**Please note: To see the photos contained within a post, you must click on the title of the post to open it separately. Why? I don't know. I just know that it needs to be done to see the pics. :)

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Our 2015 gift choices are sublime. I hope that this guide and a few tips will help you as you begin your search for the perfect gift.

I know nothing about vintage cast iron and the choices on the site are totally overwhelming!

The easy way out is a gift card for The Pan Handler LLC. You can create a gift card in any amount you choose, from $50 to $1000.

If you want to give a physical gift and you aren’t very familiar with cast iron cookware, a good starting point is to take a look at the FAQs section on the website.  Scroll down to see all of the topics. The information contained in the FAQs will give you a good starting point, along with tips about how to select a vintage cast iron pan.

You may also want to look at the top header on the front page of the website under “gift ideas.” If I think a piece is particularly special or a great gift idea, I try to put it in that category. Not every great piece is in that category, but many are.

For someone just starting out with vintage cast iron, a skillet set with different sizes or a skillet with matching lid would be a great choice. Take a look the shop’s “Skillet Sets” section.

If you want to purchase just one skillet for a newbie to vintage cast iron cookware:

*                If he cooks for one, consider a size 7 or 8 skillet.

*                If he cooks for two, consider a size 8 or 9 skillet.

*                If he cooks for three or four, consider a size 910, or 12 skillet.

*                If he loves to entertain or cook for a crowd, consider larger skillets such as sizes 12 and 14.

Remember, the size number of the skillet does not equate to the inches in diameter. A size 8 is typically about 10-1/2″ in diameter. Pans typically go up or down 1/2″ for each size, though the exact measurements differ.

You might also consider the lid factor; a size 8 skillet lid by any manufacturer is probably easier to find than other sizes. If you are going with one skillet and you might want to later supplement the gift with a lid, a size 8 might be a good choice.

She already has a vintage cast iron skillet; I want to get her another piece. 

If she doesn’t have a lid for her skillet, that is a nice luxury. Lids are not commonplace; it is far easier to find a vintage skillet than to find the vintage lid to fit that skillet. You need to know the manufacturer of her pan, though, so that you can be sure that the lid will fit. A size 8 lid from one manufacturer does not necessarily fit a size 8 skillet from a different manufacturer.

If you want to get her another skillet, a good choice would be to get one that is larger or smaller by at least two sizes. A size 8 pan is a “typical” first purchase. If she has a size 8, a size 5 or 6, or a size 10 or 12 would be a nice addition. In my kitchen, for example, I most often use a 5 and an 8, an old ERIE 11 that has a hairline crack, and my much-loved chicken pan.

If she has one or a few skillets, consider whether she would want to have the same, or a different, manufacturer. Some people love checking out different manufacturers and prefer not to have things too “match-y”; others prefer the aesthetic of having pans with logos that “match.” Even within the same manufacturer, there are different logos. For example, she might have a Griswold “large block” logo with heat ring. If that is what she has, she might want another pan with that same logo and heat ring but in a different size. Or, she might want to have something totally different.

If you want to branch out from skillets, consider a chicken pan (my personal favorite) or Dutch oven. In my kitchen, in addition to my number 5, I routinely use my Griswold number 8 skillet, and a Griswold Iron Mountain chicken pan and lid. The Iron Mountain lid fits both the Griswold skillet and the Iron Mountain chicken pan, which is a nice bonus. The lid is a “high dome,” so my chicken pan also does double duty as a small dutch oven.

Griswold Iron Mountain Chicken Pan with Lid, and Iron Mountain #8 Skillet. The lid fits both pans.

griddle or shallow skillet is also a nice utilitarian piece to have and is a good accompaniment to a skillet. For cooking indoors, look for a griddle that will fit over the burners on her cook top.

I want to get him something he can use for cooking outdoors and on camping adventures.

