Monday, January 31, 2011

Honorable mention...

Just a quick note to add.  My boss, and one of my coworkers, both purchased a Lodge wok.  I got to see them when they were delivered to the store, and they were beautiful.  I have to admit, my committment to not spending was called into question.  With that being said, I don't think I could justify the expenditure on yet another piece of iron, so I will wait.  For how long...  we shall see.  The wok is truly a beautiful piece of cookware, and useful in the kitchen in so many ways.  I look forward to hearing the stories of culinary adventure from the two proud owners.  Maybe I can borrow one an try it out for myself.  I had someone ask me about using an iron skillet on their ceramic cooktop.  I mentioned that I had used my 12" skillet a few times on the stovetop with no ill effect to the cooking surface.  I just made a point of not moving it around once I found the right spot.  I must reiterate the reminder at this point of keeping the heat to a medium level to avoind scorching the pan, facilitating the need to reseason.
Love and iron,

Bacon on a stick...

I know I haven't done much actual cooking lately.  It has been a combination of returning to work after a vacation, social events, helping my kiddo with his pinewood derby car (he came in fourth), and just being too short on time to commit to a little outdoor cast iron time.  But something I mentioned in the first post has resurfaced, and I thought I would share it.  After many long evenings, longer than mine, my friends Ryan and Kyle wanted to hang out a little to relax after the rigors of scout parenting.  Ryan is the originator of "bacon on a stick", a result of abject hunger while sitting around the firepit.  We got together last night and enjoyed some fine import beers, a charming pit fire, and of course... bacon on a stick.  You take a sword skewer, one a bit longer than the typical kabob style, slide it into a piece of bacon, usually thick cut, preferably maple or hickory smoked, and hold the piece of bacon over a healthy bed of embers.  The experience is both relaxing and invigorating.  If you find the right spot, the bacon starts to shine and drip immediately.  As the fat starts to release the grease and it drips into the fire, the embers flare up into flames that lick at the bacon.  You have to watch out for singing the bacon, unless charred is your taste.  The scent of cooking bacon starts to permeate the air pretty quickly, and the anticipation of delights to come begin to rise.  There isn't much conversation during this stage.  I think I saw Ryan start to enter a trancelike state that transcended his exhaustion as he dangled the succulent piece of pork over the coals.  I have found that if the bed of coals is adequate, you can hold the bacon near the edge, limiting the flareups.  It has result in what I can only describe as a well seasoned firepit.  I swear I can smell bacon now when any of us fires their pit!  The time varies depending on your personal taste in bacon "doneness".  I like mine a bit less cooked, still soft.  Ryan and Kyle seem to be of similar tastes.  The wives all seem to be more consistently crispy in preference.  Eventually, the cooking is complete, and you withdraw the skewer from the heat and flames.  A brief inspection of the bacon to assess the texture, and then the process of consuming the bacon begins, tearing a bit at a time, savoring, trying to avoid going into some sort of carniverous frenzy.  Heaven on a stick.  Pure culinary delight in a single strip of rendered flesh.  Primal.  I think I need to make an apointment to have my cholesterol checked...  Ryan, you are my hero.  Now we look at what is next.  Sanwich makers with bacon, egg and bread is on the agenda for our next gathering.  One can only fantasize and delight over what the firepit may offer next.  Incidentally, I think I may finally get around to making the pot pie Monday night.  Post to follow...
Love and iron,

Monday, January 24, 2011


I just used my 12" skillet to brown some maple Jimmey Dean sausage and then used the leftover grease to fry up some shredded potatos.  I am making a mountain man breakfast in a caserole dish in the oven for dinner (feeling a bit under the weather and didn't want to stand around outside).  After laying everything in the dish, ovening it, and then cleaning the skillet, I was shocked to find a 8" brown stain across the bottom of the skillet.  I don't know if it is spontaneous rust, scorched potato, grease, or some trans-dimensional being who has decided to use my pan as a portal into this world...  I oiled it up and threw it into the oven for now.  I must communicate with one of my gurus.  :(


