Category Archives: kitchen projects

The Good, the Bad, and the Bitter

If you’ve been making double duty syrups and infusions for a while, no doubt you’ve been imbibing some homemade cocktail greatness. And while they can be spectacular (one Kate here, requesting rhubarbarita delivery, stat), sometimes they can fall a little flat. Bubbles are pretty great most of the time. Plastic bottle rotgut or top shelf artisanal spirits – depending on your mood, both have their place. Though, I still have yet to find a place for watered down light beer or jagermeister. Not even since during college. But it all can get kind of boring after a while. Nothing a little secret ingredient can’t fix.

Want to take your cocktail nerd up to eleven? Bitters, my friend.

Grapefruit Vanilla Bitters with Pink Peppercorns and Cardamom by Snowflake Kitchen

Not just that funky bottle with the label torn off in the back of your Dad’s liquor cabinet. (No? Just mine? Ok then.) Homemade bitters are the secret ingredient that you can never figure out. The one thing that takes your drink over the top and makes it not just memorable, but elevates it to obsessive.

So forgive me if this post finds itself a bit late in terms of seasonality, but good organic citrus can be found year round, even if the great stuff is more of a winter thing. Make it anyway. Your future cocktail nerd won’t regret it.

Grapefruit Vanilla Bitters with Pink Peppercorns and Cardamom
Adapted from Autumn’s Grapefruit Bitters with Juniper
Rind of approximately 2 grapefruits
3 tablespoons pink peppercorns
10 cardamom pods, cracked
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise
Onyx Moonshine, to cover

First off, wash and peel your grapefruit. Supreme it if you want, and make Marisa’s Grapefruit Jam or AJ’s Preserved Grapefruit with Mint Sugar Syrup with the fruit. Or just dip it some vanilla sugar and scarf it – you’ll thank me later. Chop the rind into small pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients and top with a high-proof liquor. Everclear and vodka work just fine, but I was lucky enough to have Onyx Moonshine on hand. Surely you’ve heard of ‘shine – its unaged whiskey – and this particular spirit is particularly delicious. Onyx is a local product for me and business that I love, and just so happens to make great bitters. I highly suggest you seek it out for yourself.

Grapefruit Vanilla Bitters with Pink Peppercorns and Cardamom by Snowflake Kitchen

Long story short: peel your grapefruit, use the fruit elsewhere, add everything to a jar, top with Onyx, and wait. Start tasting after 3ish weeks or so. Unlike other bitters made with bitter herbs, this one takes a while to infuse. I was happy with mine after a month, but yours may need to age for a longer or shorter amount of time. Add a tablespoon or so, and taste. You can always add more. (Note: for true bitters made with bitter herbs, most recipes call for only a drop. Citrus pith bitters are less intense, and you should add more volume to get the same bang for your buck). The grapefruit and vanilla play wonderfully with gin or St. Germain in a cocktail.

PS: I also made a meyer lemon version with coriander, ginger, chile and bay leaf with the same method. It’s really great when mixed with Bulleit Rye Whiskey. Make that too.

Bourbon Ginger Hot Toddy

And here I said I was going to be around more and December 2012 went and sucked the words right out of me.

december_window

Well, that and the wretched cold I’ve picked up. Picked up, as in I left for work this morning perfectly healthy – if a little grumpy to be heading back to the office – and a few hours later I had the worst sinus headache, runny nose and all around fogginess in recent memory. Or long term memory – I am almost never sick. Even stranger, I came home and feel worlds better than hours ago at work – no medicine of any kind.

Clearly I am allergic to work and I should never have to go back. Fine by me, as long as they keep up that direct deposit thing.