If he loves to cooks outdoors, a nice big #16 round or long griddle is great for making camp breakfasts and grilling steaks. A big skillet such as a 14 is also a wonderful luxury. Another great choice would be a chuckwagon or camp oven (don’t forget the lid lifter!) I tried using a chuckwagon while camping for the first time this year, and made a huge pot of delicious scalloped potatoes. It was so much fun to try, and they were scrumptious! A Dutch oven would also be a welcome addition to the outdoor cooking enthusiast’s arsenal.

We have the very scarce Griswold oval skillet | fish fryer in stock – one with lid and one without. We also have the BSR sportsman’s oval fish fryer AND griddle lid; these would all be great gifts for the fisher person!

BSR oval fish fryer and lid.

You might also check out the scratch and dent section of the site. Pans that spin, have pits or a hairline crack, still work great for outdoor cooking, and you can pick these pieces up for much less than the same pan in excellent condition.

She is very particular. 

Well, the easy way is to ask her what it is, exactly, that she wants. But if you want to be a bit more mysterious, give her a gift card for a merchandise credit from The Pan Handler LLC! You can purchase a gift card in any amount between $50 and $1000. They are good for five years, so she will have plenty of time to peruse the site and watch for her perfect piece to be offered for sale. For someone who is very particular, a card for merchandise credit is a great gift. It enables the recipient to get exactly what they want.

Another nice thing about the virtual gift card option is that it will be instantly emailed to her.  Or, if you prefer, we can email it to you, you can package it up in a big mysterious box, gift wrap it, and stick it under the tree.

Another idea is to ask her to just take a look at the shop on The Pan Handler LLC website, or look at it together. She can treat it like a virtual Sears Toy Catalogue, and write down pieces that she would like to have. Or, you can just take note of when she “oohs” and “aahs” as she looks at particular pieces. Then you will have a handy-dandy list that you can use for every occasion!

He cooks with modern-day cast iron, and I want to turn him on to vintage. 

Look for a skillet with thin walls and a satiny smooth cooking surface, such as the early Griswold, ERIEWapakWagner, SidneyVollrath, and Favorite Piqua Ware pans. He will be amazed at the difference in weight, and appreciate the smooth cooking surface.

Old Wagner pan with a glassy satin cooking surface.

It also helps if you know what kind of cooktop he has. If he has raised gas or electric burners or primarily uses the pan on a grill or outdoors, a bit of a wobble in a pan is not a big deal. I have a glass cooktop, and a small wobble is not a problem. If he cooks on a convection cooktop, it is more important that the pan “sits flat,” so that all areas of the bottom of the pan are in contact with the cooktop. In my opinion, some folks go way overboard with “sits flat” hysteria. A pan does not have to sit perfectly flat to be a great cooker and display piece. There is no need to shun a pan if it has just a small amount of movement when pressing along the upper edge. If it spins, however, then it needs to be on a cooktop with raised burners.

She loves to bake.

Look at the “baking pans, cake molds” section of the site, as well as the “patty mold” section. You will find a dizzying array of pans for bakers. From gem and muffin pans to bread and cornstick pans, to patty molds galore, there is something to please every baker. We also sell reproductions of the vintage recipe and instruction manuals for the various patty molds.

We also have the Griswold cake molds; the Santalamb, and the rabbit. They are very fun and also quite decorative and special.

Griswold rabbit, Santa, and lamb mold.

Scarce Griswold French Waffle Iron

We also have turk head pans, gem pans, a variety of wheat and corn stick pans, waffle irons including a scarce Griswold French waffle iron, and the coveted Griswold heart and star pan. These pans are wonderful for baking and beautiful for display.

The popover | muffin pans are always a hit; I am particularly fond of the Griswold no. 18 6-cup cast iron muffin pan.

Griswold no. 18 6-cup muffin pan, pn 6141.

For bakers, it is always nice to have a decorative trivet for hot pans, too!

He already has everything!

