Archived entries for cast iron

Savory Summertime, Here At Last: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I know. I know! You thought it would never happen, didn’t you? You thought that we would be mired in rain and cold and terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days forever, didn’t you. Well, check this: miracle of miracles, the sun has decided to finally make a prolonged appearance in our skies! This has had a few immediate impacts on my life. One, after a weekend spent largely outside I no longer look like a fishbelly. And two: PIC. NIC. TIME. If you know me, you know what picnic time means! Buttermilk fried chicken!


As so many good recipes do, this one comes to us straight from everyone’s favorite culinary scientist, Alton Brown. He’s kind of like the wacky uncle of the food world, and I bet he’d be a kick in the pants to hang out with. At any rate, his fried chicken sure is! An overnight soak in buttermilk is the extra-special secret, the reason why, no joke, every single person who ate a piece last weekend said some variation on, “My god, how did you make it so tender and moist?” followed immediately by a conversation about how nobody likes the word “moist.” But tender it is, and moist it is, and when you eat it you will even be willing to overlook profligate usage of that particular word.


The other secret is the dousing of the buttermilk-soaked chicken with a little spice rub. It’s no secret blend of herbs and spices — salt, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne — but it makes it just a little spicy, just a little salty, and a whole lot awesome.


I also like to take the opportunity to practice my butchering skills; I generally get whole chickens and carve them into their component pieces, but feel free to give yourself a headstart with pre-portioned bits. One thing I do recommend, because it is fun and also because it makes the resulting bits way easier to eat when you’re in a park, is to remove the bone from the thigh, if applicable.


When you’re frying, you should be able to fit two of each (breasts, thighs, drumsticks) into the pan at the same time. Don’t be afraid to rotate them around a little as you near the end of the frying time — because they’re essentially folded in half, I find it particularly helpful to prop the thighs up on the open side to help seal them shut into delicious little packages of fried chickeny goodness. Ideally when you serve this, all of your friends will have also brought something to share so you shouldn’t have to worry about sides and all that. Just sit back, and enjoy the accolades. And the chicken. Enjoy that, too.

Do you have a favorite picnic recipe? Let us know in the comments!
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Ol’ Smokey: Sugar and spice crusted salmon.

Disclaimer: we here at Pithy and Cleaver do not condone unplugging your smoke detector. However, if you ever decide you really WANT to live on the edge and shut it down, this is probably the recipe to cook while it’s offline. Because I’m not gonna lie: this dish is smoky. Like, really smoky. But it is so good, so quick, and so unexpected, that I can tell you with absolute certainty that it is worth it.


The recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, and it’s so simple that it doesn’t even get a real recipe–just a few descriptive sentences at the bottom of a page near the end of the book. Basically, make a spice rub. Dredge your salmon in it. Sear it in turboheated oil for two minutes on each side, and enjoy. Enjoy the melting, rare flesh inside, and the smoky, sweet, spicy crust that builds up on the outside. Enjoy it with a nice salad and your best friend. Enjoy it on those nights when you are desperate for delicious food but have no more than ten minutes to devote to creating it.

And for the love of all things holy, enjoy it with the windows open.

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Maintain, maintain, maintain: Seasoning your cast iron pans

I had the incredible good fortune yesterday to score a 10″ cast iron skillet for $5. No lie. I was on the prowl for one because I’ve got it into my head to make a Tortilla Espanola for dinner Monday night, and virtually every recipe I’ve come across has been adamant in specifying that if you hope to get out of the tortilla alive, you need to cook it in a cast iron skillet. Not being one to flout authority, I figured I’d bite the bullet and heed their advice.

The pan I got advertised itself as pre-seasoned; I didn’t believe it for one second, and wasn’t going to be satisfied until I’d seasoned it myself. The seasoning of pans is one of those topics where there are as many opinions are there are chefs. Some advocate oiling the pan and then heating it on the stovetop; others filling it with a few tablespoons of lard and baking it at 500 degrees until it’s run dry. I prefer a simpler, less scary method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350
  2. Oil the pan using vegetable shortening (you could use lard, too, I suppose. Just use something that’s unlikely to go rancid). Lube it up generously, but wipe away any obvious excess.
  3. Put a rimmed cookie sheet or some cleverly folded foil at the bottom of your oven to catch any drippings
  4. Place your pan in the oven, upside down, over the cookie sheet/foil and bake it for about an hour. Remove from the oven and let cool thoroughly. Repeat as necessary.

That’s it! Some purists would argue that you need to repeat this process after every use of the pan; I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who has that kind of time. In my opinion, you can get away with reseasoning every couple of months, particularly if you use your pan to cook things with a decent amount of fat on them (every bit of grease helps in keeping your pan happy!).

Take care of your pan, and it will take care of you!

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