Maybe it’s just life telling me to slow down, have a cup of something strong and hot, and take some vitamin C. I definitely have that last one down – as I seem to be going through a crate of clementines a week – and it would be faster than that if I weren’t rationing them a bit. Some winter citrus, a little bourbon – just what the doctor ordered.

hot_toddy_1

Bourbon Ginger Hot Toddy
At least one ounce bourbon
Two dehydrated meyer lemon slices or a squeezed wedge of fresh
A small slice of raw ginger – skin and all
Two heaping tablespoons local honey
Boiling water

I usually add the bourbon first, after I’ve put the kettle on. How sick are you feeling? Is this preventative? Is it all in your head? One ounce, then. *cough cough* A little more under the weather? Top it off a bit. I like bourbon (clearly, as you’ve noticed, dear readers) but almost any liquor of choice will do. Spiced rum, whiskey, applejack, even tequila and gin all have toddy versions. Go with what you like.

I throw in the lemon and ginger together and then drizzle honey over them both. For efficiency’s sake – pour the hot water over your honeyed spoon so you can have clean utensils ready to go for round two. Cause let’s face it – you’re going to need a second.

Mix up the spices, citrus and booze. Stick with the heat and ginger, though – for the, uh, medicinal qualities of course. I’m already planning new versions – grapefruit, gin and maple syrup. Applejack and cardamom with dark buckwheat honey. Not into the liquor? Add your favorite tea instead. Truth be told – I don’t care if it’s entirely the placebo effect – one or two of these sets me right as rain every time. Happy 2013 indeed.

hot_toddy_2

PS: If anyone has any other sinus headache tips or thoughts on how to do that whole stay home and still get paid thing, I am all ears.

Belated Bread & Butter

My grandfather passed away almost a month ago. It’s been a rough go… driving back and forth to Massachusetts almost every weekend. But, that’s what you do for family, right? You drop everything, and you don’t ask how or when or why – you just go. Family works together through the laughter and the tears – and with my family in particular they come in equal measure.

We’re in that awkward time afterward, where life settles back in. You still ache, you still are reminded all the time, but the world goes on. Quiet reflective weekends help with the healing, and the funky spring weather has been a good excuse to make a cup of tea and stare out the window at the rain. Or, in my case, I’ve taken to kneading. I missed the deadline for Grow It Cook It Can It’s February Challenge. But that wasn’t for lack of bread – there have been plenty of carbs around here. An impromptu white cheddar scallion loaf had great texture thanks to a mix of white and whole wheat flours. Some delicious bourbon cinnamon rolls took about 2 hours to make and lasted all of half an hour this morning. Can’t forget the roasted garlic naan and grilled pizza as the weather warms. I’m particularly proud of learning to braid dough – even though, ahem, its really not that hard. The best part about messing around with dough? It’s not scary anymore.

March’s butter challenge wove in nicely. There are a million ways to make butter – from shaking to churning to hand-mixing to my preferred lazy method in the stand mixer. Any way you agitate your cream, 20ish minutes and you go from lovely whipped cream to a funky ricotta-like mixture.

And then of course, just as you walk away to check something on the computer, you hear the mixer start to splash. Its that magic moment where it finally separates into butter fat and milk. Just dont walk away. Ahem.

A quick knead in some cold water plus a pinch of flaked salt for a nice crunch, and you’ve got something really special. Worth the extra time on occasion – probably not particularly cost-effective for day to day usage – but worth every penny in kitchen therapy.

Whatever-cello – another fruit+booze story

I made too much limoncello last year. Yes – really - REALLY – it is possible. I used my entire Lemon Ladies large flat rate box’s worth to make limoncello. After I made lemon curd, kiwi meyer lemon jam, preserved lemons, an incredible lemon tart, raspberry meyer lemon preserves, and more… they all went into TWO half gallon jars of vodka. So yes – a gallon of limoncello. After lots of adult lemonade by the pool and then lots of gifts at the holidays – I am just finishing up the last of it. And while it’s crazy good – I am so over limoncello.

This year, I am one upping my -cello. I may not live in California where rare citrus is all over the place like Shae or be close enough to Eataly like Autumn to grab some bergamots on my way home from work – but I am close enough to a Food Co-op that is well stocked in organic citrus. There are no rangpurs or mandarinquats, but there are limes, cara cara oranges, grapefruits and kumquats. Perfect to grab a couple, make some citrus tom collinses and have the rind leftover.

