By Carleton Varney
Special to the Daily News
Black cast-iron skillets have gone chic, very much in style for today’s party planners and gourmet cooks. To prove this point, Charlotte Druckman has written one of the best skillet cookbooks I’ve ever seen. The book — Stir, Sizzle, Bake: Recipes for Your Cast-Iron Skillet (Potter Publishers) — points out that cast-iron skillets are the “work horses of home cooking” and are “typically associated with rustic cooking.”
But don’t be fooled. The recipes and pictures show extra dark espresso brownies fit for serving on the queen’s dinner table. I’m sure the queen’s kitchen has many a black cast-iron skillet — large, medium, and small — and certainly a few black iron corn muffin trays as well.
And with the holiday season upon us, I think the skillet recipe for the apple quince pie from Druckman’s book would be just right for your next celebratory dinner.
In my many years of shopping the flea markets of the world, I have often found skillets at very reasonable prices — and I am a buyer. I love the old-fashioned look of the black skillet and I imagine the kitchens in which the skillets were used every day.
There’s nothing like a country kitchen in which skillets of all sizes are at the ready of the cook; those kitchens’ brick walls and beam ceilings always bring back memories. I think of my grandmother’s home in Berwick, Maine, or homes I’ve visited in Ireland, where black skillets can be found resting atop ovens. The pans may be heavy but remember, they are workhorses. And given the right care, they’re surprisingly easy to clean. In her cookbook, Druckman devotes some paragraphs to their cleaning and care.
These old soldiers turned chic cookers of today will last forever, unlike many of the frying pans made today that I have to toss out when their non-sticking character goes weak! Today seems to be the day of the disposable — what is today is not to be tomorrow. Chopping gadgets, high-tech blenders or whatever else they are peddling may be fine for the moment, but I fear will not be around tomorrow.
From a decorator’s point of view, the cast-iron skillet’s cousin, the iron bean pot, remains a handsome accessory. Plant one with parsley or another favorite herb and your kitchen window will say summer time all year round.
When thinking gifts for the holidays, why not introduce friends to the chic art of today — cooking with skillets?
- Carleton Varney -
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