Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Cast Iron? Part II

This is part two of a series designed to pique your interest in cast iron cookware (and the little mitts I make to go on the handles. Sneaky, ain't I?).
In addition to being flat out fabulous cookware, cast iron also loves Mother Earth.

Disclaimer: I do not eat twigs and berries, have never had dreadlocks and do not belong to the Sierra Club or GreenPeace. So if you are looking for a hippie hero you've come to the wrong place. I am not a "green" expert.

I hate waste, in any form, so I appreciate that cast iron literally lasts for generations. A lot of cooks are using their Granny's cast iron pans and they are just as good today as they were 50 years ago (if not better). Cast iron is also recyclable but often there is no need; even the rustiest, nastiest pans can be reseasoned and put back to good use. So if you're considering a purchase, check your local thrift stores before paying retail.

Do you have any non-stick cookware that is flaking a little? Keep in mind that those flakes are being transferred to your food (and body) and also washed down the drain. The chemicals used to manufacture non-stick coatings, 4 of which never break down, are washed into our waterways and environment. And while the manufacture of cast iron is not without ramifications, it pales in comparison to the levels of toxicity generated by non-stick cookware. Here is a link to the eco-responsibility page of Lodge Mfg, if you're interested in reading about what they've done to reduce their environmental impact.

A couple of less obvious advantages of cast iron:
1. If you're caring for your pans properly, you aren't using soap to clean them. No detergents down the drain!
2. Cast iron holds heat exceptionally well, and so uses less energy to cook your meal.

Food for thought, and now some food for your tummy:

Cast iron lends itself remarkably well to going from stovetop to oven, so I always reach for my Dutch oven when its time to make

Pot Roast
3 1/2 - 4 lb pot roast
salt & pepper
2 T. vegetable oil
1 med. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 stem thyme
1 - 1/2 c. water
6 carrots, cut into lg. chunks
1 1/2 lb. potatoes, quartered

1. Heat oven to 300. Liberally sprinkle roast with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over med-high heat & brown roast on all sides. Remove and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to med-low, add onion; cook until it begins to soften. Add garlic, broth and thyme; scrape pan to release yummy browned bits. Return roast to pan and add just enough water to come halfway up the sides of roast (this is important: too little you're roasting, halfway you're braising, too much and you're just boiling the bejeebers out of it). Bring liquid to a simmer, cover with a lid and place in the oven.
3. Cook, turning every 30 minutes, for 2 hours. Add carrots and potatoes (you can also add the onion at this point; but I'm a fan of onion flavor, not necessarily a big bite of onion so I prefer mine cooked to mush). Cook another 2 hours, turning the roast every 30 min., or until the roast is tender. Remove roast and vegies (a slotted spoon is handy) to a warm platter. Strain the pan juices (I usually don't bother) and thicken to make gravy. Season to taste.

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