Roast above ingredients in a cast iron pan, oil-free, turning occasionally.Earlier this week I made up a double batch of that recipe, making appropriate substitutions in the chile peppers to use up what we had on hand. The recipe turned out really, really yummy, so feel free to steal the recipe and try it out. Be warned, however; that recipe doesn't make much. My double-batch made no more than a pint of salsa. You may want to double, quadruple, or octople it to get a decent amount.
(Side note: my spell checkers don't like the word "octople". They give as alternates: ectopic, ectoplasm, octopus, octopuses, octopus's, outplay, and topless. Somehow most of these aren't particularly appealing when writing in the context of salsa recipes; and I find it hard to imagine how someone trying to write the word "topless" in their browser window would have it come out "octople". Apropos of nothing, actually....)
Well, we didn't have that cast iron skillet, so we just used what we had on hand--an old Calphalon anodized aluminum griddle. Now, we like Calphalon--it's good, solid cookware, with some real thickness there that helps the heat spread evenly. And the anodized aluminum non-stick surface is much more durable than those teflon or silverstone coatings. We found that with these other coatings, we had to replace our cookware every two years or so. With our Calphalon, we've had it pretty much since we got married eight years ago.
But even anodized aluminum wears out over time. Our big frying pan, and our griddle, both had gotten to the point that pretty much everything sticks to them now. I've gotten pretty good at using deglazing as a cleaning method, but even so, it was getting to be too much work. When you have to scrub your non-stick surface for five minutes to get off the stuff that the dishwasher couldn't, then your non-stick surface, um... isn't.
So we went shopping today for some new cookware. We took the whole family.
You know, that's probably not so good an idea. The problem is that, whenever we go shopping as a family--even if we're trying to be responsible in following our strict shopping list--one of us will see something really cool and say, "Ooh! Oooh! Look at that! That's really cool. Isn't it cool? I think it is. Do you think we could use this? I think we could. Do you think we need it? I think we could need it. Or we could wind up needing it at some point. Or it would just be cool. You know?"
And the really depressing thing, is that some of the time the "one of us" who says things like this happens to be, um... to be, erm:
So I helped to pick out the cookware today.
Now, one of the really important factors that we consider when we select new pans is something I call the whaaaang factor. We originally liked Calphalon precisely because it scores high on the whaaaang factor scale. (Well, I originally liked Calphalon for its whaaaang factor; I suspect Tonya liked it for other, more practical/feminine reasons.)
Simply defined, the whaaaang factor is the sound the implement makes after it collides with the head of a burglar. A good, solid, well-made pan will give off a deep, resonant, satisfying whaaaang; less substantial cookware will give off a tinny ping sound. A pan with good whaaaang factor has some heft to it; it feels firm, solid, strong. It takes a good, solid grip to handle such a pan.
It feels good in the hand. On the head, not so much.
Well. As we walked the aisles in Target today looking for a skillet and a frying pan to replace the worn-out implements we had, we came across a couple of cast iron implements. I picked them up.
I fell in love. They were strong. They were masculine. They just exuded that aura that says: I make manly food. They were the ultimate in whaaaang factor. After holding those, I simply couldn't get excited about all that wimpy aluminum stuff.
So I began constructing a line of logical reasoning to convince my wife: "That's really cool. Isn't it cool? I think it is. Do you think we could use this? I think we could...."
Long story short (although it's really too late for that now, isn't it?): We now get to figure out the mysteries of the Care and Feeding of Cast Iron.
These are my babies. Aren't they beautiful?
Well, as I understand it (not having owned cast iron before): These pans are to be considered provisionally non-stick. That is, they are non-stick if you use them right; otherwise, be prepared for disaster. The idea, in a well-seasoned pan, is that a layer of oil is worked into the surface of the pan from all the previous times that you've been cooking. You typically heat up the pan before you put food in it each time; this renders that oil out, coating and lubricating the surface.
This also means that you're never supposed to wash the pans with dish detergent, if you can avoid it--and when you can't (like when you've just gotten them home from the store and you need to wash them because you don't know where they've been), you use a mild, diluted detergent. If you use the detergent, you'll remove that "seasoned" oil, and the pan will lose its non-stickiness. Rather than washing the pan, you rinse it, scrape it, and/or scrub it. But when it looks clean you dry it immediately (to keep it from rusting) and put it away. You never put it in a dishwasher.
So, it looks like we're going to have to do a whole lot more clean-up work with these pans than with our previous, which we could just rinse out and stick in the dishwasher.
Ah, but sometimes coolness has its price....
We haven't had the chance to try them out yet, but I'll let you know when I do. Cast Iron has a reputation as something that allows you to cook food hotter and more evenly than aluminum, since it's thicker and has a much higher specific heat capacity. I'll let you know how that works out.