Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category
In September, my camping friends and I headed to beautiful Glendalough State Park in Northern Minnesota for a fall weekend of hiking, tent camping, friendship, campfires, fun, and food.
This group is big on food and cooking. We have huge delicious breakfasts created by Doug and cooked in his Griswold #20 cast iron hotel skillet. Saturday morning’s breakfast is often a hash with sausage and bacon and root vegetables. Sunday morning’s breakfast is always “leftover hash” in that skillet, using leftovers from the previous evening’s feast.
Our group has a big potluck for our Saturday evening meal. Regardless of how many people we have camping with us on a particular weekend, we have more food than the group could possible eat. And it is always fantastic!
On this particular camping trip, I got it into my head that I should try cooking in a cast iron camp oven, as I had one offered for sale on the site, but had never before tried cooking in one. I set my heart and taste buds on scalloped potatoes. I am not sure why that happened, as I had never made them before and rarely indulge in dishes that have of loads of butter and cheese, but scalloped potatoes it had to be.
Wow, were they good. Fussy preparation, but oh my so delicious. Compliments abounded.
How did you make them, you ask? Why, let me tell you all about it!
Yukon Gold Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions in a Griswold #10 Cast Iron Camp Oven
EQUIPMENT TO BRING CAMPINGMandoline (or a really sharp knife and cutting board, and the ability to thinly slice gobs of potatoes into slices of equal diameter – which I don’t have). Vegetable peeler Cast Iron Camp Stove w lid (I used a fabulous #10 Griswold camp oven) Charcoal briquettes (I brought, and used, an entire ~6 lb package of self-lighting briquettes) and lighter Big ol’ container into which to place the potatoes once sliced Grater and container to hold the grated cheese Whisk Pam spray vegetable or canola oil A container into which to place the hot roux/milk mixture Aluminum foil (optional) Cooler with ice (obviously…) Long handled tongs Long handled serving spoon Long handled lid lifter
INGREDIENTS2 large yellow onions 4T butter About 1 c chicken (or vegetable) stock 6 – 7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes 3T butter 3T flour ~1½ cups milk or heavy cream (I used 2% milk and ended up needing about 2 cups) 5 oz block of Gruyere cheese 2 cloves garlic 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme from your garden (or a neighbor’s garden, or if desperate – dried) Big handful of parsley from your garden Salt and pepper to taste
The day before camping:Cut the onions in ~¼” slices. Melt 4T butter in a large heavy cast iron skillet (I used my “new” old Griswold Iron Mountain #12 skillet. Caramelize the onions. Take your time! Here are some common mistakes when caramelizing onions, per Bon Appetit. Deglaze the pan with the cup of chicken stock, stirring until the stock is absorbed into the onions. Cool, place in zip lock plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight. Clean, dry, and chop the parsley. Clean and remove leaves from thyme sprigs. Peel and mince garlic cloves. Place all in a small zip lock bag and refrigerate. (I am lazy; I actually just put the sprigs and leaves in the mix and then removed the stems after cooking). Pack your car and cooler with the insane amount of equipment you need to make these delicious potatoes.
Directions for day of:Place about 2/3 of the briquettes in a fire ring and light. Peel and slice the potatoes paper-thin. I used my mandoline. Grate the Gruyere cheese into a container. Spray the camp oven with Pam. Make a roux with the butter and flour: Slowly melt 3T butter in the camp oven over an open fire. Add the flour a bit at a time; whisking to avoid lumps. Slowly add the milk to the roux, whisking constantly. Stir in thyme leaves, parsley, and garlic. Remove the mixture from the oven and set aside. Arrange a layer of overlapping sliced potatoes on the bottom of the oven. Sprinkle a layer of the caramelized onions over; followed by a layer of cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Continuing layering the overlapping potatoes, onions, and cheese; ending with cheese (I had 3 or 4 layers of potatoes). Lightly salt and pepper each layer. Pour milk mixture over. I put aluminum over the top of the oven and then placed the lid on top because of my concern about ashes falling into the potatoes. It was not necessary; it was easy for me to keep the ashes out of the potatoes. Using long-handled tongs, take about “ready” (ashen-colored) briquettes and place on a fire-safe surface. I cleared a spot on dirt. Place the camp oven with lid over the briquettes. Place “ready” briquettes on top of the lid. **The goal is to try to get to 400 degrees and to cook for about an hour. There are many charts on the web about the proper number of briquettes to use; you can find one here. As you can see, I used plenty. Basically, I aimed for about 1/3 beneath the oven and 2/3 on top. Using the lid lifter, rotate the lid 45 degrees every 15 minutes or so to avoid hot spots. Also use the lifter to rotate the entire oven 45 degrees about every 15 minutes. Once done (mine cooked for about 90 minutes and a more experienced camp cooker who viewed my briquette set up opined that I was cooking at about 500 degrees – oops but hey it worked!) remove the camp oven to a serving area. Scoop up the potatoes and enjoy, and savor the compliments. I had my potatoes alongside a delicious rib-eye steak, which I prepared in Doug’s trusty #20 Griswold hotel skillet.