Sure, he might have a selection of vintage cast iron cookware, but does he have a Chicken Pan? Dutch oven or RoasterLarge skilletSmall skilletWaffle ironLong griddle? Round griddle? Deep Fat FryerBreakfast panOval skillet?  Square Skillet? Skillet GriddleSad iron? Trivet? Patty mold or cake mold? Gem or Muffin Pan? How about a Plett or Aebleskiver pan? Bowl or kettleGriswold ash tray? Does he need a trivet to fit into one of his Dutch ovens or skillets or a lid? How about a miniature piece? If he has a sad iron, how about a trivet upon which to display it?

I bet he doesn’t have a minty Griswold sun dial, or an excellent antique rare Griswold ERIE Spider Skillet! How about the rare no. 130 Griswold turk’s head pan? A #13 skillet? How about #11?

Take a look around the site at the shop categories other than “skillets.” We offer a wide variety of vintage cast iron pieces.

If he really does have everything (like Harold R. Henry, about whom we wrote a blog post a few months back), consider an accessory. We have generously-sized chain mail scrubbers. We also have wonderful panhandlers which serve to protect hands from the heat of a cast iron skillet handle. We have many in stock in different colors; all handmade and hand-felted. One customer purchased very brightly-colored panhandlers for her elderly parents. She said their eyesight was failing and she wanted to make sure that there was a big contrast between the panhandler and the skillet handle, so they’d know if the handler was on. I thought that was a very considerate gift!

If he really does have everything, he certainly needs a display rack or two. Or three or four. We have griddle and shallow skillet racks, 7-slot skillet racks, exclusive custom 8-slot skillet racks, 3, 6, 8-sized skillet racks, 6, 8, 10-sized skillet racks, and 6, 8-sized skillet racks. The racks fit a variety of sizes; not just those listed. I use the 6, 8 skillet rack in my own kitchen; it holds my #5 and #8 pans. We have only had the racks a short time, and they are very hot sellers. We had the 8-slot, 3-slot, and 2-slot racks made to our precise specifications. You will not find these high-quality racks anywhere else; they are exclusive to The Pan Handler LLC.

She is a foodie. 

Of course, I think that all vintage cast iron skillets are wonderful and cook beautifully. Griswold small logo and Iron Mountain skillets are praised as great cookers. The Iron Mountain pans are a personal favorite of mine; I have and use the size 5, 12, and 14 as well as the Iron Mountain chicken pan. Other pans can also be great cookers, of course; look for pans with satin-smooth glassy cooking surfaces. 

If she has a convection cooktop, you may wish to consider a smooth-bottom skillet (instead of one with a heat ring) and look to see that the description says the pan sits flat, or that any movement is minimal. On convection cooktops, the entire bottom surface of the pan needs to make contact with the cooktop. I think there is a bit of unnecessary excitement over this issue in the vintage cast iron cookware world, however. I have seen pans with heat rings (and pans that do not sit perfectly flat) cook wonderfully on convection cooktops, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it either way as long as any movement is minimal. Pans with heat rings also work just fine on glass cooktops; all of my pans have heat rings and I cook on a glass cooktop.

If she has a cooktop with raised burners, the issue of a heat ring is a non-issue. Similarly, a cooktop with raised burners tolerates more movement of a pan than does a convection cooktop.

He prefers things that are offbeat.

Consider one of the lesser-known makers, such as Wapak or Favorite or Griswold’s Victor line. Look for some of the really old pieces like Waterman or Filley – do a search for the word “antique.” Also take a look at the “unknown makers” category on the site. Check out the Sidney cursive logo, the BEST TO COOK IN Favorite skillets, the Wapak “Indian Head” logo, the Favorite “smiley” logo, the Martin “hamburger” logo, our hammered Chicago Hardware Foundry skillet with lid, and some of our cool waffle and wafer irons.

View our  “scratch and dent” section, which has some pieces that have history and have lived a life (as have we all) and are looking for a new home where they will be well-cared-for and of service. Consider one of the skillets with the pitting on the bottom – these are typically pieces that are very old and have pitting as a result of cooking over an old coal or gas stove.

