Archive for the ‘Cast Iron’ Category
Chowder is a thick rich soup. Sometimes thickened by milk or cream or by crushed up crackers like “Oysterettes’. The name chowder is possibly derived from the French word “chaudiere” meaning stew pot or the type of pot that this concoction was cooked in. Nowadays you can cook chowder right on your stove top in a large soup pan. Better yet, how about right on the beach with your freshly caught clams or cold weather tailgating in the stadium parking lot using a traditional turkey fryer kit or stock pot and outdoor propane cooker?
Chowder, or chowda, in common New England terminology, usually contains potatoes and onions, sometimes celery and bacon or salt pork. The main ingredient is typically clams, fish or corn.
There have been many variations of clam chowda over the years. The main ingredients like the quahogs or chowder clams always the constant. Smaller clams are easier to eat raw on the half shell or steamed. The larger quahogs or chowder clams are chewy and tough. It is easier to chop them up and put them in soups or cakes.
New England Clam Chowda, probably the most well known, a creamy thick soup of clams, potatoes, onions, milk or cream, and sometimes celery, bacon, or salt pork. Almost always served with saltine type crackers or oyster crackers to crush up in the soup to make it even thicker.
There is a lesser known version of chowder that probably originated in coastal New England. This version is clear broth made of clam juice. The ingredients also include quahogs, potatoes, onions, bacon and sometimes celery. This version has spread from Rhode Island (a possible location of origin), all the way down the coastal eastern seaboard, with versions popping up in Delaware, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, regions where the hard shell bi-vavle is readily available. Though a spicy version is even found as far south as Florida.
Manhattan style Clam Chowder is the bane of New England apparently. “Manhattan” clam chowder was named due to New Englanders being offended by Rhode Island’s Portuguese immigrants inspired version of their traditional chowda. Portuguese cuisine had many traditional stews based with tomatoes. Instead of adding cream to the clear broth, they added tomatoes instead. Scornful New Englanders called this modified version “New York” clam chowder because, in their view, calling someone a New Yorker was, and probably still is, a major insult. Little did they know how popular the tomato based version would become. Long Island and Jersey chowders typically contain tomato. The people of Maine were so abhorred by this tomatoey version, that their legislature actually passed a bill in 1939, making tomatoes in clam chowder illegal.
Back to the clear broth, that goes by many names: Rhode Island Clam Chowder, Block Island, Delaware, Hatteras, Core Sound and Bogue Sound chowders. I came across a version through the NC Cooperative Extension that I elaborated upon.
If your clams are fresh caught, it is always a good idea to purge them first. This will help to cut down on sandy grit. Get some fresh clean Sound or Bay water and place preferably rinsed clams in the fresh water…24 hours is good. If you can purge them more than once all the better.
Clams and juice (the more the better) 1 qt or more. 30 chowders or more.
6 slices bacon
3 lbs. Potatoes
3 ribs celery
Pepper to taste
Shuck the clams and put the meat and juice in a bowl.
If you are dealing with very large chowders with large muscles or don’t have a clam knife, try freezing the clams. When ready to open clams, run warm water over the clam and take a paring knife and remove clam from shell. Place frozen clams and frozen juice in a bowl. When all clams are removed from shells place clams on chopping board and dice with a large knife or meat cleaver, put diced clams and juice back in a bowl and let thaw. This will allow the sand and grit to settle to the bottom of the bowl resulting in less grit in the chowder. Dice the potatoes, celery, onions, and bacon. In large stock pot or cast iron Dutch oven, place the clams, onions, bacon and celery and simmer until the onions are tender. Add in the clam juice being careful not to put in the contents that have settled in the bottom of the bowl. Add potatoes that have been peeled and diced. Add water until desired salty taste is achieved (about 3 cups). Then black pepper to desired taste.
Whatever your preference may be, get out there and dig some clams! Who wants Chowda??
Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama is the oldest annual Carnival celebration in America, having begun in 1703. That is 15 years before New Orleans was founded in 1718. From Mobile, being the first capital of French Louisiana in 1702, the festival began in North America as a French Catholic tradition.