Part of the reason that meyer limoncello is so great is the lazy factor. You can use the whole rind without stripping the zest, i.e. – just toss it into the booze. The bitter pith is so thin on meyers that meyer-cello is next to no work. Meyers + alcohol + simple syrup + time. Kumquats are thin enough to just slice. With other citrus though, you really have to strip the zest and discard the pith. You can use a microplane, but then you would have to strain your -cello. I found my vegetable peeler made quick work of the other citrus, but – oh man – it was a whole other step from last year.

I’m going to let this batch sit for a week or so – shaking when I remember to – and I’ll probably leave out the simple syrup. I can always add it in later. Plus, that way – I can infuse the simple syrup. I’ve been scheming up a citrus-infused cocktail with black pepper and bay simple syrup. We’ll see what this summer brings, when I am screaming for an icy cocktail instead of shivering under my lap blanket on the couch. But remember – its not blood-orange-lime-kumquat-grapefruit-meyer-cello, its whatever-cello. And its delicious. And you should make it right now to enjoy later this year.

Whatever-cello
Method: Add citrus rind to your favorite glass vessel and cover with alcohol. You can use grain alcohol, but I prefer a lesser bite and use vodka. Plus – I’m a sucker for any alcohol with a snowflake on the label. Ahem. Add more as the citrus to the vessel season progresses. Keep everything covered – infuse for up to a month – but the first stage should be good after a week or so. At that point, add an equal part simple syrup to double the volume. Its easiest if you start with two jars of the same size – divide the batch in half when you add the syrup. Infuse another week to finish. Remove the zest and store in the freezer for up to a year.

If vodka isn’t your thing, and you are more tequila-inclined, check out Kaela’s Meyeritas. Or a citrus shrub. Or if citrus isn’t your fav, you can always try a pineapple infusion. If all else fails, make bitters!

Lessons in produzione la pasta fresca

Italian is not my forte, as you might have guessed. Spanish, Basic French, Reading-level Russian – sure. Even some Latin. It seems, though with Italian – I just can’t get the pronunciation down. It seems there are a ton of different ways to pronounce words in Italian. Kind of like how there are exactly a bajillion pasta recipes out there. White/wheat/semolina flour, eggs, egg whites, water, milk… there are a million variations on the bajillion recipes. Approximately.

I had avoided making pasta for a while. I have no Italian heritage whatsoever – as much as I long for an Italian grandmother to break out her ancient family pasta recipe and for for us to spend a weekend making it… not going to happen. Boxed pasta will always be a cheap substitute for the real thing. But as boxed pasta is cheap – so is flour, so what did I have to lose? After an Italian grandmother-taught CRFM Homesteading class and an Atlas machine gifted for Christmas, there were no excuses standing in the way.

There is no secret SK-approved pasta recipe here, folks. In the spirit of Grow It, Cook It, Can It’s January Resolution – go try it out and report back with what works for you. I do have a few suggestions, though.

1. 100% semolina pasta is a) unkneadable and b) likely inedible. You really should look at a recipe before wasting a ton of flour. Ahem.

2. Fresh eggs – no exceptions. Friends with fresher than fresh eggs – even better. Let them come to room temp before using. With local-ish flour and local eggs – you’ve pretty much got yourself a Dark Days meal ready to go. As far as ratios – Sean of Punk Domestics suggested 1 whole egg per 100g flour. Peter at A Cook Blog uses only yolks. I found a happy medium in Smitten Kitchen’s 6 egg yolks to 1 whole egg ratio. Save the whites for meringue.

3. Why is it that no pasta recipes suggest how long to knead? I mean, you really can’t knead too much. If you’re tired, of course use the dough hook on your stand mixer. I found the kneading took about 10 minutes of work – it really does change texture and elasticity once ready. Pay attention and you can’t miss it.

