Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cast Iron Skillet

           Yes, I have a cast iron skillet named Jolene. Yes, I am OK with that.

            Durham is known for its food among other things. That particular topic is often a welcome part of conversations. I was talking to Lauren one evening about southern cooking…

Lauren is a Durham transplant herself; she has a passion for music and a passion for the south. She was the first person to ask me when I was moving to Durham. She asked that over one year before I actually moved. Before I was even thinking about it.

OK SO GOOD. I was talking to Lauren one evening about southern cooking before she disappeared into her kitchen and returned with a cast iron skillet. A “welcome home” gift she said. I have fond memories of cast iron skillets. Nana frying chicken on a splattering stove top. Mom cooking corn bread in the oven. I knew how much I enjoyed the food, but what I didn’t know is what you did with the skillet after you ate all of the food. Lauren gave me a crash course.

I understand that a cast iron skillet will last longer than I do if taken care of. In order for it to last it has to be given a bit more TLC than normal pots and pans receive. It has to be seasoned. In my mind seasoned is just a more caring version of bachelor washing.
Bachelor washing involves a few simple steps. Use the dish. Rinse the dish. Wipe the dish down. Place the dish back in the cabinet. I have had a fair amount of practice bachelor washing dishes. It is safe to say that before I moved to Durham, I hadn’t used a dishwasher in years. Yes, I said it. Seasoning the skillet is similar, though not necessarily the same. There are two ingredients in seasoning a cast iron skillet that aren’t in bachelor washing. Oil and love.
Cleaning a cast iron skillet involves a few simple steps as well. Clean the skillet after use, while it is still hot or warm. Do not soak the pan or leave it in the sink. Wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or a stiff brush. Soap is not recommended, and harsh detergents should never be used. Now you are speaking my language. Towel dry the skillet. Apply a light coat of cooking oil to the inside of the skillet. I like to coat the outside also. NEVER wash in dishwasher. Enjoy a lifetime of bachelor washing and delicious food.

            With all of the enjoyment,  care and attention, I felt that my heavy hunk of iron deserved a name. A southern lady name. A name like Jolene. Like the Dolly Parton song, but in my head it is the Jack White version. The version that goes through my head every time I break out the oil to carefully season her.

            You can have your choice of pans, but I could never cook again. You're the only skillet for me, Jolene.