Tag Archives: cast iron

Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet, Caramelized Butternut Squash, & Kale Salad

Happy Birthday, Wheat!

We had a birthday dinner for Wheat last night.  We didn’t invite anybody except for Harold, who begged the entire time. #rude

Ribeye with Sauteed Onions & Shiitakes, Kale Salad, & Caramelized Butternut Squash | Oysters & Pearls

This might have been the freshest, most seasonal, most local, most delicious meal we’ve had in quite some time.

The menu consisted of a ribeye from Jones Meats in Climax, along with a tasty combination of locally grown and organic Shiitake mushrooms, onion, kale, and butternut squash (all from our Farm to Table box from Harvest Moon).

I know you wanna know the recipes for everything, so here goes:

Steak in a Cast Iron Skillet

for a 1-inch thick ribeye (the cut we always get):

Heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet that is big enough to fit your steaks comfortably over medium high heat (without anything in it).  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring your steaks to room temperature and salt and pepper them with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I use a Misto to lightly oil the steaks after patting the salt and pepper into them.  Just don’t get crazy with the oil – you only need a little bit.  And you can use olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil – whatever you’ve got on hand.  (I used olive oil, but would prefer vegetable or canola or something with a higher smoke point.  I was just out of it!)

Once your skillet is hot, place your steaks in the skillet and sear them.  They will stick at first, but will release themselves when they are seared.  Just sort of grab them with your tongs a wee bit and try to move them around.  If they don’t move, they aren’t seared.  Once they do move, flip the steaks with tongs and then put the entire skillet in your preheated oven.  Leave it there for six minutes for a medium rare steak, or until the internal temperature is around 135 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit with a meat thermometer.  When it is, remove the steaks from the skillet and place on a plate or platter and cover with foil for somewhere between 5 to 10 minutes to rest.

For rare steak, remove them from the oven when the internal temp is 130 degrees.
For medium steak, remove them from the oven when the internal temperature is 150 degrees (around 8 minutes).
For well-done steaks, remove them from the oven when the internal temperature is 160 to 165 degrees.

I don’t know times for these really, because I’ve only been practicing medium rare.  The medium steak was a practicing accident, but still delicious. :)

I recommend one of our favorite wines with your steak: Seven Deadly Zins.  It’s a (red) Zinfandel and it’s delicious!

Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms and Onion

Head some butter in a skillet over medium heat until melted.  Mince a couple cloves of garlic and add them to the butter.  Cook until the garlic is browned, but not burned.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until soft and most of the butter has been absorbed.  Serve on top of delicious steak.

Caramelized Butternut Squash, Kale Salad, and Ribeye Cooked in a Cast Iron Skillet | Oysters & Pearls

Caramelized Butternut Squash
slightly adapted from the most recent Southern Living Magazine

ingredients

– one small butternut squash
– 1/4 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
– 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

instructions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wash the squash (lol) and cut in half lengthwise, then again crosswise.  Score the flesh with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern.

Melt the butter in a measuring cup.  Add the brown sugar and mix until melted and combined.  Using a pastry brush, brush half the mixture over the flesh side of the squash.  Place squash flesh down in a foil lined rimmed baking pan.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes.  Using tongs, turn squash over (flesh side up) and brush the rest of the mixture over the squash.  Bake at 450 for another 12 minutes.  Turn the oven to Broil (HI) for 3 to 4 minutes, or until well caramelized.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

DELICIOUS.  And so, so simple.

Ribeye Cooked in Cast Iron, Sauteed Shiitakes & Onion, with Kale Salad & Caramelized Butternut Squash | Oysters & Pearls

On the other side of the plate, we had Smitten Kitchen’s famous kale salad.  I say famous because I heard Deb on NPR recently discussing this very salad.  In my nerd book, if you are on NPR, you are most definitely famous.

Smitten Kitchen Kale Salad
the SoWeGa version

ingredients

– 1 bunch kale (duh)
–  1/2 cup golden raisins
– 1/4 cup pecans
– 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (lazy girl’s version of breadcrumbs)
– 1 tablespoon tarragon white wine vinegar (because it’s what I had)
– 1 tablespoon water
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– the juice of one lemon
– 1 cup (ish) of shaved pecorino romano cheese (with a microplane, because it’s fluffy and I like it that way)

instructions

Rip the spines (stems) out of the kale leaves.  Stack the leaves all on top of each other, roll them up long-ways, and cut into thin strips (aka chiffonade them).  Throw the kale in a big bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toast the pecans on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, tossing once.  Or put them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat and toss often, until fragrant.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the vinegar and water.  Bring to a simmer until almost all the liquid is gone and the raisins are re-hydrated, then take off the heat, cover, and set aside until ready to put the salad together.

