Here's something you may not know about Maria and me: I do most of the cooking in our house. When people hear that, they usually give Maria a look of surprise and ask her how she pulled that off. There is a little story there, but mostly it just makes sense for me to do most of the cooking. And since I spend more time in the kitchen, I have really come to appreciate some of the utensils and tools I use all the time. So I wanted to share one of my new favorites with you: my cast iron frying pan.
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How I Love My Cast Iron Pan, Let Me Count the Ways
There are three things I love about my cast iron pan. First, it heats really evenly and maintains that heat for a long time. That means there aren't any hot spots to avoid. It's all equally hot, so your food cooks really evenly.
Secondly: cast iron is easy to clean. Just a quick scrub with a brush, a rinse and some more oil in the pan to keep that seasoning going and to prevent rusting. “What's seasoning?” you ask? Cast iron holds a small amount of oil in the metal itself, which gives it its non-stick properties and prevents the iron from rusting. The oil in the metal is called seasoning. When you have a properly seasoned cast iron pan, its almost as non-stick as any Teflon pan out there.
And, last but not least: cast iron is oven-safe. Maria and I have some favorite recipes that call for frying something on the stove top and then moving it into the oven. With our cast iron pan, I can fry on the stovetop and then just throw the whole pan into the oven. It doesn't get much easier than that.
Cast iron does have one major drawback: it is heavy. I can hold the pan with one hand, but not for long. But, it's not like I'm taking the thing hiking. I just need to get it from the cabinet to my stovetop and back again. So the heaviness is not a big deal and it is certainly outweighed (ha! get it?!) by cast iron's advantages.
Now that I've worn my heart on my sleeve and shared my love for cast-iron, let's cook one of my favorite recipes so you can see it in action in all its glory.
Salmon with Guacamole
Yes, you read that right: salmon with guacamole. Trust me, it's delicious.
Before you even start worrying about the salmon, you need to figure out the guacamole. You can use store bought guacamole, but it never tastes as good as homemade. Maria and I really like this recipe she found a few years ago. Go ahead and make a batch of that first and put it in the refrigerator to cool down.
Next, you need to heat up the pan with a tablespoon or two of oil. Cast iron holds heat really well, so you don't need to go much higher than medium. While you're at it, you can start preheating your oven to 350º F.
Preparing the salmon is easy. The hardest part for me to learn was how to cut the skin off.
Lucky for you, I found this video by Gordon Ramsey demonstrating how to do just that with a whole filet of salmon. The salmon we buy is precut into smaller pieces, but the principle is the same.
After removing the skin, season the salmon with some salt and pepper.
By now, the frying pan should be plenty heated up, so throw the salmon into the oil in the pan. Since the salmon is going into the oven, it doesn't need to cook very long on the stove. Just a minute or two each side.
Once the other side is cooked, put the whole pan into the oven for about five minutes.
While the salmon is in the oven, you can cook your side dish. I decided on some basic asparagus. To cook, heat a tablespoon of oil in another frying pan over medium heat and put the asparagus stalks in the pan to start them cooking. It's not hard to cook asparagus on the stove. Turn it occasionally and it's done when it's tender.
When the salmon and asparagus are done, transfer them to a plate and put a layer of guacamole on top of the salmon.
Salmon and Guacamole Recipe
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 350º
Remove skin from salmon, season with salt and pepper
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in cast iron frying pan
Fry each side of salmon for 1-2 minutes in frying pan
Transfer pan to oven for five minutes
Transfer to plate, serve with guacamole
It's a pretty basic recipe, but it is delicious and it's one of my all-time favorites. And the cast iron pan is perfect for making a recipe just like this.
By the way, major shout-out to our Sony point-and-shoot camera for taking these amazing photos. That little guy is a champ when it comes to food photography and is so much easier to use in our windowless kitchen than our DSLR. If you want to see more photos of that camera in action or some more of our food photography, check out our Nashville post for a heck of a lot more photos.