I was one very happy camper. 🙂
Oh me, oh my. I love these little egg muffins! One of the things I love about them is that I can freeze the extras, and then pop them into the microwave for a quick “on the go” weekday breakfast. Another thing I love about them is that they have tater tots in them. I love tater tots. In fact, Ore-Ida should be paying me to advertise on my site. Years back in law school, my friends teased me that I was the “casserole queen” because I was always bringing leftover casserole dishes for lunch. And those casseroles often – if not usually – contained tater tots.
Old habits die hard.
Enough reminiscing. On to the scrumptious muffins.
This recipe makes 24 muffins. For grab and go, I’d estimate one muffin per person. For nibbling whilst lingering over coffee and news, I’d estimate two per person. Or three. Or six. They are that good.
Tater Tot, Turkey Sausage and Egg Breakfast Muffins
Ingredients:About half of a 32 oz. bag of Ore-Ida mini tater tots. 1/2 roll of Jenni-O turkey sausage, crumbled, browned, and well-drained. 1 red bell pepper, diced. Sliced green onions as desired. I like onions, so I used about 3/4 cup. 11 large eggs. About 2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped. 3/4 c (more or less) shredded low-fat cheddar cheese. Seasoned salt to taste (I used about 1/2 t – Lawry’s, of course). Fresh Roma tomato, sliced (optional, of course. As we only have excellent fresh home-grown tomatoes for about 10 minutes here in the frosty North, I add them to everything when they are in season).
Directions:Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the cups of a vintage cast iron muffin or popover pan liberally with Pam vegetable oil. I used four 6-cup Griswold #18, pn 6141, popover pans. Place 3-4 mini tater tots into each muffin cup. Place into oven and cook for 10 minutes. While the tater tots are cooking, crumble, brown, and drain the turkey sausage. I browned the sausage in my trusty cast iron #5 Griswold Iron Mountain pan. Crack the eggs into a vintage Pyrex bowl (okay, it doesn’t have to be vintage Pyrex; it is just better in every way when made in vintage Pyrex). Add seasoned salt. Whisk until blended. Add onion, diced red pepper and spinach, stirring after each addition. Add sausage and cheese. Stir. Spoon the mixture evenly over the tater tots in each cup. Each cup will be about 2/3 full. Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until done to your liking. The eggs will puff up a bit and pull away from the edges of the cast iron. I placed a slice of fresh Roma tomato atop each cup about 5 minutes before they were done, so the tomato would soften but not get mushy. Carefully remove the individual servings from the pan. I used a fork to go around the edges while the iron was hot. Once cooled, I used a small spatula. Clean up was not tough at all, even though the muffin pans had just the one layer of Crisco which I applied after the initial cleaning of the pans. Just a quick wipe; not many food remnants sticking to the sides at all!
Eat and enjoy! Refrigerate the unused portions. Once cold, each portion may be placed into freezer bags and frozen for easy microwave heating on a busy weekday!
Need a cast iron muffin pan for next weekend’s breakfast? Here are a few just waiting to be put to work!
A friend recently posted a photo of himself holding a gorgeous, mouth-watering pizza made in a cast iron skillet. It started a craving in me. A girl needs her pizza.
I have been meaning to give a cast iron ‘za a try for a long time and am embarrassed to admit that this was my first effort. Not only was it delicious, it was really fun to make! I can imagine having parties where people make their own personal pan pizzas in #3 or #5 (or #6!) skillets, duo pizzas in a number 8 or 9, pizzas for a crowd in a #20, or like I did….pizza for about 4 in a #14 (a #12 would also be a good choice). You could also make the skillet on a griddle – a round #14 or #16 griddle would make a good large pizza. The long rectangular cast iron griddles would also work well for pizza-making.
