Iron Rules

The cast iron pan is the perfect utensil for creating fall feasts.

BY Elena Rosemond-Hoerr 

Pea & Mushroom Risotto. Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr
Pea & Mushroom Risotto. Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr

As cool fall weather settles in, we start to fill our tables and plates with hearty and savory meals that fill the belly and warm the soul — risottos, roasted chicken with crispy skin, oven-baked vegetables, and citrus-forward desserts. These dishes can be served to family and friends during the holidays but are also perfectly acceptable for a Sunday supper or Tuesday night dinner. 

These recipes are written for a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Cast iron is an incredibly versatile tool, easily able to shift from appetizer to dessert, and from stovetop to oven.

Pea & Mushroom Risotto

Risotto has a fussy reputation but when done well it can be a simple dish to execute that will wow your guests. Give it your complete attention for the half hour it takes to come together, and it won’t fail to impress. This risotto, with bright lemon and savory mushrooms, can be both a standalone meal and a complement to other dishes. 


  • 4 Tbsp salted butter, divided
  • 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • Sea salt 
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine 
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shelled peas, thawed to room temperature


In the skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mushrooms are browned and tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mushrooms and garlic to a small bowl and set aside. 

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for 20 minutes. 

In the skillet over medium heat, combine the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has begun to soften. Add the rice and stir to thoroughly coat with the oil and butter. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the rice from browning. 

Add the wine and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until the wine is fully absorbed. Add a ladleful of warm broth, stirring until the broth is absorbed. Repeat this process, adding broth one ladleful at a time and stirring while it fully absorbs, until all the broth has been added, which should take 25-30 minutes. 

Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese. 

Add the cooked mushrooms, garlic, and peas. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.

Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

A buttermilk marinade is the key to moist, tender chicken that holds up to the high heat of the oven. This recipe is rich with herbs and garlic, a great use for your garden’s herbs before the frost of late fall and early winter sets in. 


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 cups buttermilk 
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, plus 1 Tbsp, minced
  • 2 tsp sea salt, divided
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 4 Tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano


The night before, remove the innards and rinse the chicken thoroughly. Place in a gallon-size zip top bag or a large bowl and add the buttermilk, garlic, thyme, oregano, 1 tablespoon rosemary, and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Turn the chicken to coat, settling it so the breasts are sitting in the marinade. Refrigerate overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 475. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat it dry. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs to promote easy roasting. 

Coat the skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil. Place the chicken into the skillet and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon minced rosemary, and the remaining teaspoon of salt. 

Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 and cook for 40 minutes more, until the internal temperature reaches 165 and the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr

Iced Cranberry & Orange Cake

A simple skillet cake is jazzed up for the November table with the addition of cranberries and an orange icing. This cake is moist and bright, not too sweet, and deliciously crisp around the edges. It’s well suited for any holiday dessert spread but also makes for a fine breakfast when paired with a hot cup of coffee. 


  • 10 Tbsp salted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp grated orange zest
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 cups powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350. Grease the skillet with butter. 

In the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla. 

In another large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. While mixing, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Follow with ⅓ cup yogurt. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and yogurt, alternating, until mixed. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and mix for 1-2 minutes more. 

Fold in the cranberries and orange zest. Gently pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Let the cake cool completely. 

To make the icing: Pour the orange juice into a small bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until the icing is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but still able to be poured. Pour the icing over the cake and serve.

Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr

Roasted Turmeric Beets Roasted Turmeric Beets 

Roasted beets deliver a sweet and earthy flavor and add beauty to every dinner plate. While you can’t go wrong with the classic goat cheese combination, we have been falling in love with turmeric roasted beets. The bitterness of the turmeric balances the sweetness of the beet, and the combination is blissful.


  • 4 large beets, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil 
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • Pinch sea salt


Preheat the oven to 400. In the skillet, combine beets, oil, turmeric, and salt. Toss well to coat. 

Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the beets are cooked through. Serve warm or chilled. 

All recipes excerpted from Elena Rosemond-Hoerr’s cookbook, The Complete Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook.

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