Things Cooks Love by Sur La Table and Marie Simmons explores the best kitchen tools, including the Cast Iron Skillet and Portuguese Cataplana, provides information on world cuisines, from The Asian Pantry to The Moroccan Pantry, and offers recipes like Clam, Pork, Sausage, and Bacon Stew and Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb.
Excerpt from Things Cooks Love by Sur La Table and Marie Simmons
If you're looking for a piece of cookware that will last a lifetime, look no further. The cast-iron skillet is legendary. In fact, your great grandmother and her mother's mother probably cooked in one. Quite possibly, your family heirloom is still in use today. Solid as a rock and with a sensible design, it's amazingly durable. The secret to the iron skillet's longevity is the extra-thick cast iron used to make it and its versatility in the kitchen. Cast iron isn't a fast conductor of heat, but once it gets hot, it distributes the heat evenly and steadily, holding its temperature like an oven (see Dutch Oven, page 5 of the book). You can choose from a variety of sizes, from small (6˝ inches) to huge (15-1/4 inches), but the 10-inch model is the most convenient, perfect for searing hamburgers or for baking corn bread.
This is the skillet to use for techniques that require a sustained medium to high temperature: pan frying, stir-frying, searing meat, browning onions, cooking bacon, and even baking corn bread.
A cast-iron skillet can be moved from the stove top to a hot oven or broiler to finish cooking. When shopping for a skillet, test its weight to make sure you can lift it comfortably. Some of the larger models have a useful smaller handle directly opposite the longer handle, making it possible to get a grip with both hands.
The long handle gets very hot during use. A silicone or heatproof handle cover is useful for protecting your hand.
Acidic foods—wine, lemon juice, tomatoes—can react with the iron and develop an off flavor. Otherwise, a cast-iron skillet is perfect for braising and stewing.
Cast iron doesn't respond quickly to temperature change, so it is less useful for making sauces or any dish that needs to cool down quickly when it's taken off the heat.
The cast iron will rust if it's not properly seasoned. Seasoning occasionally will keep its surfaces smooth and practically nonstick.
Season a cast-iron skillet prior to its use. With a paper towel or clean cloth, rub the entire skillet—inside, outside, and the handle—with a thin film of vegetable oil. Don't use too much oil or the pan will be sticky. Put both oven racks in the lowest positions in the oven, and place a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch any dripping oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Invert the skillet on the rack above the foil and bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let the skillet cool in the oven. Repeat as needed.
Clean a seasoned cast-iron pan by sprinkling it generously with coarse salt and rubbing with clean paper towels. If you must use a mild deterent and warm water, make sure to immediately reseason the pan.
Wipe a just-washed skillet dry with a paper towel or dish cloth, and set it over low heat to dry thoroughly. While still warm, use a paper towel to rub in a small amount of vegetable oil. Store in a dry place.
Always consult the manufacturer's instructions.
An enameled cast-iron skillet that has a baked-on matte black enamel interior also works well for high-temperature cooking.
Double Corn Bread with Smoked Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomatoes | Stilton-Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Red Onions and Balsamic Vinegar (see book)
This page created May 2008
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