Home Fries…

I love my cast iron skillet. It only cost me about $20 and it’s one of the best skillets I have. But there’s a reason for that. Cast iron produces even, sustained heat and that’s the best for cooking just about anything. The only drawback to cast iron is it’s so darn heavy. But I just think of it as an upper body workout and move on from there.

This recipe uses the features of a cast iron skillet to produce the tastiest home fries. And making home fries is not all that complicated. The flavor of homemade sure beats the taste of the frozen kind.

So without further adieu, let’s talk home fries…

Lesson Learned 1 – Make sure to cut the potatoes to the correct size: For the purposes of this recipe you need to keep the pieces close in size (approx. 3/4 inch pieces). Here’s a little trick to help you achieve that. Using your chef’s knife cut a thin slice off of one of the longer sides of a peeled potato. Set the potato on the cut side and slice crosswise into even planks. Stack several planks and cut crosswise. Then rotate and cut crosswise again. This will give you evenly sliced potatoes.

Lesson Learned 2 – You can cook the pieces of potatoes two different ways, on the stovetop or in the microwave: (I will include both methods in the recipe printout). I chose to cook them on the stove. The process is not much different than making mashed potatoes. The only difference is you want to monitor the potatoes as they boil to make sure they don’t get overly soft, otherwise they’ll break apart. You want them to hold their shape. I would boil them for about 7-10 minutes and check their consistency. If they are still hard, check every couple of minutes until they are just becoming fork tender.

Lesson Learned 3 – If you choose to boil your potatoes first, let them cool a little in the strainer so they are as dry as possible when you put them in the cast iron skillet: In order to get your potatoes nice and brown you want them to be as free from water as possible. I would boil the potatoes first, strain them and let them sit in the strainer while you saute the onions and garlic. That way most of the moisture will drain off before you put them in the skillet.

Lesson Learned 4 – Once you saute the onions and garlic remove them from the pan and set them aside. The first time I made this recipe I kept them in the cast iron pan while I was browning the potatoes. Big mistake! They didn’t stand up very well through the browning process and wound up getting burned. Once you saute the mixture remove it from the pan and add it back in at the last minute just to get it warmed through again. That way you won’t get browned potatoes and blackened onions and garlic. Lessons learned from the cook who never could…

Lesson Learned 5 – Don’t continuously move the potatoes once they are in the skillet: In order to get the potatoes nice and brown you have to let them sit for a while in the skillet. The whole browning process can take about 20 minutes and you don’t want to be flipping the potatoes continuously during that time. If you want to check to see if they are ready to flip, turn one of the pieces or look on the sides of the pieces to see if the bottoms have started to to turn color. You’ll get a much better result if you are patient during the browning process.

And that’s it, couldn’t be any easier. I like these so much better than the frozen kind. Try them and see if you agree!

Home Fries...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch cubes

2 – 3 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 small-medium size onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs. fresh chives

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a high rimmed pot, boil the potatoes until they just fork tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside. (NOTE: you can also microwave the potatoes. Put 1 Tbs. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a covered microwave safe bowl along with the potatoes. Stir. Cook 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Drain the potatoes well).

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. Start with 2 Tbs. of oil (you may or may not need to add more later) added to the skillet and heated until shimmering. Add the onions and cook until lightly browned. Salt and pepper the onions. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.

If needed, add the remaining oil to the pan. Add the potatoes and gently pack them into the skillet using the back end of a spatula. Cook, without moving for 7-10 minutes or until they begin to brown.

Flip the potatoes and lightly repack them into the skillet. (check to see if you need to add oil during this process). Continue flipping process until the potatoes are browned on all sides. Add the onions and garlic back to the pan, mix with the potatoes and heat until warmed through.

Season with salt and pepper, garnish with chives and serve immediately.

Potatoes during the browning process

 

 

 

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Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops…

For a very long time I had not idea how to cook pork chops. When I was a child my mother would make a roast pork dinner and she always wanted to make sure it was cooked thoroughly so of course her roasts were always dried out. (sorry Mom…) That’s the way I grew up thinking how pork should be cooked. Needless to say, I was not a big fan of pork at the time – too dry and tasteless.

