Decades after my mother gave me her cast-iron Dutch oven, I still simmer minestrone and braise short ribs in it. I also bake huge servings of her mac ‘n’ cheese in a 14-inch black skillet for open house buffets. In the process, I feel connected to my past and more comforting times. While mostly cooking for two now, my 8- and 10-inch skillets are the ones I reach for. They’re amazingly versatile, almost indestructible, and even stylish, judging by high-end restaurants that serve in them. Plus they’re inexpensive and, once seasoned, easy to clean. These are some reasons I noticed novices and seasoned cooks buying cast-iron.
This trend prompted me to revisit some of my favorite cast-iron dishes and create new ones inspired by my travels around the world. Along with classics, there are recipes for shakshuka and seasonal pumpkin pancakes, mushroom flatbread, perfectly seared steak, and ooey-gooey toffee-coffee brownies—choices for every hour of the day and every season. Cast-Iron Cooking for Two is for anyone who enjoys preparing and eating delicious food as well as the adventure of discovering new and exciting dishes from across the street and around the world. And, in a time when we need to support those affected by global disasters, I am donating a percent of the book’s profits to World Central Kitchen, the global initiative founded by Chef José Andrés.
These pancakes remind me of the tastes of Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. Pumpkin, cornmeal, and dried cranberries, along with the flavors of pumpkin pie (easily bought already mixed in a single jar if your cupboard space is limited), are set off by candied pecans or pumpkin seeds and warm maple syrup with a touch of bourbon. When buying jarred herbs and spices, always check the expiration date. This recipe makes about five pancakes.
Recipe: Pumpkin-Cornmeal-Cranberry Pancakes with Candied Pecans
- Candied Pecans or Pumpkin Seeds (see recipe below)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons stoneground yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄3 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried cranberries
- Canola or other vegetable oil, for cooking the pancakes
- Maple syrup, warmed, with a little bourbon stirred in (optional)
Make the Candied Pecans or Pumpkin Seeds if using.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, pumpkin pie spice mix, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat the milk, pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Stir the pumpkin mixture along with the cranberries into the dry ingredients until blended.
Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add enough oil to cover the bottom. Ladle the batter by ¼-cupfuls into the skillet and cook until small bubbles form on the surface and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side. Turn and cook the second side until browned. Add a little more oil, if needed. Serve with Candied Pecans and maple syrup.
Recipe: Candied Pecans or Pumpkin Seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans or shelled roasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
In a nonstick skillet, combine the pecans, sugar, water, salt, and spice mixture. Cook over medium heat until the sugar melts and thickens, stirring often. It will take very little time. Transfer to a bowl and separate the nuts as the caramel cools and hardens.
Note: If you prefer to make your own pumpkin pie mixture, combine ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice.
Like these recipes as much as we do? Click here to purchase a copy of Cast-Iron Cooking for Two: 75 Quick and Easy Skillet Recipes. (A percent of the book’s profits will be donated to World Central Kitchen, the global initiative founded by Chef José Andrés.)