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Foodie Friday! Southern Belle

May 29, 2009

Kitchen

No southern kitchen is complete without a (couple) cast iron skillet(s). And all kitchens ought to be southern kitchens. I imagine you can buy these new somewhere, but i can’t imagine why you would. There’s cast iron cookware at every flea market i’ve ever been to. I got mine from my folks, who can’t use them on their fancy new flat-top stove – something about scratching it, i think. I have a small and a large one with wooden handles. I dig the handles just because they look a little different from most.

When you get a new iron skillet the first thing you want to do is season it. Well, the first thing is probably wash it, but. Seasoning cast iron is basically a way to make it into a “non-stick” surface, keep it from rusting, and of course make your food taste awesomer.

All you have to do is rub oil on the entire inside surface of the pan (i’ve heard lard or bacon grease are better for this, but i don’t tend to have either of those around). Put the pan in a 250-degree oven for a few hours – this will get the oil really soaked in. Or, if your oven has a pilot light, you can just leave the pan in there overnight or so without turnign the oven on at all. If, when the pan heats up, there is standing grease in it, dump that out and let it finish seasoning with just a layer on it – no puddles.

Caring for cast iron is fairly simple. Do not use soap or scouring pads to clean it! That will ruin the seasoning. No, it’s really not gross to clean it without soap – the whole point of cast iron is that it gets nice and evenly hot – and hot kills the things you’d be worried about. And, no it’s really not impossible to clean it without a scouring pad. Most importantly, just clean it immediately after using it – preferably while it’s still a bit hot. That way most things will just come right off. If that doesn’t work, you can scrape it out with a spatula – remember, it’s iron, you’re not going to scratch it!

And, last, if you’re like me you’ll forget to clean it sometimes and let it get to a point where you have to break the rules above. That’s okay, just make sure you re-season it – cleaning it that way doesn’t hurt the pan, but it ruins the seasoning (and in the long run, an unseasoned pan will rust – and make your food metalic).

Cooking

Pork Chops

I don’t have a name for these – it’s the only way i’ve ever cooked chops, the way my dad always made them and the only good pork chops i’ve had (coming from a near-vegetarian, my comparisons are limited).

2 pork chops – from the local, natural butcher at the farmer’s market.
1 onion – sliced into rings
1 small can pineapple – i prefer rings. i also always buy a big can so i can eat the rest while i cook.
1 small cup orange juice – i use those little metal juice cans because i like the unsweetened oj
salt/pepper to taste

In a well-seasoned pan (or with a small amount of oil) over medium heat sear the pork chops on both sides. Pour in the orange juice (and some pineapple juice if you like), and top with the onion and pineapple rings. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer ’till the pork chops are cooked through. Usually this about equates to when the onions are almost translucent.

Serve with a little of the sauce/juice and topped with the onion and pineapple. The onion is pretty tasty, but the pineapple is mostly for show at this point. I actually made this this week with pears instead of pineapple due to what we had laying around and not wanting to go to the store. It was quite good, but i still prefer the recipe. For expedient and cheap follow-up meals, i like to use the leftover juice for a light but flavorful sauce on egg noodles.

Cornbread

2 tbsp butter
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal/flour
2-3 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs

The secret to making the best cornbread on earth is corn flour. I got it at the asian/indian grogery. I make the 3/4 cup about half and half between corn meal and corn flour. It keeps the flavor much the same, but makes it a bit less gritty.

Preheat oven to 400. Put the butter in the cast iron skillet (or a pan) and keep it in the oven while it heats. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat the eggs, and mix the milk and oil in. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just mixed – don’t overdo it. Pour in pan and cook for 15 minutes – or until whatever you stick in it comes out clean.

So, those are two of my favorite southern iron skillet recipes. I made both this week; we had them with fantastic beans. The only thing missing was fried sweet potato. But that’s easy – cube, fry in oil ’till cooked, maybe a little salt and pepper. They’ll burn a bit on the outside. I think sweet potato is the perfect food.

Lady Brett

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