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Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast

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Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., May 23, 2014

Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast

by the Lodge Company
Oxmoor House, 288 pp., $24.95

I am of two minds about this cookbook, a collection of cast-iron-centric recipes featuring the best of regional American cookery and, as this is a product of the Lodge corporation, a celebration of all things cast iron.

The recipes I tried in this cookbook, many of which are supplied by regional food luminaries from across the country, were uniformly delicious. It had never occurred to me to roast a chicken in a cast iron skillet, and while I was a little skittish about the method (roasting the chicken in a hot oven for 30 minutes, then turning off the heat and leaving it in for another 30), it came out fully cooked and juicy, the skin succulent and crisp. The Wiener Schnitzel was simply delicious, and devoured by everyone in the family. While the baked spaghetti was also a winner, the yield indicated in the recipe seems a bit off. When I told my husband that it was meant to feed six, his response was, "Six what? Football teams?"

The major complaint I have about this cookbook is that it operates from a baseline assumption that its audience possesses cast iron cookware in a variety of shapes and sizes and serving individual functions. To wit: The recipe for Texas fried catfish calls for a Lodge 7-quart cast iron Dutch oven; Gooey Chocolate Skillets call for six Lodge 5-inch cast-iron skillets; and Upside-Down Meatloaf calls for a Lodge 10x5x3-inch cast iron loaf pan. To that end, for anyone who has just one measly 10-inch cast-iron skillet, many of these recipes are simply out of reach. That said, it's likely that the meatloaf can be made in a regular loaf pan, and the catfish fried in a regular skillet, and so on. If the user is willing to seek out adaptations to the recipes that don't involve the specific cast-iron tool indicated, they will be rewarded with a simple yet hearty meal with an impeccable American pedigree.

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