Iron Pan

September 18, 2009

Let’s be honest. What you cook with is just as important as the ingredients you choose to cook. But, that doesn’t mean you need a department store full of pots and pans to get the job done effectively.

Case in point: the old, tried and true black cast iron pan. You know, the one your grandmother always cooked in. There are so many non-cooking uses for it, too. My grandmother used it as a weight when she wanted to squeeze the moisture out of eggplant, and her chicken cutlets were paper-thin after she pounded them with her pan.
I have had my pan for as long as I have been married. It was passed down to me from my mother, who got it from her mother. It is well seasoned and works like a charm.
One of my favorite ways to use it is on the grill. No more scraping incinerated food off the grill grate. It works very well with fish.

Here’s what I do when I want to cook scallops, shrimp, or a delicate piece of halibut or cod:

Place a well seasoned, empty cast iron pan on the grill grate and get that grill smoking to 600 degrees F. Meanwhile, season your fish as you like it. I usually do a rub of lemon zest, dill or tarragon, salt and pepper.

Place the fish in the pan and watch it cook, taking on great color in no time with no sticking whatsoever. A little melted butter poured over the top makes each bite perfection.

Another favorite way to use the pan is making stove top lasagne. Since the pan retains even heat, lasagne cooks in about 20 minutes.

Want a pizza with a crusty bottom? Turn the pan upside down and place in your oven or on the grill and heat to 450 degrees F. Make individual sized pizzas to fit the diameter of the pan. Place the dough first on parchment paper, add your toppings, and with a wide spatula, transfer the pizza to the top of the pan. As soon as the edges start to puff up, carefully yank the parchment paper out and allow the pizza to cook until the bottom is crusty.

Now that is something to marvel at!

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