4. Folding the sheet of pasta over on itself as you roll it through the machine is super important – it makes the sheet edges neater and helps make the sheet overall more even. Also helpful for fixing your own screwups.

5. When making ravioli, don’t overfill. Don’t underfill either – err on the side of slightly too little.

6. Again, for ravioli – I didn’t find I needed an eggwash to seal the pasta together. Just make sure when you boil the ravs the water is at a simmer and keep an eye on it, and it should be fine.

7. A ravioli mold is the greatest thing ever. You’ll never go back to a stamp.

8. Make sure your ravioli filling is dry ish- if you use frozen roasted tomatoes and basil there will be a lot of extra water, that makes your pasta wet. Its delicious, but hard to eat.

All in all, homemade pasta is fairly easy once you get the hang of it – this is something I could totally see myself whipping up for dinner with a glass of wine – homemade cacio e pepe here I come.

Twenty Twelve

I’ve been searching to find a word to describe 2011. It was a strange year. It was a difficult year. Mentally, its been  ”Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, 2011″ but I don’t know if its something I can admit to publicly. Even though I sort of just did. Still – there were good things. Great things. Most of them revolved around the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market. Kate Payne came to visit and I got to meet Kaela in person. I grew beans, chard, and onions for the first time, and though the garden met an early end (thanks Irene!) it was still fairly productive all things considered. We CSAed. There was (no-knead) bread – from naan pan fried on the stove to a boule baked in a dutch oven. I tried out the whole small business jam thing for the first time. And, lest I forget, I have a roof over my head and can pay all of my bills. At the moment.

Yet, 2011 was rough. Three vastly different jobs and loads of financial-induced stress, two natural disasters and we can’t forget about flying squirrels invading our roof. My dad had a pretty serious heart attack in May. Our furnace died a quiet death on a cold December morning. The power lines to our house are sagging once again as a big branch came down on them in last week’s storm. I’ve been struggling with the blog too – my drafts folder is overflowing yet I have trouble saying what I really want to say.

But that’s the best part about this time of year, isn’t it. You can take stock, relax and reflect with a cup of tea. Let the bad parts of the year fade from memory while you dream of all that is in store for the next 365 days. Or in the case of 2012, 366 days. Does anyone do resolutions anymore? I’ve never been a fan of the standard eat better, exercise more stuff. I’m more of a goal setting person. Like one giant To Do list. Maybe it also has something to do with semi-compulsive list-making. Hm…

Anyway, starting 2012 right with tea and a greek yogurt/clementine curd/cranberry/pepita concoction. And jotting down a few priorities for the next year. Because I am all about looking back in 2013 and checking things off my list.

Garden Resolutions Grow more beans and figure out how to dry them for winter storage – this did NOT happen in 2011. Get better fertilizer, too. Grow less tomatoes and more herbs. Hopefully a lot of this changes when we move into a new place, because the tiny poolside container garden is getting old.

Home Resolutions Start saving for a house. So many dreams are on hold until we have our own place. I have plans for an orchard, a real garden with raised beds, a beehive or two… Hopefully with a savings account, this can be the year to get (half?) of our downpayment saved. If we do move, I need to downsize things before we get there, because moving last time was a huge pain.

Health Resolutions Eat more fish. Maybe start taking fish oil? And more meatless meals. Try to find time to walk at least a half hour a day.

Kitchen Resolutions No more excuses –  go get the pressure canner gauge calibrated and start the pressure canning. Make more cheese and yogurt. And bread, and pasta, and condiments.

So here’s to all the good things 2012 has in store. And here’s to making those good things happen.

Pimp That Preserve 2011

Tis the season… for gifting your preserves! And if you are going to go through the trouble to preserve the best of the season and design a label for it – why not go one step further and decorate the jar? If you are in need of some inspiration, Joel and Dana from Well Preserved are hosting Pimp That Preserve again this year. The idea is straightforward: dress up your preserves for a night out on the town. Use anything that doesn’t affect the contents of the jar and let your imagination run wild! They have some ideas up already to help get your creative juices flowing – I LOVE their pickled garlic label. Note to self: pickle more garlic next year.

