Cast-iron cookware is a versatile kitchen tool

These hefty pans can be used to make almost anything, from tasty seared steaks to crunchy cookies

    Cast-iron cookware is often handed down through the generations.
    That’s because the cookware is tough and can last years. It can be used to make almost any food — seared pork chops, grilled steaks, sautéd vegetables, fried eggs and bacon and even baked skillet cookies.
    The secret lies in the fact that cast-iron cookware gets evenly hot and retains that heat for a significant amount of time. It creates a crispy crust that adds a delicious texture to most dishes.
    The only thing that doesn’t cook well in cast iron is acidic foods, such as tomatoes, which can break down the cast iron.
    Cast-iron cookware has a naturally nonstick finish that builds up through the years, a process known as seasoning. While some pieces today are sold preseasoned, you may need to season other pieces before using them for the first time.
    To season a piece, scrub it well in hot soapy water, then dry it and spread a thin layer of melted shortening or vegetable oil all over the cookware. Place it upside down on the middle rack of a 375-degree oven and bake it for an hour. Let it cool in the oven.
    Wash cast-iron cookware by hand using a  small amount of soap. You can use a pan scraper for stuck-on food, or try rubbing it with salt. If you’re still having trouble, simmer a little water in the pan for a minute, then use a scraper.
    Some foods may remove some of the seasoning. Rub oil into your pan after each use to ensure the seasoning remains for quality cooking.
    Promptly dry your cookware with a lint-free cloth or paper towel, or let it dry in a warm oven. Rub a little bit of oil into the pan until no residue remains before storing.
    Following are some recipes from

Warm Chocolate Chunk Cookie

1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly eaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

    Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over low heat. Turn off the heat and stir in sugar and brown sugar. Fold in eggs and vanilla.
    In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips and chocolate chunks.
    Run a wet paper towel around the edges of the pan to clean them up. Scatter nuts over the top of the batter.
    Place skillet in a 375-degree oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and the center is still a little soft to the touch. Remove pan from the oven. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


Corned Beef Skillet Hash With Eggs and Cheddar

4 medium red potatoes, diced
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup finely diced green pepper
1 cup chopped corned beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/3 cup half-and-half
4 eggs
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar

    Bring an inch or so of water to a boil in a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add potatoes, cover and steam 5-1/2 to seven minutes, until slightly softened but not tender. Remove steamer basket.
    Heat one tablespoon oil and butter in a 10-1/4-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion and green pepper and cook four to five minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften. Add corned beef, salt, pepper and smoked paprika and cook two minutes, stirring.
    Add remaining oil and stir to coat. Add potatoes and continue to cook eight to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping up and turning over the potato mixture with a metal spatula, until the potatoes are tender and browned and form a crust on the bottom of the skillet. Add half-and-half and stir to coat.
    Reduce temperature to medium-low. Create four wells in the potato mixture and crack an egg into each. Sprinkle with cheese, cover the skillet and cook five to six minutes, until cheese is melted and the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny.


Citrus Pork With Charred Brussels Sprouts

1 pound pork loin, thinly sliced into 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup cashews, toasted
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

    Combine sugar, rice vinegar, orange juice, two tablespoons soy sauce, orange zest, ginger and garlic to make marinade. Place sliced pork loin in a large zipper-top bag. Add marinade and seal. Mix well, then refrigerate 30 minutes.
    Combine lemon juice, one tablespoon soy sauce and honey to make sauce.
    Heat two tablespoons oil in a cast iron stir-fry skillet over medium high heat for five to seven minutes, until just smoking. Drain pork and pat dry with paper towels. Discard marinade.
    Sear pork in two or three batches, cooking one to two minutes per side, adding oil as needed. Remove pork from skillet. Set aside.
    Add halved Brussels sprouts and cook five to seven minutes, tossing occasionally until charred. Season with salt. Pour in sauce and continue to cook three minutes, tossing to coat.
    Add cooked pork, cashews and oranges and cook three to five minutes, stirring to coat, until heated through. Remove from heat. Serve immediately.