Toss the raisins and their liquid (or what’s left), the cheese, the pecans, and the panko bread crumbs together, along with the juice of the lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of the vinegar.

All I can tell you is that it’s the best kale I’ve ever eaten.

I can see why it made a believer out of Deb.

Smitten Kitchen Kale Salad | Oysters & Pearls

Topped off with a leftover lemon vanilla cupcake, this was one pretty sweet birthday meal for my favorite birthday boy.

I encourage you to try one or all of these sometime soon!  You will not regret it.

Happy Birthday (again) Wheat!

Also, hiding in these pictures is a preview of tomorrow’s post.  I can’t wait! :)

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Kitchen Lessons: How to Care for Cast Iron

A good cast iron skillet is one of the most important tools in a kitchen, if you ask me. They are versatile, beautiful, and just plain cook food better than your average stainless steel pan (due to uniform heat retention). And in the South, cast iron is passed from generation to generation. From grandmothers to granddaughters. From campfire to kitchen and back to campfires again. They are treasured family heirlooms.

But cast iron can be an intimidating kind of skillet. Especially if you’ve never cooked on one before.

So today, I’m going to share with you how to care for cast iron. Or at least, how I care for my cast iron.

Disclaimer: I realize that cast iron care can be very personal, and I’m sure that many of you will disagree with how I do certain things. However, this was a requested post, so I’m sharing with you today what I do to keep my cast iron skillets and pots in pristine and bacon-ready condition.

The Basics of Cast Iron Care | Oysters & Pearls

Let’s start from the beginning. I was fortunate enough to inherit three very precious cast iron skillets of various sizes: two from my dad’s mom and one from my mama’s mama. However, I have added to my collection over the years, with gifts from my parents (there is an awesome store with re-seasoned and cleaned up cast iron in Dillard, Georgia apparently – maybe my mom will chime in and share that tidbit with readers?) as well as my own finds in antique stores. And I have done my share of gifting cast iron, too. I like to purchase antique or vintage cast iron, but I have heard very good things about new Lodge cast iron, and of course, you can never ever go wrong with anything from Le Creuset and the like.

When looking for antique or brand-new skillets, look for ones that are deep, in addition to the width you are looking for. That makes them more versatile for cooking. AKA you can sear something in them or deep fry something, too. If there is a lid, you get extra brownie points. Look for smooth surfaces on the interior, and no cracks or huge pockmarks.

If you’re looking for legitimately old cast iron, which I do believe is the best cast iron, look for a heat ring on the bottom of the skillet.

Heat Ring on Cast Iron Skillet | Oysters & Pearls

I’ve been told that a heat ring means that it’s a much older piece of cast iron. This would also be a good time to tell you that the bottom of a skillet/pot/etc. is the second place to look (after making sure it’s fairly smooth and crack-free). As you can see, the size (diameter) of the cast iron is imprinted on the bottom, as well as some other information about it. Often, the brand, where it was made, and sometimes, if it’s really old, the person who made it.

Cast Iron Skillet Care | Oysters & Pearls

If you’re going out on a cast iron scavenger hunt (my favorite kind), I think that an 8 or 8 1/2 size skillet with deep sides is a great, versatile skillet that will work for cooking meals for two to even four folks. You can upgrade your skillet size as you upgrade your family or your dinner parties.

But for those of you who have your grandmother’s skillet that’s seen better days, or a janky junk store skillet that needs some TLC: this part is for you.

The “seasoning” on a cast iron skillet is what makes it non-stick and so great to cook on. However, if not cared for properly, that seasoning can get scratched, sticky, rusty, and/or downright nasty. If the skillet isn’t cracked or permanently damaged though, DO NOT THROW IT OUT. You can still save it. Or you can buy janky cast iron at a junk store and start it from scratch this way.

Restoring Cast Iron

Warning: this part is best done in the winter when it’s cold.

Step 1: Build a really good, roaring fire. Optional: Drink beer and eat oysters around it. Before you go to bed, let the fire die down until all you’re left with is a good thick bed of coals. Using a fireproof oven mitt or something (safety first!) shove the cast iron down into the coals. Use a shovel or something to make sure you get the whole thing covered. Fuhgedabout it.