It’s only been within the last couple of years that I’ve learned how to cook pork. Most people think the meat has to be opaque white which is a fallacy. Once it gets to that point it is overdone and will most likely be dry and tasteless. When pork is done perfectly it should look like the picture below…

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops

Look at how juicy this piece of pork is. Pork that is done correctly will have a little bit of pink marbling in the meat as you can see in the picture. Most people, including myself, used to think that pork was not cooked thoroughly when it had a little pink in it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I tested these chops in their thickest part with a meat thermometer and it read 140 degrees which is ideal. Let me tell you this pork chop was melt in your mouth delicious. And preparing it this way was not all that difficult. I want to share this recipe because it is so easy and I guarantee perfect results every time. But there are a couple of little secrets you need to be aware of and I’ll share them in my lessons learned.

So let’s talk juicy oven baked pork chops…

lodge-cast-iron-skilletLesson Learned 1 – Take my advice and buy a cast iron skillet: Recently I’ve been doing a lot of cooking in my cast iron skillet and I’ve learned to  love it! Cast iron is your best method for cooking. It may take a little longer to heat up (and really not all that much longer) but once it does it provides even heat that will not dissipate quickly. Plus it moves seamlessly from stove top to oven. And if that isn’t enough it is also one of the cheapest skillets you can buy. Depending on what size skillet you get you’ll pay somewhere between  $15 – $30. Now that’s a bargain! The main downside to a cast iron skillet is that it’s heavy to lift. But in my mind that does not outweigh the benefits. Just look at it as building up your upper body strength while preparing an absolutely delicious meal!

I have a 10 inch skillet and that is big enough for two pork chops the size required for this recipe so I’m writing this recipe for two. If you get a larger skillet you can easily do four chops. Nothing else in the recipe has to be adjusted significantly. Just make sure you know how many chops will fit in your skillet without crowding them.

You need to use center cut bone-in chops for this recipe. They should be about 1 inch thick. Chops of that size take up quite a bit of room in the skillet. So if you want to do more than two chops in one skillet get a skillet larger than 10 inches.

Handy Trick: One other trick I learned was to put the skillet in the oven and leave it there while the oven is preheating. Once the oven has reached 400 degrees you take the skillet out of the oven (make sure you use mitts because the pan will be hot) put it on the stove over medium high heat and then sear the chops one one side before turning the chops over and putting the skillet back in the oven. It’s a pretty nifty trick.

Lesson Learned 2 – Try brining your chops: If you’ve never tried brining you really should. Brining basically is marinating meat in a salt based liquid that has optional ingredients you can add to enhance the flavor of the meat. The purpose of brining is to break down the fibers in the meat ergo making it more tender. I recommend brining your chops for at least 4 hours, but even if you can only do it for 30 minutes it will make a difference in the meat.

Brining Your Pork Chops

Depending on the type of dish you use to brine the chops you may need more water than I suggest to make sure they’re covered. The chops need to be completely covered for the brining process to work. If you need to add more liquid than what I specify in the recipe just remember to add a tablespoon of salt for every additional cup of water. Also make sure that the salt is completely dissolved in the water before putting it over the chops.

The rest of the recipe is so simple it’s almost funny. This is quick and easy way for making the most unbelievably moist and tender chops you’ll ever have. Try it and tell me what you think.

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops…

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Juicy Oven Baked Porch ChopsFor the Brine:

3 cups water, divided

3 Tbs. Kosher Salt

2 Garlic cloves, smashed

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

For The Pork Chops:

2 center cut bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick each

1 Tbs. olive oil, optional

Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Approximately 4 hours ahead of time brine the chops. Take 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Add the salt, garlic cloves, peppercorns and bay leaf. Stir continuously until all the salt is dissolved. Take the mixture off the heat. Add the remaining two cups of cold water. Do not put the pork chops in the brining liquid until the liquid has come to room temperature (this make take about 5 minutes or so). Place the chops in a shallow dish and cover them with the brining liquid. (the liquid should completely cover the chops). If you need to add more liquid refer to lessons learned above. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until time to cook.

