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Food for Thought: Cast iron worth every dime, but won’t cost fortune |

Food for Thought: Cast iron worth every dime, but won’t cost fortune



McDonald’ — Contributed
McDonald’s in Hong Kong is serving up a grilled mac and cheese with bacon sandwich.





Tip of the Week

• Cutting potato wedges evenly can be a joke. But not this way. Cut the potato in half crosswise, stand it on the flat end, and cut perfect wedges with an apple slicer.

One of my friends hates cast iron cookware. I know. She’s in a tiny minority. Most of us grew up with at least one cast iron pan, and we learned how versatile they are.

You can use them on the stovetop, in the oven, on a campfire, or even in a fireplace. Although my mom had two cast iron pans in our kitchen, I didn’t get one of my own until my then-husband took the kids and me camping for the first time. I was not going to take my fine stainless steel cookware, so I dropped by the Navy base store and bought a deep cast iron pan with a cover.

Recipe of the Week

Pull out that cast iron skillet, follow this recipe from Country Living, and you’ll have dinner on the table in about 45 minutes. Dine in the yard, on your apartment balcony, or on the deck.

Skillet Shrimp, Sausage, and Rice

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces fully cooked andouille sausage

1 medium onion

1 red pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp

12 ounces plum (Roma) tomatoes

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

1: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.

2: Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Add the pepper and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more.

3: Stir in the rice, then the wine and seasoning and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 12 minutes.

4: Fold the sausage into the rice mixture, then nestle the shrimp in the partially cooked rice and cook, covered, until the shrimp are opaque throughout and the rice is tender, 4 to 5 minutes more. Fold in the tomatoes and sprinkle with the parsley before serving.

That thing saw us through not only our camping weekend, but also through our entire cross-country move from Florida to California. I got so good at cooking on a fire that I eventually impressed my friends by being able to flip an omelet without a single splash. I was that good.

And I still have that pan. These things become heirlooms — the original non-stick pan that lasts forever. They’re not pretty, but they sure are worth every dime.

Not that you have to spend a lot. Epicurious recently rated six cast iron pans and picked the best ones. They asked three questions: How good is the pre-seasoning straight out of the pan? Does the design boost performance? And is it a good value?

The most expensive pan was $270, while the cheapest was just under $21. Let’s cut to the chase. The best rating went to the $21 model by Victoria. Right out of the box, the seasoning was perfectly non-stick, letting a fried egg slide out cleanly. The slightly upward curve of the handle also made it easy to maneuver.

Next-best was the $29 Camp Chef Skillet. It needed oil to get it started because the eggs stuck considerably. But after the second try with oil, the eggs didn’t stick at all. Another good one.

Third in line was the Lodge, which is what I have had for all these 45 years. It’s about $33, and it took more seasoning time (four rounds) to get it to non-stick level. And it was heavy, at a little over seven pounds.

At $270, the Finex is a fancy option with a very smooth surface, making it a good non-stick option. It’s 8.5-pound weight made it the heaviest. But you’re better off going with a less expensive pan. The slightly better performance didn’t justify the extra cost.

Not recommended (both at $100) were the Field Skillet (food stuck even after seasoning) and the Utopia Kitchen (rough surface, too heavy).

How to season cast iron

If your new pan does stick, you can season it with a little oil and a hot oven. Rub a thin layer of oil all over the pan. With a folded paper towel, buff it until you leave only a film. Set it upside-down on a rack in a pre-heated 450-degree oven, and “cook” it for 30 minutes. Cool before handling.

The pan should be blackened, which is how the oil makes a non-stick surface. To keep it seasoned, simply use it. But don’t wash in soapy water. Instead, wipe it down with a paper towel. Remove any food particles by scrubbing with salt. That’s it!

Now I’ve heard it all

Sometimes we wish that certain foods would make it to U.S. restaurants. And then sometimes we’re glad they don’t. Or maybe you’d really want a grilled mac and cheese sandwich with bacon.

That’s what they’re serving at McDonald’s in Hong Kong. If that doesn’t top the fat-and-carbs list, I don’t know what does. The grilled sandwich contains exactly what you think—gooey mac and cheese studded with bacon and then grilled.

If that doesn’t turn you on, Mickey D’s has also introduced a corn cheese grilled sandwich. What’s corn cheese? It’s popular in Korea. You mix corn with mayonnaise and mozzarella. Toss in some sliced button mushrooms, and heat it all up. Slather that between two slices of bread, and throw it on the grill.

Contact Donna Maurillo at sentinelfood@maurillo.com

Tip of the week

• Cutting potato wedges evenly can be a joke. But not this way. Cut the potato in half crosswise, stand it on the flat end, and cut perfect wedges with an apple slicer.

Recipe of the week

Pull out that cast iron skillet, follow this recipe from Country Living, and you’ll have dinner on the table in about 45 minutes. Dine in the yard, on your apartment balcony, or on the deck.

Skillet Shrimp, Sausage, and Rice

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces fully cooked andouille sausage

1 medium onion

1 red pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp

12 ounces plum (Roma) tomatoes

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

1: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.

2: Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Add the pepper and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more.

3: Stir in the rice, then the wine and seasoning and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 12 minutes.

4: Fold the sausage into the rice mixture, then nestle the shrimp in the partially cooked rice and cook, covered, until the shrimp are opaque throughout and the rice is tender, 4 to 5 minutes more. Fold in the tomatoes and sprinkle with the parsley before serving.

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