When you come back the next day and pull it out (or whenever the coals have cooled completely), you’ll be left with a shiny-like-new bright silver skillet!

There are lots of instructions out there for using oven cleaner and chemicals to burn off the seasoning, but I get skeeved out by putting oven cleaner on the tool I use to cook a frittata. Plus, this way involves a fire. And definitely beer. And preferably oysters.

Seasoning Cast Iron

To season this bare cast iron, it’s going to require a little work upfront. I use vegetable shortening to season them this way. Using a cloth or paper towels, rub your cast iron down with a thin layer of shortening. Turn them upside down in your over, placing a rimmed baking sheet below them to catch any drippings. THEN turn your oven on to a very high heat – 400 to 500 degrees. I usually do 450 to reduce the smoking. You may want to do this with the windows open, by the way. Once it reaches the set temperature, leave it in the oven for an hour, then turn the oven off but leave the skillet in there. Let it cool completely. Repeat this process at least two or three times. It’s best to just plan a weekend around this process, because you definitely don’t want to leave a 500 degree oven at home alone. You can repeat it as many times as you like, until you get a smooth, even, seasoning over the entire skillet.

Cast Iron Care | Oysters & Pearls

Now you’re ready to do some cooking and eating. Basically, the only things I don’t cook in cast iron is boiling water/pasta and scrambled eggs (they always stick, no matter what). But now that you’ve cooked, how do you keep it clean?

Cleaning Cast Iron

For your average greasy bacon -filled skillet (which I highly encourage you to cook lots and lots of bacon in your skillets), you’ll be left with a lovely layer of bacon grease, as seen below.

Bacon Grease in a Cast Iron Skillet | Oysters & Pearls

There will probably be some bacon bits in there, some of which may be stuck to the bottom of the skillet. If you’re a bacon grease saver like us (aka you live South of the Mason-Dixon), strain the grease into whatever mason jar you keep your grease in. DO NOT PUT THE CAST IRON IN THE SINK. Don’t you dare. Just grab a paper towel and wipe it out. That’s it. This technique works for pretty much anything you cook in your cast iron. Bacon grease is especially good for your cast iron, but any grease will do. Cooking in your cast iron is the best care you can give it.

IF there is some food still stuck to the skillet, simply pour a couple teaspoons of course sea salt into the pan and scrub it with a paper towel and a teency splash of water (or grease left in the pan). This should take care of any remaining food stuck to the surface without damaging the seasoning.

How to Scrub a Cast Iron Skillet | Oysters & Pearls

This skillet actually needs to start the entire process over and be re-seasoned, but ignore that for now. The salt cleaning technique is super easy and quick, and keeps your skillets in great condition.

Now, I am aware that sometimes there are unavoidable extreme kitchen episodes which result in certifiable disasters, and sometimes the salt trick ain’t gonna cut it. For those rare(ish) occasions, you can scrub down your skillet with a scratch-free scrubbing sponge, soap, and water. Once it’s clean and smooth, dry it with a towel and put it on a burner on your stove and turn the burner to low. Let it completely dry over the burner for an hour or so, then turn the stove off and let it cool to room temperature. Once it’s completely dry (I usually turn the stove off right before bed if I’ve cooked supper, and in the morning pick back up at this point), use some mineral oil on a paper towel and rub the entire skillet down with a thin layer of the mineral oil. Many people use other oils, but we use mineral oil in our family because it doesn’t go rancid. You can buy it online, or it’s usually in the laxative/medicines section at the grocery store (TMI?). It is really thin, too, which I think helps keep you from gooping your skillets up. That’s a technical term, obvi.

Any time your skillets are looking dry, give them a mineral oil rub down, and always store them with a piece of paper towel in the bottom of them – especially if you live in the oh-so-humid South. It helps keep them from rusting.

How To Care for Cast Iron Skillets | Oysters & Pearls

I know that cast iron can bring out some passionate and heated opinions on the best way to care for them, but this is how I care for mine and it’s always worked well for me.

How do you care for your cast iron?

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Lala’s So Southern Pot Roast & Cornbread

Last week, chuck roasts were on sale, and last Sunday, we invited my parents up for a Sunday Pot Roast.  It is such a southern Sunday thing to do, after all.

