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Casting a spell with cast iron

Maple Sticky Buns
Photo Source: MaryJane’s Cast Iron Kitchen

Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

Every once in a while, when I’m grazing through the stacks at McClintic Library, I come across a book that casts a spell on me and demands that I spend more than a little time with it.

MaryJane’s Cast Iron Kitchen, by MaryJane Butters, is such a book.

This marvelous cookbook contains more than 200 cast iron cookery recipes, each depicted in stunning color photography, and it’s also the closest thing I’ve ever come across to a cast iron cookware bible.

Anyone who loves their cast iron cookware and is casting about for a fresh batch of cast iron recipes, will love this book.
Or, if you’re a cast iron neophyte, just now considering casting your lot with cast iron, MaryJane’s Cast-Iron Kitchen will give you everything you need to become a professional “cast iron chef.”

Even if you’re not in the market for any cast iron recipes, this book may still speak to you, because it’s more than a cookbook – it’s like a “coffee table” book, dedicated to all things cast iron.

There are answers to common questions about using and maintaining cast iron, and a helpful photographic compendium of all sorts of cast iron cookware. It covers a lot of cast iron history, and it features lots of photographs of clever indoor and outdoor “object d’ cast iron.”

And it would make a wonderful Christmas gift.

You may borrow MaryJane’s Cast Iron Kitchen from McClintic Library, as I did. Or buy a copy of your own – it’s available on Amazon for $17.82 – and peruse the inspirational recipes at your leisure.

Here are a few recipes from MaryJane’s Cast Iron Kitchen, just to whet your appetite.

Roesti ~ Swiss Potato Cake
Uses a 10 1 /4” Cast-Iron Skillet
Makes 6 Servings
Roesti is a simple dish with many variations… It must not be stirred while cooking; it must be able to form its signature golden-brown crust.
2 1/2 lbs. potatoes, unpeeled
4 tsp. safflower oil, divided
2 tsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. salt
4 rosemary sprigs, de-stemmed and minced (about 2 tsp.)
2 Tbsp. milk
8 oz. sliced or shredded cheese such as Swiss, Emmentaler, Gruyere, raclette, Appenzeller or cheddar

1. The day before, boil or bake potatoes until semi-tender. Cool completely and refrigerate.
2. The next day, peel potatoes, if desired, and shred.
3. Heat 2 tsp. safflower oil and 1 tsp. butter over medium heat in a 10 1/4” cast-iron skillet. Spread potatoes evenly in the skillet and sprinkle with salt and rosemary. Using a large spatula, firmly press into a round cake. Sprinkle with milk.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low when potatoes begin to sizzle. Cook slowly, periodically pressing down with spatula, approximately 20 minutes or until a nice brown crust forms. Loosen with spatula, place platter or flat pan over skillet and quickly turn upside down. Add remaining 2 tsp. safflower oil and 1 tsp. butter to skillet. Slide Roesti back into skillet, browned side up.
5. Top with cheese and cover until cheese is melted and bubbly and the bottom of Roesti is also browned. Cut into wedges and serve.

Ham and Lima Bean Soup
Uses a 5-qt. Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Makes 8 Servings
1 lb. lima beans (about 2 1/2 cups), rinsed and soaked overnight
1 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, peeled and minced (about 2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (about 4 tsp.)
6 cups chicken broth
2 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 lb. cooked ham, shredded (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Rinse and drain lima beans; set aside.
2. Melt butter in a 5 qt. cast-iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until tender, stirring occasionally.
3. Add lima beans, chicken broth, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and continue to cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
4. After 3 hours, add ham and continue to cook on low 1 1/2- 2 hours, or until lima beans are tender.
5. Just before serving, remove and discard bay leaves and mix in parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Coffee Pot Roast
Uses a 5-qt. Lidded Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Makes 8 Servings
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 lbs. boneless chuck roast
salt and pepper
3 onions, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (about 1 Tbsp.)
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 bay leaves
2 cups strongly brewed coffee (use decaf when cooking for children)

1. Heat oil in 5 qt. cast-iron Dutch oven. Place roast in pot, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and brown for several minutes on all sides. Add onions, garlic and allspice around roast and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Place bay leaves on top of roast. Add coffee, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for 3-4 hours, until roast is very tender. Discard bay leaves.

Dutch Oven
Scalloped Potatoes
Uses 5 Qt. Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Makes 8 Servings
2 1/2 lbs. yellow potatoes sliced into 1/8” thick slices
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper, divided
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, shredded (about 1 cup), divided
2 cups heavy cream
2 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 5-qt. cast-iron Dutch oven.
2. Arrange potato slices in a single layer in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper, then add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Continue layering, ending with potatoes.
3. Pour cream over all and top with cheddar.
4. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until top is golden and potatoes are tender.

Maple Sticky Buns
Uses Cast Iron Mini Cake Pan
Makes: 7 Sticky Buns
1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Maple Glaze:
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly butter cups of a cast-iron mini-cake pan.
2. Make dough: In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and mix just until dough forms.
3. Dust a clean work surface with flour, place dough on surface, dust with more flour, and roll dough into a 12” x 15” rectangle.
4. Make filling: in a small bowl, combine pecans, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.
5. Spread filling over dough. Starting from a 12” side, roll dough up jellyroll-style. Cut roll into 7 slices and place a slice in each prepared mini-cake pan cup.
6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool in pan for 30 minutes
7. Make maple glaze: In a small bowl, combine melted butter, maple syrup and powdered sugar; mix until smooth. Evenly divide glaze between sticky buns and sprinkle with chopped pecans. You may serve immediately or wait for the glaze to firm up (about 15 minutes).

– – –

These are just a few of the tempting recipes that you’ll find in MaryJane’s Cast Iron Kitchen.

For instance, I would have liked to have featured:
Savory Dutch Baby
Mushroom Ragout Breakfast
Cabbage and Fennel Hash
Roasted Chicken and Squash with Herbed Honey Mustard
Fried Pot Stickers
Sweet Potato Rolls
I Might Die Tomorrow White Bread
Mama Butters’ Fried Scones
Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche with Potato Crust
Sesame Orange Chicken Legs
Caramel-Apple Cinnamon-Roll Wreath
Baked Bread-Pudding Apples
And more…

But my editor said I was getting a bit overzealous about MaryJane’s recipes.

When you check out the book at the library, or buy it, you’ll see why.

It’s full of brilliant ways to put a cast-iron cookware collection to good use.

And, if you haven’t got any cast-iron cookware, this book will surely make you want to get some.

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