Mardi Gras season or Carnival season which traditionally starts at Epiphany (Jan 6 or the Twelfth night) and comes to a raging head the day before Ash Wednesday, at midnight on Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday” or Shrove Tuesday. Many places don’t celebrate for months of carnival. Many start a week or two before, with most places celebrating 3-4 days before.
Mardi Gras is far from being a French or French American celebration. It is celebrated all over the world by my people of the Catholic/Christian faith. This tradition, also known as Shrovetide in the UK & Ireland, is for feasting and overindulgence, before the Lenten season, which begins Ash Wednesday. A time to eat rich, fatty foods and drink too excess before the fasting of Lent begins. In the Netherlands pre-Lenten celebration is Carnaval. Carnaval translated from Latin, or “Carne Vale”, means “Goodbye to the meat”.
Many Fat Tuesday foods in America, now associated with Mardi Gras, do come from Creole and Cajun ancestry. Both groups now having strong ties to Louisiana and the previously French occupied southern regions of the United States. Creole being of mixed ethnicity, with strong French and Spanish influence, Cajun being more largely tied to French speaking Acadians who came from the now Coastal Canadian Maritimes. One of the most popular American dishes served during Mardi Gras tends to be Jambalaya. This is a rice, vegetable and meat dish. Traditionally the ingredients for Jambalaya were gathered by people in in festive clothing and masks, from knocking on community doors. Whatever ingredients were acquired were brought together in a large cast iron pot and cooked until done. Later the whole community would come together and partake in the dish. Many other traditional Cajun and Creole dishes are also served, like gumbo, etouffee, and crawfish boils. But again, it is a time of indulgence. There are also plenty of fried foods cooked in outdoor propane deep fryers, turkey fryers and Cajun Fryers. Beer and other alcohols find their way into the mix.
Overindulgence, high cholesterol and hangovers abound! Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we fast!!! Happy Fat Tuesday all!
Eating deep fried foods should not be an every day occurrence but lets face it we Americans do like our fried foods. Many Americans do actually have a deep fryer at home, whether it be of the counter top variety or a stove top cast iron deep fryer. Many folks have outdoor propane fryers or turkey fryers as well.
Making a choice to eat healthy foods, like salads and boneless, skinless, chicken breast are better for your cholesterol and blood pressure. Many people have to eat this way due to the high rate of obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol in this country. But lets face it, eating healthier foods is expensive. Getting chopped meat that is 97% lean is pricey. Buying chicken breast that has been made boneless and skinless is also not cheap. Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables is iffy due to the short shelf life. It’s not like you can freeze lettuce to use at a later date. You can always grow your own produce, which keeps down chemical exposure, to you and your family, but not every one has a green thumb, or a yard big enough to accommodate a big garden.
Mrs. Obama has been making an effort to get the country to slim down, grow a garden, and eat foods that are better for them. Many fast food restaurants are even jumping on the band wagon and offering healthier choices. But, lets face it, when you go out to a restaurant to eat, fast food or fancier, odds are in this economy that you are going to indulge yourself in fatty, comforting, deep fried, high caloric goodness. Many people can’t just afford to go out to eat anymore. When we do, why would you want to have roughage, tofu, and bulgar wheat when you can have a burger and french fries, or a steak and smashed potatoes with a slice of cheese cake for dessert? If you are eating healthier foods at home and on your lunch hour, you are certainly going to treat yourself if you are able to go out to eat. Besides, most fast food restaurants offer great deals on a combo burger and fry meal, where the healthier items are usually a bit more price wise.
There are many people in our country that are still out of work. Some have taken jobs way out of context to what they went to school for just so they can keep a roof over head and feed themselves and their families. I know a young man that has taken a job in retail at an electronics box store. He went to school to become a gym teacher or athletic coach. I know a woman that has been working in property management most of her life. She is now a cashier in a grocery store. I know a man that actually passed the bar exam. He now sells french fries at festivals and fairs. It can be a very trying experience when you were used to living a certain way or were expecting other things in your life.
