Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cooking with Iron

A few weeks ago, I stopped in at the doctor's office for a prick of my finger and a surprising revelation. "You're a little anemic," the doctor told me. This might explain, as I understood him, why I would get out of breath so easily walking a flight of stairs, why I would arrive home at two in the afternoon and think only of sleep, sleep, sleep. I had hoped he'd mention something about how a low iron count would also explain my inability to jump-start a simple exercise plan. However, I suspect that issue has more to do with "lazy" and "stubborn". At any rate, I left the doctor's office and headed straight to the store for supplements.

Here's the thing, though. Vitamins are my nemesis.

Vitamins!A strong gag reflex ensures that any time I have to swallow a pill of substantial girth (or of any girth), I take a series of steps that hint I might also suffer from OCD:
  1. Place pill on tongue.
  2. Fill mouth with water.
  3. Toss back head, one...two times.
  4. Feign to swallow.
  5. Toss head again, one...two...three.
  6. THIS time, swallow.
  7. Wait. Gag.
  8. One more toss.
  9. Choke it down, dammit.
  10. Follow with a tight fist, a foot stomp, and the hard crust from a piece of toast.
It's the same every time, so dramatic that my kids join in the fun, imitating me in the middle of a head toss. Since I manage to take only half the recommended amount, I boost my iron in other ways, including one that fires up my Texas roots and honors my grandmother: cooking with iron.

When I got married, one of my friends gave my husband and me a big cast-iron skillet. There's something primal about a cast-iron skillet. You're not messing around when you've got one sizzling on the stove. Mine has seen years of cooking, off and on, but it hits the gas flame much more often these days. This post on Kitchen Daily lists three healthy reasons to cook with iron, one of them being that meals made in skillets really does increase your intake of a necessary mineral.

"While cast iron doesn't leach chemicals, it can leach some iron into your food ... and that's a good thing. Iron deficiency is fairly common worldwide, especially among women. . . . Cooking food, especially something acidic like tomato sauce in a cast-iron skillet can increase iron content, by as much as 20 times."

I cook plenty in my skillet, including tomato sauce. But, this week, I fried up some Catfish.

Catfish is (surprisingly) one of the dishes my son will eat, willingly, so I cook it up knowing I'm killing two birds with one stone: fortifying my diet and tempting his taste buds. Catfish is easy to make, as long as you pay attention, and frying it in the skillet makes me feel old school and Texan all over again.

Pan-Fried Catfish, from

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 (4 ounce) fillets catfish
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
In a mixing bowl, stir together cornmeal, cayenne pepper, paprika and onion powder. Mix well. Pour mixture onto a large sheet of waxed paper.
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Pour milk into a medium bowl. Dip catfish filets into milk and hold up and let the milk drip off. Roll the milk-soaked filet in the cornmeal mixture until completely covered. Set aside.
  3. Fry the garlic in the hot skillet, but do not burn. Add the coated catfish filets and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, sprinkling salt on the fish after each turn. Cook until golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork. Drain on paper towels.

One note, if you make this dish, get everything set and ready to go before you start frying. When the recipe says "do not burn" the garlic, that means watch it close. Really, you only want to let it cook for a minute or two before dropping in your catfish.

For some real Texas fun, cook up a batch of hush puppies for the side.

How do you measure up with your iron? And, what do you do to make sure you get enough?

*Vitamin photo credit: bradley j on The catfish is all mine.

1 comment:

  1. Christi, that catfish looks amazing! I've had bouts of low iron, too. I hope that your energy picks up soon.