I’ve wanted a cast iron skillet for a long time. Words like homey, heirloom, and Southern would come to mind every time I thought about it. I knew that if I owned a cast iron skillet I would season it to perfection, never let soap near it, and that I would fry chicken, bake cornbread, and sear pork chops happily for the rest of my days. I would make food for family, comforting and approachable, and as everyone gathered around my table they would delight in the sight of steam rising from some delicious concoction in my skillet.
We don’t even have children yet, but I was already daydreaming about the day when my treasured and well used cast iron skillet would be handed down to a grandchild. With fitting solemnity, I would hand the skillet to that chosen child and he or she would know that this was the ultimate family heirloom. Yes, if it hasn’t dawned on you yet, I was obsessed with owning a cast iron skillet.
It’s crackling now as I write this, the sound like water sprinkled over hot oil. And when I go to move the skillet into the oven, the smell of potatoes cooking in fat hits me even though the skillet itself is covered in aluminum foil. The smell reminds me of hash browns, French fries, and potato chips and it’s irresistible. I just ate lunch, but my stomach is grumbling in anticipation.
Pommes de Terre Anna, or Potatoes Anna, is a classic French potato dish. Russet baking potatoes are peeled and then thinly sliced and layered on top of one another in a skillet. Melted butter is brushed between each layer which is then seasoned with salt and pepper. While there are many ways to make it, perfection in my mind comes from first browning the bottom of the potatoes on the stovetop before transferring it to the oven. Once it has finished baking, you flip it out onto a dish, cut it into wedges and serve. Done right, you get a crispy outer crust that not only tastes, but also crunches, like freshly fried potato chips and an inside that is soft and buttery. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to beef, but pairs equally well with fish or chicken. The best part is that it’s simple to make, but its appearance and taste will most certainly impress family and friends around the table.
There are few things better in this world than freshly baked bread. The smell, the chewy center with a crunchy crust, and the warmth leftover from its time in the oven make it one of my favorite indulgences. In truth, I seem to lose all control around it as was evident when my brother came to visit a couple weeks ago. I had baked a loaf of bread for dinner that evening, but by the time we sat down for dinner it was a sorry sight with a huge gaping hole. I thought I was exhibiting great self-control by just nibbling on the crust, but I had obviously gotten a little carried away. Thankfully my family is forgiving and the bread was still delicious!
My love of fresh-baked bread means I want to make it every day, but I find that I only have time on the weekends. Multiple rises combined with kneading is time-consuming and it just doesn’t fit into my work week schedule. Or so I thought until a friend told me about this recipe for no-knead bread that was published in The New York Times a couple of years ago. The recipe comes from Jim Lahey of Sullivan’s Bakery and while the bread takes longer than your usual loaf to make, up to 20 hours, the good news is that you spend only a fraction of that time on it AND you don’t have to knead it. You see the long rise takes the place of kneading and gives you great tasting bread with just a little work and a little yeast.
I’m depressed. After a week in the Florida sun, enjoying Florida beaches, and eating Florida seafood, I’m having a hard time adjusting to life in land-locked Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s just not the same and frankly, not as fried.
When I think about seafood dinners, I think about chowing down on heaping plates of fried fish served with french fries and hushpuppies. An iceberg lettuce salad with blue cheese dressing is a great beginning, but everything else should be glistening, crunchy, and very brown. In short, I think frying is the absolute best way to prepare fish. And while deep frying is messy and best for a crowd, pan-frying requires less fat and is a little more suitable when cooking for a few or just you! So, what’s involved?