“What stories these pans could tell,” a student commented as she surveyed the assortment of cast iron cookware in which we were about to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. She wasn’t referring to the impeccable black Lodge skillet that would hold the cornbread. It was three weathered, enamel-coated dishes that drew her attention.
This was the first time anyone had shown any interest in these utilitarian objects that I routinely regard as empty pots waiting to be filled. How thoughtless of me. It’s time I wrote a tribute to the cast iron pots and pans that have served and continue to serve me so well.
The large, rectangular roasting pan pictured at the top of the page takes me back to my first dinner party as a young bride in the ’60’s. I was still working my way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art, when I cooked and served a pheasant pie in it. I clearly remember cutting up frozen artichoke hearts along with root vegetables. Artichoke hearts seem a strange choice to me today. I also have no recollection of how I managed to cover the entire surface of the dish with a pastry dough.
The Le Creuset casserole pictured above is a favorite because it’s broad shape makes braising easy to see and control. I enjoy watching ingredients meld together. Now a confession. Hidden beneath the surface of turkey thighs simmering in white wine and vegetables, the pan's enamel sides and bottom are stained almost black. Sorry, there’s no horror story to be told. The discoloration is the result of cooking black beans years ago. I like to think of it as cast iron patina.
This two quart oval gratin dish is another favorite for layered vegetables and fruit cobblers. The cranberry and apple crumble pictured above is a good example. The enamel has chipped away from the handles over the years giving it a rustic look that is not intentional. I've got to stop now. My memory is on overload thinking of the many times this pan has seen sliced potatoes, grated cheese and chunks of cold roast. The thought of steamy, cheesy gratins is making me hungry.
This year I am grateful for cast iron and all the utilitarian objects that allow me to be productive in the kitchen. I’m also grateful for those of you who read my blog and share my passion for life in the kitchen and at the table. Best wishes for a most satisfying Thanksgiving holiday.
Link to the recipes: