The Gleeful Gourmand: Cast Iron Revelry

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cast Iron Revelry

Mushrooms, peppers, and onions sauté in my new cast iron dutch oven. A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

The week before my birthday I asked my husband, "So, have you bought my birthday present, or do you know what you want to get me?"

"" (I could literally see the wheels turning in his head as he determined if this was a safe answer or not.)

"Great!" Was my enthusiastic reply. Because I knew exactly what I wanted, and I didn't want to wait to get it. It was something I had wanted for years: A Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart cast iron dutch oven. For years now I had been coveting this gleaming pot of beauty that beckoned from the pages of Williams-Sonoma, tired of passing up recipes that called for such a pot - one that could do the heavy lifting on top of the range, and then easily moved into an oven. Not every pan and pot can do that. In fact, most cannot. Cast iron can.

And it may be true that I could have acquired a cast iron dutch oven for less money, and without the pretty name of Le Creuset. But damnit, I wanted it. In red. And I practically skipped to my nearest Williams-Sonoma. I was the only person in there that day, and the saleswoman offered me a free Espresso. How often does that happen? It was meant to be.

So, what's the big deal about cast iron? I personally love it and have a 12-inch skillet that I use all the time. It retains heat well and evenly distributes it, and it browns meats to a golden perfection almost every time. It's been used in cooking for hundreds of years, and I personally like that I'm cooking with something that is so technologically simple, yet so brilliant in application. No bells and whistles, no frills (except for that deep red color I got my dutch oven in - I admit, I was seduced). It's heavy and substantial; enough to give your biceps a workout. If there's ever an intruder in my home and I'm near the kitchen, I won't go for a knife, I will go for my largest cast iron skillet. It's a deadly weapon. Just ask my white stove, now sporting a black divet from where I chipped it after lightly grazing it with my skillet.

I've also wanted to make my own cornbread in a cast iron skillet for a long time, but didn't have the right size. Neither did Williams-Sonoma or any other store I checked out. Here's a little secret for you that a family friend, who works at Williams-Sonoma, told me: That size can be found at Cracker Barrel. Yup. Cracker Barrel. You know that ridiculous, kitschy store Cracker Barrel has, where it looks like every country Grandma's home in the tri-state area was boxed up and then dumped into one small space? That place has Lodge Cast Iron Cookware in all shapes and sizes. Who knew? I'm usually so overwhelmed by the throngs of people, and the closeness to such kitsch that I start to break out in hives that I never noticed.

I think I might have skipped out of the Cracker Barrel too, and went home to make this cornbread, stolen from the pages of Southern Living's October issue. The recipe is courtesy of Chef Tyler Brown of The Hermitage Hotel, and it does not disappoint. Just like cast iron cookware.

Buttermilk Cornbread

• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. plain white cornmeal
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 Tbsp. baking powder
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 400˚. Lightly grease an 8-inch cast-iron skillet, and heat in oven 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together first 5 ingredients in a bowl; whisk in melted butter. Add eggs and buttermilk, whisking just until smooth.
3. Pour batter into hot skillet. Bake for 30-33 minutes or until golden brown.


Elizabeth Wilson said...

One of my cousin's wanted to get a yellow lab and name him Cornbread.

I thought you didn't drink Espresso.

I love the thought of you skipping out of Cracker Barrel. - I also break out in hives due to claustrophobia of the goods and people.


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