Cast Iron 101 w/ Shuai Wang

One of the my daily sources of inspiration (like many of us) is scrolling through Instagram. I get ideas for home meal prep, DIY projects, gifts, words of inspiration, I love the pretty pictures and day dream through the travel destination snapshots! Its fun to see what kinds of things people are making, doing, engaging in and inspired by. Over the last few weeks while I was assembling and working on this series I kept coming across Shuai Wang’s IG posts of his home cooking (and a lot of the pics involved using: cast iron cookware)! After the 4th post within 2 weeks of some delicious food filled skillet he had posted, I asked him if he would please come on board for this project. I had everyone lined up that I was planning to work with, but his cooking and pictures really inspired to me…and he just had to be part of it. I was thrilled when he agreed!

The thing about Shaui’s cooking that I love, is his ability to take only a handful of ingredients and make something that is really unexpected, super tasty and spectacular! I don’t enjoy working with an ingredient list of 20 items that Ive never heard of before and attempt to cook with them for the first time (that I will likely ruin 3 times over). However I do really enjoy trying 1 or 2 new items I’ve never worked with before and incorporating them into a recipe that seems approachable…it is less daunting and I feel like I actually stand a chance of making something that (might) turn out. I love this recipe because, its taking several ingredients we are all familiar with and making something that is amazing. I feel confident you’ll be just as excited when you make this at home too (ps-don’t panic when your skillet begins to smoke…its all part of the recipe….you’ve got it under control)! Enjoy!


Tips, Advice & Suggestions from Shuai

Q: What was your first piece of cast iron cookware? Where did you get it from and how did you decide on that piece?
SW: I was 22 maybe? I bought my first cast iron in Maryland while on a road trip with one of my best friend, Sheena. We went into a little shack looking antique shop and it was on sale for $10. Griswold cast iron skillets, made in Erie PA. Never owned a cast-iron before, and it had the perfect weight, not too heavy, not too light. And it was definitely well seasoned. When you know, you just know. 
Q: Who taught you to cook with cast iron cookware?
SW: Chef James McDuffy, it wasn’t really cast iron, but more carbon steel pans. That’s all we cooked with at Joseph Leonard where I was a line cooked then eventually a sous chef. 
Q: What are the benefits that you enjoy with cast iron cooking?
SW: I like them cause they hold heat well… It’s hard to do wok cooking at home, especially if you don’t have a jet engine of a stove to heat your odd shaped round bottom woks. It’s basically my southern wok, plus they last forever. 
Q: What are some of the difficulties that you (have experienced or currently) experience with CIC?
SW: I feel like a lot of pans are too heavy, and I get why they are, but trying to toss things with it is a real work out for the wrist. 
Q: Do you think there are any misconceptions that people commonly have about CIC?
SW: I think people don’t really understand how versatile a cast iron is, you can basically do anything in it. Roast meat, make stews, bake bread/pizza, the possibilities are endless.
Q: Please list 2 tips that people should remember…
1.  I’m sure everyone will tell you don’t ever scrub a cast iron with harsh scrubs, you’re scrapping away all the good stuff.
2. Always keep it well seasoned, and don’t let it ever sit in water to “soak”, that’s not how you clean it, that’s how you rust it. 
Q: Do you have a fond memory of a family member or friend cooking using cast iron?
SW: I can’t remember what my grandma use to cook off of, this was back in China when I was a tiny Shuai. And my mom cooks with the weirdest pots and pans but the food comes out exceptional, I feel like I can imitate a lot of their recipes and flavors using cast iron and that brings me joy.

Drunken Chicken

What you’ll need:
2lb boneless, skin on, chicken thighs
2 stalks scallion
1/4 cup picked cilantro leaves
1/4 cup picked shiso (if it’s hard to find shiso, you can use Thai basil)
1/4 Chinese cooking wine (darker one, not the clear one)
1/4 lite soy
2T dark soy
1/2T salt
1T sugar
Cut the chicken thigh pieces to large bite size chunks, marinate them in the Chinese cooking wine and lite soy for about an hour (up to 3 hours). While chicken is marinating, cut scallion into one inch long pieces, use both green and white parts.
When the chicken is done marinating, remove from marinate into paper towel and pat dry, reserve the marinate and add in dark soy, salt, & sugar.
Put a late cast iron pan on high heat, pour in enough canola oil to cover the bottom. When the oil starts smoking, add in the chicken. Make sure it is evenly spread out and not on top of each other, let it sear and do not move around too much. Once it is golden brown on one side, flip it over and sear the other side. When all sides are golden brown, throw in the scallion and mix it around. Pour in your reserved marinate and let it cook down for about 5 minutes (or until the sauce is reduced by half). Garnish with cilantro and shiso (or Thai basil), enjoy with a side of rice!