Tag Archives: cast iron skillet

Chapatis and Naan: Experiments in Indian Bread-Baking

17 Feb
Image sourced from indianfoodsco.com

Image sourced from indianfoodsco.com

If you’ve ever found yourself in an Indian restaurant (or at the receiving end of some delectable takeout), you’ve inevitably tried some of India’s famous breads. Whether for dipping, scooping, sopping or munching, breads like naan and chapatis are simple and delicious. They’re perfect for stew-type cuisines like Dal or Aloo Gobhi from the Northern part of the country, or Western India’s Dum Aaloo.

But for folks who aren’t as familiar with Indian food — which, like any great world cuisine, can vary depending on its region of origin — you might be asking yourself: What the flibbertigibbet are naan and chapatis? Leave it to GKG for the answer.

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Kitchen Tips: Safety First (or else…)

9 Jul

I shall call this post, “The Cast Iron Battle – Skillet: 1. GKG: 0.”

Obviously, it all went down like this:

I’d like to think I’m cool enough to be Manny Pacquaio in this scenario. Then again, I did end up with 2nd degree burns. (But I look so good in pink and white. Dangit.)

As the fairly epic scars on my left hand remind me, I suffered a pretty nasty burn at the hands (er, hand-le?) of my cast iron skillet a couple of weeks ago. The timeline went something like this [written in the poetic style of Bridget Jones]:

7:05 Take my flaming-hot skillet out of a 450˚F oven using an oven mitt. The deep dish pizza (chicken with mushrooms and tomato sauce) inside said pan looks beyond delicious.

7:06 and 29.5 seconds Space out for about .5 seconds, thinking – one can assume – about impending pizza tastiness.

7:06 and 30 seconds Unwitting left hand grips cast iron skillet handle. Why? No idea.

7:06 and 31 seconds Shriek at some ungodly-high-octave and begin hopping around my kitchen, in the hope that hopping will stop burning sensation immediately.

7:06 and 33 seconds Wisely conclude that hopping is ineffective.

7:06 and 40 seconds Begin running cold water over burn as the History Teacher whips together a makeshift ice pack (my hero!). Sit with said ice pack for about an hour and a half, until hilariously-unbearable pain necessitates trip to Emergency Room.That conversation went something like this:

Me: [general moan of pain]

The History Teacher [THT]: So I looked up how to treat a burn on Web MD … one thing it says is to keep ice OFF of blisters, because you can apparently get frostbite.

Me: WHAT? [Momentarily snap out of pain-moaning at the prospect of inducing frostbite by accident.]

THT: Uh, I don’t know! I’ve always treated burns with ice. The pack’s probably fine. Are you ok?

Me: … let’s go to the hospital.

THT: I’ll grab my keys.

Dear Chevy: Riding in a Sonic saved my life. Or may have just saved the skin on my left hand. Thanks, y’all.

The rest of the adventure mostly involves a waiting room (painful), wrapping up my hand in an Ace-bandaged contraption (and renaming it Mitt, due to the mitten-like nature of its bandaging – guess my left hand, ironically enough, is a Republican) and visiting 3 or 4 late-night pharmacies to fill a prescription for painkillers. As I faded into a drug-induced coma, I started thinking about safety tips I’ve picked up in my past years of cooking. Here, friends, is the bulk of my hard-won wisdom.

Top 9 Safety Tips for the Budding Chef

  1. Keep your knives sharp using an at-home sharpener like this one. Dull knives = more cuts and scratches. Seems strange, but it’s true.
  2. When chopping, slicing and dicing, cut away from your body. If the knife slips for whatever reason, it’ll be pointing away from your not-so-knife-friendly body.
  3. When frying food in oil (fish, fries), gently drop food into the oil from a minimal distance. When your beer-battered fish dive-bombs into oil from 6 inches above, it will result in grease splatters and potential burns. Ugh.
  4. Don’t leave the kitchen with burners on. Unless you want to risk an overflow of pasta water or bubbling-over bisques giving your floors some kind of hot liquid carpet. Ew.
  5. Don’t let pot and pan handles hang over the stove’s edge; turn handles towards the side of the stove, where they’re easy to handle but won’t risk getting knocked off the burner by a nearby klutz (read: me).
  6. When you’ve finished cooking, turn off burners and your oven immediately. I’ve damaged pasta pots before by pouring out and draining the pots’ contents, then returning the pot to its still-hot burner and forgetting the burner was still going. Love your pots and pans, my friends.
  7.   Make sure small appliances – blenders, food processors, etc. – are unplugged before touching their blades / scooping out contents. Visualizing the alternative is enough to keep this one in mind. (Something “Saw” –esque, I suppose. Oy vey.)
  8. If, perchance, something does spill, clean up all spills – especially those on the floor – immediately. If you’re going for a Three Stooges routine as you cook, you may want to stick to a Fisher-Price “kitchen.”
  9. And lastly, when using a cast iron skillet, remember that the entire pan will heat fully, whether on the stove or in the oven. To keep yourself safe, keep a pot holder on the handle as soon as it’s out of the oven. (Thanks for the tip, Amy!) Even if it heats up a bit, the pot holder serves as a helpful reminder. And, God forbid, if you do burn yourself, run cold water over the burn until the pain starts decreasing. If it’s just a minor burn, ice and an Advil will do the trick. If you suspect it’s more serious, get thee to the Emergency Room.

