A few months after opening Cured in San Antonio, TX, Chef Steve McHugh noticed that the pans he purchased to outfit the kitchen were already warping, already sitting lopsided on cooktops, and generally looking worn and less-than appetizing.
“These aluminum pans were all I knew coming up in restaurants, but this was the first time I’d owned a place instead of just working in it. Seeing those pans after being open only a couple months, I thought, ‘What a horrible investment,’” he says.
So he did something a little radical. As the pans wore out, he replaced them with cast iron, all kinds of cast iron, and these days, the whole cooking line in his open kitchen is working with the classic iron cookery. He explains that “of course, you need a kitchen to look nice, but it’s more than that. I think our food coming out of there is better.”
“The heat is even, the pans are durable, and for me, the light bulb moment was when I realized that the cast iron forced my cooks to manage their heat better, not just an on or an off, but look for the right temp for the food they are cooking.”
The pans see a lot of use at the busy restaurant in the revamped Pearl Brewery Complex, so the cooks wash nightly and wipe in between orders with Texas olive oil. The kitchen stores the pans each night in the “salamander” or broiler, and the residual heat removes all residual moisture and has them looking good for service the next night.
Bring a taste of Texas to your kitchen with these easy flour tortillas from Chef McHugh that benefit from a cast iron sear.
what you need
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ ounces smoked beef fat, in solid state*
1 cup water
*Note: Regular beef tallow (fat) can be substituted, but If you have access to a smoker, smoked beef fat is a revelation in flavor. You can secure some fat trimmings from a trusted butcher, then cold smoke for 30-60 minutes, remove from smoker, then render the fat into tallow over low heat on the stove. The fat will keep well in the fridge and can be used to braise veggies, add another flavor to meat, and even add depth to salad dressings.
servings: Yield: 12 Tortillas
Combine flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Using your fingers, mix in smoked beef fat until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add water and mix until a dough is formed.
On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for several minutes until smooth. Divide the dough and roll into 12 balls of equal size
Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
Using a rolling pin, flatten balls of dough into round tortillas about 6-inches in diameter.
Place one tortilla in the skillet and cook until golden, then flip and repeat on other side.
Remove and place tortilla in a tortilla warmer (or a moist towel) and continue to cook remaining uncooked tortillas. Serve warm.
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1175 Machinist St 43A
Charleston, SC 29412