Cast-Iron Cooking

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New life for this old-school technique

April is calling. After we’ve been indoors for the cold season, spring flowers and warmer weather tempt us to pull out our backpacks, hiking shoes, trowels and garden clogs to commune with nature. These recipes are fuel for hikers and gardeners alike. Cooked over a campfire or at home in your kitchen, these dishes will wait patiently for you to finish your fun or can be easily transported to where the fun happens.

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: CAMPFIRE COOKING

Please note that the following recipes are designed to cook in an oven or on a stove. To convert to campfire cooking will take a little trial and error, but we can offer some guidance.

The International Dutch Oven Society recommends placing coals in a checkerboard pattern underneath a Dutch oven when frying, sautéing and making soups and stews. Place coals on top for browning and to melt cheeses.

When baking, the society says to place coals on top and underneath your Dutch oven, arranging them in rings, and provides a handy formula for achieving a target cooking temperature of 325 degrees: 2 times, minus 4. First, take the size of the Dutch oven in inches and double the number. Place half that number of coals on top of the Dutch oven and the other half under. Then move four coals from underneath to the lid. Form the coals in a ring around the outside edge of the lid.

As you learn to cook over a campfire, know that cooking times may be quicker than in your kitchen, so check your food more often than you would when cooking at home. Keep an eye on what you’re preparing, observe basic food-safety guidelines and have fun in another aspect of the great outdoors!


Smothered Chicken with Mushrooms

Yield: 6 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 (8-ounce) package whole mushrooms, washed and sliced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and sliced
1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
2 tablespoons dry red wine or sherry

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute 4 minutes. Meanwhile, place the flour, salt and pepper in a large zip-top bag and add the chicken pieces, shaking to evenly coat.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining butter and oil to the Dutch oven and stir until the butter is completely melted. Add the chicken pieces and brown on both sides, around 3 minutes per side. Work in batches if necessary. Add the reserved mushrooms, garlic and onions to the Dutch oven. Pour the cream and wine or sherry over the top. Place a piece of buttered parchment paper over the top of the chicken and cover. Bake 50 minutes and serve warm.


Turkey and Black Bean Chili

Yield: 6-8 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1½ pounds ground turkey
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 (12-ounce) jar salsa
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (14.5-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

Place the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and cook completely, using a spatula to break apart the meat as it cooks. Stir in the bell peppers, salsa, tomatoes, beans, beer, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne and jalapenos. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 30-45 minutes. Adjust seasonings if necessary and serve warm.


Golden Potato and Leek Soup

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ cups diced leeks, white parts only
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
3 thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ cup heavy cream
2 green onions, chopped for garnish
Grated Cheddar cheese for garnish

Place the butter in a large Dutch oven over low heat. Add the leeks and cook 7-9 minutes, stirring often. Add the potatoes, thyme, garlic, stock, salt, pepper and cayenne. Increase heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. Remove and discard thyme. Partially mash the potatoes with a potato masher and stir in cream. Remove from heat, cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve warm with a sprinkling of green onions and cheese.


Yellow Pea and Ham Soup

Yield: 6 servings

2 cups dried yellow peas (or you can use green peas)
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1½ cups diced smoked ham
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Crunchy croutons for garnish

Place the peas, stock, carrots, onions, garlic, ham, allspice, salt and pepper in a Dutch oven over low heat. Stir and simmer for 1 hour. Serve warm with crunchy croutons on top.


Fruit Cobbler — one recipe, many options throughout the season!

Yield: 6 servings

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1¼ cups sugar, divided
1 cup self-rising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups any fresh or frozen fruit (if frozen, do NOT completely thaw)

Place the butter in a Dutch oven and place in a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, allowing the butter to melt.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, use a fork to combine the milk, 1 cup sugar, flour and cinnamon, just enough to thoroughly wet all the ingredients. Do not try to get rid of lumps in the batter. When the butter has completely melted, pour the batter directly on top. Immediately place all the fruit evenly on top of the batter, then sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until crust has risen to the top and is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Cheesey-Beefy Cornbread

by Betty Mayfield Thomas
Requires Lodge 10¼-inch Skillet
Serves 4

1 pound ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
1½ cups self-rising cornmeal
½ cup self-rising flour
2 eggs
1 (8-ounce) can cream-style corn
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup milk
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

Lightly grease skillet, place on medium heat and brown ground beef with taco seasoning. Remove from heat, remove meat from skillet and drain. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix cornmeal, flour, eggs, corn, oil and milk in a bowl and pour half of mixture into the greased skillet where the meat was cooked. Top with meat mixture, onions, cheese and jalapenos. Pour remaining cornmeal mixture over top. Spread evenly. Bake for 50 minutes. Cool about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


Fried Green Beans

by Frances Porter
Requires Lodge 9-inch Skillet

1 (14.5-ounce) can Allen’s green beans
2 strips of bacon

Drain beans. Fry bacon in skillet until crisp. Crumble bacon and return to skillet. Add beans to skillet and brown. Serve with cornbread and sliced tomatoes.