Stay safe, my friends. While my summer school students think my scars are pretty sweet (and having 12 year-olds help you invent a better backstory than “I burned my hand on a skillet” results in GREAT ideas, let me tell you), I wouldn’t have minded avoiding the experience altogether.

What are your kitchen horror stories? Hopefully nothing too serious, but experience is the best teacher. Any other safety tips you can share?

Iron It Out: Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cake in a Cast Iron Skillet

23 Jun

Image courtesy of our friends at HuffPost Food. My skillet is just as drop dead gorgeous.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new special someone in my life. Don’t worry — nothing has happened to my gentleman friend (Fun Blog Nickname pending). No, I’m talking about the deep love between a woman and her cooking supplies: specifically, my new-found adoration for the latest addition to my kitchen, my cast iron skillet.

I recently visited my favorite DC-area kitchen store, Hill’s Kitchen in Capitol Hill. While I normally peruse their goods for the sole purpose of spending time in a hallowed hall of culinary awesomeness, I stopped by this time with the intention of  buying. No more window shopping! Time to get serious. And for only $22.95, a cast iron skillet was made mine.

So many possibilities! What would I bake? Could I whip up traditional cornbread like the best of ’em? Make an impromptu frittata, like Harrison Ford does at his curmudgeonly best in “Morning Glory?”

Instead, for my first trick with my new friend, I whipped up a Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cake. This time of year, various stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines) are so abundant, fresh and delicious. This recipe is closely adapted from a delicious cast iron skillet Upside Down Cake by David Lebovitz.

For the fruit and syrup bottom of the cake, you’ll need:

  • 3 tbsp margarine (easily substitute unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 packed cup brown sugar
  • A splash of maple syrup
  • Enough slices of fruit to cover the bottom of the pan. I used plums, a peach or two, fresh cherries, a green apple (surprisingly good with its stone fruit friends), and raisins. DEFINITELY try the raisins — they’re transformed when you cook with them this way.

For the actual cake, you’ll need:

  • 8 tbsp stick margarine (again, easily substitute unsalted butter)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 room-temperature eggs (just let ’em chill on the counter for 20-30 mins while you prep the syrup and fruit layer)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup room-temperature milk (I used 2% without any issues, but skim probably wouldn’t work here.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Melt the 3 tbsp margarine in your pre-heated (medium-ish) cast iron skillet. Once the margarine is melted and slightly bubbly, add the brown sugar and splash of maple syrup. Keep stirring until the mixture is evenly combined, has thickened a bit, and begins to bubble into a kind of caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sugary goodness to cool.
  2. Slice your fruit and arrange it however you like on the bottom of the pan (as in, resting in the sugary goodness). I used something of a traditional pinwheel, with cherries and raisins in a ring around the outside, and alternating slices of green apple, plum, and peach in a spiral.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Start by beating the sugar and 8 tbsp margarine together (I used a Sunbelt hand-held mixer) until well-combined, light and fluffy-looking. Then, beat in both eggs and the vanilla on low to medium speed. Add each egg one at a time for even mixing.
  5. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to sift together your flour, baking powder and salt. (If you have a sifter, rock that bad boy.) Then, gently add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the bowl of wet ingredients, stirring with a spoon. Alternate 1/2 of the flour mixture with your milk, then add the rest of the flour mixture. Do not over mix! If you do, you’ll send the flour’s gluten into hyperdrive and end up with one nasty, gummy cake. (Ew.)
  6. Once the cake batter is mixed, spread it over the fruit layer in your cast iron skillet. Make sure the batter reaches the sides; you’ll know the cake is done baking when it begins to separate from the sides again.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour; the surface should be golden brown, and a toothpick should come out clean.
  8. After letting the cake cool for 20 minutes, use a dinner plate to gently flip over your cake. Then, you should be staring some glisteny, fruity goodness right in the face.

Oops, is that drool on my keyboard?

Do you guys love your cast iron skillets like whoa? What have you used them to make / bake / whip up?