July 17 – Darren – Cast Iron Cooking

Cast Iron Cooking
It’s all about the simple things in life, especially when it comes to cooking. With food, if it’s complicated and swanky then I tend to steer clear. This is where cooking with my treasured cast iron pans come into play. Leave the comforts of your non-stick skillet for a moment and come with me on a journey of discovery. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to conjure up rugged and rustic thoughts of food when talking about cooking with a cast iron pan. This style of cooking has a certain amount of nostalgia to it. Used by settlers, chuckwagon cooks and cowboys of the Old West, it may be something you would expect to see in a museum of how our ancestors cooked. The fact that a cast iron pan is beyond versatile and nearly indestructible are qualities that were favoured in those golden years. One or two pans of heavy black iron and they could cook almost anything over an open fire for a substantial crew of hungry mouths. 
Fast forward to modern day cookery and we can find that cast iron cooking definitely still has a place in the kitchen. On top of the obvious qualities that were appreciated years ago, preparing food in a quality cast iron pan is a joy for a multitude of other reasons. The properties of a heavy cast iron pan allow exciting results that are not possible with other types of cookware. The sheer solid heaviness of a good cast iron pan can be heated to a blistering temp with no harm, and will hold that heat during the cooking process. This aggressive nature of cast iron yields a cooking surface perfectly suited for creating a good crust on your food. A well-seasoned cast iron requires less fat to yield golden brown food, is non-stick without potentially harmful PFC’s present in most non-stick cookware and it fortifies your food with iron. It can go from stove top to oven to bbq, and is beneficial to serve food directly from since it has the advantage of keeping food hot for a greater amount of time. They are cheap to purchase and simple to care, meaning that a good cast iron will keep you cooking for literally generations. If you see an old, seemingly worthless, rusted cast iron pan at a garage sale, keep in mind that it can be renewed by seasoning and be ready to go again. 
A number of years back, I jumped on the cast iron train. I started to incorporate it into my classes and my personal cooking alike. It opened the door to a world of food that I would have never considered. The more I used my cast iron, the more I realized that there are really no limits to this style of cooking.  
Some of my favourites have been fruit crumbles, baked mac and cheese, deep dish pizza, corn bread, blackened steelhead trout as well as so many things for the breakfast table, including shredded potato pancake, frittata, and a fluffy caramelized apple pancake.  
So with all of these good reasons, why wouldn’t you jump into the world of cast iron cooking?
This recipe was from a grilling class from years past, but remains a crowd favourite.
Cast Iron Apple Crisp with Aged Cheddar and Jalapeño Jelly
Serves 10 – preheat BBQ to high – configured to indirect cooking
5 lbs apples cored and sliced – your choice of kind
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 cups grated aged cheddar
1 jar jalapeño jelly
Toss cored and sliced apples in brown sugar. Set aside. 
Stir together flour, sugar and butter to a crumb. Set aside.
Put apples in seasoned cast iron pan and top with crumb mixture. Place on direct heat on medium high grill and close lid for 15 – 20 minutes. Move pan to indirect side of grill and continue to cook with lid closed for another 20 minutes. Top evenly with cheddar and continue cooking with lid down for another 15 – 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly around the edges. 
Serve with a small spoon of jalapeño jelly on each serving.  
And remember, all great ingredients start at Okotoks Sobeys!

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