(non-breaking news): Cast Iron Skillets are Magic

I realize that this is not new information. My grandmother was loyal to her cast iron skillet and would talk about things like "seasoning the pan" and other cryptic phrases that scared me off. I had found many a recipe that recommended using a cast iron skillet, and as long as it wasn't one of the stovetop to oven ones, I ignored the advice thinking, "how different can it be, I have a skillet that works fine". Oh. It's different. I stumbled into using one when we went camping last year and I got one for campfire cooking. I brought a bag of the dry ingredients for The Compassionate Cook pancakes pre-mixed in a ziploc. I had the soy milk, water, oil and vanilla along and mixed it up there in the woods. Those were the best mother f-ing pancakes that I ever had. At the time, I thought it was because we were cooking and eating pancakes at a campsite in the middle of Yosemite valley, and I'm sure that was a bit part of it. However, when I got home, I made stovetop pancakes with the same recipe on that same skillet, and there, in the middle of my apartment in Los Angeles- were the 2nd most amazing pancakes that I ever had. Which proved beyond a doubt that it was the skillet's doing. I have used it since for stir fries, it's particularly amazing at browning tofu (for particularly wet tofu, I have baked it in the skillet and it is to die for). It comes in handy for most everything (though I read that tomato based dishes are a no-no in it). I seasoned it once, and it could use another round of that when it cools off enough to put the oven on (I followed the Martha god's instructions from her Cooking School book, but she has instructions here). To convince you of the magic of it, I challenge you to try this potato recipe. It's great with a tofu scramble or savory breakfast. I would even go as far as to serve it on the side of a comfort food dish like Salsbury Seitan. It is insanely good! Like eyes into the back of your head good. There are crispy pieces of potato that are as crunchy as chips, and then the softer centers that are so creamy and good that any condiment just gets in the way. Also, it's quite easy, you'll need: • 1 bag (use about 9*) of the small tri-color potatoes at Trader Joes. If you don't have one close by, most stores have something like this, it has the small variety of white, yellow and purple potatoes. • Salt and Pepper to taste • Butter or vegan margarine (one of the bi-products of going back to vegetarian vs vegan is that I started to use butter, I'm not proud, but it may be what makes these so amazing). • your magic cast iron skillet Wash potatoes well and slice about 9 of them width wise depending on size varying from paper thin to about 1/8" thick max. There's a magic combo of how many you can use without crowding the pan and making it too hard to get the right consistency and crunchy parts that you're after- too many potatoes in the pan and it won't get there. I mix the colors up after slicing because it's prettier that way Heat the skillet on medium heat, put a few pats of butter or margarine in the pan and then layer the slices all along the bottom. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the first layer and put 3-4 more pats of butter or margarine on top. Repeat for 2 more layers of potatoes. I haven't timed how long this takes, but it's awhile- at least 30 minutes. What you'll need to do it let those taters sizzle away in the pan and flip when you have some browning and crunchiness on them. They will start to clump, fall apart a bit, there will be some stuck together, free those up from time to time to get everyone some quality skillet time. you'll know they're done when they've shrunk down a bit and there are some curled up crunchy bits in there coupled with what looks like scalloped potatoes. Test for salt and pepper, season if necessary and serve immediately. These re-heat okay, but there's nothing like them when they're fresh out of the amazing wonderous cast iron skillet!