The skillet I used for my pizza-making was a big Griswold large block logo #14 with heat ring. It will soon be for sale on the site – consider this a trial run of the pan with the bonus of an additional layer of seasoning. 🙂
I am not a particularly fussy cooker. I try to eat healthfully and I watch my caloric intake. I know what I like and what I don’t, and I am happy to take cooking shortcuts where possible. My friend Shelley, who is pretty much a pizza master, recommends the refrigerated Pillsbury pizza crust. Because she is a master and I am not, I went with her recommendation.
While preheating the oven to 425 degrees, I sprayed the #14 skillet with a light layer of Pam, popped the dough container open and plopped the dough in the #14 skillet. I then pulled and spread the dough out to the edges of the skillet. There was enough dough for a larger skillet; I bet you could even use one tube for a #20 pan if you wanted a nice thin crispy crust. If you were using smaller pans, the dough could easily be cut into smaller sections, too.
I let the crust rest about 5 minutes. Then, I placed it into the oven for about 3 minutes, so that the surface would crust a bit and I wouldn’t have a soggy pizza. Pulled it back out of the oven and let it cool a bit.
In the meantime, I peeled and chopped two big tomatoes ( drop into boiling water til the skin cracks, then remove and dunk into ice-cold water…voila! Easily-peeled tomatoes!) and marinated them in balsamic vinegar with a dollop of olive oil. I love chunks of marinated tomatoes on my pizza. If you don’t, of course, eliminate them! Easy as pie.
I removed the casings from 3 Jenny-O Italian turkey sausage links, cut the links into 1/2″ pieces, and browned them in my trusty Griswold #8 skillet. My pan is well-seasoned; I did not need any additional oil to brown the sausage.
For the sauce, I thickened a tomato caper sauce I had made over the weekend as a sauce for steak. Basically, the sauce was a mix of peeled chopped tomatoes, green sliced olives, capers, oregano, basil, parsley (the herbs are from my little herb garden!), and garlic, which had marinated in a balsamic vinegar / olive oil blend. To thicken the sauce for the pizza, I added about 2 T of tomato paste. Voila; pizza sauce. Of course you can make your own sauce; I also like the Contandina pizza sauce in the squeeze bottle.
Spread the sauce over the pizza crust, and top to your heart’s desire with whatever you like. You can add cheese if you wish; I used a very light scattering of 6-cheese Italian blend shredded cheese. I think the pizza would have been fine without, but I know that a lot of folks love cheesy pizza.
Pop the pizza in the oven and wait and watch. After about 15 minutes I pulled the pizza from the oven and put a layer of arugula (which I had lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil left over from the marinated tomatoes) on top. Back into the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the edges of the crust are brown and the toppings are fully heated through.
Once the pizza is thoroughly cooked, you can either cut it right in the pan or remove it from the pan to cut. As I was going to sell the pan I used, I removed it from the pan before cutting so as to avoid adding any tool marks to the cooking surface. It slid right out onto the cutting board; no particles of crust on the pan!
Cut however you like (I recently was out with a friend who was VERY unhappy when the pizza was cut into squares; he felt VERY strongly that the only way to cut a pizza is into wedges) – and serve. I served the pizza with a nice sparkling Shiraz (“The Chook”). I had crushed dried red pepper flakes and slivered parmesan available for additional toppings if desired.
Delish! I do think that this pizza would have been just as good if it were made without the sausage, and next time I will add more olives and capers (this girl loves her salt). The arugula lent a nice peppery flavor. Small balls of fresh mozzarella might have been a nice touch. Really, you can vary the toppings however you wish; you are limited only by your own imagination.
Ingredients:Pillsbury poppin’ fresh thin pizza crust (in the refrigerated section) 3 Jenny-O Italian Turkey Sausage Links 2 whole tomatoes. Roma would probably be best; I used “regular” tomatoes Balsamic vinegar Olive oil 1 small onion, cut in chunks 8 oz sliced mushrooms Sliced green olives with pimentos, as desired Shredded cheese of your choice, as desired. I used a 6-cheese shredded Italian blend, and used less than 1/4 cup. Some people love cheese; adjust to your family’s taste. Arugula (a bag of pre-prepared will be about twice what you need). I think baby spinach would also be a good choice. Pizza sauce. Mine was made with peeled chopped fresh tomatoes (you could certainly use undrained canned chopped or whole tomatoes – a 14-1/2 oz. can would be more than enough), fresh chopped oregano basil and parsley, garlic, sliced green olives, and about 2T tomato paste stirred together.
