I bought my first cast-iron skillet in my early twenties. I didn’t have much of a budget for cookware in those days and all the advice I read said that cast iron was the best bang for my buck. All I really knew is that I didn’t want to deal with flimsy, peeling, nonstick pans anymore.
I was initially a little nervous about introducing cast iron into my kitchen, because I’d grown up with a mother who hated cast iron with a passion. She thought it was too heavy, fussy to care for and entirely unsanitary (because you’re not supposed to scrub it with soap. My mother is a firm believer in the power of a good, sudsy scour).
When my parents got married, she actually got rid of my dad’s beloved collection of cast-iron skillets. Forty-two years later, those long-gone skillets continue to be one of the few bones of contention in their marriage.
With this history, it’s understandable that I was uneasy about my own cast-iron purchase. Turns out my anxiety was entirely unwarranted. I fell hard for that first skillet, so much so that I added several others to my kitchen in short order. If my husband tossed out my skillets, I do believe it would be grounds for divorce.
These days I have four cast-iron skillets in my kitchen that I use all the time. The smallest one gets pressed into service for egg cookery on a near-daily basis (a little pat of butter helps prevent sticking). The next size up is the perfect size for toasting spices, nuts and sandwiches. The two largest can sear meat, roast vegetables, make pizza and, if the need arises, beat off intruders. I could not operate my kitchen without them.
I spotted Jamie Dean’s recipe for Cast-Iron Skillet Focaccia a few weeks back when I was looking for a quick carb to serve with soup (the arrival of autumn means lots and lots of soup). I nearly always have an extra ball of pizza dough stashed in my freezer for quick homemade pizza and that night was no exception.
Once the dough was defrosted, it was just a matter of heating up my biggest skillet, arranging the dough inside it and topping it with rosemary, red onion slivers and a shower of Parmesan cheese. Easy enough and quite delicious when served warm. As we head into the colder months, having a relatively easy homemade bread technique like this one can be such a lifesaver on chilly nights. I think it’s just the thing for your cast-iron skillet and The Weekender.
Before you heat your skillet, here are a few things you should know:
– Jamie instructs you to start with grocery store pizza dough. There are a lot of really great ready-to-use pizza doughs out there and they’re an incredible time-saver. If you want to take this homemade thing just one step further, however, you can start with dough you made from scratch.
– Don’t be stingy with the oil. Grease the pan generously before adding the dough, otherwise you’re asking for it to stick.
– Think of the rosemary, red onions and Parmesan cheese as a starting place. Feel free to branch out and add other toppings to this focaccia if you feel so moved.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.