How about a sad iron to use as a paperweight or door stop? An ashtray for its intended use or as a spoon rest? A wonderful outdoor stove / hot plate? How about a kettle or bowl filled with candy, fruit, or a potted plant? A Griswold heat regulatorBreakfast skillet? Fajita pan with underplate? Look for some of our more esoteric pieces.

She is a collector, or only the best will do. 

Griswold no. 130 Turk’s Head pan.

Do a product search on the site for the words “minty” “near-mint,” and “excellent.”Sometimes when I am listing hundreds of pieces, however, I get tired of using the same words as superlatives and I burst into “new word” mode, so not every single wonderful piece has those words in the listing, but many do. Also, searching for “scarce” or “rare” is a good way to get right to some of our highly collectible pieces. I don’t throw those two words around loosely, so if I use them in the listing you can be sure that the pan is indeed “scarce” or “rare.”

In my opinion, Griswold is the most collectible, and most collected, of vintage cast iron cookware. If he is a collector or you think he will start collecting, I’d suggest that you purchase a Griswold piece unless he already has accumulated pieces from one of the other manufacturers, such as WagnerFavoriteLodgeMartin, or Wapak.

 

Griswold French Waffle Iron.

Griswold ERIE Spider Skillet

You might also consider something high-end such as the Griswold ERIE spider skillet, Griswold #13 slant logo skillet, set of Griswold large block logo EPU skillets, Griswold small logo skillet set,  Griswold oval skillet with lid, Griswold French waffle iron, Griswold #20 hotel skillet, a #14 skillet, #2 skilletGriswold sun dial, Griswold Heart & Star pan, set of Wagner skilletsGriswold turk head panGriswold cake mold set, or any of the other skillet sets we offer.

Griswold Sun Dial on Wood Base

You can also search on the site by price from high to low, or low to high, if you wish.

I don’t care about a name brand; I just want to get him a really old piece.

Do a search on the site for the word “antique.” Those are pieces that I believe to be more than 100 years old.

I don’t care about a name brand; I just want to get her a good “user.” 

I hear this a lot. I know that the choices can seem overwhelming. See above info in the first section relating to “I know nothing about vintage cast iron and the choices on the site are overwhelming!” Read my article on selecting a vintage cast iron skillet.

If you do not care about the manufacturer, first narrow down the size (see the “I know nothing…” section). I frequently recommend starting with a size 8, though my friend Jan Z, who teaches cast iron cooking classes, recommends that her students start with a size 5.

Once you have settled on a size, consider the factors that have been previously discussed and the factors that may be important to you such as: age, aesthetics, logo, pitting or lack thereof, smoothness of cooking surface, price, heat ring or lack thereof. After you have considered these factors, you can do a search for skillet by size. Then, to the extent that your budget is at play, sort the products in that size by price from high to low or low to high. Pick through the skillets until you find one that has the qualities that you want, at a price that works for you.

I have a tight budget.

You can sort any of the shop categories by price. That will help to narrow down pieces that are in your price range.

You might also take a look at the section of the shop marked “scratch and dent.” You will find pieces in that category that have flaws and have been substantially marked down. The section for “other /unknown / unmarked” pieces also has some budget-friendly pieces. Also, Lodge and Birmingham Stove & Range pieces are often more budget-friendly than those of some manufacturer. Additionally, smaller more common-sized skillets, such as 3, 5, and 6 are typically more budget-friendly than less common and larger skillets. You might also want to consider an accessory such as a chain mail scrubber, rack, or panhandler.

Also, at check out, you have the option to pay via credit or debit card, in addition to paying through PayPal. PayPal offers the option to “buy now, pay later.” This is a financing agreement between you and PayPal (not The Pan Handler LLC); details are available from PayPal when you check out.

I need that gift RIGHT NOW! 

If you need it now…as in right now…as in immediately via the web, then your best option is the virtual gift card. We can turn that around VAVOOM. When you purchase it, the virtual gift card will be emailed to your recipient (or you, if you put in your email address instead of the recipient’s).