Directions:Preheat oven to 425 degrees Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the tomatoes. Once the skin starts to break – about 1 minute – remove the tomatoes and plunge them into ice water. Remove from water and slip the skins off the tomatoes. Chop into the size you prefer. Place in a bowl and put about 2T balsamic and 1T olive oil over the tomatoes; toss to coat. Remove casings from sausage (I use a kitchen shears and just cut down one side and peel it off), cut into chunks about 1/2 inch, and brown turkey sausage chunks in a trusty cast-iron skillet. Cut onion into chunks and sauté it in the skillet after removing the turkey sausage. Cook until softened; 3-5 minutes. Remove onion from pan. Lightly sauté the mushrooms and remove from pan. Spray a large cast iron skillet or cast iron griddle with Pam. Open the pizza dough container and place the dough into the pan, pulling and stretching the dough to the edge of the pan. You want a small “ridge” at the wall so that your toppings all stay on the pizza crust. Let crust rest about 5 minutes. Place cast iron skillet with crust into oven for about 3 minutes – just long enough for the crust to harden a bit on top (no soggy pizza!) Remove from oven. Spoon pizza sauce onto crust, spread with a spatula. Place your toppings on the crust in the order you prefer. I started with the tomatoes (save the balsamic and oil for the arugula), then sausage, then onions, then shrooms. Top with shredded cheese. Place into oven and cook for about 20 minutes – watch to see when the crust becomes browned on the edges. Remove from oven. Top pizza with a few handfuls of arugula that has been tossed in the balsamic and oil that you used to marinate the tomatoes. Place into oven and cook for about 3-5 more minutes. Cut as you like, and serve. No need for a salad – you’ve got your greens right on the pizza!
I decided I needed to get myself a mandolin. The mandolin is one of those contraptions that I see every year at the Minnesota State Fair, where hawkers tout them as miracle machines that slice, dice, and do everything in-between. I had read a recipe for thin-sliced potatoes roasted in a cast iron skillet, and so I set out to create a version using ingredients I love.
Wow, were they good!
What you need:Mandolin (mine is a Börner V5 PowerLine). I also have a mesh glove that I used so as to avoid slicing my fingers to bits. The blades on the mandolin are insanely sharp. I cut my finger just removing the mandolin from its box; imagine the damage I could do while actually using the mandolin! Cast Iron Skillet (mine is the one in the photos – it is a Griswold #8 slant logo EPU with heat ring) Baking potatoes (I used 3 large for my #8 skillet. I could probably have fit 4 in the #8) Shallot 5-6 garlic cloves Olive oil for drizzling (you could also dot with butter, which would be delicious) Freshly ground salt and pepper
What you do:
Preparation is a snap (unless, of course, you are trying to video and photograph everything, in which case it is not. Especially if, after spending hours setting up and doing video of the entire process, you discover that you do not really know how to use the video feature on your new camera. Not that I’d know anything about that).Preheat oven to 450°. Scrub your potatoes. Slice them up on the mandolin – easy! I used a “thin” setting – my mandolin has 4 settings and this was the second-to-thinnest. I wanted crispy potatoes. You could, of course, have thicker slices if you prefer. Arrange the potatoes in your skillet. As my skillet is well-cared-for and properly-seasoned, I did not need to use any oil prior to putting the potatoes in the pan. If you wish, you could spray Pam onto your pan before placing the potatoes. Slice up your shallot and arrange the pieces between slices. You could also use onion if you like. Smash and peel as many garlic cloves as you want. I like garlic, so I used a lot. Chop coarsely and place the garlic amongst the slices. Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes. I “drizzled” more than I intended, but it worked just fine. Dotting with butter would be awesome. I adore butter, but it does not adore me, so I went without. Salt and pepper to your taste. You could also add whatever seasonings you prefer – Italian seasoning would be good, as would garlic salt, oregano, thyme, and/or rosemary. Let your imagination run spice-wild! Pop into oven and roast for 60 minutes. Watch the potatoes and pull them out when they are to your liking. Your cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your slices. (Again, the wonders of cast iron – usually my #8 skillet sits on my cooktop and is used there; today it was used in the oven. I love that). If you do not want your potatoes and onions to have crispy edges, you can cover the pan with foil during all or part of the cook time.
