I Brought My Cast-Iron Skillet Back to Life, Now What Do I Cook?
Eggs. The answer is eggs.
I made the best fried eggs of my life last Friday morning and even better ones this week. You might not think that there's a notable artistry curve on a dish that simple. There was no flipping, basting, or anything especially schmancy—just sunny side up eggs with a crisp bottom, runny yolk, puffy whites, lacy brown edges, and they slid right outta the pan like butter.
Except—no butter. This breakfast triumph was due in part to a touch of olive oil, but even more to the equipment I used. A few weeks ago, I found a rusty, slimy skillet in what a friend of mine has termed a "murder shed" and was determined to bring the old girl back to life. I pledged to myself that I'd accomplish this through sheer muscle and fire (no sending it out to be professionally restored, or setting up an electrolysis rig in my basement), and I chronicled these efforts on social media where people were kind enough to cheer me (us) on. Once Thelma—named after my paternal grandmother who lived decades past her life expectancy and made a killer mac and cheese—was seasoned and gleaming, the question turned to what meal I'd make to anoint her.
Cornbread was the leading suggestion from online folks, but my wonky gut isn't having that. Same, sadly, with mac and cheese. And as it happened, I finished the task in the morning, went to work, and left the country for a bit the morning after. I thought often about Thelma while I was away. That may sound silly, but I'd poured sweat and a little blood into this very public restoration, and was a little worried that I'd inadvertently amplified it in my head. What if I got back to find that this skillet I'd so anthropomorphized wasn't actually the shining metal phoenix I'd imagined but rather just a plain ol' pan.
When I got back, I dropped my bags, petted my extremely enthusiastic dogs and cautiously crept to the kitchen. Thelma was sitting atop the stove where I'd left her, and she was even more gorgeous than I'd imagined, because she was real. Hefty and smooth, the skillet's handle warmed to my touch and I marveled at the raw, glorious, real physicality of the thing, but I was too jet lagged to actually cook anything, and we'd also emptied out the fridge of almost every food but condiments before we left. It would have to wait.
It was worth it. A few days later, I dashed some olive oil into the pan, got things ripping hot and tossed in thick slices of kishka. They crisped in moments and flipped over whisper-smoothly to brown the other side. I set them aside, cracked in a couple of eggs and hoped for the best. The eggs—well I've told you about the eggs—were a revelation, but so was my pleasure in cleaning up when I was finished. I'm not a person who finds quiet bliss in dishwashing, but this was something else. It wasn't so much cleaning as it was care, and it's quickly become part of my morning ritual. Some people meditate or do sun salutes—I cook my breakfast (there's bacon when I don't have kishka), wait for my skillet to cool, and then I wipe, scrub, dry, and oil as needed to bring Thelma back to her glory. It's taken a little practice, but this work is a pleasure. I take care of her and in turn, she starts my day out on the sunny side.