Years and years ago, when I was first married, someone gave me a cast iron skillet as a wedding gift. I’d never used one before. My mother never had one, so I didn’t even know what to do with it. And, with my shiny brand new set of high end stainless steel pots and pans, my new slow cooker, pressure cooker and steamer, I never gave that big, ugly, heavy black skillet a second thought. In fact, when we moved into our first house a few years later, I stuck it in a box out in the garage and promptly forgot about it. Eight years later, we moved; and the box moved with us. As we unpacked, my mother-in-law, who was helping, pulled out the skillet and asked where I wanted her to put it. I told her that I’d never used it and that she could keep it if she wanted. Her eyes got all wide and she asked, incredulously, “You mean you’ve never used it?” “Nope,” I replied. “Not even for frying bacon?” she queried. “No.” was my response. “But, how do you cook eggs?”, she persisted. (Oh boy! She was not going to let this drop!) “Teflon,”, I answered. She shook her head sadly and put the skillet aside.
The next morning, I woke to the smell of bacon sizzling. When I stumbled into the kitchen, I was greeted by my mother-in-law’s beaming face and a large platter of bacon and eggs. On the stove was my cast iron skillet, still glistening with the remnants of freshly rendered bacon grease. At first, I was kind of annoyed. I mean, how many times did I have to tell her that I did not like that skillet? But at the same time, that pile of food looked pretty enticing. I was intrigued.
While we ate, my mother-in-law sang the praises of cooking with cast iron. She shared how her own mother had used her skillet to feed her family almost daily. And how, as a young bride, she continued the tradition when gifted with her own cast iron skillet. She explained that the best things aren’t always the ones that are shiny, pretty and new. I think I already knew that. I just needed to be reminded. She’s a wise woman, that mother-in-law of mine.
After breakfast, she showed me how to clean and care for my skillet. She told me that the more I used it, the better it would become. That was sixteen years ago. Since then, I’ve used that skillet more times than I can count – and I’ve grown to truly love it. I can’t imagine cooking without it. And to think I almost threw it away!
Over the years, I’ve discovered that a cast iron skillet is good for a lot more than frying bacon and eggs. Among other things, it’s also great for frying and roasting chicken, searing meats, making pancakes and baking cornbread and cakes . It even makes a damn fine tarte tatin! So, when I found myself with an abundance of apples just begging to be baked into a pie, I thought, why not try it in the skillet. read more >>