Put the cast iron skillet in the oven. Close the oven door and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry. Salt and pepper both sides of the chops.

When the oven has preheated remove the skillet and place it on top of the stove. Turn the heat under the skillet to medium high. At this point you can add a little olive oil to the pan if you desire. (I have a well seasoned skillet and did not need to add any olive oil. If you’re not sure how well seasoned you skillet is, add a little olive oil so the chops won’t stick to the pan). Sear the chops on one side for 3-4 minutes.

Turn the chops over and put the skillet back in the oven. Continue roasting the chops for an additional 7-9 minutes (the chops should register 140 -145 degrees in the thickest part of the meat). Remove the chops from the pan and place them on a plate to rest for about 5 minutes. Cover the chops with foil during this resting period. Serve immediately after the resting period.

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops

Juicy Oven Baked Pork Chops

Parmesan Crusted Halibut…

My husband and I have been trying to eat fish more regularly and so I’ve been experimenting with various methods of cooking different types of fish. Not all fish are created equal. I have to admit that it can be a little unnerving trying to master the art of cooking fish as it can go from underdone to overdone in the wink of an eye. But this particular recipe is very easy and if you follow the instructions you will have a delicious mouthwatering piece of fish.

Most of the work in this recipe is in the prep (that seems to be a recurring theme for me, doesn’t it). Creating the breading station and preparing the fish is what takes up the most time. But bottom line, within 20 minutes you can go from prep to table and that’s pretty quick. Your side dishes may take more time than it does to make this halibut recipe.

So let’s talk parmesan crusted halibut…

Lesson Learned 1 – Halibut is expensive: Compared to talapia, cod and catfish, halibut can be pricey. The filets I use in this recipe are frozen and between 5 and 7 ounces. They cost about $10 each. So depending on your budget halibut may be a special treat versus a dinnertime staple. I usually buy them when they go on sale at my local supermarket. Every once in a while they go on sale for 20% off and I stock at that time. Halibut freezes nicely so you don’t have to worry about getting it fresh which also tends to be more expensive than frozen. My advice is to check the specials at your local supermarket. Every once in a while halibut goes on sale and that is definitely the time to buy it.

Lesson Learned 2 – Follow the directions in this recipe: Although halibut is more expensive than other types of fish it has a nice meaty texture and is very flavorful if prepared correctly. That is why I cannot stress enough to follow the directions in this recipe. The overall tendency with fish (or maybe it’s just my tendency) is to cook it longer than you should. If you’re not sure it’s done, take a fork and try to flake off the end of one piece. If it flakes (as seen in the picture below) it’s done. Trust me, after you make fish more often you’ll be able to eyeball it to see if it’s done.  You can always put it back in the oven if it’s not but you don’t want to spend $10 for a piece of fish and overcook it.

Parmesan Crusted Halibut

If you’re planning on serving fish to company and are concerned about presentation make sure you are adept at cooking that type of fish so you don’t have to do the fork test. I can’t tell you how many times my husband got a piece of “forked” fish but never minded because he knew it would be cooked appropriately.

My husband absolutely loves this recipe and I think you will too. Try it and let me know what you think…

PARMESAN CRUSTED HALIBUT…

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
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INGREDIENTS:

Parmesan Crusted Halibut4 five to seven ounce halibut filets, skin removed

1 extra large egg

1 Tbs. water

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 Tbs. fresh thyme (just take the leaves off the stem – no need to chop them)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Zest of one lemon (you can cut the remainder of the lemon into wedges and serve with the fish)

2 Tbs. olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400. Make a three part dredging station. Part 1 is the flour. Part 2 is the egg and water whisked together. Part 3 is the panko, parmesan, lemon zest and thyme combined.

