I adore my cast iron skillet and my housemate’s cast iron dutch oven and I use them several times a week. However, I have friends who are intimidated by their cast iron. When I saw Tiffany La Forge’s The Modern Cast Iron Cookbook on NetGalley, I was excited and hoped to find a cookbook I could share with my more tentative friends. Tiffany La Forge is a pastry chef and food writer. She has a blog, Parsnips and Pastries which I visit occasionally, though i didn’t realize that when I requested the book. This is an honest review.
As much as I love my cast iron skillet, I have a hard time describing to people why I love it. “It just feels right” and “I know how to get what I want from it” aren’t super persuasive to other people. The whole first chapter of La Forge’s book talks about the whys, hows, and heretofores of cast iron cookery and I will now refer people straight to it. I grew up in a cast iron skillet house, so it’s what I know. But other people need to learn. And frankly, I’ve had to unlearn some common misconceptions.
Another reason I like this cookbook is the recipes. She gives a nice spectrum of recipes that ably demonstrate the versatility of cast iron. I really appreciate that she includes a vegan/vegetarian section that is separate from the veggie and sides chapter. She also covers fish and poultry, meats, breakfast/brunch, breads, and desserts. The recipes are mostly creative while not relying heavily on current food fads. The exception is the Coconut Oil Skillet Brownie. Don’t eat coconut oil. It’s horribly bad for you. Coconut oil is great on the outside of your body.
I was delighted that she includes a pizza recipe. I’ve been using my cast iron skillet to make pizza for years and it works so beautifully.
The recipes are well written. She clearly indicates what kind of cast iron cookware you need – skillet, griddle, dutch oven, and so on.
The first recipe I tried was unplanned. I had planned to pair some braised chicken thighs with rice, but found I was almost out, so I decided to make Olive-Rosemary Focaccia and I had everything on hand. Warning, the dough is very slack, so don’t let that freak you out. It was delicious and has now gone into a regular rotation. I made it again last week, but topped it with thinly sliced cherry tomatoes, rosemary and salt.
Rosemary-Parsnip Pommes Anna with Goat Cheese
If you have a mandoline, this recipe is a must. And if you like to cook, you really should have a mandoline. Potatoes, parsnips, goat cheese and rosemary are all big favorites in my house. Also butter and salt and pepper. The pommes Anna was decadently crisp and melty. The bottom made an amazing crust. I loved the way the flavors came together.
I would definitely gift this book to a new cast iron owner, or someone looking to expand their recipe repertoire. I haven’t made them yet, but the beer battered zucchini tacos are going to happen soon.