Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TLC for Your Cast Iron

When using a cast iron skillet it's very important to care for the pan properly. The first thing to remember is: never wash a skillet in the dishwasher! Sometimes, especially after cooking egg dishes, you will have to briefly soak the skillet before scrubbing. Never use metal to scrape the pan. To clean an care for the skillet after each use:
  1. Hold the pan under hot water add a little mild dishwasher soap, and scrub it clean with a nylon scrub pad or a stiff-bristled, non-metal brush.
  2. Dry the pan immediately with a towel and rub it lightly with olive oil to keep it from drying out.
  3. Line the pan with a paper towel and store in a warm, dry place. Store lids separately to allow air to circulate around the pan and lid to prevent condensation, which can lead to rust spots; or keep your pain in the oven, and every time you turn it on the pan will reseason itself.
  4. If food begins to stick, simply place the pan on the burner on high heat for a minute or two. Take the pan off hte heat source and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil. Using an old rag, scrub the inside of the pan. Wipe out any leftover salt and let the pan cool. After the pan has cooled, buff it one more time with a clean rag. That's all there is to it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chicken with Herbed Dumplings

This recipe is a family favorite (especially with my kids) for a wintertime Sunday dinner, served with a fresh green salad. The herbs in the moist dumplings and the coarse salt on top really set this dish apart The dumplings usually disappear first, but we like to serve the leftover chicken and vegetables over mashed potatoes the next day.

Chicken with Herbed Dumplings

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

2 Pounds bonelss, skinless chicken breast halves (For a great tasting time-saver, just use the meat from a rotisserie chicken from your local supermarket!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 ounces small white mushcoorms, cleaned, stems trimmed, and halved
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
3/4 cup frozen peas

Herbed Dumplings
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 Tablespoons chilled butter
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or fleur de sel

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.
  • To prepare the chicken, rinse the chicken breasts, pat them dry, and cut them into 1 inch strips. Season with salt and pepper and divide into 3 batches. Heat 1 Tablespon of the olive oil in a 10"-12" cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the first batch of chicken and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and repeat with the remaining 2 batches, adding another Tablespoon of olive oil for each batch. Set the chicken aside.
  • In the same skilled melt the butter over medum heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour. Slowly add the chicken stock, cream, and sherry, whisking often, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, nutmeg, oregano, and thyme. Generously season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. Return the chicken strips to the skillet and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Mix in the peas.
  • To prepare the dumplings, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut the chilled butter into tablespoon-sized slices. Using a pastry blender and working quickly so the butter remains cold, cut in the bitter until the ieces are pea-sized. (You can also transfer the flour mixture to a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the butter, and pulse 5 or 6 times.) Gently mix in the rosemary, using your hands or a spatula. Add the milk and mix gently just until the ingredients are wet and slightly sticky.
  • Using a large spoon, scoop up some of the dumpling mixture and drop it on top of the chicken mixture. Repeat until all the dumpling mixture is used (you should have about 10 dumplings.) Sprinkle the tops with the kosher salt and return the skillet to the oven. Bake until the dumplings are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. If you want to brown the tops of the dumplings more, brush the tops with melted butter and turn on the broiler for the last few minutes, keeping a close eye on the dumplings at this point. Serve from the skillet.