If you are purchasing a cast iron piece and … ooops you should have started looking earlier …  you can upgrade handling and shipping for a hefty fee. Cast iron is very expensive to ship, of course, and rush shipping exponentially increases that cost. If you need rush shipping, you can select it at checkout. You may also email me at the time of purchase to inquire as to additional cost for upgraded shipping; I can always invoice you for the additional cost. Around the holidays, Linda and I put our Santa hats on and work pretty much around the clock to securely pack and ship your packages just as fast as we can; we will do our best for you!

Wrap it, please! 

We offer two gift wrap options at checkout. One is for the “rustic” burlap with raffia and felted ornament; the other is for the a pretty gift bag with tissue paper, felted ornament, and raffia bow. Both are $15. We wrap the piece in the burlap; for the gift bags, we enclose the folded gift bag, tissue paper, and raffia.  

Please note that we do our best, but if it the gift is being sent directly to the recipient, the wrap will need to be the burlap, as the gift bag would get all crumpled and yecch in shipping. Also note that sometimes the gift bag just will not work (i.e. the piece you selected is too large for the gift bag). In that case, we will automatically substitute.

You also will have the option at checkout to have us include an enclosure that identifies the piece gifted, talks about The Pan Handler LLC’s pans, and lets the recipient know just how collectible and valuable the piece is. This is especially nice when you are gifting to a vintage cast iron newbie; with all the effort and expense you undertook to secure this fabulous gift, you want them to understand just how very special it is!

Happy holiday hunting. Thanks for stopping and shopping!  

 

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I needed to bring some food for nibbling to my cast iron cooking competition, so of course I wanted to bring something made in cast iron. One of the great things about Pinterest is that I can easily save recipes I want to try later. Amongst others, I have a board for appetizers, and I have a board for cast iron. Off I went to the cast iron board. And sure enough, there was a great-looking and sounding recipe from Tasty for spinach artichoke dip with dinner rolls made and served in a cast iron skillet. Because I wanted a few more rolls to surround the dip, I prepared it in a my ERIE size 11 pan instead of the size 8 that was used in the Tasty recipe.

It was delicious!

RECIPE:

Ingredients

– 12 Frozen Rhodes Dinner Roll Dough Balls (you want the kind that have to thaw and rise for a few hours)

The rolls I used. Be sure to get the kind that thaw and rise; those you can put around the outer edge of the skillet so that they will be “pull-apart” style.

– 8 oz softened cream cheese – 1 c. grated Parmesan and Romano cheese (I purchased a blend of grated Parmesan and Romano from Trader Joe’s) – 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese – 1/4 c. Sour Cream – 14 oz can artichoke hearts; drained and chopped – 3/4 c. frozen chopped spinach; thawed and drained. Press the water out of the spinach by either pressing it down on your colander or pressing it between your hands or between layered paper towels. – 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped – 1 t. dried basil – 1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes – olive oil with 2 chopped garlic cloves

 

DIRECTIONS

Spray your cast iron skillet liberally with Pam, being sure to include the inner cooking walls. Place the dinner roll dough balls about 1/2″ apart along the outer cooking edge of your skillet. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap that you have sprayed with Pam (so the dough balls do not stick to the plastic). Let rise until thawed and doubled in size; about 3 hours. While the dough is rising, place about 1/8 c. olive oil in a small bowl and put 2 chopped garlic cloves into it, so that the olive oil is infused by the garlic. Combine all other ingredients – the cream cheese, parmesan and romano, mozzarella, 2 chopped garlic cloves, spinach, basil, and red pepper – in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

When the dough has thawed and you are ready to cook, remove the plastic wrap. Scoop the artichoke mixture out of the bowl into the center of the  pan. Brush the rolls with the infused olive oil, and top with a small amount of the grated Parmesan / Romano blend. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 25 minutes. If you find that the bread is browning too quickly, you may reduce the heat to 350 degrees.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Pull the rolls apart, dip into the artichoke mix, and enjoy!

Spinach artichoke dip made and baked in my ERIE no. 11 cast iron skillet. This skillet is a gem and great cooker, despite a hairline crack near the handle. I love this old pan!

