Archive for the ‘Cast Iron’ Category

Saturday, June 4, 2016 @ 07:06 AM

Happy Cheese Day!!!!!

I cannot tell you how much I enjoy cheese. I really do think that it is one of my favoritest foods EVER!!! It has multiple personalities and textures and you can take it anywhere!!!!

Olive cream cheese schmeared on a toasted everything bagel! A piece of cheddar stuffed precariously on a stalk of celery. Asiago cheese mixed with the mozzarella on your pizza. Stuffed inside of a burger instead of on top. Pierogi Lasagna. You can even deep fry cheese in a Dutch oven! And my all time fav….homemade mac n cheese….I grew up with extra sharp white Vermont cheddar as the base to mac n cheese….I have made other combinations….but still nothing compares to Mom’s mac n cheese. (It was, and still is, Halloween tradition at my house.)

There are ENDLESS combinations….cold, hot, sweet, savory. There are even cheeses with fruit, nuts, and seeds right in them!!! One of the awesomest cheeses that I ever had was called Barely Buzzed @ American Cheese when they were still in West Sayville, NY. It was rubbed with lavender and coated in espresso. Erin sold these rolled oat baguettes too….I would melt the Barely Buzzed on a piece of that warm baguette…

OK….hungry now…time to go find a piece of cheese!

( There is always some form of cheese in my house on any given day ALWAYS!!!)

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Saturday, October 20, 2012 @ 10:10 AM

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.

Ingredients:

Clams and juice (the more the better) 1 qt or more. 30 chowders or more.

3 large onions

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??

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012 @ 11:02 AM
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!
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

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!!

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 @ 03:09 PM

Now that we’ve talked about indoor fryer safety, it’s time to move outdoors.

Having a turkey fryer or any outdoor propane deep fryer is fun. It adds flavor to your holidays. It’s an extra versatile cooking appliance for backyard barbecues, and a great added piece of cooking equipment for tailgaters. You can deep fry, steam, boil, simmer, and stew with a traditional turkey fryer. When it comes to hot oil and flames, always remember…safety first. This goes for any outdoor cooking equipment, but especially when frying oil, flames, and propane tanks are involved.

Now as I said having an outdoor fryer is fun, but it is also a serious business. Caution and common sense play a big role here.

Wearing appropriate clothes, like having shoes and sleeves are a great idea. Having all of the proper tools from your fryer kit right on hand is a necessity. You don’t need to search for the grab hook or basket lifter when the time comes to use it. Other important equipment to use and have on hand when using any outdoor propane deep fryer, are heavy duty long gloves,  safety goggles, a bucket of sand and an all purpose fire extinguisher. Remember…water and hot oil don’t mix. A hose used on any grease or oil fire can just make matters worse.

Always use your propane fryer outdoors. An open area is best, away from houses, garages, wooden decks, trees, and shrubs. Find a nice, flat, level piece of ground. Make certain that children and pets have another area to play in. You also want to be certain that your deep fryer will not be in a walk through area. Always make sure that there is at least 2 feet of space between your propane tank and the fryer burner. Make sure that no one is going to try to walk between the tank and the burner. Place your tank and fryer so that any wind will blow the heat of the burner and fryer away from your LP gas tank. Keep in mind that there are some  outdoor electric fryer units on the market. The same goes for these units. They are intended for outdoor use, not in your kitchen or on your wooden porch or deck. You also want to make sure that your cord will not get walked into, yanking the cord out of the wall or flipping your fryer over.

Never leave the fryer unattended. This goes for any type of deep fryer, indoors or outdoors. You always need to keep a careful watch during the deep frying process. If a grease fire occurs, turn off the gas immediately and cover the stock pot with a lid. Sand and again an all purpose fire extinguisher are great to have on hand. Also if your oil begins to smoke badly, immediately turn off the gas.

Being sober while deep frying is pretty important. You will have time afterward when the cooking is done and the oil has cooled or been stored away. Keeping your friends that are partying, safe and away from the hot oil is important too. Just like the kids and the dogs, make sure that any rowdiness, rough play or an over zealous drinkers have there own place far from gas tank lines, burners, and hot oil.

Make sure that your stock pot or Dutch oven is properly centered over your burner. You don’t want food or hot oil upending because the pan just wasn’t centered.

Remember to use the tea bag dunking method. Any time you add something in to hot oil, it is going to bubble and spit. Just dropping a turkey or whatever you are frying, right in to the stock pot is just asking for trouble. This will result in a major boil over and a possible fire hazard. If you are really worried, when the time comes to put the turkey in the pot, shut the burner off for a couple of minutes until your bird or other food, is safely nestled in the pot. Then turn the burner back on.

Always give your fryer proper time to cool down before straining or disposing of the oil. Even though the unit is turned off, the oil will remain hot for quite a while. You still need to keep the kids, big and small, and dogs away from it while it cools. With a traditional turkey fryer, get a battery operated pump or enlist a friend or two to help strain and funnel the oil. The oil can be used again if stored properly. Once the oil is cooled, you can strain and funnel the oil into storage containers with ease. If tailgating, funnel empty warm oil into clean, metal Gerry Cans. The cans will still be hot but they may be stored out of high traffic areas. The fryer will cool down quicker allowing you to put it away sooner. That way you may enter the stadium and enjoy the game, without the danger of someone stumbling into your hot fryer while you are away from it.

