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Tony and The Iron Skillet (Posted On: Friday, June 21, 2013)

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Having just won the 2013 Collingwood Chamber of Commerce Restaurant, Food and Beverage Business Excellence Award. A visit to The Iron Skillet took me behind the lines and into the Kitchen with owner Tony Sensenberger and I learned a few things very quickly.  Following Tony around in the kitchen is tricky he moves very fast.  Trying to make Chili Rellenos, a Mexican dish that originates from the Yucatan Peninsula at home is likely impossible so you might as well go to The Iron Skillet and just order it.
 
It is one of the most complicated dishes I have ever watched being made.  Basically, it's a roasted poblano (a mild chili pepper named after the City of Puebla) pepper stuffed with picadillo (a delicious Mexican Meat Stuffing), cooked on the flattop enveloped in a wonderful souffle like coating and covered with a delicious tomato sauce and plated with some rice and served with salsa, sour cream and more peppers.  We (notice I said 'we' because this was too big for one person to eat) needed a big appetite to finish it and it was delicious.

First, you have to make the Picadillo filling then, you have to grill the poblano peppers until they are blistering, then you remove them from the heat and cover them for a few minutes or put them in a paper bag (this is a little trick to help remove the skins).  Tony cautions to be careful when removing the skins because they're hot, then you split one side and fill the peppers with the Picadillo.
 
The next step starts off with a bunch of egg whites that have been whipped up and seasoned with salt, pepper and chili powder.  Tony measures his spices by feel and taste because he says that the intensity of the flavor can be different from one order of spices to the next.  The egg yolks are folded into the whites and then some flour is folded in as well, resulting in a frothy batter.

A large ladle of the light souffle like batter goes on the flat top in the general shape of the stuffed pepper that is then nestled into the batter.  More batter is spread on top of the pepper and then the whole thing is cooked, much like the way you might cook a giant pancake.  Once browned on both sides and the batter is cooked through, the whole thing is transferred to a serving plate and finished off with tomato sauce and garnishes of salsa, sour cream and more peppers. Wow!

Tony and his wife Doris operated the local favourite Tony's Iron Skillet for just over 18 years and then took a 5 and a half year break before opening the doors to The Iron Skillet, now located in the Balsam Street Plaza, in October of 2012.  The new restaurant has a seating capacity of 128 and is great for lunch, dinner and private or corporate parties.
 
The varied menu offered at The Iron Skillet is a result of Tony and Doris travelling a lot over the past 5 and a half years and bringing those influences back with them.  Schnitzel from Germany, Southwestern cooking, Goulash and Dumplings from Austria, Cajun from 'Nawlins are just some of the things that have influenced the new menu at The Iron Skillet - that as well as Tony and Doris feeling completed rejuvenated after a long and well deserved break and a lot of travelling.

The Iron Skillet is located at 20 Balsam Street, Collingwood T: 705-444-5804.
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