CICComp119

All photos courtesy the talented Sarah Lamb of S.Lamb Photography, (c) 2015.

Doug and Bonnie drew an appetizer course and 6 number 3 cast iron skillets at The Pan Handler LLC’s Cast Iron Competition on November 5. It was delicious!

Here is their recipe and instructions:

Doug and Bonnie’s Chicken Empanadas in no. 3 Cast Iron Skillets

Appetizer Course

Makes about 16 Empanadas

Doug and Bonnie are pretty much master cooks; they use what appeals to them when they cook, as opposed to measuring.

The chicken empanadas that they made for the competition were delicious! Doug provided the bones of the recipe, but if you want to make it you’ll have to do as they do and use the amounts and measurements that appeal to you!

Ingredients

About 1 lb. ground chicken Onion, chopped Garlic, minced Mushrooms, chopped Jar of roasted red bell peppers, to taste, drained and chopped Mixed dry southwest-style herbs to your taste 2 rolls of Pillsbury crescent dough

Directions

Sauté onions, garlic, mushrooms, roasted bell peppers in large cast iron skillet with dry herbs of your choosing. Cook to remove as much moisture as possible. Remove from pan. Brown ground chicken in the same skillet, with southwest style seasonings of your choice. Drain if necessary, and add the sautéed vegetables to the pan. Mix together.

Unroll the Pillsbury crescent dough. Work the dough as little as possible to keep it tender. Place filling inside triangle, top with another triangle, and crimp edges shut with fork, cutting away excess dough. Brush with butter. Doug and Bonnie placed two empanadas in each size 3 skillet. Cook the empanadas in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the empanadas are golden brown. Brush with butter again if desired or they look dry.

Remove from oven. Top empanadas with sliced avocado and sliced cherry tomatoes. Serve at table in skillets, on cork trivets.

Doug prefers to not have his photo taken.

My good friends Jerome and Debra Abrams were kind enough to offer up their beautiful large kitchen for me to have a cast iron cooking competition.

Part of the lovely large kitchen in the Abrams home.

And so it was born…the first-ever Cast Iron Cooking Competition, sponsored by The Pan Handler LLC. This post will talk about the competition itself; posts to come will detail the different dishes the teams prepared, along with the recipes that were created by the teams.

Pan Apprentice Linda scoring the empanadas.

Ten friends who were great sports participated in the event as teams: Bonnie and Doug, Mary and John, Anoushka and Rob, Debra and Jerome, and Linda and Chris. Pan Apprentice Linda agreed to serve as judge alongside me, and the very talented Sarah Lamb of S.Lamb Photography photographed the event. The photos in this blog post are courtesy S.Lamb Photography.

I sent out instructions and the score sheet in advance of the competition, so teams could see what they were in for. Each team would gather at the Abrams home, where they would pick a piece of paper to learn what course they would be assigned for the competition: 2 appetizer, 2 main, and 1 dessert. Each team would then pick to learn what pan they would be assigned to create their course. Teams were not told in advance what pans would be used. I warned teams that they would not receive a “typical” pan; i.e. they would not receive a size 8 skillet. I told them they might want to look at the “baking, gem, and muffin” pan category on the shop’s site because surely at least one team would be assigned a pan from that category.

Once team members had their course and pan assignments, they would be given $30 cash and 90 minutes within which to plan their dish and shop for groceries.

Teams were told that creativity would count for 25 points of the possible 100 points. The goal was to show an innovative and creative (but not crazy) use of the pan. Teams were also judged on mass appeal (15 points), taste (15 points), appearance/presentation (15 points), ease of preparation (10 points), recipe instructions (5 points) and team spirit (15 points). The teams were asked to dress and participate as a team; they sure did!

Drawing for the course assignment.

Debra drawing for her team’s course.

Linda and Chris learning their course assignment – dessert.

John and Mary drew main course.

The big day arrived on November 7, 2015. Five cheery teams gathered, drew from a bowl, and learned their course assignments. We then headed outdoors, where there were 5 paper bags containing the pans. Teams drew, opened the bags, and learned what pan they would be assigned.

