Entering a new iron age with pans, skillets
I fell in love with cast-iron cooking on purpose. I was skeptical about nonstick and downright terrified of Teflon. And unlike so many of my friends, I wasn’t the lucky recipient of a favorite family member’s treasured cast-iron pan, let alone their famous recipes they made within it. I fell in love with it the old-fashioned way, by actually cooking with it.
This dish is meant to be served family style. Park the entire skillet on your table and see your guests’ faces break into smiles, the way mine did as I sat at a charity dinner one evening and a similar course was presented. Golden pork, rings of acorn squash and heirloom carrots all dripping in a maple glaze — my companions and I locked eyes momentarily before greedily dividing the bounty among our plates. Thank goodness we were among polite company.
After searing the pork and finishing it in the oven, add the caramelized vegetables to the hot skillet along with the remaining glaze and toss gently before serving. Roasting is about coaxing and cajoling flavor. Roasting is also love.
While cast-iron cooking is experiencing a renaissance, pans and skillets sat on shelves gathering dust for decades thanks to the soaring popularity of aluminum and Teflon in the 1950s and 1960s as well as cast-iron’s undeserved reputation as being “tricky to season.”
Maple Soy Glazed Pork Chops, Acorn Squash and Carrots
2 acorn squash
1 bunch organic carrots, unpeeled and scrubbed
4 boneless center cut pork chops
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
Preheat an oven to 425 F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut off both ends of each squash. Halve lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Discard. Place the squash halves cut side down and cut each half crosswise into 4 or 5 slices, each about 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Remove tops and cut carrots into small sections. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine maple syrup, soy sauce and ginger. Whisk to combine.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush squash and carrots with the maple syrup mixture. Season with the salt and pepper. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, flip the squash slices, turn the carrots and brush with syrup mixture. Return pan to the oven and bake until tender when pierced with a knife, about 7 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside. Reserve unused glaze.
Reduce oven to 350 F.
Season pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with oil and once hot, add pork chops. Sear on one side for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden. Flip and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Turn off heat, add chicken stock to skillet, place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Once pork is thoroughly cooked, remove skillet from oven, add squash and carrots, pour remaining glaze over top and serve immediately.