After the PTP finalists are selected, the winners will score some awesome prizes. Kate Payne donated an autographed copy of her book The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking. Another winner will take home a copy of  We Sure Can by Sarah B. Hood that features many fellow preservers. The last prize is an archival print of the Periodic Table of WaterBath Preserving from Joel and Dana themselves (the one I’ve got my eye on!)

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I like to dress up jars with the flavors of what’s inside. I made a Plum Cardamom Almond Conserve in October with plums from Easy Pickins Orchard. It was a great year for Italian Prune Plums, and the flavor of this one was nicely enhanced with cardamom and cinnamon and a handful of crushed almonds. Hence the cinnamon stick, almond and cardamom garnish – just dont sneeze or the almond might fall out! For actual giving I am going to have to tie it in better.

I always make a lot of cucumber pickles. Too many, in fact. This year, I made a bunch of sweet zucchini pickles with brown mustard and fenugreek to try and mix it up a little. They were nicely spicy but still had enough zip to be interesting. Have you heard of the German pickle ornament tradition? Whether its true or not, its fun to gift a gift of pickles with a pickle tradition that goes along with it. Just dont try to hide the pickle up the angel’s skirt – that one’s been done before.

My favorite entry this year is naturally the snowflake themed one. Not that you would know its wintertime by looking outside… I think you guys know by now that I am a fan of winter. I bought the wooden tags on Etsy last year, but got overly attached to give them out on gifts. Then it dawned on my how great they would look on a jar. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

Good luck to all of those entering PTP this year – the deadline is Monday December 12 at midnight!

World’s Easiest Poultry Stock

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving! We are busy prepping for Thanksgiving Round Two, starting with stock. Every year I walk in ready to fight for the turkey carcass, and it always seems like no fighting is needed. Why doesn’t anyone want these brilliant leftovers? Maybe after I share this recipe, it wont be so easy to go home with the turkey trimmings.

Of course, I have come down with my first cold in a few years. Just in time to have a whole bunch of folks over. Fabulous. As I’ve slept about 30 of the last 48 hours, I am clearly not up for intensive cooking projects.

This method is super easy – no peeling or attention required – perfect when in a Dayquil-induced fog. The hardest thing about this recipe is straining at the end. As it uses a slow cooker, its great to cook overnight on the countertop. Of course, you could use a large stockpot on the stove, but I like that you can throw everything in an walk away. 12-24 hours later = glorious, rich stock. How rich?

The best part about this turkey stock? Just the thing to soothe your holiday head cold. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be without sniffles, its great to combat all of yesterday’s rich food. With that, I am off to make a bowl of soup and hopefully clear my sinuses a bit. Enjoy this recipe – don’t go out and buy things for it – use what you have.

World’s Easiest Poultry Stock
Turkey or chicken carcass, picked clean (but don’t kill yourself)
Veggie scraps: carrot peels, onion skins, garlic paper, asparagus ends, cleaned leek tops…
Fresh veg: A few cloves of garlic, sliced in half. One onion, sliced in quarters. A carrot, sliced in half, if you have it.
Filtered water

[Note: for an all-purpose stock, avoid strongly flavored things. Go with i.e. celery, avoid ginger.]

Easy, peasy: throw everything into the crockpot, top with water and turn on low for at least 12 but up to 18-24 hours. Speaking from experience, it helps to let the crock cool before straining. Strain through a large colander, and freeze in smaller portions (quart mason jars or freezer bags, ice cube trays, etc.) Once I get my pressure canner calibrated, this will be the first recipe I pressure can. I like to keep salt out of my stock, so I can salt the final dish instead. Up to you.

Use in: risotto, soup, stuffing, gravy, beans… anywhere you need liquid with flavor. Just the thing to cure what ails you me when that inevitable winter cold comes around.

