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To cast iron or not: There are two types of people in the world |

To cast iron or not: There are two types of people in the world

You either love cast iron or are afraid of its greatness.

I love when my mom visits my home and helps do random things, like launder my curtains and wash my base boards. But then I have to watch her closely as she edges ever closer toward my cast iron skillets.


Last week, I came home from work to find she had touched them. With soap. I screamed like Frank Costanza, “Serenity now!” over and over again until I could breathe.

Cast iron people know the struggle. And I have decided there are only two types of people in this world — people who love cast iron skillets and those who say, “call me when I can put it in the dishwasher.”

If you cook with cast iron, we are kindred spirits. We love old recipes and aren’t afraid of a stick of butter or a few strips of bacon. We think that getting somewhere is the fun of the journey and no one has to tell us twice how to relax and enjoy ourselves. The people like my mother, with a guilty look on their face and a sponge full of Dawn dish soap, sweat the details in life, and ask too many questions like, “but how do you clean cast iron?” 

That’s why when I dined and dished with one of the top cast iron authorities in the South, we got on just fine. Because all roads lead to Wilmington, North Carolina, of course, the author of “The Southern Cast Iron Cookbook: Comforting Family Recipes to Enjoy and Share,” lives here. Elena Rosemond-Hoerr grew up with lots of cast iron meals in Durham. Her father has two cast iron skillets that she says live on his stovetop. She has a collection of favorites as well.

Hoerr said just about every meal at her home is cooked on cast iron. From breakfast pancakes, quiches and sandwiches at lunch to huevos rancheros for dinner and pies for dessert — they are all fed to the cast iron gods. Hoerr documents many of her go-to meals on her food blog, “Biscuits Such,” which has received love from Saveur, Garden and Gun and Southern Living.

Cast iron people tend to have one cast iron that is their favorite. The one that cooperates nicely when you need it to and seems to be just the right size for everything, like a favorite child. I treat mine almost like a grill top at a restaurant — it’s just the main cooking surface of my kitchen (my cast iron, not my child.)

Hoerr said when she wrote the book she learned just how many misconceptions are out there about cast irons. Like some think they are only for camping, or cannot be used with a glass cooktop or some think they are simply too much work. Others think you never clean them — which isn’t true at all. You clean them, just in their own special way.

“Cast iron only gets better with time — it’s like a living part of your kitchen,” Hoerr told me. “It’s one of the few things that the more you engage with it, it doesn’t wear down or get worse — it gets better.”

Seriously, think of all the kitchen stuff over the years. Mixing bowls, casserole dishes, hotel pans. They get nicks and scratches. Sometimes they chip. Cast iron keeps getting better the more bacon you fry in it. What else improves with time the more bacon you feed it?

Pies during the fall are even better on cast iron, she swears. The material crisps up pie crusts better than any glass dish, can so you can kiss soggy bottoms goodbye. Hoerr has taken to putting pizza crusts down in her cast irons as quiche crusts, which she claims crisps up nicely.

In the cookbook, she did four seasons of shrimp and grits — the fall recipe being with Brussels sprouts and a bacon jam. While corporations want us to think fall flavors revolve around pumpkin spice, cast iron lovers know fall brings out so many other possibilities among roasted vegetables, pies and sauces.

Check out Hoerr’s blog for hundreds of recipes, including cast iron ones, and for more information on her cookbooks. Below is her recipe for huevos rancheros — a favorite cast iron meal she said makes the most satisfying of sounds when the ring of cheese and fried egg on a tortilla is flipped.

Elena Rosemond-Hoerr’s Huevos Rancheros from the Biscuits Such blog

Ingredients:

Drizzle of olive oil

4 large flour tortillas

8oz cheddar cheese, grated

4 eggs

1 425g can black beans

1 teaspoon smoked chipotle

Salt and pepper

1 avocado

Pico de gallo:

3 large tomatoes, diced

1 jalapeno, minced

½ red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ bunch fresh cilantro

2 large limes, juiced

Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Combine tomatoes, jalapeno, red onion, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper, and lime juice in a mixing bowl. Mix well and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, heat black beans, in liquid. Stir in smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.

Heat oil in a heavy pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot place tortilla in the center of the pan. Make a ring of shredded cheese and crack an egg into the center, containing the egg. Let cook until the cheese has melted and then use a spatula to flip the tortilla and the egg. Let cook for 2-3 minutes for a runny yolk or 4-5 minutes for a firm yolk. Use a spatula to lift the tortilla and the egg, flipping egg side up onto a plate. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Thickly slice avocado. Strain black beans and top tortilla and egg with black beans, pico de gallo, and avocado.

Tips: Use a wide spatula to flip the tortilla so that the egg is cradled in the middle, helping to keep everything together. Flip quickly and confidently.

Reporter Ashley Morris can be reached at Ashley.Morris@StarNewsOnline.com.

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