Monday, December 21, 2009

Joanna Pruess' Cast Iron Cookbook

 As a blogger I've received a few free cookbooks. The author/publisher will send out copies hoping for some publicity. Until I received Joanna's book I had not been given one that I actually wanted to mention.

Too many cast iron oriented cookbooks call for odd ingredients (canned cream of mushroom soup) or processed foods (canned biscuits or cake mixes) or they seem geared towards "slop wagon" style food. Not this one.

I'm still thumbing through the book and it is a very enjoyable read. I've added Post-It tabs to quite a few recipes that I want to make. (Look for her Korean Braised Short Ribs in the near future) 

Joanna scored major points with me when I found David G. Smith - a.k.a. the Panman - had written sections of this book on cleaning and seasoning as well as a nice FAQ. The book itself is a quality hardcover with great photography. 

I can definitely recommend this book. 

Joanna has written 10 cookbooks and has been featured in Food & Wine, Saveur, the Washington Post and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Joanna's Amazon Author Page

Joanna was nice enough to let me publish these four recipes from the Cast Iron Cookbook. Enjoy!

Clam-and-Corn Fritters
Makes about 18 (2-inch) fritters

These puffy-crunchy mouthfuls are a combination of two beloved classics: my mom’s corn fritters (possibly from an old Joy of Cooking) and New England clam fritters. Top each one with a tiny dollop of curry mayonnaise or Homemade Tartar Sauce.

2 (6-ounce) cans minced clams (about 2/3 cup), drained, reserving 1/4 cup clam broth
2/3 cup defrosted frozen or canned corn kernels, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves + 2 tablespoons for the mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion, including green parts + 1 tablespoon for the sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped roasted red bell pepper (from a jar is fine)
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup buttermilk or whole milk
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons hot or mild curry paste, according to taste
Tabasco sauce (optional)

Turn your oven on to warm. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

In a bowl, blend the clams, corn, the 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons of the scallions, and the cayenne. Stir in the egg, reserved clam broth, and buttermilk.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne; stir them into the egg-milk mixture just until smooth.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Pour in enough oil to measure about 1/8-inch deep. Spoon the mixture by rounded tablespoons into the skillet, flattening slightly with a spatula, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. With a metal spatula, turn the fritters and fry the other side for about the same time; transfer them to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Continue until all the fritters are cooked.

Combine the mayonnaise, curry paste, remaining cilantro, and scallion in a small bowl. If desired, add Tabasco sauce to taste. Serve the fritters on a platter with a tiny dollop of mayonnaise on top of each one.

Mom’s Mac and Cheese with Bacon
Serves 8

When I was growing up, my mother made scrumptious macaroni and cheese with creamy sauce, sautéed onions, paprika, and loads of Tillamook or sharp Cheddar cheese. My siblings and I loved it, especially the crunchy-cheesy topping. Mom baked the casserole in the cast-iron Dutch oven she received as a wedding present.
When I added bacon to the filling and Parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs to the topping, my kids and friends attacked that mac with a vengeance, thus it took on the name “macattacaroni.” My favorite pasta for this is cellentani, a tubular cork-screw shape that has a ridged surface. It looks very whimsical. For pure indulgence, a fresh truffle or white truffle oil drizzled on top takes this to a special level of comfort food.

1/2 pound uncooked elbow macaroni, cellentani, or other tubular pasta
1/4 pound thick-sliced lean bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/4 cups whole milk
4 cups (1 pound) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, found in the Asian food section of supermarkets

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, put the bacon in a 10-inch Dutch oven and cook it over medium heat for 3 minutes or until a little bacon fat covers the bottom of the pan. Stir in the onions and continue to cook until they are golden and the bacon is cooked through, about 4 minutes more, stirring frequently.

Add enough of the butter so you have 3 tablespoons of fat in the pan. When it has melted, stir in the flour and cook until lightly colored, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Add 3 cups of the cheese and stir until it has melted. Stir the macaroni and season with paprika, salt, and pepper to taste.

Combine the remaining cup of Cheddar, the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and panko crumbs in a bowl. Spoon the mixture over the macaroni and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. If it is not browned enough, turn the broiler on and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer, watching carefully that it doesn’t burn. Remove the casserole and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Try any of the following mac and cheese additions: cooked chunks of kielbasa, chorizo, or any sausage; cooked chunks of lobster; diced canned or chopped sun-dried tomatoes; a small white truffle thinly shaved and/or white truffle oil; and, of course, canned tuna...a.k.a. Tuna Casserole!

Mammy Lape’s Roast Beef
Serves 8

I always thought roast beef was the prime ribs my mom made for special occasions. The meat was carved at the table and served medium-rare with potatoes roasted in the drippings. That’s not what my Ohio-born husband thought, as I found out when his daughter Debbie sent me this version of her grandmother’s roast beef, where a large piece of chuck is seared in a Dutch oven and cooked with a few aromatic vegetables for five hours. Milk gravy seems to be Dutch or German, as well as Southern. It’s made with pan drippings thickened with flour and milk.
It’s not the prime ribs of my youth, but judging by the enthusiastic reaction the dish gets when we serve it, it’s a sentimental winner. My only update is to break the cooked meat into chunks (rather than slices) and return them to the sauce, because I think they are more succulent that way. Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes.

1 (4 1/2-pound) piece beef chuck about 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick, tied
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for dredging, + 1/4 cup flour for the gravy
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 1/4 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cup whole milk

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Flour all sides of the meat, patting to remove the excess, and season with salt and pepper. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron Dutch oven over high heat until hot but not smoking, 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Add the oil and the beef and sear the meat well on all sides.

Add the celery, onion, and carrot but no liquid. (The pan juices will provide enough moisture.) Cover the pot and place it the oven for 5 hours, turning the meat once after 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a bowl or platter. At this point, you can let it cool and remove any fat or simply finish the sauce and serve.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a food processor and process until smooth; return them to the pan along with the stock. Combine the milk and remaining 1/4 cup of flour in a small jar and shake vigorously to mix. Bring the liquid to a boil and add as much of the milk mixture as needed to thicken the gravy to the right consistency, starting with about three-quarters of the mixture. Taste to adjust the seasonings

Cut the meat in slices and serve it with the gravy spooned over it on the plate. Or break it into chunks and return the meat to the gravy to simmer. Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes.

Raspberry-Blackberry Crisp
Serves 4 to 6

I don’t like blueberries, which, I know, for many summer fruit lovers is a sin. On the other hand, I adore raspberries and blackberries, so when I make the proverbial summer fruit crisp—that generations of bakers have made in cast-iron skillets—they are the berries I choose. I think you’ll find the combination is fabulous!

Unsalted butter to grease the skillet
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups mixed fresh blackberries and raspberries
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar, depending on how sweet the berries are
2/3 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Put a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Lightly butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet.

In a large bowl, stir the cornstarch and lemon juice together until blended; add the berries and sugar, and gently stir to combine them evenly. Scrape the mixture into the skillet.

In the same bowl, combine the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, salt, and butter. Using a fork or your fingers, stir the mixture until it is crumbly and blended, and scatter it over the berries. Transfer the skillet to the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the topping is set and the berries are bubbling, about 40 minutes. Remove and cool for at least 15 minutes before serving the crisp from the skillet with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top.


Chilebrown said...

Clam and corn fritters caught my eye. I will have to give it a try.

Can I open my Christmas present now? It sure is heavy like some black iron. OH Yeah!!!

PaulDu said...

The Mom's Mac and Cheese with Bacon recipe says to use a dutch oven, but a skillet is shown in the picture. Can you do the whole thing in a skillet?