Dredge a filet in the flour on both side. Shake off the excess flour. Dredge the filet on both sides in the egg mixture. Place the filet onto the bread crumb mixture and cover both sides pressing down on each side to ensure the breading adheres to the filet. Repeat this process with the other three filets.

Heat an ovenproof pan (preferably a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat. Once the pan is heated pour the olive oil into the pan and make sure the bottom of the pan is completely coated. The pan is sufficiently hot if the oil smokes. Place the filets into the oil and brown them for 3 minutes. Turn them over and put them in the oven for an additional 5 – 7 minutes depending upon the size of your filets.

Remove the filets from the pan and serve immediately.

Parmesan Crusted Halibut

Parmesan Crusted Halibut

 

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet…

Anyway you slice it, I like chicken. I don’t think there’s a chicken recipe out there that I don’t love. And I’m always looking for new ways to prepare chicken. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d find a new way to roast chicken. But I’m always learning new things in the kitchen, and this roast chicken recipe has quickly become my go-to way of making chicken.

This recipe is so easy and I say this, without reservation, it produces the best roast chicken ever! The most time consuming part of the process is making the rub and cutting the vegetables. The rest of the work is done by the cast iron skillet. Amazing!

So let’s talk roast chicken in a cast iron skillet…

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron SkilletLesson Learned 1 – Cut the butternut squash and russet potato into large pieces: This recipe is designed for two with plenty of chicken remaining for your favorite leftover recipes (I used my leftovers to make chicken salad). The thing to remember is the chicken will be roasting at a high temperature, 400 degrees, for an hour to an hour and a half. If you don’t cut your squash and potatoes into large chunks they will become mush. I cut my squash into squares a little less than an inch thick and they turned out perfectly. I cut the potato in half lengthwise and then in inch and a half sized half moons and again they were perfectly done.

Lesson Learned 2 – Resist the urge to baste the chicken: In the past I would baste my chicken all the time thinking it would create a crispy skin. In actuality it does quite the opposite. Because you roast the chicken at a high heat all you need to do is brush the skin with some melted butter before you put it in the oven. Then leave the chicken alone.

At the half way mark baste the squash and potatoes with the liquid in the pan. That worked well and helped to soak the bacon and chive seasoning I used into them. But remember to leave the chicken alone.

Lesson Learned 3 – Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees, remove the skillet from the oven, cover it with foil and let is rest for 20 minutes: With chicken, turkey, steak, etc., it is so important to let it rest once the meat has reached its desired cooking temperature. That allows for all the juices to redistribute into the meat and not wind up running all over your plate. The chicken will carve easily if you let it rest.

I don’t think I will roast a small chicken using any other method than this one ever again. I was so amazed at how simple everything was and how delicious the chicken, squash and potatoes were. If you love chicken the way I love chicken, you simply have to try this recipe!

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet…

  • Servings: 2 With Leftovers
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 five pound roasting chicken (I roasted a 5 1/2 pound chicken)

1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or you can used dried sage)

Butternut squash cut into large chunks (one small squash should be more than enough)

1 russet potato, halved and cut into 1 1/2 inch half moons

1 1/2 Tbs. bacon and chive seasoning

4 Tbs. melted butter, divided

1 tsp. garlic infused olive oil (you can use plain olive oil as well)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean and pat dry the chicken. Mix together the garlic, salt, pepper and thyme to use as a rub. Using your fingers, slide your hand between the breast skin and the chicken. Take the thyme mixture and rub it between the skin and the meat. Any remaining mixture can be rubbed onto the surface of the outer skin.

With a pastry brush lightly brush some melted butter on the bottom of a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet (I used a 10 inch skillet). Place the chicken in the skillet. Baste the top of the chicken with some butter.

In a large bowl cut up the squash and potatoes. Sprinkle them with olive oil and stir until the squash and potatoes are coated. Add the bacon and chive seasoning and stir until coated. Place the squash on one side of the chicken and the potatoes on the other. Pour the remaining melted butter over the squash and potatoes.

