May 25, 2016

My CAST IRON Roots

Griswold 10" Cast Iron Skillet
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No matter whether you live and cook in Hawaii, or on the Mainland, cooking with cast iron has been common for years. Why... because cast iron cookware is versatile and durable. It can go from stovetop to oven and back again if necessary. It heats evenly and holds the heat well, making it excellent for browning meat or simmering stews and soups. A cast iron griddle will yield fabulous pancakes and French toast. And, with a little bit of care and proper treatment, a cast iron pot’s surface will be as nonstick as modern cookware.

The history of cast iron goes back 2,000 years when the Chinese made simple cast-iron utensils. Eventually different cast iron items were developed in different regions. In the Netherlands, the use of molds made with dry sand enabled the Dutch to create high-quality cast-iron cooking pots. The spread of these pots, along with the Dutch casting techniques that made them, helped establish these pots as “Dutch ovens.” In Japan, the popularity of drinking tea helped lead to the creation of ornate teapots called "tetsubin" that remain popular even today. 

In the Americas, there is evidence that some metal casting was being done prior to the colonization of the region, but it was the Europeans who brought with them more advanced metal-casting techniques that truly introduced metal casting, and cast iron, to the Americas. The dependable material quickly earned its place in the colonies, with cookware being one of the major uses for the metal. No home was complete without a cast iron pot or, many decades later, a cast iron cook stove.  

Years ago there were many companies manufacturing cast iron cookware, but most have gone out of business today. My favorite would have to be Griswold. The Griswold company became known as the premier manufacturer of high-quality cast iron kitchen items in the United States. The Griswold cast iron foundry was based in Erie, Pennsylvania; and until the early 1900s cast iron items from this company were marked with an "ERIE" logo. In the early 1900s this was changed to a "GRISWOLD" logo, and it is this logo that is most commonly associated with Griswold cast iron cookware. Griswold filed for bankruptcy in 1957, however if you look in garage sales or on Ebay, you can still find them. If you are lucky enough to find old cast iron cookware, and it's a little rusty, this can be repaired. Check out this website on how to "Clean and Refurbish Cast Iron".

Today, the most common cast iron cookware in America is Lodge. Founded in 1896 by Joseph Lodge, Lodge Manufacturing is one of America's oldest cookware companies in continuous operation. It is still owned and managed by the descendants of the Lodge family. Most cast iron sold by Lodge is produced in its foundry in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, which has been in operation since the company was founded.

Personally I'm not fond of cast iron cookware that has an enamel coating, like Le Creuset. Le Creuset is a French cookware manufacturer best known for its colorful enameled cast iron casseroles and dutch ovens. Yes they are colorful, but there's something about cooking in pitch black cast iron that brings back my roots.

Here are a few of my recipes using cast iron:


Best Ever Cast Iron Skillet Cakes
This is a simple recipe that works.  Here's a couple of tips about cooking pancakes, use a measuring cup to pour the batter using only 1/4 cup of batter, that way all your cakes will be all the same size. The batter will start to bubble on the top of the cake when it's time to flip. You are looking for golden brown color like the photo below. Use a silicone or plastic spatula to flip the cakes rather than a metal spatula, using a gentle turn of your wrist to flip, not your whole arm. You'll get the hang of it. Personally I like molasses on my cakes, with maple syrup, but that's how I have been doing it for years. Here in Hawaii, I like to top my cakes with slices of mango when in season.



Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
splash of vanilla
1/4 cup honey
canola oil
more butter
maple syrup
molasses (optional)

Procedure:
Melt the butter in microwave for 30 seconds, set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Create a well in the center of the mixture.

In a separate bowl, stir milk and egg together, then add the vanilla, honey and butter. Pour this mixture into the well you made in the flour mixture.

Use a wire whisk to stir everything together until just combined. It will be slightly thick and lumpy, but should be well incorporated.

Allow the batter to rest while heating a lightly oiled (canola oil) cast iron skillet to medium high heat.

Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately ¼ cup for each skillet cake.
Cook each side for 3-6 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Place skillet cakes on plates with a pat of butter between each hot cake to melt.

Serve each plate with two slices of crisp bacon, with maple syrup and a little molasses drizzled on top.

Makes 5 servings of two each.



Left Over Corned Beef Hash
I love corned beef and cabbage, but there are always leftovers. Not a problem in my house, I make corn beef hash with eggs for breakfast. All you need is a big skillet, in my case, a 10" cast iron skillet, but any skillet will do. Here's the simple recipe:


Ingredients:
Canola oil for frying
half an onion, chopped
2 small potatoes, skins on and chopped
left over corned beef, chopped into bite-size chunks (about a cup and a half)
1 small red bell pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
2 large eggs

Procedure:
Put about 2 tablespoons of canola oil into a hot skillet. Add the chopped onions and potatoes. After a few minutes of frying, reduce heat to medium and add 1/4 cup of water and cover with a lid. Let steam 3 or 4 minutes then remove lid and add the corned beef and red bell pepper. Continue cooking on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Make a hole in the middle of the skillet. Add a tablespoon of butter. When melted, crack two eggs in the center. Return the lid to the skillet, which will help cook the eggs a little without having to flip them. As soon as the eggs are done to your liking, serve with buttered toast and jam, with sliced fresh mango on the side.  Makes 2 servings.


