I started using cast-iron cookware about four years ago, after my son came home from an overnight at a friend’s house and asked why I didn’t cook with cast iron. His friend’s mom had cooked him a delicious breakfast omelet in her cast-iron skillet, and she’d explained how cooking in cast iron was healthier than using nonstick pans.
I have to admit feeling a twinge of shame during this conversation. I’d tried a cast-iron pan once or twice years before, but the food stuck and the pan was very heavy, so I quickly gave up. My nonstick pans were light and easy to maneuver, but I had to use plastic spatulas, stack them with dish towels to protect the cooking surface, and worry about what chemicals they might release at high heat or when they got scratched. I decided to give cast iron another try…and soon I was in love! Now hardly a day goes by that I don’t use one of my favorite cast-iron pans.
I’ve found that a new, pre-seasoned cast-iron pan still needs about six uses for the little pores in the metal to fill in and make the pan shiny and truly nonstick. Once your pan is well seasoned, it’s a huge pleasure to use. You can cook at high temperatures, scrape the pan, cut food in it, and put it into the oven. When you serve in cast iron, it keeps the food warm for a long time. Whether I’m cooking a steak indoors instead of firing up the grill, making home fries and scrambled eggs for breakfast, or baking a perfect loaf of corn bread, my cast iron never disappoints. And I love how a cast-iron pan lasts for generations, getting better year after year when it’s cared for correctly. I think it’s a lot like the organic fields we farm, just getting richer and more productive over time, in contrast to most conventional farms, where the soil becomes increasingly depleted.
When my daughter moved into her first apartment last year, I sent her off with my favorite perfectly seasoned cast-iron pan. I felt that some of the love from all the meals we’d cooked and ate together was somehow traveling with her to new kitchen. I hope that we started a new tradition, and she’ll pass that same pan along to her child one day. It may not be a diamond worth millions, but the memories and the practical benefits it carries are priceless.
Italian Sausage with Fennel and Grapes
This recipe works wonderfully in a cast-iron pan. The pairing of sausages and grapes, which may seem unusual, has a long history in Italian cuisine and is really delicious. The roasted grapes, fennel, and onion form a perfectly sweet backdrop for the spicy sausage — choose whatever type of sausage you like: hot or sweet Italian, chicken and apple, or andouille, for example. This hearty country-style dish is very easy to prepare, and it’s a great autumn or winter dinner when partnered with some hot crusty bread and a glass of full-bodied red wine.
Continue on to Italian Sausage with Fennel and Grapes recipe.