Unfortunately, other plans made cast iron cooking impossible last night.  I am thrilled to mention that I used my 17" skillet for food prep during a party on Saturday.  I took two family sized bags of chicken fingers and baked them in the iron pan.  The positive effect was that they reheated nice and even, did not stick in the slightest, and stayed warm for quite awhile due to the heat retaining iron.  The chicken was one of the bases for a topping bar including queso con carne, fresh organic tomatoes (diced), shredded lettuce, black olives, sharp cheddar, sour cream, diced green onions, sliced jalapeno and other colorful peppers, and skillet-fried bacon.  In addition to the chicken, there was a variety of chips as well.  There was a load of food, but strangely, there was no dutch oven cooking.  Unusual for this group and this party.  It was our friend Lori's birthday party.  She is a die hard Twi-Mom, so there was lots of theming.  Clearly, there was no scene where Edward or Jacob lovingly or putingly seasons a pot, or bakes a cobbler.  My sister Paula is outcooking me like crazy, though.  She is a cooking machine, and I will look for some of her pictures and notes to add here.  I did see the Lodge cast iron wok last week.  Very sexy hunk of metal.  I know, I know, I promised.  Maybe I can sell off some of my "old" hobby stuff to supplement my cast iron addiction.  I am supposed to meet for a mentoring lesson soon with J.H., dutch oven genius.  Looking forward to that.  I was hoping to run support service for him at a cooking event this coming weekend, but it looks like I will be working.  Drat!  Anyway, I have my pot pie recipe, and need only pick up the ingredients.  I am also rarin' to try making bacon cheddar drop bisquits in the dutch instead of the oven.  There is a lot of heat involved, so I am a little unsure about moving forward until I am more confident in my temp control skills.  I will, as always, keep you posted.  Love and iron,  Del

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This looks sort of yummy...

If I ever take information from somewhere, I promise I will do my best to give specific credit, or at least acknowledge that it wasn't my idea.  I think I may have my pot pie recipe.  I love the internet.  Here is the link for the recipe page:
I am going to be pretty busy at home and work until Sunday, so maybe that will be the day.  I will keep you "posted"!
Love and iron,

Monday, January 17, 2011


That level of excitement can only mean one thing...  My 2qt was delivered!  I feel positively giddy.  In addition to that, my store's (Army Navy Outdoors) fill-in order came in.  There were some cool pieces that we received, including a wok (special order), a 1qt, more of the 2-handled 17" skillets, and some cleaning accessories.  Yes, I am excited about cleaning tools.  Mom would be so proud.  So, my collection is complete, at least for now.  I will be pulling a potpie recipe very soon to christen the 2qt, and will post the recipe and pix of the finished product, or action photos of me getting my stomach pumped, whichever direction things go...  Love and iron, Del

Here is the store display of our selection, lovingly designed by my colleague and friend Kyle and myself...  Note the behemoth 17" skillet.  Mmmmm.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pits Baby! An amazing thing...

Whatever this is, I covet it.

Broken Promise. I got another pot :( (but not really sad about it...)

Nothing new cooked, but I may have aquired another piece of cast iron (in addition to the previously listed 2qt...).  While not the highest quality piece, I got a mammoth 12qt dutch oven through an associate at work.  It is not a Lodge, and feels like it could use some serious love and re-seasoning.  All I know is, once sweetened properly, it will manage, quite literally, 3 GALLONS of stew or chili.  I know that the size is not ideal for breads and cakes, as these foods don't need the airspace over the top of them for steam.  The seasoning thing is still an area of opportunity.  For now, I will defer to friends with expertise far in excess of my own.  I did pick up a tube of Cast Iron Conditioner, which I am trying out.  It sure looks nice going on.  We shall see.  I am still eagerly anticipating the arrival of my 8" - 2qt dutch.  I have visions of pot pies dancing in my head. 