People take comfort in deep fried, fatty foods. When your belly is full and it was something that tasted good, it can put a smile on your face and ease some tension from earlier in the day. The same old piece of grilled chicken and steamed broccoli is just not going to do that for you. People know that they should be eating healthy, but if a burger and fries can wash away your woes for a while once a week, then I say have at it!!
This past week, there was an article in the Washington Post Express called “Campfire, Rewired: Gadgets to Make Cooking While Camping A Breeze” written by Nevin Martell. He discusses some products to make camp cooking easier. Trailer camping and tailgating with grills and smokers are always an option. Tenting and hiking are a completely different entity. I mean it’s not like you can pack up a BBQ smoker in your back pack and hike into the woods with it.
One of the products featured by Nevin in his article was The Li’l Smokey by Camerons. The manufacturers at Camerons have a few products that make tenting and cooking a breeze. The Li’l Smokey, The Mini Gourmet Smoker and The Stovetop Smoker. These are stainless steel cookers that can be used outdoors using sterno, your campfire or a gas burner. Great for camping or backpacking as they are much lighter than your cast iron skillet. The lighter the better. These “smokers” can also functions as a steamer, a poacher, a roasting pan or a stovetop oven. All the components nest together inside the base for convenient storage and clean up is quick and easy.
Are you an amateur gourmet cook? Want to add some smoked garlic or smoked salts to zest up a recipe? These indoor smokers are perfect for this application.
The uses here are endless. With the specially ground, kiln dried, all natural smoking chips you can add many different flavors to whatever you’re cooking. The traditional hardwoods are available as well as some fruit woods and specialties like bourbon soaked. You can even mix and match some of the flavors to make unique flavorful blends.
Smoking foods made easy. Cooking in the great outdoors or just like the great outdoors right on your stovetop!
I am currently in Concord, North Carolina. I was watching the news the other day. I unfortunately did not get to see the whole segment because of time constraints, but they had a bit on an elderly man and his cast iron skillet. The man was adamant about his cast iron pan. He claimed that he loved this piece of cookware so dearly that he was going to take it to his grave with him. I am assuming that he wanted to have the skillet buried with him.
That is really unfortunate for this gentleman’s family members. I have found that cast iron cookware, when cared for properly, as I am sure this man’s pan is, will last for generations. It would be a nice hand me down to his children or grandchildren.
Many folks don’t know how good cast iron is in cooking. When properly seasoned, a cast iron pot is the ultimate in non-stick cookware. You don’t have to have special cooking tools so that you don’t scratch the surface. You can always re-season a pan when need be. You can’t re-Teflon a non-stick skillet. Cast iron pans heat more evenly and are extremely versatile. You can cook with cast iron anywhere: stove top, oven, grill, even in a bed of coals or over an open fire. You can deep fry, bake, stew, griddle, saute, barbecue and grill with cast iron cookware.
There are many people that are passionate about cast iron cooking. I do wish I had had the time to stay and watch the news segment on that old man and his cast iron pan. I dearly love my cast iron cookware and love to tell people about it. I bet that man had that pan passed down to him. I hope he changes his mind and decides to leave the pan to his favorite grandson, or something, and continue his passion for cast iron.
Having leftovers from St. Patrick’s Day can be tricky. Especially if you had a large crowd, and no one in America eats vegetables anymore. The leftover meat is easy. You can make corned beef hash or Rubens. Leftover pre-cooked cabbage can be a pain. You can just fry it in butter and eat it that way. It can always be put on corned beef sandwiches in place of kraut. But there is another way.
1 pound cabbage or 2-3 cups leftover cabbage
1 pound potatoes or peeled leftover boiled potatoes
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch ground mace
1/2 cup melted butter
In a large pan In a large saucepan, boil cabbage until tender; remove and chop or blend well. Set aside and keep warm. Boil potatoes until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Season and mash potatoes well. Stir in cooked leeks and milk. Blend in the cabbage. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter. Mix well. I used leftovers. Peeled my boiled potatoes and mashed them. Sliced and chopped up about 2-3 cups pre-cooked cabbage. Fresh leeks sliced and simmered in milk, added in and 1\2 cup melted butter. Mix in some crispy chopped bacon.
