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Skillfully using skillets
Ladies gather to discuss cast iron cookware tips
Colorful daffodils fill a kettle and bring a touch of spring to the Midway FCEC table of assorted cast iron items.

Just about every Southern home has a well-seasoned and well-used cast iron pan. Maybe it’s a favorite skillet, cornbread or muffin pan or Dutch oven that's been handed down through the family. A beloved piece of cast iron cookware is truly a treasure.
Family and consumer science agent Vicki S. Lofty knows the importance of cast iron, as she is with the Marion County UT-TSU Extension. Marion County is the home of Lodge Manufacturing Company, which manufactures cast iron cookware.
“We know the cast iron cookware has been around since the 1900s, with many of them still used for every-day cooking,” said Lofty. “It’s almost indestructible.”
Ladies from Warren and surrounding counties gathered at the Warren Administration Building for the FCE Visitation Day to share ideas and hospitality. Lofty presented her program before welcoming local basketmakers Sue Williams and Brenda Kucharski to discuss their rare and endangered folk craft.
Lofty told the group not to despair if their cast iron pan has become rusted. They can be revived and work great once again with a little work.
To season a new pot, wash with soapy water, rinse and dry well. Then coat the entire surface with oil or melted shortening, including the outside, the handles and any lids. Then place the pot in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes. After it cools, remove melted fat with a paper towel, and it’s ready to go.  Do this every time you use the pan.
Sometimes skillets have to be re-seasoned by doing the same process, just leave it in over for 2 hours. Never put iron pots in the dishwasher or microwave.
Many of the new cast iron pans are “pre-seasoned,” so you don’t have to go through the same process as you do with an older pan. It does have to be washed and continue to oil the pans.
An assortment of recipes using cast iron include:

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples
3/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound pork tenderloin trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 pieces
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced unpeeled Braeburn or Gala apple
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup apple cider
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Combine first 5 ingredients; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over pork. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remover port from pan; keep warm.
Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat. Add apple slices, 1/3 cup shallots, and1/8 teaspoon salt; saute 4 minutes or until apple starts to brown. Add apple cider to pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until apple is crisp-tender. Stir in thyme leaves. Serve apple mixture with the pork. 

Dark Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
Serves: 4-6 servings
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chocolate dark chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
In an 8-inch cast iron skillet, melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat.
When butter is melted, add the granulated sugar and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Beat the egg, and add a small amount (about ¼ cup or so) of the melted sugar and butter to the egg mixture (to temper it) and whisk to combine.
Pour egg mixture back into the skillet, and stir until completely combined.
Add the flour, baking soda and salt. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir to completely incorporate the dry ingredients.
Add vanilla and chocolate, and stir to combine.
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Serve warm.

Cast Iron cajun Chicken
3 -4 skinless chicken breasts
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 1⁄2 tablespoons butter
2 -3 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Seasoning (adjust to taste)
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed white peppercorns
1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 -5 tablespoons water
Sprinkle chicken breasts with half the amount of Tony’s seasoning. Set aside.
Warm up the skillet over medium high heat. Add lard or butter and allow to melt.
Add onions and sautee until they look carmelized (they should turn a nice light brown in the cast iron pan, but not burned).
Add the remaining Tony’s, crushed white peppercorns and garlic powder to onions and stir. Turn heat down to medium.
Add chicken breasts and allow them to brown on one side. Flip each breast. Spoon onions on top of breasts.
Add a few tablespoons water. Turn flame down to low/medium and cover pan.
Simmer for 20 minutes, checking occasionally.
Serve. The gravy and onions are great over rice.