Cast Iron cookware is a big part of my kitchen at home. What I really love about cast iron is the versatility it offers. You can deep fry, sear, saute, bake, braise and more all with ONE pan, and at a much lower price that most kitchen gear. Properly maintained cast iron is basically indestructible and can last you a lifetime. It also gets better and better with age so finding vintage, antique or hand me down cast iron can be a really great money saving gear option. My ever growing personal collection of cast iron is made up of about 60% vintage finds (mostly Wagner) and 40% new pre-seasoned pots and pans etc. (most Lodge).
The benefits of cast iron are well documented and much deserved. It really is a cheaper, healthier and long lasting option in the kitchen, but does have its own learning curve to master. The weight and heat retention of a cast iron pan, for example, are both very different than that of an aluminum or stainless steel pan and you have to account for that when you are cooking with it. It does not take much practice to get a good feel for the basic cooking differences with cast iron once you get started, but it will take some time, so it’s best to start off with something simple like fried eggs or sautéed onions then work your way into more complicated dishes.
Well-seasoned cast iron is naturally non-stick (as opposed to Teflon or other forms of non-stick) and will require less oil for cooking, making it healthier to cook with. There are even reports that suggest cooking with cast iron can help maintain the level of necessary iron in your bloodstream as it infuses the food you cook with trace amounts of iron. Aluminum pans do much the same thing, but aluminum is harmful while iron is not.
The big drawback of cast iron cookware is the damage that can arise from exposure to soaps, degreasers and water, but all of those issues are easily avoided if you simply research proper cleaning and care techniques. Lodge is an inexpensive high quality brand that produces new pre-seasoned cast iron cookware and has a great page for basic maintenance of cast iron.
This dish is something I have been refining for the past several years and it involves an acquired cooking technique that I think can only truly be achieved with a cast iron pan (though you are free to try it on anything else). If you have (or can find) a well-seasoned cast iron pan for this, the real trick is to get the pan super hot near the end of the recipe and sear and caramelize the sprouts without cooking them through so you get a nice char on the outside and a fresh crunch in the middle, which may or may not set off your smoke alarm.
You will need:
Brussel Sprouts (fresh off the stalk is best)
Sweet Yellow Onion
Garlic (German Hard is best)
Smoked Sausage (Pictured is Hartman’s Chicken Supremeo)
1 Stick Butter
HOT Hungarian Paprika
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Remove the Brussel sprouts from the stalk. Remove any dead or damaged outer leaves (discard) and thoroughly wash and drain the sprouts, then cut the cleaned heads in half, set aside.
Cut the sausage into bite-sized pieces, chop the onions and shallots into thin strips, rough chop the garlic into large mince pieces, and finely chop the parsley. Set all of these aside in separate prep bowls.
Boil the potatoes whole in hot salted water for about a half hour, or until cooked through, and set aside.
In a small pan melt 3/4th of the butter on a medium heat, add in the shallots and parsley reduce and simmer on a low heat during the rest of the preparation.
Heat up the cast iron pan on high heat, once hot add in about a quarter stick of butter, a splash of olive oil and reduce heat to medium. Add in the onion and garlic and sauté until they start to soften and color, then add in the sausage and cook until it just begins to brown. Add in the salt/pepper and HOT Hungarian paprika to taste and mix well. Remove sausage, onion, garlic and spice mixture from the pan and set aside.
Return the now empty cast iron pan to the stove, add in a bit more olive oil and turn heat to maximum high. Once the oil starts to lightly smoke add in the Brussel sprouts and sauté without stirring until the sprouts facing down on the pan start to turn dark golden brown (but not black) then toss and repeat the process once more. The outside edges of the sprouts should have a nice, thick caramelized layer but not be cooked completely through to the middle. Remove pan from heat and add back in the sausage, onion and garlic and mix well.
Drain the cooked potatoes and cross cut the tops on a serving plate. Pour the melted butter, shallot and parsley over the potatoes. Add the sprouts mixture from the cast iron pan to the plate alongside the potatoes and serve immediately.
Between Now and Then sharpen your blades and chew the fat:
J.Nevadomski (also known as Juda) is an accomplished musician, artist, art director and gallery curator from Rochester. He has recorded with musicians from all over the world for his project “The Fragile Path” (which he heads and produces) and is a veteran artist who’s paintings have been featured in galleries, newspapers and exhibitions throughout the Rochester area. In 2012 he was the “artist guest of honor” at RocCon: Rochester’s Anime, Sci-Fi and comic book convention. In April of 2016 he will be art directing and appearing as a guest artist for the Flower City Comic Con (FC3). He is a resident curator for the art gallery at Bread & Water Theatre, lives in the Park Ave area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden and regularly cooks and hosts dinner parties for friends and colleagues.