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Cast iron cooking |

Cast iron cooking

When my great-grandmother Anna moved from her farmstead to town, I inherited a cast iron skillet. I tucked it away with her hand-sewn quilts and rugs she made on her large weaving loom. Perhaps it was because I was small child or maybe it was the reality of life in a small farmhouse built in the late 1880s, but that towering loom seemed to take up most of the living room. It was so tempting to press the foot levers and pull the cranks when she wasn’t looking. Likely we rearranged the pattern on quite a few of her rugs over the years.

Quite a few years later when my grandmother Dorothy (Anna’s daughter) moved from her home to a small apartment, I inherited another cast iron skillet. This was her Sunday fried chicken making skillet. Just thinking about that chicken makes me hungry. She always paired it with mashed potatoes and corn. By some small miracle I was able to locate the storage tub housing the first skillet and put the two together.


The third skillet was added from my mother’s estate last spring. I don’t recall my mother cooking it in very often, but when she did those meals were quite delicious. Pork chops were my favorite meal with beef stew coming in a close second.

During a recent warm day we tackled the annual spring cleaning of the storage area. Husband Jeff dragged out those cast iron skillets and set forth on a mission to get them back into shape.

Cast iron is great for searing meat and roasting vegetables. The more you use cast iron cookware, the better the food tastes. Skillet breads and sweets can be prepared in your skillet as well. Bake your favorite cinnamon roll recipe or store-bought sweet roll dough for a special treat.


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Cinnamon Rolls

Photo by Angie Sutton.

My skillets are 8-inch skillets so the recipes included this week work well in that size. If you have a 10-inch or 12-inch pan you can adjust as needed.

FROM THE WEBSITE:

Reader-submitted questions

Q. How do I clean my cast iron pan?

A. It’s best to clean your pan just after you enjoy your meal. The temptation to wash it later or let it soak should be avoided.

Rinse the pan well with hot water. Add a tablespoon of coarse salt, preferably Kosher salt, and a little bit of warm water to the pan. Rub with a paper towel or a stiff bristled brush around the bottom and up the sides. This method preserves the seasoning of your pan. Avoid using dish soap or steel wool. If food bits are still stick, loosen them by boiling water in the pan and scrubbing again. Dry the pan thoroughly.

Place the pan on the stove over low heat for about two minutes to open the pores of the iron. Use a paper towel to apply a light even coat of vegetable oil. Let the pan cool and store.


Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs


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Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs

Photo by Angie Sutton.

I like to use the garden combination spaghetti sauce to add a vegetable serving. If I have Italian-blend shredded cheese I often use that.

Ingredients:

12 fully cooked meatballs

1 (24-oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. Italian seasoning or oregano

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 to 3/4 lb. spaghetti noodles

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Preheat cast iron skillet over low heat.

2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and let heat about 2 minutes. Sauté onions for 3 minutes and add garlic and sauté for one minute more. Place precooked meatballs in skillet and pour spaghetti sauce over the top and toss to coat. Sprinkle seasoning over the top and simmer for 15 minutes while you cook spaghetti noodles.

3. Cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions for al dente. Remove meatballs to a plate. Stir 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water into the sauce in the skillet. Drain spaghetti and stir into the sauce. Return meatballs to skillet and turn off heat. Top with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted.

Apron Strings Tips: If you add too much pasta, your dish will be very dry. Add more pasta sauce if you like. If you don’t have prepared meatballs, you can easily substitute a pound of ground beef by browning it with the onions and garlic in step two and lengthening the cooking time.

 


Pork Medallions with Mushrooms

This creamy dish is a favorite of ours. The cook time on the pork depends upon the size of your tenderloin medallions. Be sure the pork has reached the minimum cooking temperature before removing it from the skillet.

Ingredients:

1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-inch medallions

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. flour

3/4 c. milk

1 (1-oz.) pkg. cream cheese

1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

1. Preheat skillet to medium high heat and add olive oil. Rub salt and pepper on both sides of the medallions and place in skillet. Cook the pork for 3 minutes on each side and remove from skillet to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.

2. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and lower heat to medium. Add mushrooms, leek and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute and add thyme leaves, continuing to sauté 3 more minutes. Leek should be soft when pierced with a fork.

3. Add flour to skillet and stir until combined. Slowly pour milk into the skillet, stirring constantly. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes while sauce thickens. Stir in cream cheese until it melts and is incorporated. Remove from heat.

4. Stir in Greek yogurt and add the pork back to the skillet. Serve.

Apron Strings Tips: Use reduced-fat or fat-free milk, cream cheese and Greek yogurt to lighten this dish.



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Cast Iron Skillet Pork Medallions with Beans

Photo by Angie Sutton.

Cast Iron Skillet Pork Medallions with Beans

Add more garlic according to your liking. The cook time on the pork depends upon the size of your tenderloin medallions. Be sure the pork has reached the minimum cooking temperature before removing it from the skillet.

Ingredients:

1 lb. pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch medallions

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

2 (15.5-oz.) cans cannellini beans, drained

1 (14.5-oz.) can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 c. fresh baby spinach, stems removed

Directions:

1. Preheat skillet to medium high heat and add olive oil. Rub salt and pepper on both sides of the medallions and place in skillet. Cook the pork for 3 minutes on each side and remove from skillet to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.

2. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to skillet and lower heat to medium. Add onion and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic and oregano and continue to sauté another minute. Stir in beans, tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.

3. Remove from heat and add pork back to skillet. Serve.

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off
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