Cast Iron 101 w/ Carrie Morey

When I was assembling the potential list of contributors for this project, Carrie Morey’s name was at the top of my list. I have been a huge fan of her restaurants: Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (2 locations: Charleston, SC and Atlanta, GA), her cookbook and have eagerly been in the audience and listened to her on panel discussions. SHE IS AMAZING AND A SOUTHERN INSPIRATION. She is known for her cast iron cooking and I knew she was someone I had to have be part of this project. There are no words to express how excited I was when she accepted my invitation to be part of the Cast Iron 101 series and told me she wanted to bake her grandmother’s macaroni pie recipe. We spent a lovely afternoon in her home, exchanging stories of family, cooking, life with kids and our love for comfort food. She shared how inspiring her grandmother was to her and how it greatly influenced her passion for cooking.
As I photographed her making this dish, the kitchen flooded with the smell of freshly made popcorn. When I asked about it, she told me its a regular snack she makes for her 3 kids after school and is a staple in their household. There is no microwave her kitchen, so she pops it on the stovetop with a covered pot and finishes the treat with a dash of salt. The kids came in one at a time and excitedly took handfuls of the snack and I saw history in the making and unfolding before me. The generational traditions that are just part of normal daily life but will last a enternity. Her daughters each introduced themselves to me and shook my hand and then each inquired about was cooking in the oven and each of their faces lit up with joy when their mother shared she was baking her macaroni pie. Those kids will absolutely look back on these years fondly and share the stories of how their mother would make them fresh after school snacks while baking their great-grandmothers macaroni pie recipe in the kitchen while strangers with notepads and cameras eagerly took snapshots and excitedly asked questions and witnessed their mother’s greatness. Thats the thing about cooking that is so amazing, traditions are passed down and on and shared and silently made not because they are a big production, but because they are warm, soft and feel like…HOME.
 
Carrie was kind enough to share the pie with me and my family enjoyed this amazing dinner side for 3 nights in a row! I decided that I have to add it to our Thanksgiving dinner menu because it was so easy, delicious and made the entire house smell fantastic. I hope that you enjoy this recipe and interview as much as I have! Southern tradition at its finest.
 
Q. What was your first piece of cast iron cookware? Where did you get it from and how did you decide on that piece?
CM: My first piece that I owned had originally belonged to my grandmother. I remember vividly going to her house when we were cleaning it out and tucking it away in my bag before anyone else could claim it–I was the only “cooker” in the family so I don’t think there were any other takers…  I also snagged her cast iron corn muffin tin.
 Q. Who taught you to cook with cast iron?
CM: My Grandmother always used cast iron and they rarely left her stovetop.
Q. What are the benefits of cast iron cooking that you enjoy the most?
CM: Personally, I love that they are so easy to clean–It’s funny to me that people are intimidated by cast iron for that very same reason!  But I also love that I can fry, braise, roast and bake literally all my cooking can be done in my cast irons.
Q. What are some of the difficulties that you (have experienced or currently) experience with CIC?
CM: None…
Q. Do you think there are any misconceptions that people commonly have about CIC?
CM: Yes, I think people are intimidated by the cleaning process or only think it’s for over the fire cooking (dutch oven olden days) or frying…  But I bake brownies and roast chickens and sear Asian Salmon in mine! 
 Q. What are 3 tips that people should remember…
CM:
-No matter what you cook in a cast iron, it can be easily cleaned.
-I DO use soap on all my cast irons and as long as you properly dry/oil/season it afterwards you aren’t going to hurt it.
-Cast iron is for every recipe and should be used daily!
Q. Do you have a fond memories of a family member or friend cooking using cast iron?
CM: Definitely with my grandmother growing up!

 Caroline’s Macaroni Pie

What you will need:
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound vermicelli or thin spaghetti
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • freshly ground pepper

The steps:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. If baking the same day, preheat the oven to 375’F.
  2. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the package instructions state. Drain the pasta and reserve in a little of the cooking water to cool briefly.
  3. Beat together the eggs, milk, the mustard and cayenne in a large bowl. Add the pasta and 4 cups of the cheese. Mix well.
  4. Butter a 12 inch skillet with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Pour in the pasta. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese, dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. At this point you can cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Uncover and let the pie come up to room temperature as the oven heats to 365’F.
  5. Bake 45 minutes, checking at 35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.