Chat Leftovers: Cast Iron Cleaning, Restaurant Supply Shops
Some real goodies leftover from this week's What's Cooking chat inspired today's post that covers cast iron, pumpkin-centric partying and public-access restaurant supply shops. Here's the lowdown:
Charlotte, N.C.: I'm wondering about maintaining my cast iron skillet. My wife scolded me for scrubbing it with dish detergent. I try to spray it with oil after I use it. Any suggestions on the proper way to care for cast iron cookware?
Well, you're both right, kinda sorta. There are lots of schools of thought on how to clean cast iron cookware; some argue that even a drop of detergent will ruin the seasoning. Most veteran cast-iron enthusiasts, however, agree that long soaks in water will ruin the sought-after nonstick layer, which means starting over from scratch and re-seasoning the pan.
My thoughts on cleaning both my cast-iron skillet and wok is that a small amount of soap (a few drops) applied to the scrubby part of a sponge and worked into the pan swiftly under hot water, is a good thing, as it removes caked on food and residual grease, which over time, gets rancid.
As soon as you've rinsed the pan, put on the stove and turn on the heat, allowing it completely dry. Then, with a paper towel, apply a very thin layer of vegetable oil, rubbing it in to minimize stickiness.
I've never had to deal with stubborn stains in my cast iron, but I bet a little baking soda rub would help ease things before washing.
Arlington, Va.: My young 'un is turning the big 1 this month, and we'll be celebrating with a small afternoon party with the family. Since she's truly our pumpkin, and since October is her birthday month, I'd like to serve some pumpkin-themed goodies. So far, I have pumpkin bread, pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies and mini pumpkin cheesecakes. I'd like to add something savory to the mix as well. Any suggestions, or ideas to supplement what I've already listed?
I'm thinking a winter squash puree would be nice to kick things off; it's a quick-cooking soup that requires time on the stove and can be made in advance. Take your pick from butternut, buttercup, baby blue Hubbard, delicata, for starters. Spaghetti squash is too stringy, acorn squash too bland and Kabocha a bit thick-skinned for soup, so use these varieties for other dishes.
I might also consider squash-filled ravioli -- or even a squashy gnocchi! These projects would require a full afternoon of prep, so keep that in mind as you plan your menu. Oh! I've done a really fun sweet potato dip that's seasoned with roasted onions and tahini paste. Makes for a great snack at the beginning of your shindig. Although I haven't improvised with winter squash, I see no reason why it wouldn't work.
Vienna, Va.: I moved here from L.A. where I routinely went to Surfas, a wholesale restaurant supply store open to the public (everything from huge pans to bricks of good chocolate). I can't seem to find anything comparable here other than Sur La Table etc. Any suggestions?
Compared to other cities, the Washington area's restaurant supply offerings are less obvious, requiring the persistence of a detective and a car. I found three without schlepping to Baltimore (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'm listing these three because a real person answered the phone and could verify a) access to the public and b) its hours.
One last note: I have not personally visited any of these stores, and until I do, I'm counting on you to fill in the gaps. Ever been? And did I miss any? Share your public-access restaurant supply tidbits in the comments area below.
Located in an industrial complex off Edsall Road in Alexandria, Va., is the outlet store for Superior Products (5701 General Washington Drive; 703-333-5878), owned by restaurant/hospitality giant U.S. Foodservice. You may also see references to "Next Day Gourmet " when shopping. Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Glen Burnie, Md. is home to a mega restaurant supply warehouse owned by H &M Wagner & Sons, open
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon. Okay, so I lied; driving to Glen Burnie is just 10 miles shy of Baltimore.
Local chain Three Brothers Pizza, with 15 Maryland locations, has a market in Bladensburg (Three Brothers Center, 4521 Kenilworth Ave.; 301-864-1570) that sells all kinds of imported Italian goodies as well as cookware. Without a first-hand look, I cannot verify how its equipment compares to larger warehouses, but for stocking the pantry alone, it may be worth a looksee. Open 7 days a week; the woman I just spoke with says someone is usually on hand to take orders from 8 a.m. Call ahead and check before going.
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