A Cold Brew

I was never one of those people. You know, the ones who NEEDED coffee to wake up in the morning. The ones who can’t function until they get their first sip of java, and if they don’t get any are the most intolerable insufferable human beings who walk the planet. I mean, of course I don’t know anyone like that. I’ve just heard stories. Ahem.

Well, then law school happened. I was pretty good about rationing my caffeine intake until finals. But during finals, all bets were off. I have (not so) fond memories of stopping to get an extra large coffee and bagel for breakfast at the local coffee shop. Lets be honest, sometimes there would also be a second coffee to reheat as well as my lunch and dinner because I knew I wasn’t going to be leaving campus all day. Sometimes we would STILL go out for coffee breaks on top of that. But now that part of my life is over, as is bar exam craziness (don’t even get me started on my caffeine intake then) and I can actually sit and enjoy my coffee instead of using it to function.

Bean and Leaf is a local roaster in New London. Not just any coffee roaster though – they have been named Connecticut’s Best Coffee Bar by Connecticut Magazine. Though I haven’t yet made it to their cafe, Nutmeg State residents are extremely lucky in that B&L will usually come to them – via a local farmer’s market. I first stumbled upon them at my local market (CRFM) but they also happen to stop at the Billings Forge Market in Hartford on Thursdays and stock The Kitchen at Billings Forge with their delicious coffee if you can’t make it to either market.

Now, not everyone has the privilege of having an awesome local coffee roaster. (Shameless plug: B&L will ship it to you through their online store - not my fault if I start your addiction to their Guatemala blend.) You may hit Dunkin’ Donuts every morning to get your caffeine fix – I’m not here to judge. I’ve found, though, that this works best for me, and with some new equipment and a little patience I can really appreciate the effort B&L puts into their product. I can justify the more expensive locally roasted beans, because even though its much more per bag than the cheap stuff, its much less than hitting up Dunkin’ or Starbucks every morning. Plus, with a travel mug, its much more environmentally conscious. (Sidenote: You can even use the spent grounds as a facial scrub or garden fertilizer or as compost amendment!)

So I guess I am now one of those people. I don’t quite need it to function… yet… but I do enjoy a daily cup or two. Recently, I’ve had to change my coffee setup. It seems that I am one of those people who just can’t do hot coffee when the temperature rises above 60°. Its like an internal switch flips and hot coffee becomes absolutely intolerable in the morning. (Does this happen to anyone else?) When the coffee craving strikes, as it inevitably will, I like to keep some on hand for quick satisfaction. This means planning ahead. I bought a french press a year or so ago, and it has been a great investment. A glass one will only set you back about $25. Not only is the hot stuff miles away from drip coffee, but so is the cold brew. It just requires more time than the heated brew.

Basically, grounds + cold water + french press + at least 12 hours = the best iced coffee ever. I know it sounds a little ridiculous, but it really is worth the planning ahead. If you really want to get fancy, you can freeze some of the coffee to use as ice cubes in your brew. It will stay plenty cold and won’t dilute – is there anything worse than watered down coffee? The leftovers stay in a mason jar in the fridge for a day or two until the next craving hits.

Coffee consumption can be a messy subject.

Or, if you’re one of those people like me, you wont need to store your leftovers.

Cast Iron Trials

An ancient heirloom cast iron skillet is one of those kitchen essentials every cook should have. It’s the ultimate in getting a great crust on foods – from steak to potatoes It works to simply saute vegetables and can’t be beat for going from stovetop to in the oven (except for maybe my beloved Le Creuset Enameled Dutch Oven…) But I digress. I knew I needed one of these, and without a great Southern grandmother to bestow one upon me, I headed to the local church fair in search of one. There I found a great cast iron grill pan for about $3 – who could say no?