My aunt emailed me this recipe that she came up with a while back (thanks, Lala!), and I just hadn’t gotten around to making it.  So when I saw the chuck roasts on sale, I knew the time had come.  It is divine!  The only change I made was that I added onions to the mix, because pot roast and onions go well together, and that way I felt like I had enough veggies to count as a one pot meal.  Except it wasn’t one pot, because I also felt like cornbread was necessary.  The recipe for cornbread is Lala’s, too.  Essentially, today’s post is sponsored by Lori Halley.

Side note: my aunt’s name is Lori, but when I was little, I couldn’t say it I guess, so I called her Lala. All my friends growing up called her Lala, in addition to all our younger cousins.  When my older cousin’s son came along, he couldn’t say “Lala,” and began calling her “Yaya.”  Just thought I’d explain who in the heck “Lala” is.  She’s also one helluva cook!

Veggies for Pot Roast | Oysters & Pearls

ingredients:

– a boneless chuck roast
– 1 can beef consumme
– McCormick Perfect Pinch Steak Seasoning
– dried basil
– garlic powder
– salt and pepper
– new (red) potatoes
– carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
– one onion, quartered
– one can cream of mushroom soup
– one can of water
– 3 tablespoons vegetable (or any kind) oil

As far as all these ingredients go, the number of people you are feeding will dictate the size chuck roast, how many carrots, how many potatoes, etc.  I am pretty sure ours was about a 3 pound chuck roast, which was so enormous it seemed like we needed to invite someone over to help eat it.  The “cans of” measurements will stay the same, unless you are literally feeding an army.  This meal fed four adults with enough leftovers for two.

Seasoned Chuck Roast | Oysters & Pearls

instructions

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large cast iron (or enameled cast iron) pan.  Season the roast with the steak seasoning and garlic powder.  Just kind of pat it on with your hands.  Try to coat the entire roast as best you can, despite the unwieldy-ness of the giant hunk o’ meat.  Also, I apologize for raw meat pictures.  Just felt it might be helpful for those of you that might actually make it to see the before, and not just the after.

Proceed to brown the roast on both sides.  Flip it using your largest pair of tongs.

Seasoned & Browned Chuck Roast | Oysters & Pearls

Add one can beef consumme and place in the 300 degree oven.  Bake until tender, approximately two hours.  Add the vegetables, the cream of mushroom soup, and one can of water.  Season the veggie portion of the pan with salt, pepper, and basil.  Bake until the veggies are done, aka until you can stab them with a fork and it comes back out easily.  It took about 40 minutes for these.

Pot Roast in the Oven | Oysters & Pearls

Lala’s Notes on her “oh so southern” pot roast: “Makes a great gravy, and is very tasty!”

She was right.  It was VERY tasty!

Lala's Southern Pot Roast | Oysters & Pearls

Natalie’s Note: It’s really hard to take good pictures of a pot roast, most especially difficult at night.  Also, I believe you could convert this pretty easily to a crock pot recipe, but you would still want to brown your meat first, and wait to add the veggies until the last hour or so.  Mushy veggies are not okay in my book.  Here’s a chart I found at busycooks.about.com to help you convert it, if you’re interested.

Lala's So Southern Pot Roast | Oysters & Pearls

BONUS RECIPE!!!!

Lala’s/Yaya’s Super Southern Cornbread

(goes really well with pot roast, and basically anything and everything else you can think of)

ingredients

– 8 ounces sour cream
– 1 cup self rising cornmeal
– 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil

instructions

Beat the eggs with a whisk in your mixing bowl first, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix together.  Bake in a greased pan at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Lala’s Note: “I use White Lily self rising cornmeal mix.”

I also think this pot roast would have been TDF with mashed potatoes instead of cooking them in with the roast.  Any way you slice it though, it’s delicious.

The best part about pot roast is you get free time while everything is cooking!  We spent this particular Sunday afternoon on the patio.  My dad and Wheat attempted to sight in Wheat’s new pellet gun (beware, squirrels), and we did a good bit of sitting around the “fire,” aka sat around an empty fire pit.  Still just as great in the summer time!

Sighting in the Pellet Gun | Oysters & Pearls

Look Doc, you’re famous!! ;)

Doc is Famous! | Oysters & Pearls

We ended the evening with some homemade chocolate ice cream, but I’ll save that for tomorrow’s post.  Have a great Monday!

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