Baron of Beef Au Jus

by Norma Ryding Neperud
Requires Lodge 5-quart Dutch Oven
Serves 6

1 tablespoon cooking oil
4-pound rump or sirloin tip roast
1 package Lipton’s onion soup mix
1 (15-ounce) can chicken broth
1 bay leaf

Heat oil in Dutch oven and place on top of stove. Turn heat to medium-high, place roast in Dutch oven and sear until brown on all sides. Add onion soup mix, chicken broth and bay leaf. Cover and bake in 275-degree oven for 4 hours or until done. It will take 6 hours if you start with a frozen roast. Remove the bay leaf and slice the roast. Serve with whipped potatoes and biscuits to take advantage of the delicious gravy.


Aunt Mary’s Pot Roast

by Virginia “Ginger” England
Requires Lodge 5-quart Dutch Oven
Serves 6

4- or 5-pound chuck roast
1 (12-ounce) can of beer
1 envelope Good Seasons Italian Dressing

Put roast in Dutch oven and place on top of stove on high setting to sear on all sides. Then add the beer and Italian dressing. Set oven to 275 degrees or 300 degrees and bake 3 to 4 hours. Variation: Add quartered onions, celery strips, carrots and potatoes to the last hour of cooking.


Tennessee Chocolate Gravy

by Judy Maness
Requires Lodge 10¼-inch. Skillet
Makes 2 cups

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups milk

Melt butter or margarine in skillet. Mix together dry ingredients. Add vanilla and milk to dry ingredients. (May mix better if put in clean mayonnaise jar with lid and shake well.) Pour into skillet with melted butter and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until thick. Serve with hot biscuits.


Fried Corn

by Gladys Streeter Wooten
Requires Lodge 10¼-inch Skillet Serves 4

6 large ears fresh corn (yellow or white)
3 tablespoons bacon grease
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup milk
1 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a sharp knife, remove kernels from cob. Pour bacon grease in skillet and heat.

Combine corn, flour, sugar, milk and water. Add corn mixture to bacon grease. When mixture is hot, add butter, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until corn is tender.


Apple Pie

by Lynda King Kellerman
Requires Lodge 10¼-inch Skillet

2 pastry crusts
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
5-6 cups pared, finely chopped apples
½ stick butter or margarine, melted in melting pot

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line skillet with one pastry crust. Stir cinnamon into sugar. Alternate layers of apples and layer of sugar mixture. Add melted butter last. Add top sheet of pastry crust. Cut slits or other decoration in top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake on middle rack of oven with foil on the bottom rack to catch spills. When pie has baked for about 20 to 30 minutes, cover the edges with aluminum foil to keep them from becoming too brown. Total baking time is 45 to 60 minutes or until brown.


Blackberry Cobbler

by Bertha Russell Gonce
Requires Lodge 10¼-inch Skillet

1¼ cups flour, divided
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar, divided
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups fresh unsweetened blackberries
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 1 cup of flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat together ½ cup butter and ½ cup sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and beat. Combine milk and vanilla and add with dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Pour into greased skillet. Spoon the berries over the batter. Combine the remaining ½ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of flour, cinnamon and 3 tablespoons butter. Mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over the berries. Bake for 35 minutes. Good topped with ice cream or whipped cream.


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

by Faye Marsh
Requires Lodge 10¼-inch Skillet
Serves 8 to 10

Topping

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup butter
½ teaspoon salt

Cake

1 cup sugar
½ cup margarine, softened
2 eggs
1¾ cups flour, sifted 3 times
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In the skillet, cook the pineapple, brown sugar, butter and salt until the topping thickens slightly. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Combine dry ingredients in another bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients and milk alternately to the mixture. Add the vanilla. Mix well. Pour batter by spoonfuls over the pineapple mixture in the skillet. Bake for about an hour or until the cake tests done. Turn out onto large plate and cut into wedges.

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About Author

Tammy Algood

Originally from Starkville, Miss., Tammy Algood is a viticulture and wholesale produce specialist for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Market Development Division. She has a Bachelor’s of Science from Mississippi State University and a Master’s from Middle Tennessee State University.

She writes about food for The Tennessean and monthly for The Tennessee Magazine. As the spokesperson for the statewide “Pick Tennessee Products” campaign, Tammy also develops recipes for their website at www.picktnproducts.org.

Broadcast appearances include Nashville’s local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates as well as statewide on PBS. Tammy can also be seen nationally on the HGTV and DIY networks.

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