The bags with the secret pans.

Assignments:

Bonnie with one of the #3 skillets she and Doug were assigned.

Bonnie and Doug: Appetizer, 6 #3 Skillets

Anoushka and Rob with one of the Wagner E bread stick pans they were assigned.

Anoushka and Rob: Appetizer, Wagner E Bread Stick Pan

Debra is clearly pleased to have drawn the patty mold bowls.

Debra showing Jerry (who is holding Benny) the pans they drew for the competition.

Debra and Jerome: Main, 6 Griswold Patty Mold Bowls

Mary drawing her pan number.

John saying “what the heck is this pan?” about the Griswold no. 11 French roll pan that they were assigned.

Really? A French roll pan? What is that?

Mary and John: Main, 2 Griswold French Roll Pans

Chris and Linda opening their pan assignment.

Linda knew that it was an aebleskiver pan!

Linda and Chris: Dessert, 2 Griswold Aebleskiver pans

After receiving their assignments, teams huddled and planned their dish, and then headed off for groceries. Teams then returned, organized their course of action, and off they went! Everyone began cooking and chopping and rinsing and processing and baking. Oh my, it was a site to see!

Soon, the kitchen was filled with wonderful smells. My stomach began to rumble. Sarah took some videos of the cooking process; here they are!

After an hour or so, the dishes began to come to completion and be presented for judging. The first dish we sampled was Bonnie and Doug’s. They had created delicious chicken empanadas in the size three skillets for their appetizer, topped with avocado and tomato. There was enough for everyone to get a taste; Linda and I sampled and scored. Our friend Jim came by too, and helped with sampling and scoring.

Doug and Bonnie hard at work.

Doug and Bonnie slaving away.

Doug is a master cook. He usually brings his BAP (big a** pan – a Griswold #20 hotel skillet) when we go camping, and creates fabulous breakfasts for our crew.

Doug crimping the pastry dough.

Cooking the chicken empanadas.

Chicken empanadas dressed for service.

Chicken empanadas fresh from the oven!

Next up was Mary and John’s spectacular mini beef wellingtons, created in the Griswold French Roll pans. Mary has been a very close friend of mine for many many years and she knows my food weaknesses. Talk about playing to my weaknesses – I was particularly fond of the mini beef wellingtons!

Mary working away. I was particularly fond of her chef’s scarf!

John and Mary working on their masterpiece; Linda in the middle doing…something?

Concentration.

Seared hangar steak.

I particularly love this photo. Look at Bonnie and Doug’s expressions in the background. The competition was fierce!

Mini beef Wellingtons pre-baking. Originally they place the bundles on parchment paper, but discovered it was unnecessary.

Mary and John with one of their pans.

Anoushka and Rob had gone all out and purchased fresh crab legs (teams were permitted to spend more than the $30 given them, but it came from their pocket). They created fresh crab sticks with aioli and dill sauce in the Wagner bread stick pans. I do not eat crab, so Linda’s score on taste for this dish also counted as my score for taste. Linda tells me that the crab sticks were very delicious – she loved them!

Isn’t this a gorgeous pic? I love the water droplets.

Sarah was somewhat transfixed by the crab legs. :)

Rob cooking the crab legs.

Anoushka and Rob hard at work.

Anoushka preparing the aioli dill sauce.

Prepped and ready to serve. There is a dollop of the aioli sauce on the end of each crab stick.

Anoushka and Rob presenting their crab sticks.

Rob and Anoushka with their Wagner E Bread Stick Pan.

Debra and Jerome gave their dish a lot of thought. They knew I was interested in appealing to some of my Southern clientele, so they worked hard to incorporate that into their creation. In the Griswold patty mold bowls, they made a lamb and beef Shepard’s pie, with fresh vegetables and a sweet and white potato topping, topped with roasted pecans. For those who liked spicy they added jalapeño; for those who didn’t they left out the jalapeño. They also prepared homemade biscuits to accompany the dish. Oh my were they good! I particularly liked the lamb/beef mixture and the seasoning they had used; there was; it had a great peppery taste. The flavors mingled beautifully.