Overnight Crusty Bread
Kimberly's Overnight Crusty Bread
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My wife Kimberly and I bought an old cast-iron Dutch oven years ago at a garage sale. It turns out that you can make a decent crusty bread right in this iron pot. Kimberly took it upon herself to develop a recipe that really works here in Hawaii, and we're going to share it with you. This recipe makes an almost peasant type bread that is very crusty on the outside, with sweet white bread on the inside, with lots of little holes in it. It's great for sopping up gravy in a good beef barley stew which you can make in the same pot. Here Kimberly's Overnight Crusty Bread recipe:

Ingredients:
15.75 ounces all purpose flour (3 cups)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
Cornmeal

Special Equipment:
Kitchen scale
Large ceramic bowl
Pastry scraper
Flour sack towel
Iron Dutch oven with lid
Instant read thermometer

Procedure:
In a large ceramic bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle with a little flour. Using a pastry scraper fold over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Generously coat a cotton flour sack towel with cornmeal and drape inside a ceramic bowl. Do not use a terry cloth towel. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel in the bowl and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, 2 to 5 hours depending on room temperature.

It's important to heat the Dutch oven first before putting the dough in it, therefore, put a 2 3/4 quart cast-iron or similar pot in your oven and preheat to 450˚F.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the hot pot. Shake the pot once or twice to help distribute the dough if necessary. The dough will rise as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned and reaches an internal temperature of 200˚F - 210˚F, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, put the pot on its side and gently turn the bread, it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf.

Note: You should use a ceramic bowl rather than metal. The ceramic bowl will help the yeast retain the heat it's generating and make more air bubbles in the bread. Weighing the flour has resulted in a more consistent loaf for me, however most recipes call for 3 cups of flour. If you have leftover bread and you want to use it again later, simply put it in a zip-lock freezer bag and freeze it. To reheat it, preheat the oven to 425˚F and bake for 15 minutes.


Chuck Roast with Gravy
I make this recipe almost every other week. My wife loves pot roast, and this one is easy with lots of gravy. One of the great things about pot roast is that beef chuck gets very tender after slowly cooking for 3 hour, you can add whatever you have on hand to the pot, mushrooms, green beans, canned tomatoes, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, etc. Make it your own.

Ingredients:
2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
5 cups water
1 cube of beef bouillon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into bit sized pieces
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
salt and black pepper

Procedure:
Cut the chuck roast into large 3 inch chunks, leaving most of the fat on the meat. Rub down the cut meat with a salt, pepper & brown sugar mixture and let sit for a half hour on the counter. Simmer 5 cups of water in a sauce pan with one cube of beef bouillon. Heat a dutch oven on top of the stove to medium heat. Add about 3 tablespoons olive oil until it is hot, then brown the rubbed down chuck roast pieces on both sides without burning it. Remove the roast and add the onion, celery and garlic. Reduce the heat slightly so the vegetables cook together for about 5 minutes, without letting them burn. Stir in the half cup of flour to the vegetables, and let the flour brown slightly while not letting it burn. Add the roast pieces back into the dutch oven, with the water/beef bouillon mixture. Add the soy sauce into the pot and stir. Put the lid on the dutch oven, put the whole thing in the preheated 300˚F oven. Add the carrots and potatoes, pushing them down into the liquid, after 2 hours of cooking the roast. Return the dutch oven to the oven and cook for 1 more hour, or until the meat is fork tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve roast and gravy a crisp salad, and some crusty bread, biscuits, or anything you would like to dip in this wonderful beef gravy! Makes 4 servings.


Cast Iron Buttermilk Biscuits
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), frozen
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup chilled buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 475°. Grate frozen butter using large holes of a box grater. Toss together grated butter and flour in a medium bowl. Chill 10 minutes.

Make a well in center of mixture. Add buttermilk, and stir 15 times. Dough will be sticky.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly sprinkle flour over top of dough. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Fold dough in half so short ends meet. Repeat rolling and folding process 4 more times.

Roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch floured round cutter, reshaping scraps and flouring as needed.

Warm a cast-iron skillet in the oven, and spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in the skillet before adding the biscuits. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. The bottoms will end up crunchy and golden brown, perfect with chuck roast gravy (see recipe above). Makes 12 to 14 biscuits.


Oven Roasted Steak with Red Wine Pan Sauce
There are times when char-broiled steaks are just not convenient, and I have to say that this recipe is just as good, easy, and works every time.

