Is your cast-iron skillet gathering dust in a cabinet somewhere? No matter how low your cooking skill level is, you can make quick, fun dishes that will make your stomach happy and boost your cooking confidence.
Egg in the Hole (aka Pirate’s Eyes, Egg Boat)
Put a pat of butter in the skillet over low to medium heat. Cut a circle in the middle of a slice of bread. If you don’t have a circle biscuit or cookie cutter, use the mouth of a small drinking glass (about 2 inches in diameter). Slather butter on both sides of the rest of the slice. Place it in the skillet over medium heat and brown one side. Flip it over to begin cooking the other side, but this time, crack an egg in the hole. Add salt and pepper to the egg to taste.
As the egg crackles in the butter and firms up, flip the egg in the hole over with a spatula to cook the other side. If you’re like me, you prefer to cook the egg thoroughly for food safety concerns.
Don’t forget to fry up that cute discarded circle of bread, too. Tasty!
One of my favorite breakfast dishes is breakfast fries. Depending on your own appetite, or the appetites of those you’re cooking for, you’ll need about one large potato per person. Cube the potatoes. I suggest using Baby Reds; they’re so flavorful that I don’t even mess with adding in onions, garlic, etc.
Cover the spuds with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Put them on the stove-top at medium-high heat, taking care to flip them often with a spatula. Or place the skillet in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes. Keep an eye on the fries and turn them with a spatula at least half-way through baking.
Even though this dish is easy to prepare, it can take a long time for the potatoes to cook thoroughly. Obviously, smaller cubes will cook faster. Watch for even browning and, when in doubt, poke a few pieces with a fork to check if they’re thoroughly cooked. Serve with ketchup and add salt and pepper again to taste.
On those days when the weather is uncooperative for grilling outside, I love to cook up mushrooms as a side dish. I don’t know why, but sizzling mushrooms just signal summer for me…
On medium heat, drizzle olive oil (or butter) in your skillet. Place baby bella mushrooms in the skillet. Salt depending on your preference. Cook for about 10 minutes, then flip with a spatula. Depending of the mushrooms’ sizes, you may not need as much time on the other side. The mushrooms will reduce in size while cooking as they lose a lot of liquid, but when that combines with the olive oil, it makes a tasty broth of sorts that keeps the mushrooms from drying out.
Wash fresh asparagus, and discard its woody ends. I like to use the entire spears, but cut them into smaller chunks if you prefer. Place the asparagus with a bit of butter or olive oil in the skillet for about 4-6 minutes over medium heat. Flip the pieces with a spatula as the sides get golden-brown. Salt to taste, and drizzle a few drops of fresh lemon on top.
To make a copycat version of a certain popular fast food chain’s famous on-the-go breakfast dish, grab butter, an English muffin, a piece of cheese and an egg. (Use a soy patty, too, if you wish.)
Melt a bit of butter in the cast-iron skillet over medium heat and fry up the egg (and the soy patty). Transfer the egg (and patty) on a plate momentarily, topping it with aluminum foil to keep the food warm. Spread butter on the crustier side of each half of the English muffin to toast it. Place the butter sides down in the skillet, pushing them down firmly with a spatula until they brown.
Assemble the sandwich by putting a piece of cheese on the bottom half of the toasted muffin, and adding the cheese and patty on top. Top with the remaining English muffin half. Mmm…