
Thanks for reading!
Be sure to find me on Facebook at Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm.
As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.