Ingredients:
2 (6 ounce) 1 1/2 to 2 inch thick filet mignon or rib-eye steaks
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tablespoons butter

Procedure:
Bring the steaks to room temperature. Rub the steaks with 1/4 teaspoon oil per side and generously season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 500˚F (a very hot oven produces a juicy interior). Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven as it preheats. When oven reaches 500˚F, use a baking mitt to remove the pan from oven. Be careful! The pan and handle will be extremely hot. Place the pan on the stovetop and turn the heat to high. Immediately place steaks in the middle of the hot, dry pan. Cook 1 to 2 minutes without moving; turn steaks with tongs, and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the pan with the seared steaks to the hot oven. Roast in the center of the oven until the steaks are cooked to your liking, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. 

Rare – 125˚F
Medium Rare – 130˚F
Medium – 140˚F
Medium Well – 150˚F
Well Done – 160˚F

Transfer the cooked steaks to a warm platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. During this time the meat continues to cook (meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven) and the juices redistribute. 

While the steaks are resting, place the skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup dry red wine to the skillet and bring to a boil. As the wine boils, use a wooden spoon to scrap any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let the liquid boil until reduced to approximately 1/3 cup. Remove pan from heat. Add the butter, swirling the pan to incorporate it into the sauce. Serve the steaks whole or slice thin and fan onto individual serving plates. Pour the sauce over the steaks just before serving. Makes 2 servings.


Pan Fried Akule
Pan Fried Akule
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Ingredients:
4 akule, about 1 1/2 pounds each
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup canola oil for frying
1/8 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup soy sauce (shoyu), or Tamari sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 limes, cut into wedges for garnish

Procedure:
Clean fish, gut, scale, but leave head and tail on. Split the fish in half from head to tail, leaving the head on one side. Next, season the fish on both sides with a mixture of dried dill, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then dust the fish with a combination of flour and cornmeal that has been seasoned with salt. Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium high, and pour in about a quarter inch of canola oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Just as the oil starts to ripple, but not smoke, lay the fish skin side down in the hot oil and fry on both sides. This should take only a few minutes, or until the fish is golden brown. While the fish is frying, make a hot butter sauce with melted butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh grated ginger, and some chopped green onions. Serve immediately with steamed white rice and lime wedges. Makes 4 servings.


Simple Southern Fried Chicken
Traditionally, Southern Fried Chicken was fried in an iron skillet or Dutch oven, using lard or solid vegetable shortening, however canola oil or peanut oil works just fine.

Ingredients:
1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces, or bone in chicken thighs.
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups buttermilk
self-rising flour
Canola oil

Procedure:
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a shallow dish or zip-top plastic bag, and add buttermilk. Cover or seal, and chill at least 2 hours.

Remove chicken from buttermilk, discarding buttermilk. Dredge chicken in flour.

Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches in a deep cast iron skillet or cast iron Dutch oven; heat to 360°F. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time; cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover chicken, and cook 9 minutes. Turn chicken; cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook 5 to 9 minutes, turning chicken the last 3 minutes for even browning, if necessary. Drain on paper towels. Serve with Hushpuppies, and collard greens with a sprinkle of Hawaiian chili pepper water. Makes 4 servings.


Iron Skillet Corn Bread

Ingredients:
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar (you can add up to 1/2 cup if you like it sweet)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable shortening or butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons shortening or butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh corn (optional)

Procedure:
Sift the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, milk, corn (optional), and 1/4 cup shortening and beat with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth, about 1 minute. Grease a 6-inch cast iron skillet with the shortening, pour in the batter, and bake in a preheated 425˚F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown on top. Bring the skillet to the table and cut into wedges to serve. Great with chili or black bean soup. Makes 6 servings.

Note: For a moist interior and a nice crisp crust, put an iron skillet two thirds filled with water on the floor of your oven before you begin to preheat it. If you prefer corn muffins, grease just the bottoms of 12 regular-size muffin cups, or place paper baking cups in muffin cups. Fill about 3/4 full with batter.


Chuck Wagon Beans
These beans are great served with roast pork belly and iron skillet corn bread.

Ingredients:
1 pound of hamburger (cooked and drained)
6 slices of bacon (cooked and crumbled)
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons of mustard
1/2 cup of ketchup
1 teaspoon of cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 – 15 ounce cans of pork & beans
1 – 15 ounce can of kidney beans
1 – 15 ounce can of butter beans
2 tablespoons of barbeque sauce (optional)

Procedure:
Cook the hamburger and bacon separately and drain the grease. In a cast iron Dutch oven, combine the hamburger, bacon, and onion. Add the sugars, maple syrup, mustard, ketchup, vinegar, and salt until well blended. Add the beans to the hamburger mixture. Add your favorite barbeque sauce to your taste (Optional). Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Another one of my cast iron treasures.


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