Perhaps you grew up in a house where a cast iron skillet sat as a permanent fixture atop your mother’s stove. Maybe you’re a southerner like me and your grandmother had not just one skillet, but a sprawling collection of cast iron cookware in a filled-to-the-brim cabinet in her kitchen.
If you grew up in a cooking household, you know how cast iron cookware becomes a family heirloom. What begins as the foundation of a memory of the place you first learned to cook ultimately becomes the centerpiece of your very own grown-up kitchen. But if you didn’t grow up with a cast iron-wielding matriarch, then I’m here to tell you it’s never too late to begin this tradition.
Lodge Cast Iron, an old American manufacturer of cast iron cookware founded in 1896, just released their second cookbook that reaches deep into the soul of cooking and puts forth a collection of recipes from chefs across the country that speak the language of tradition to a new generation of cast iron lovers. The book begins with Lodge-Kellerman family recipes and transitions into an array of new recipes from restaurateurs, cookbook authors, and chefs like Mark Bittman, delightfully interspersed with these chefs’ anecdotal tales of culinary wisdom.
I spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon curled up on the couch wandering through the cookbook. I was delighted to find that Cast Iron Nation showcases time-honored classics like Fried Chicken with Hot Pepper Honey, Cheddar-Buttermilk Biscuits, and Grandmother’s Apple Pie alongside new American favorites like California Style Carnitas and Roast beef, Blue Cheese, and Onion Jam Panini. Each recipe displays a small map icon to refer the reader to the recipe’s place of origin, and I was admittedly surprised by how many of these recipes colored the map in regions outside the Southeast. Cast Iron Nation proved to my southern heart that soul food really can come from the west coast!
On a quest to make something hearty, I settled on rustic California recipe from Al Hernandez of The Vine Times: Lamb Chops with Garlic Mint Sauce and Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes”. It’s a fairly simple yet gorgeously elegant recipe. After searing the lamb and prepping the cauliflower, you simply plate the main components and top if off with a fuss-free, flavor-packed sauce. The classic mint/lamb flavor combo is luscious as ever against a fluffy cauliflower mash. I recreated it without any substitutions and highly recommend giving it a try!
Lamb Chops with Garlic Mint Sauce and Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes”
12 (1- to 1 1/2 inch-thick) lamb loin chops
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Season the lamb chops on both sides with salt; set aside.
2. In small bowl, mix the mint, garlic, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together. Add 1/4 cup of the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, until it thickens into an emulsion. Taste for salt. Set aside.
3. Bring 1/4 to 1/2 inch water to a boil in a covered medium saucepan over medium heat. Place the florets in a steamer basket, set in the saucepan, cover, and steam until the cauliflower is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. While the cauliflower steams, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a Lodge 15-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat about 1 minute. Add the lamb chops (you may need to cook them in batches), and cook 2 to 5 minutes per side, depending on their thickness and your desired degree of doneness (2 to 3 minutes per side for rare and 5 minutes plus for medium-well). Remove to a plate, cover with aluminum foil, and let stand while you finish the cauliflower.
5. Remove the steamer basket from the saucepan, and discard the steaming water. Melt the butter in the pan, add the florets, and mash as you would for mashed potatoes. (For a smoother consistency, do this in a blender or food processor.) Add the cream, and heat through over low heat, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. To serve, spoon cauliflower mash in the center of each plate, surround with 3 lamb chops, and spoon a little of the sauce over each chop. Serves 4
*Recipe reprinted with permission of Lodge Manufacturing Company
If you’re craving lighter fare, check out another recipe from the cookbook on the SideChef iPad app: Spinach, Tomato, and Bacon Frittata. We’re also featuring a simple Skillet Roast Chicken recipe from Cast Iron Nation for you to try!
Whether you’re building your cookware collection or already have a well-seasoned skillet in your kitchen, this cookbook is an instant classic that you’ll find yourself returning to season after season.
*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook from Lodge Manufacturing Company to review. All opinions expressed are my own.