My blog could only be described in 1 word: hodge-podge (are hyphenated words considered 1 or 2 words?). My life is a bit eclectic, so I guess it comes as no surprise that my blog would be as well. I write about anything and everything, including: recipes, DIY projects, travel, our new puppy, and the comings and goings of our daily lives.
In addition to my blog, my life is a hodge-podge; a mixture of two very different cultures. You see, I'm a southern girl who married a yankee (gasp!) But don't worry gals, he's been converted; I got him to move to Houston (hehe). With my hodge-podge life, one night I could be making authentic lasagna and the next I'm fix'n to make some fried chicken. However, no matter what I’m cookin’ up in my kitchen (or what I call “my office”), there is one thing that is constant: my cast iron skillet. I don’t go a day without my trusty side-kick. So today I want to share with you the story of my love affair with my cast iron skillet.
My skillet, who I refer to as Betsy (yep, I’ve named all my trusty kitchen gadgets), did not start out as my best friend. My cookbook club chose the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook a couple years ago and I knew that I would need a skillet for many of her recipes. Many women get cast iron skillets as wedding gifts, but I was not one of those brides. I didn’t have one, and in fact, all I knew about them was if I washed my mother’s skillet when I was younger she would have “painted my back porch red”. So I was hesitant to get one until I spoke with my hubby’s Aunt Susan. She has been cooking breakfast in her skillet every morning for her cowboy for 40 years! 40 YEARS! If she has been using her skillet for that long, there must be something amazing about it, right? So I bought one. I purchased a Lodge skillet for $20 from Kroger (yep, if I can't get it at Kroger, it doesn't get bought). Sidebar- I don't think you need to spend an arm and a leg for a skillet; the skillet magic starts when you start cooking, not with the price tag.
The first thing you need to do when you get your skillet is season it (even if the label it comes with says "preseasoned"). Run it under some hot water and let dry completely. Then apply a thin coat of vegetable oil to the bottom and sides of the skillet (the cooking side only, of course). Place your skillet upside-down in your preheated 450 degree oven for 30 minutes. Make sure that you have a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil under your skillet to catch the drips. After 30 minutes, let your skillet cool in the oven. I recommend repeating this process 3-4 times. If you find a skillet at an antique/thrift shop, and it doesn't have any scratches/nicks, grab it! Most likely it has already been seasoned to perfection and you can reap the benefits.
I recommend that the first thing you make with your skillet be something a little greasy. I chose pancakes to make first and this was a BAD idea. The skillet had not developed enough yet so the pancakes stuck to the pan and I almost burned the place down (OK, that's a huge exaggeration, but there was A LOT of smoke). I was so upset that my pancakes were ruined, but it was just because I chose the wrong meal to cook first and it wasn't seasoned enough. Each time you use your skillet it will get easier and easier, because, a) you'll be more familiar with it, and b) it will develop and season. So if you've tried cooking with your skillet and given' up, pull that bad boy back out and try again. Don't quit! If everything keeps sticking, then you need to reseason it.
And get this, I haven't even told you the BEST part of having a skillet yet: you don’t have to clean your skillet. Yes, you read that correctly! In fact, cast iron isn't supposed to be washed. The clouds just parted and the angels started singing the Hallelujah Chorus! You don’t have to do more dishes! After I've cooked in my skillet, and it has cooled down, I run it under hot water and scrape off the scraps with Pampered Chef's Nylon Pan Scrapers. Then I wipe off the excess water with a paper towel and lightly spray it with cooking oil (I use the Kroger brand of Pam). That's it!
So what do I cook in my skillet? E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! I can sear any kind of meat, make hamburgers, bacon, brown onions/peppers/garlic, toast tortillas, enchiladas, and the list goes on and on. Here are some other dishes that I have made with my skillet:
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Skillet Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Cordon Bleu
My all-time favorite meal to make in my skillet is Skillet Tamale Pie; you must try it :-)
Skillet Tamale Pie (Hawley Style, adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated)
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 tbs chili powder
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground beef
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
6.5-8.5oz package of cornbread mix (I used Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread)
½ cup cheddar cheese
½ cup habanero cheddar cheese (if you can't find this, just use another half cup of cheddar)
2 tbs cilantro
Garnish with extra cilantro and sour cream
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 450 degrees.
2. Heat oil in 12-inch cast iron skillet on medium to medium-high until shimmering. Add onion, chili powder, and ½ tsp salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is softened. Stir in garlic for about 30 sections. Be careful because garlic burns easily.
3. Stir in ground beef, beans, and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. While the beef is cooking, mix together the cornbread mixture according to the package.
5. Stir cheddar and cilantro into beef mixture, and season to your taste with salt and pepper. Pour cornbread mixture over top and spread out to cover the beef mixture in an even layer.
6. Put the skillet into the oven and bake until cornbread is cook through in the center (about 10-15 minutes). Serve with cilantro and sour cream.
7. Eat and LOVE your life
This precious culinary gem is the perfect inexpensive, non-stick, and even-cooking tool to add to your kitchen. This skillet has "flipped" my cooking world and I hope I have convinced and inspired you to pull out your skillet and get cookin'! Love y'all!