I ate the potatoes without additional toppings, but you could make all sorts of variations. You could add cheese to the top in the last few minutes of cooking (parmesan would be excellent, cheddar would also be good), top with butter, sour cream, or whatever else you like on your potatoes. I try to cut out fat where possible, so I did not give any of those a try, but I am sure they would be delicious. You could also add thin-sliced carrots to the potatoes, or lightly cooked bacon bits. You could load these potatoes with all kinds of goodies!
After I was done feasting on potatoes, I cleaned my pan. As always, while the pan was still wam (not hot), I added water and gave it a scrub with our chain mail scrubber (I also often use stainless steel scrubbie balls). Dried it with paper towels, sprayed with Pam. Voila! Ready for its next use!
I know that authentic Vietnamese Beef Pho soup calls for a slurpy tasty broth that takes hours to make, simmering bones and cooling and de-fatting. I had no time for that. I needed Pho, and I needed it now.
A search on the internet found a recipe from The Splendid Table, that was geared toward Pho soup stock cheaters like me. I based my soup on that recipe, and with slight adaptations, here it is!
For my recipe, you’ll need:Around 10 ounces top round steak About 8 ounces dried linguini-style rice noodles (I used Thai Kitchen noodles) 1 medium onion, sliced thin About a 3″ hunk of fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced 7 whole cloves 1/2 t. anise seed (I found my anise seed in the Hispanic food area of my supermarket – they didn’t have it in the spice aisle) Freshly ground black pepper 2 32-ounce boxes of chicken broth (I used Swanson’s – both Cooks Illustrated and I like Swanson’s!) 2 T sugar 2 t Asian Fish sauce (I used “Squid” brand, which I found in the Asian food section of my supermarket).
You’ll also need accoutrements for your soup. You can pretty much add whatever you wish, such as basil or coriander, thinly sliced bean sprouts, Hoisin sauce, Siriachi sauce, or limes. I used:About a cup of fresh bean sprouts About a cup of fresh baby spinach (I felt like I needed some greens since I was sick!) Wedge of freshly-cut lime Siriachi sauce. Start by putting your beef in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes while you work on preparing the ingredients for the soup. Slightly frozen meat is much easier to thinly slice, and you want thin slices! Put your top oven rack 4-6″ away from the broiler in your oven. Pre-heat the broiler. Thinly slice your onion, and put it along with the thinly sliced ginger and garlic in your handy-dandy versatile chicken pan. Add the anise and cloves. Give your pepper grinder a few grinds over all of it. Broil the contents of your chicken pan in the oven. Give it a stir about every 5 minutes. After about 15 minutes, you will see your onions begin to brown on the edges. That’s when the pan is ready to come out of the oven! Remove the chicken pan, but be careful. Your chicken pan will be screaming hot! Add the two boxes of Swanson’s chicken broth to your chicken pan, along with the sugar and fish sauce. Give it a stir. Cover the chicken pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, get your beef out of the freezer, and thinly slice it on the diagonal. Also, take your rice noodles and plop them into a bowl and cover the noodles with very hot tap water. Place a cover on the bowl to keep the water hot. You will want to let your noodles soak for about 15 minutes, or until they are al denté. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Place the desired amount of noodles into a soup bowl. I am a noodle girl, so I used a lot of them. 🙂 Place your thinly sliced beef into the broth in the chicken pan. [Note – the Splendid Table simply placed the raw beef on top of the noodles and poured the broth over. I do not care for rare beef, so I cooked the slices in the broth before serving. You can do this whichever way you prefer]. Continue to simmer the broth until the beef is cooked to your liking. Prepare your accoutrements and place them on the table in a bowl or on a plate. Ladle the broth and beef over the noodles. Add whatever accoutrements you prefer – I used spinach and bean sprouts. A squirt of Siriachi and fresh lime juice over the top and voila! Cheater’s Pho!
Utter deliciousness. And I think it cured my cold, too!