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"Pissed off" potatoes

Ramona King

"Pissed off" potatoes

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Five perfectly-portioned cast iron dinners for two

Most traditional Southern recipes are built with the idea of feeding a crowd: most often for a large family or entertaining guests at home. But what about when you're cooking for just two? Smaller-scale recipes are important, but cookware is too.

We like to opt for more diminutive cookware, such as Nest Homeware cast iron, knowing that a larger skillet or Dutch oven is often less practical for just a pair of people. Smaller cookware also ensures that small amounts of sauces don't over-reduce and two-serving steaks don't burn. So pull out your 9-inch pans and get to cooking. We've got all of the recipes to help guide you.

A quick note before you start cooking: Some of the recipes included below originally intended to serve four diners, but that’s okay. Just cut the portions of seafood or meat in half and keep the rest of the recipe the same. If you happen to have leftover vegetables, you can always re-heat them and cook a new piece of protein.

Smashed Cheeseburgers
While many may think of the grill as the best surface on which to cook a cheeseburger, we love the crust developed on the griddle-like surface of cast iron. And when you're cooking for two, you can comfortably fit two generous patties on one 9-inch cast iron skillet. Smashing the burgers with a spatula immediately before and after flipping expands the surface area of the meat, allowing for more caramelization without pressing out the juices. Another benefit of cooking your burgers in cast iron is the ability to melt the cheese in the oven while the burger remains in the pan. Win-win!
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Tomato-Braised Chicken Thighs
If you own a small Dutch oven, braising chicken thighs is the perfect dish to cook for two. First, the bottom of the pan can typically fit four thighs at one time, which is an ideal portion size for a couple’s weeknight dinner. Second, the natural convection offered by a Dutch oven ensures juicy poultry every time you cook in it. Courtesy of James Beard award-winning chef Linton Hopkins, this tomato-braised chicken offers simple flavors that shine when served atop some creamy grits or polenta. Don’t worry about cooking tomatoes in cast iron; the quick braising time won’t allow any flavors from the metal to permeate into the food.
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Pan-Roasted Fish with Herb Compound Butter
Few simple culinary pleasures exist more than a skin-on piece of fish cooked in cast iron. Ideal for two people, you can purchase a whole fish, such as red snapper or black bass, then fillet the fish into two equal portions (or just have your fishmonger do the dirty work for you). Cooking the fish almost the entire time on its skin side achieves a crackly crisp exterior while the flesh remains juicy. Just be sure to pat the fish completely dry before cooking to prevent it from sticking. As a sauce of sorts, a lemony, herbaceous compound butter adds both richness and brightness to the clean fish. Dinner will be done in a jiffy.
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Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Lady Peas and Tomatoes
When planning a menu for just two people, picking the proper protein can be the most important decision you can make. Pork chops are ideal for pan-roasting, regardless of the size of your pan. This rustic recipe can almost be considered cassoulet’s lighter cousin, and it cooks in a fraction of the time. Just cut the number of chops listed in the recipe from four to two, and keep the rest of the recipe intact. You could always cut the entire recipe in half, but with a stew this good, you’ll want extras. Trust us.
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Cast Iron-Seared Asparagus with Lemon Tarragon Mayonnaise
Though less common, you can definitely use your smaller cast iron cookware to impart a delicious char to vegetables. The best veggie candidates are those that also respond well to grilling over high heat, such as asparagus. With a light coating of olive oil and a basic seasoning of salt and pepper, your asparagus will both caramelize and soften as it cooks — no need for blanching beforehand. You can also trim asparagus to fit whatever size pan you prefer to use. Bitter vegetables like asparagus pair nicely with fatty sauces, such as hollandaise or mayonnaise. The anise notes of the tarragon-spiked lemon mayonnaise in this recipe brighten up an otherwise heavy sauce. (Pro-tip: This recipe makes a great side dish to everything you see above.)
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Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”

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