Well, maybe I should have. First off, it was rusty. Normally – not a problem with my flea market shopping – a little elbow grease tends to go a long way in that department. I scrubbed it within an inch of its life with a copper scouring pad and gave the whole inside a kosher salt scrub as well. The next step was re-seasoning, but all I had in the house was olive oil, and that would quickly go bad in this application. So I let the pan sit. Naturally, it rusted again. So I scrubbed it again. Thus the never-ending cycle… in my defense I had a few other time commitments (law school) and the pan never seemed to make it to the top of the priority list. I didn’t want to see it go to waste – so it ended up with a new owner via Freecycle.

Still on the hunt for a pan to make the perfect home fries, I went back to the cast iron section at our local restaurant supply store. It was heaven – they came pre-seasoned! And devoid of rust! So I bought one and took it home, only to find out that the pre-seasoning is this sort of gluey icky stuff that was not up my alley at all. So, as is my M.O. with these things, I scrubbed it within an inch of its life. Naturally, it needed re-seasoning. The powers that be on the internets recommended one of two things: either Crisco (vegetable shortening) or bacon grease. While I do have a jar of bacon grease in the fridge for special occasions, I’ll be the first to admit I was sort of grossed out by the idea. What if it went rancid? For that matter – what would keep it from going rancid? Plus, a friend of a friend has a cast iron pan that he insists on never washing (read: cleaning) and the only words I can use to describe it are “wicked gross.” So, I went out to the store and bought a can of Crisco.

It went well at first – I coated the pan, wiped off the excess, baked it for an hour at 200° and left it to cool overnight. The pan looked good initially, but things started to get sticky and it had to be stripped and re-seasoned all the time. In fact, it prevented me from wanting to use the pan at all. I again started looking for alternative seasoning method. Some vegan bloggers recommended alternative vegetable oils like flax or avocado, but frankly I didn’t have it in the budget (poor law student, remember?)

Enter: bacon grease. My thoughts would shift between the image of the aforementioned wicked gross cast iron pan and the fact that it must have worked or Southerners would have abandoned it long ago.

Not 100% yet, but definitely getting there.

You know what? It works. Perfectly. I used the method outlined at An Oregon Cottage:
1. Use a plastic scrubber to remove any stuck bits. Some use coarse salt, but that would be wasting something in my frugal world. *smile*
2. Wash the pan with hot water only (no soap). Yes, it’s OK- it is getting clean, I promise. I use the scrubber side of my sponge and haven’t found that it takes the seasoning off, like some sites warn against. Your call.
3. Dry the pan thoroughly on the stove. Heat it for just a minute or so on medium heat (not high and don’t walk away).
4. Remove the pan from the burner and turn it off. Using a rag (or paper towel) grab a smear of bacon grease and rub it all over the inside of the warm pan.
5. Set back on the burner – turned off, but still warm – and let the pan cool there before putting away.

Cast Iron Tips

  • Do NOT turn the heat any more than medium high/7.5 out of 10 on an electric stove. The cast iron doesn’t need it.
  • Be prepared to adjust to a whole different set of cooking times. This is not a pan to flash cook things – be patient, grasshopper.
  • This should be an obvious one, but remember that the handle gets hot too. Or, like me – you’ll only have to forget this once to NEVER forget it again.

Favorite Cast Iron Uses:
Home Fries. Leave the potatoes in there – i.e. DO NOT STIR OR OTHERWISE MESS AROUND WITH THEM – for at least 10 minutes. They won’t burn, I promise. If you don’t turn up the pan too high, that is.
Cornbread. I am still perfecting my cornbread recipe, but this is one of the easiest things to make that absolutely cries out for a cast iron skillet.
Roasted Veggies. I love roasted green beans or asparagus with garlic and pimentón straight out of the oven – I eat them like candy. Which sometimes results in finger burns. Totally worth it.
Roast Chicken. Cover the pan with your veggies of choice – potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, onions, garlic, carrots etc. Then butterfly/spatchcock (don’t you just love that word?) the chicken on top. Add some olive oil, salt and pepper over everything. Roast accordingly – I usually do 425° for about half an hour and then 350° until the internal temperature reads 165°. Inhale.

I’m still new to the cast iron game and still looking for tried and true recipes. What’s your favorite?