Garlic Topped Flank Steak Roulade

2 pounds flank steak
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 strips pork bacon, cooked but not crisp, chopped
2 cups loosely packed organic spinach leaves, chopped
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup chopped organic button mushrooms
2 tablespoons coconut oil
5 garlic cloves, minced

    With a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound the flank steak to until 1/3-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper on both sides, then lay it out flat. Sprinkle chopped bacon over steak in a single layer, then evenly layer on spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. Roll steak up lengthwise tightly into a log and tie with kitchen twine in two or three places. You can wrap the roulade in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, if desired. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
    Heat oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is really hot, sear roulade two to three minutes, until browned on all sides.
    Remove pan from the heat and sprinkle with garlic all over. Place skillet in a 425-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until stuffing is hot but the meat is still pink in the center.
    Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes. Remove the twine, slice into pinwheels, and serve.
    Try any combination of favorite ingredients for filling, such as sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, spinach, onions, mushrooms, bacon, sausage, uncured salami, green or black olives and fresh herbs.


Pork Meatballs With Kale

3 springs rosemary
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 small bunch kale, stems and ribs removed, chopped
10 ounces ground pork
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus shaved Parmesan for topping
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, ends trimmed, sliced
Freshly ground pepper

    Place rosemary and oil in a cast-iron skillet. Allow oil to heat and rosemary to fry for about five minutes, until crispy. Strain oil and transfer the fried rosemary onto a paper towel-lined plate. Season with salt.
    In the same skillet, saute kale in two tablespoons rosemary oil for four to five minutes. Season with salt and allow kale to completely cool. Mince one-third of the kale, setting the remainder aside.
    In a large bowl mix pork, cheese, two tablespoons soy sauce, onion powder, minced kale and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Heat a cast-iron skillet and sear a test meatball in rosemary oil. Adjust seasonings if needed, then split the remaining pork mixture into portions of about 2 tablespoons each and shape into round balls.
    In the same skillet, heat remaining rosemary oil. Fry meatballs six to eight minutes, until most of the surface is seared golden brown. Remove meatballs and add the mushrooms. Sauté until golden brown, then deglaze pan with remaining soy sauce. Return the sautéed kale to the skillet, followed by the meatballs. Garnish with fried rosemary leaves and shaved Parmesan. Serve while hot.


Black Pepper Skillet Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons peeled and shredded fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1-1/2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens

    Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the last shell segment and tail fin intact.
    Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat about three minutes, until very hot. Add ginger and cook about two minutes, stirring, until the shreds turn light brown and caramelize. Stir in coriander, peppercorns and sugar and let heat for 15 seconds.
    Add shrimp and cook two minutes, shaking and tossing, until they turn pink and curl up. Sprinkle with lime juice, salt and scallion greens. Gently mix together and serve from the skillet.



Roasted Sea Bass With Garlic Butter

For chive garlic compound butter:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch kosher salt
For sea bass:
4 sea bass fillets, 4 to 6 ounces each
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

    In a medium bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
    Add chives, garlic and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture in the shape of a log onto a piece of wax or parchment paper. Fold paper over itself and shape  into a cylinder about 1-1/2 inches wide. Twist the ends to seal it. Place in the freezer about 20 minutes to set. Refrigerate until ready to serve or up to a month.
    Slice the roll into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and remove the parchment.
    Generously season sea bass with salt and pepper. In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, warm oil until a few water droplets sizzle when sprinkled in the skillet. Sear the fish about four minutes, skin side up, until well browned and it easily releases from pan. Flip over and sear one minute.
    Transfer pan to a 375-degree oven and roast about five minutes, to the desired degree of doneness. Serve each fillet with a slice of compound butter on top.



Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips or M&Ms

    Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Stir well with a wooden spoon. The dough will be stiff. Stir in the chocolate chips or M & Ms.
    Grease a 10-1/4-inch skillet or coat with cooking spray. Pat cookie dough evenly into the skillet. Bake in a 375-degree oven 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.
    Remove the skillet from the oven and cool on a wire rack or trivet 15 minutes. Cut cookie into wedges and serve.



Grilled Steak Nachos

For steak:
1 skirt steak, flank steak or flap steak
1 lime, juiced
For nachos:
1 bag tortilla chips
1 15-ounce can black beans, washed
1 16-ounce can corn, washed
4.5-ounce can green chiles, washed
2-1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Dollop of sour cream

    Season steak with lime juice, salt and pepper. Grill three to four minutes per side until internal temperature reaches 120 degrees.
    Layer skillet with tortilla chips, then add black beans, corn, green chiles, and cheese. Repeat layers two to three times.
    Let steaks rest for 10 minutes. Place nacho-filled skillet on the grill, cover and cook five to six minutes, until cheese has melted to ideal consistency. Remove from grill and set aside.
    Slice steak and add to nachos along with lime juice, cilantro and sour cream.




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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