How many cast-iron pans do you own? A quick count in my kitchen reveals five frying pans and one corn-muffin pan made of cast iron. I've received a couple as gifts, but the others have been passed down in the family from my mother and grandmothers.
That's the beauty of cast iron. Unlike other pots and pans whose wonderful stick-free linings crumble away after a couple of years of wear and tear, with proper cleaning and care, cast iron never fades away.
And with modern advances, cast iron has even come of age. There are beautiful, colorful finishes, besides basic black, and lines such as Lodge Manufacturing's Lodge Logic, come preseasoned.
Some people never use their cast iron for anything other than cornbread. Why I don't know. There's nothing better than an old cast-iron pan for frying chicken. And I've been making some amazing dishes in my cast-iron skillets using recipes entered in the annual contest at the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tenn., home to Lodge.
Lodge has compiled these winning recipes, along with chef-inspired dishes, into a new cookbook, published by Oxmoor House. "The Lodge Cast-Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes" is just what the title describes. It begins with the basics of cast-iron cooking, including how to care for the cookware, then moves on to the best part, the recipes. This is not the first cookbook for Lodge, but it is the first printed by a national publishing company.
"We're extremely fortunate to produce a Lodge cookbook with the variety of recipes from chefs and cooks all over the country," Lodge CEO Bob Kellermann said.
The book can be purchased for $24.95 at major bookstores, as well as online at amazon.com, barnes andnoble.com and lodgemfg.com. Take a look at all the recipes, then see if you can come up with one of your own to enter in the 2012 National Cornbread Cook-Off, sponsored once again this year by Lodge and Martha White. All you have to do is come up with an original main-dish recipe using at least one package of Martha White cornbread mix. And, of course, it must be cooked in a cast-iron pan.
For complete rules, log onto marthawhite.com and click on the contest link. Deadline for entries is Feb. 29. If you're selected as a finalist, you'll be cooking your dish at the cook-off in downtown South Pittsburg on April 28.
This recipe, from Jenny Flake of Gilbert, Ariz., was the winner in the 2007 cook-off. It will give you a peek inside the book, as well as show you what kind of recipe it takes to be a winner.
Chicken Taco Cornbread Wedges With Ranchero Cilantro Drizzle
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup salsa verde
1 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 (7-ounce) package Martha White Sweet Yellow cornbread mix
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup crushed corn tortilla chips
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups shredded romaine
1 cup chopped tomatoes
Heat oven to 400 F. Combine ranch dressing, salsa and 1 cup cilantro leaves in small food processor or blender. Process until well blended. Cover and refrigerate.
In 10-inch cast-iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken, 3 tablespoons cilantro, salt, cumin, pepper and tomatoes with green chilies; cook 5 minutes. Remove from skillet. Wipe out skillet with paper towel; grease.
In large bowl, beat egg. Add cornbread mix and milk; mix well. Place tortilla chips in greased skillet. Pour cornbread mixture over chips. Spoon chicken mixture over cornbread mixture; sprinkle with cheeses.
Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges. Top with romaine and tomatoes; drizzle with dressing. Makes 6 servings.
New to the menu ... Panera Bread is really putting its heart into its menu with the addition of the Mediterranean Egg White Breakfast Sandwich. It's a tasty-sounding layered sandwich composed of egg whites, roasted tomatoes, baby spinach and Vermont white cheddar atop the eatery's signature ciabatta bread spread with savory basil pesto. Once heated and pressed on the panini grill, the flavors meld together to produce a memorable start to your day. In addition, Panera is now offering oatmeal made with steel-cut oats and finished with fresh strawberries, pecan halves and cinnamon crunchies on top. Not your momma's oatmeal, that's for sure. And if you want to splurge, try a new carrot cake muffin.
Email Anne Braly at email@example.com.