Some of the ingredients for the Shepherd’s pie.

The patty mold bowls with some of the Shepherd’s pie ingredients.

Jerome and Debra hard at work.

Beef and lamb mixture for the Shepherd’s pie

Debra and Jerome had instant-read thermometers in their chef’s coat pockets; aiming for the intimidation factor.

The burners were full, so Jerome ended up cooking some of his dish outdoors on the grill burner.

The first layer of the Shepherd’s pie.

Debra presenting their dish to Jim, Linda, and me.

Debra and Jerome used a mixture of sweet and white potatoes for the topping for the Shepherd’s pie.

Jerome and Debra with their patty mold bowls and an extra Shepherd’s pie they prepped in a size 6 skillet.

Finally, we sampled Linda and Chris’s dish. They had been assigned dessert and the Aebleskiver pans. They were very creative in making the most use of their pan. They made puff pastry cups by cooking the cups over the cups on the underside of the pan. Then they roasted apples and spices in the muffin cup side of the pan. They created a wonderful deconstructed apple pie, and served it alongside cinnamon ice cream. We all oohed and aaahed. And gobbled it right up.

Chris prepping the puff pastry cups.

Cups pre-baking

Service of the deconstructed apple pie. Delicious!

 

We tallied our score sheets. It was really hard to announce winners, because the scores were so tight and the teams all worked so hard and prepared wonderful tasty food in creative and unexpected ways. In the end, however, the creativity that Linda and Chris showed in the use of their pan won the day, and they took first prize. In a squeaky tight field, Rob and Anoushka took second with the creative use of their Wagner bread stick pan, with the crab sticks that Linda just loved.

1st Place: Chris and Linda with their deconstructed apple pie in the aebleskiver pans.

2nd Place: Rob and Anoushka and their crab sticks in the Wagner E bread stick pan.

Look for separate blog posts to follow with the dishes and recipes that the contestants created.

We had so much fun – I hope it will become an annual tradition!

L to R: John, Doug, Chris, Rob, Jerome, Jim

L to R: John, Mary, Chris, Linda, Linda the Pan Apprentice, Doug, Mary (note that Linda and I are wearing matching judge flannels?), Debra, Bonnie, Jerome, Maisie, Jim, Anoushka, Rob. Good sports, all!

Turbo Bread4

I first heard about this “turbo bread” on the reddit cast iron sub-forum. Folks were raving about it.

I am not a big bread person. I can take it or leave it, and I typically leave it. But this bread looked so easy, and people thought it was great, so I had to give it a try.

‘Twas delicious. And easy!

The instructions are contained in detail in this very thorough youtube video from “artisanbreadwithsteve.”

I made very few changes to the recipe that Steve sets forth in his video. I added two tablespoons of agave nectar with the water to add a hint of sweetness, and I dusted with chia, instead of sesame, seeds.

Ingredients:

Scant 13 oz warm tap water 2 T agave nectar (or honey) 3-1/2 c. bread flour 1-1/4 t. active yeast (1 envelope) ¼ t. salt About 2 T chia seeds

Directions:

Preheat large glass bowl for 20 seconds in microwave. Mix 2 T agave nectar with scant 13 oz warm tap water. Pour into bowl. Add yeast and stir. Add 3-1/2 c. bread flour and salt. Stir until mixture forms a shaggy ball. Place dough ball in a warm draft-free area and let rest and rise for 1.5 hours. Pull and stretch dough using the handle of a wood spoon (see Steve’s video for details on how he does this). Cover with a lint free cloth and let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray number 8 cast iron skillet with Pam. Roll ball in chia seeds and dust with flour (Steve’s video explains this better than I can). Roll dough into skillet. Bake about 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Let cool, remove from pan, slice, and ENJOY! I had mine with some homemade chicken noodle soup; delicious!