Sunday, November 18, 2012

Joe Boogie's skillet

I pulled out Joe Boogie’s cast iron skillet today. It’s a classic, vintage skillet that is virtually indestructible. Joe Boogie was my grandfather. He died over 50 years ago and he probably had the pan for 50 years before that. Now it’s mine.

My grandfather’s name was Joseph Stephen Harris. Apparently many years ago a neighbor child called him Joe Boogie and that name has stuck, even many years after his death. He was from Holyoke, Massachusetts, and as a young married man he moved to Washington during the Great Depression when he got a coveted job at the Library of Congress. He was a craftsman, a skilled bookbinder. There’s an entire set of Compton’s Picture Encyclopedias in my house that my grandfather meticulously hand bound. The set of books was printed prior to World War II, when there was only one war, called the Great World War. The maps of Africa show colonial countries that have long been gone, replaced by more modern independent nations. This set of encyclopedias has been given to my son and will be moved to his house whenever they can be hand delivered to Seattle. I don’t dare ship them and risk losing something so precious, so irreplaceable.

So all I own that belonged to my grandfather is his cast iron skillet. And I have a new cookbook—The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. I’m just a few pages into the book and when I saw the recipe for Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby (a large oven-baked pancake) in a black cast-iron skillet identical to Joe Boogie’s skillet, I had to try it. It was easy, it was warm, and it smelled great. Joe Boogie would have been pleased.

Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby

2 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon unsulfured molasses
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, or heavy cream, to serve
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the eggs in a blender and blend until smooth and pale in color. Add the brown sugar, molasses, flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt, and milk and blend until smooth.
Melt the butter in a 9-inch ovenproof skillet over high heat, swirling it up the sides to evenly coat the pan. Pour the batter into the skillet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed up. Remove from the oven and dust with sugar. Serve with maple syrup or heavy cream, if desired.
Source: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, p. 11

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