Roast for an hour to an hour and a half or until a meat thermometer stuck into the thickest area of the chicken between the breast and leg reads 160 degrees. (My chicken needed to roast for 1 1/2 hours. A smaller one should take about an hour). Half way through the roasting process baste the squash and potatoes with the juices that have accumulated in the skillet.

Once the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees, remove the skillet from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve.

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet

Roast Chicken In A Cast Iron Skillet

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

I have to admit I made this a few weeks ago, but it’s a pretty busy time of year and I made several recipes in one week so that I could keep up my goal of doing weekly posts on this blog. This is a great cake on a variety of levels. First, it’s a heck of lot easier to make than it looks, second it takes no time to put this together (most of the work involves pealing and slicing the pears) and third you wind up with a cake that looks professionally made.

So let’s talk maple pear walnut skillet cake…

PearsLesson Learned 1 – The right amount of pears to use is not an exact science: This recipe is made in a ten inch cast iron skillet. When I made it I used pears from my neighbor’s tree which were smaller than ones you buy in the store. I think I used about 6-8 pears for the decorative top. If using larger pears, I think you could get away with using no more than three. I would err on the side of too much rather than too little. If you have four pears on hand and you only need three you have one to enjoy later. And remember, if the pears look like they’re starting to oxidize and turn brown before you put them in the pan, just sprinkle a little lemon juice over them and that will help keep them looking good.

Lesson Learned 2 – Even with a seasoned cast iron pot a few pears might stick to the pot when it comes time to invert it: No worries here. Even though a couple of my pears stuck, they easily peeled off the bottom of the pan and I could place them back in the spots they’d vacated on the cake. Judging by the pictures you’d never know that happened. I just felt compelled to let you know that even the best of cooks have to make these types of adjustments from time to time. As Julia Child used to say, “Whose to know…”

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet CakeLesson Learned 3 – Always remember, cast iron retains heat for quite some time: When you go to invert the cake, the cast iron skillet will still be very hot! Remember to use oven mitts when you do this part of the process. You will not be able to handle the skillet without some type of protection from the heat at that point.

This cake couldn’t be easier, especially for how dramatic it looks. You layer the pears on the bottom of the pan, spoon the cake mixture over the pears and carefully spread it out to the sides of the pan making sure not to disturb the pears in the process. Then you bake it, flip it, (do any final fixes if you need to) and you’re done. Take a walk on the wild side and try this one. Even though it may look intimidating, it really is easy and oh so delicious!

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Pear Topping:

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup good maple syrup

Pears (3-4 large, 6-8 small)

1/2 – 3/4 cup walnut pieces (this will be your preference)

Cake:

1 1/4 cup flour, plus 1 Tbs. for high altitude

1 1/2-2 tsps. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup good maple syrup

2 extra large eggs, room temperature

DIRECTIONS:

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a seasoned ten inch cast iron skillet, melt the 4 Tbs. of butter. Spread the butter out to cover the skillet making sure to include the sides of the skillet. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and arrange the pears on top of the butter-sugar-syrup mixture. Sprinkle with walnuts and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl mix together the yogurt and vanilla. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add maple syrup and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients and the yogurt mixture, alternating between the two and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Do not over mix.

Carefully drop the batter by large spoonfuls all over the pears. Spread batter out to the edges of the pan being careful not to disturb the pears.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly. Cool the cake for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack.

Run a knife along the edges of the skillet. Carefully invert the cake on to a plate. (Be careful, the cast iron skillet will still be very hot). If any pears stick to the bottom of the pan, peel them off and place them back on top of the cake.

The Pears And Walnuts At The Bottom Of The Skillet

Pears And Walnuts Arranged At The Bottom Of The Skillet

Drop The Batter In Large Balls On Top Of The Pear Mixture

Batter Dropped In Large Clumps Over The Pear Mixture

Spread The Mixture Over The Pears

Batter Spread Over The Pear Mixture

Right Out Of The Oven

Right Out Of The Oven

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake

Maple Pear Walnut Skillet Cake