Don’t be scared of your deep fryer. Have fun with it! Just use caution, think safely and use sober, common sense.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011 @ 03:09 PM

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.

And they aren’t just for outdoor cooking. You can use them at home as well. Apartment rules against barbecue grills got you down? With these smokers you can smoke food anytime you want.

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!

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Friday, July 1, 2011 @ 09:07 AM

This past week there was an article regarding deep frying in The New York Times. Not something that you would expect to see in The Times. There were even a few recipes as there was also a discussion of different types of breading that may be used when deep frying.

The article entitled “Everybody Outside With the Deep Fryer”, by Melissa Clark, made some great points regarding outdoor use of a deep fryer. When you deep fry indoors, whether using a cast iron, stove top deep fryer, or a counter top deep fryer, you always end up with a lingering odor in your house, not to mention a nice coating of oil on everything. Melissa’s husband decided to take their counter top deep fryer outside. They invited their friends to a deep fry party. Having a whole party devoted to deep fried foods allowed Melissa to play and experiment with different kinds of foods and different types of coatings. From sweet to savory, appetizer to entree, Melissa got to have fun, feed her guests, and didn’t have an oily, smelly, messy kitchen to deal with afterward.

Using an electric deep fryer outside is OK, but typically not recommended by the manufacturer. It is not an item that you could ever keep outside permanently. Some units can handle the outdoor exposure, but the heating element would need to be taken off after every use and brought indoors. If you really do deep fry all of the time, and you have a nice back yard, why not consider an outdoor propane deep fryer? These units are made to stay outside and range in size from small to large professional grade. Even if you don’t deep fry all of the time, having a propane fryer can add to your BBQ menu. While you are grilling steaks you can fry a batch of onion rings as a side dish. While grilling a nice tuna steak or some nice stripped bass you can deep fry a batch of french fries, hush puppies and clam strips. After smoking some delectable delights all day on your BBQ smoker, you can deep fry some candy bars, cookies, or fried dough for dessert.

Deep frying outdoors, especially in the hot, sultry summer months is an excellent idea. Whether you decide to get a propane deep fryer or just take your counter top deep fryer outside. Happy frying!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011 @ 07:05 PM

Having a deep fryer can make your life easier. You can cook food in half the time that it might take you to prepare something another way. I know that I can’t make a convincing argument that deep fried food is good for you. It is food that is cooked in fat. But if done properly, the food should quick cook, sealing moisture in and keeping the fat out. The key is to not let the food absorb the oil.You can cook meat, vegetables, fish, and tasty desserts.

Speaking of tasty desserts, doughnuts are a perfect reason to have your own deep fryer. Many people eat doughnuts for breakfast, but you can eat them for snack, for dessert, or anytime. These delectable pieces of fried dough are part of what make this world go round.

Some people like yeast- raised doughnuts. I prefer cake doughnuts. These are leavened with baking powder or baking soda. Some people like glaze. Some people like powdered. I like a little bit of sugar, or really just plain, warm, right out of the fryer, with a glass of ice cold milk.

Here is a great cake doughnut recipe:

5 cups all purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 1\2 tsp. salt

1\2 cup room temperature sour milk(milk with tsp. of lemon juice)

2 room temp. eggs

1 egg yolk at room temp.

3\4 cup granulated sugar

1\2 cup vegetable shortening, melted and cooled

1\4 cup molasses

1\2 rounded tsp. lemon zest

1\2 gallon frying oil

Sift the dry ingredients, except the granulated sugar, in a large bowl. In another mixing bowl, combine the granulated sugar, sour milk, eggs, egg yolk, melted shortening, molasses and lemon zest.

Gradually add the dry mix to the wet mix stirring gently. (Do not over mix, this tends to make tough doughnuts. You will still see a little flour.) Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator

for about an hour.

Time to heat the oil. Get your counter top fryer, cast iron Dutch oven or other stove top deep fryer ready to deep fry. Heat the oil to 370 degrees F.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface. Knead for 1 minute. Roll out to 1\2″ thickness. Cut rounds with a doughnut or pastry cutter (3 1\2″) then cut out centers with a smaller cutter. (1 1\2″) If you don’t have doughnut or pastry cutters, get creative. Use a washed, clean veggie or a large glass, and a shot glass for doughnut holes. Gather your scraps and re-roll and cut until done.

One of the best ways to avoid  over absorption of oil, in fried foods is to not over crowd. Over crowding can cause the oil temp. to drop too low and prevent items from cooking properly. Only do 2-3 doughnuts at a time. Carefully drop the rings into the hot oil. Make doughnut holes if you like. They will float in about 30 seconds or so. Fry for another minute. Turn the doughnuts over and fry for another minute. Turn them once again and fry for one more minute, until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels or place 1\2 cup of sugar in a brown paper bag. Place doughnuts, about 2 at a time in the bag, and shake. NEVER LEAVE YOUR FRYER UNATTENDED! Store the doughnuts in a warm place until they are all done.

Get a cold glass of milk & enjoy!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011 @ 06:04 AM

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.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011 @ 06:03 AM

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.

Colcannon:

  • 1 pound cabbage or 2-3 cups leftover cabbage
  • 1 pound potatoes or peeled leftover boiled potatoes
  • 2-3 leeks
  • 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
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