If made fresh, leftover colcannon can be made into potato croquettes by adding a little flour to the mix. Some fresh chopped parsley too.(optional)
Roll into balls. Dredge in flour. Dip in egg wash and then bread crumbs. Deep fry in hot oil in a cast iron skillet until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
- For a decent corned beef hash recipe visit our past post: Corned Beef Hash in a Cast Iron Skillet
I have been making Irish soda bread for years. My recipe comes from The Fanny Farmer Baking Cookbook. The prologue to the recipe even states that Traditional soda breads are NOT SWEET! They can accompany any meal.
My husband grew up in Ireland. He always told me that the recipe that I made, tasted just like Grandma’s. Though Grandma’s was cooked in cast iron in a peat oven. Mine was, and still is, baked in an 8″ cast iron skillet in my oven.
It irks me to no end when I go into a store during the St. Patrick’s Day season, and see Irish soda bread all done up with raisins, or caraway seeds, and then covered in a hard sugar cookie glaze. This is the farthest thing from traditional Irish soda bread that you can get. When Americans decided that traditional Irish fruit bread was traditional classic soda bread, I do not know. It is made with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), therefore making it a soda bread or cake, but it is so far from classic soda bread that it is not funny.
Poor people in Ireland certainly did not have the sugar and raisins for daily bread. Why would you use sweet cakey bread with raisins in it to sop up your lamb stew anyway? But a nice moist, fresh piece of bread slathered with butter is perfect here. Left over bread was usually toasted and slathered with butter and preserves or put in the frying pan to sop up bacon grease and then toasted to perfection. Certain times of the year, you were lucky to get any fruit at all anyway. At Christmas time it was a very special present if you received an orange or other piece of fruit with your gifts.
Traditional Irish fruit bread has many names. Spotted Dog, Sweet Cake, Curnie Cake, Spotted Dick or Railway Cake depending on the area of Ireland that you came from. Given the sweetness of this item, it would be appropriate to sprinkle powdered sugar on top or maybe even a glaze of sugar. But this is not what you want to eat with your Shepherd’s Pie or your boiled corned beef, which by the way is another American tradition, not Irish. This is something you would eat for tea or after dinner as a dessert item.
I am going to include the recipe for both Classic Traditional soda bread, and Spotted Dog so that you may see the similarities, but the definite differences.
4 cups flour
1 1\2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking SODA
2 cups buttermilk (milk with tablespoon or 2 lemon juice…let it sit & curdle a minute before you add it to flour mixture)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease an 8″ cast iron skillet. In large bowl toss together dry ingredients. Add buttermilk…stir briskly with fork til dough forms together in a rough mass. Knead on a liberally floured surface for about 30 secs. Pat into a 8″ round about 1 1\2 thick (mine is always thicker than that) Slash a large 1\4″ deep cross across the top. Place in cast iron skillet & bake 45-50 mins. or until nicely browned and the cross has spread open. Transfer to a rack to cool, then wrap in a slightly damp tea towel and let it rest for 8 hours. Wrapping the baked, cooled bread in a damp towel helps it to settle and makes it easier to slice.
2 tsp. sugar
1\2 tsp. salt
1\2 tsp. baking soda
1\2 cup raisins, sultanas, or currents
1 1\2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 egg (optional…you probably won’t need all the milk if you use the egg)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the fruit and mix well.
Making a well in the center, add the egg and\or milk. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Place in an 8″ cast iron skillet. Cut a 1\4″ deep cross in the top. Bake in the 450 degree oven for 15 mins. then turn down the temp. to 400 degrees F and cook for an additional 30 mins. or until cooked.
Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and spread with butter. Or you can cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar or put a sugar glaze on at this point.