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The Standard Edition Vol. 1, No. 6

The Standard Edition Vol. 1, No. 6

Numbers Game

What’s in a number? It’s a question commonly asked when it comes to cast iron, as these symbols—6s, 8s, 10s, and so on—were often inscribed onto the handle or bottom of many an antique pan.
For decades, numbers were staples of these skillets, so much so that new pan companies have started to numerically mark their own, paying tribute to the old practice. Which is one, it turns out, to be as useless today as our most recent Alma. (No offence to either.)

But like any good question, the answer is shrouded in its fair share of myth and controversy.

Chesapeake chef Spike Gjerde shares the key to pan-cooking rockfish.

When Spike Gjerde opened his flagship Woodberry Kitchen in an old mill in northern Baltimore, he knew two things for sure about the future of his farm-to-table restaurant.

Dedicated to hyper-regional sourcing and the culinary heritage of the Chesapeake Bay from day one, “I knew that this trinity of local seafood—oysters, crab, and rockfish—was going to be important for us,” says Gjerde, as famed writer and fellow Baltimore native H.L. Mencken once dubbed the working estuary an “immense protein factory.”



Cast Iron Rockfish “Chesapeake Terroir”

Recipe courtesy of Chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, MD; Photo Credit: Eric Vance for Butter Pat Industries


Skin on filet of Chesapeake rockfish, about 2lb (from a 5-6lb fish)


Fish pepper powder

Sunflower or canola oil

1 medium sweet potato, diced

1 cup cooked beans or field (e.g. crowder or black-eyed) peas, cooked

2 cups corn, frozen from last summer

2 tbsp. butter

Generous pinch of minced parsley, thyme, or other herb


Place Butter Pat Skillet in oven and preheat to 500ºF

Place rockfish skin side up on a cutting board. Using the back of a knife, firmly squeegee any moisture out of the skin, then blot dry with a paper towel.

Season skin side with salt; flesh side with salt and fish pepper. Portion fish into desired size filets. Set aside while preparing vegetables.

Remove hot skillet from oven and carefully add a swirl of oil, immediately add sweet potatoes. If potatoes do not sizzle vigorously in oil, place over high heat for a minute or two…add beans and corn, then herbs, season with salt and fish pepper, and toss to combine.

Return to oven. Cook until sweet potatoes are just tender, stir in butter, and spoon onto warmed serving platter. Wipe out hot pan with a paper towel.

Heat skillet over high heat. add oil to a depth of ¼”. VERY carefully place rockfish into skillet skin side down, being cautious not to splatter oil. Return to oven. After 3 minutes, check the fish skin -- it should be brown and crisp. Turn over and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, until just cooked through.

Arrange rockfish over vegetables on platter, and serve -- the sooner the better.

The Standard Edition Vol.1, No. 5

The Standard Edition Vol.1, No. 5

Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Cast Iron - How Our Humble Medium Had A Hand In Shaping The United States

We know we might be a little biased, but we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, especially coming out of the historic month of July that holds our great nation’s Independence Day: the cast-iron skillet should be on the American flag. 

That’s right—a cast iron. And that’s because the age-old medium played a vital role in the very creation of this nation.

Mississippi chef John Currence shares the cast iron key to a summer fish fry.

Before John Currence became a James Beard Award winning chef for his growing empire of restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi, his first real exposure to the state's unofficial seafood, catfish, was actually across the southern border, in his native Louisiana. 


“We grew up riding out to a little place outside of New Orleans called Middendorf’s that’s now been around for almost 90 years,” says Currence. “It’s literally in the middle of a swamp on the side of Interstate 55. When I was a kid, it had a little defunct gas station next door where inside they kept alligators and turtles and all this stuff we’d go and look at while trains were coming and going on a track that ran from New Orleans to Memphis right behind the restaurant. That’s where we’d go and eat catfish and coleslaw and green onions and hush puppies. It was an absolute delight.”




Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Recipe courtesy of Chef John Currence -- from an upcoming third cookbook; Photo Courtesy of Ed Anderson

The key to making this recipe, which is excellent fried chicken, is keeping the oil at temperature and not overloading the pan. If you’re worried about making a mess in your kitchen, move along. Bottom line is: you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. If you love fried chicken, no mess is enough to keep you from cooking…


8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 quart FULL FAT buttermilk
1/2 cup Texas Pete hot sauce
3 teaspoons cayenne
3 teaspoons salt
3 cups White Lilly all-purpose flour
1 cup Wondra
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
4 tablespoons lard
Vegetable oil for frying


  1. Wash chicken thoroughly and trim any excess skin from the thighs. Pat chicken dry and place on a cookie sheet, skin side up in the refrigerator. In the meantime, combine buttermilk, hot sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper in a bowl and blend fully.
  2. Once chicken has finished in the refrigerator, place in buttermilk mix and chill overnight (or at least 2 hours). In a large freezer bag or brown paper grocery bag, combine flours, remaining salt, remaining cayenne, onion power and garlic powder and combine well.
  3. Heat lard and enough oil to go half way up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet to 350º. Pull chicken from buttermilk and allow to drain well. Working 2 thighs at a time, dust chicken in flour and set aside.
  4. Fry 4 thighs at a time only, turning every 5 minuets until chicken is golden brown and at an internal temperature of 155º.
  5. Drain on a cooling rack and eat immediately or later on in the evening after you have stayed out too late and not eaten enough...



Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Cast Iron

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Cast Iron

How our humble medium had a hand in shaping the United States.

We know we might be a little biased, but we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, especially coming out of the historic month of July that holds our great nation’s Independence Day: the cast-iron skillet should be on the American flag. 

That’s right—a cast iron. And that’s because the age-old medium played a vital role in the very creation of this nation.

A pot cast at the Saugus Iron Works in Massachusetts and carbon dated to about 1647; the oldest iron casting in the New World. A shareholder in the foundry wrote March 15 of that year “we have cast some tuns of pots, likewise mortars, stoves, skillets”.

By the late 17th century, the colonies were riddled with iron foundries, particularly in Maryland and Pennsylvania, where we are headquartered and make our pans, respectively, today. But back then, inside these rustic structures, iron ore was melted down into a form that could later be turned into finished goods, be it by cast or wrought methods, giving birth to the dawn of American manufacturing. Pots, pans, skillets, as well as hardware, tools, and implements, up to shot, cannon, and ship ballasts were all made using American iron, with techniques evolving as colonists became better acquainted with the natural resources of the New World.

By the late 1700s, America had become the main supplier of iron to Great Britain, and bigger yet, the third largest producer in the world, which naturally started to make the monarchy nervous. With commercial trade growing stiffly competitive with other countries, like the Dutch, British Parliament decided to instate a series of acts that would limit colonial independence and growth—perhaps the most important and impactful being the Iron Act of 1750.

Thos. Jefferson in describing cast iron from one of Virginia’s many ironworks operating in the late 1700s “The toughness of the cast iron of Ross's and Zane's furnaces is very remarkable. Pots and other utensils, cast thinner than usual, of this iron, may be safely thrown into, or out of the wagons in which they are transported.”

This policy restricted the construction of new furnaces and forges, as well as the manufacture of finished goods, ultimately keeping the colonies dependent upon their motherland. Suddenly, colonial iron could only be exported to England, where it would be turned into an array of products and then sent back across the Atlantic and sold around the world.

Of course, in true patriotic fashion, the colonists decided to ignore these restrictions, which some say ignited the first spark of resentment toward the British Empire that would lead to the American Revolution.

“The iron we dig from our mountains, we have just the liberty to make into bars, but farther we must not go,” complained one Philadelphia merchant in a letter to Benjamin Franklin in 1765, nearly a decade before he would lead the first Continental Congress. “We must neither slit it nor plate it, nor must we convert it to steel, though ’tis a truth well known, that we cannot have steel from England fit for use. Nay, though England admits of steel being imported from Germany, she will not suffer it to be made in her Colonies.”

Nassawango Iron Furnace erected by the Maryland Iron Company. One of the first blast furnaces in the US near Snow Hill on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Recognized as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. Photo courtesy of

On July 4, 1776, more than 10 percent of the signatures on the Declaration of Independence came from metal casters, and throughout the Revolutionary War, those same colonial foundries would go on to supply cannons and ammunition to the Continental Army. Later, too, cast-iron artillery would be used to protect Fort McHenry from British invasion in the War of 1812—a battle that would Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It would appear in the Mexican and Civil Wars, as well, and, eventually, in the Industrial Age of the mid to late 1800s, it would play a pivotal part in the establishment of U.S. railroads and westward expansion.

Many foundries thrived in latter half of the 19th century—a time when some of those same workers would also transition into America’s next great metal industry, steel, and the Industrial Revolution—and a few even lived on well into the 20th century. Though a relative youngster, our own foundry dates back to the 1950s.

Looking back, looking ahead, we like to think they carry the torch.

Or better yet, the flag.