I am kid wrangling this evening, and I was going to make apple crisp, which is simply apple pie filling covered with an apple-cinnamon sweet crunchy-esque topping, prepared in the 10" - 4qt.  The crisp mix comes from a bag, which was picked up at Winn Dixie.  I am not at the level of making my own mixes (yet).  I say again, this is not that challenging if you have a sense of adventure.

I realize this is one of those "speaking to hear one's self talk" situations, but I hope someone somewhere gets a moment's enjoyment from this.

Eat well, and enjoy.

Dutch Oven and Cast Iron Cooking: A New Taste In Hobbies

Dutch Oven and Cast Iron Cooking: A New Taste In Hobbies        

I have had countless hobbies, for which I have collected a ridiculous amount of gear.  I get interested in something, don’t bother learning enough about it, assume the “stuff” will help me succeed in truly experiencing the hobby, and bore all too quickly with the hobby.  I am walking a thin line right now as I develop my newest interest, cast iron cooking.  It started simply enough.  About 16 months ago, Army Navy Outdoors, as a long-time supporter of the scouting community, added Lodge Cast iron to our wares.  We had a small “basic Dutch oven cooking” class, helmed by John Howard, cast iron cooking genius.  My wife kindly attended to help shore attendance numbers, so I purchased my first Dutch oven (a 12”- 6qt).  She made a lovely cornbread, and I had a new cast iron toy.  It took me almost 2 months to develop the nerve to actually try using it.  I was sure I would melt it, break it, poison someone, or otherwise embarrass myself beyond recognition.  But I did none of those things.  I made a basic but tasty shepherd’s pie.  But I did something else that was far more important.  I took a first step.

Fast forward to today…  I have a 12” – 6qt, 10” – 4qt, 1 tiny skillet for a single fried egg, 2 fajita skillets (with wood trivets), 1-10.25” skillet, 1-12” skillet, and 1-17” two-handled skillet.  I have a crate of cooking accessories, from lid lifter(s) to charcoal chimneys to whisks to bowls, lots of cups and spoons for samples (there are always plenty of volunteers when I am trying something new in a dessert).  I have a cart just for dragging the weighty iron from place to place.  My friend is making me a “chuck box” (portable wooden kitchen).  I know, coolest guy ever.  I have joined a Dutch oven society.  And oh yeah, I’m waiting for my 8” – 2qt pot to be delivered. Gee, obsess much?  Here’s the thing.  This hobby seems to be sticking. 

Sounds cheesy, but this growing entity of “cast iron-ness” has added a whole new dimension to my life.  It has led to friend and family gatherings, surrounding food and good times and more food.  Several of my acquaintances have become true and close friends.  This year’s New Year’s Eve celebration ended up being a 6-hour cookout with our friends’ entire family sleeping over.  My friends all have Dutch ovens now.  Campouts are designed around our cooking.  The hangouts are now patios and back decks, around fire pits and sheet metal cooking platforms.  Whole new oddities, like “bacon-on-a-stick” have spawned from these gatherings.  I will spare you the details of several food-drunk grown men sitting around a fire pit giggling and salivating as they hold skewers of bacon over the coals…  Let’s just say that even a cardiologist would have had a hard time avoiding that encounter.

Cast iron cooking is truly a fading art.  But it is amazing, and amazingly simple.  Mistakes are not mistakes, just something new to sample.  And everyone will sample a mistake from time to time.  Some of them turn out to be pretty darned yummy.  I find a sense of interactive pleasure in group cooking.  I learn more every time I cook or communicate with another enthusiast.  I hope I will never stop learning.

My most recent adventure was Dutch oven prepared Cornish hen, which I had never cooked before at all.  But my 9 year old and I grabbed a random YouTube video, watched it twice while scribbling notes and ingredients madly, and headed for the grocery store.  I have said so much already, I will say briefly… Yum.  The picture is of the birds cooking while being basted periodically.  Right in my back yard.  Amazing!

I will start looking for the next adventure, which I will share in more detail.  In the meantime, I promise, no more purchases (except of course the 8” – 2qt, perfect for pot pies…).  Until then, discover this for yourself.  Share the food, share the fun, find the joy.