Coming soon, to a kitchen near you. Anon, anon...
I have three cast-iron skillets: Papa, Mama, and Baby pan, all well seasoned and in regular use, plus a cast-iron wok, purchased from L.L.Bean when they still sold ironware. I also had fireplace andirons with a cooking grill from L.L. Bean but I gave them to my son-in-law when I moved away from a fireplace (sigh). My first cast-iron skillet was a wedding present and I’ve had it ever since, long after my Wear-Ever aluminum pots became obsolescent and possibly harmful. Is it still a well-known fact that cooking with cast-iron is healthy because you ingest iron from the food cooked in it? Nice thought these days when so many incidental side effects are dangerous, if not life threatening.
So – the bonus. I read the New York Times Cooking features on line. Recently Mark Bittman, a regular, staff contributor, ran a recipe for roast chicken in a skillet, dead simple and drop dead delicious. He said if you didn’t already own a cast-iron skillet, this recipe was good enough to justify buying one. I’ve done it twice (never trust a cook who has tried something only once) and it is really good, and comforting. Make sure your skillet is large enough to accommodate your chicken. And be sure to have your oven mitts handy.
Put the skillet on a lower rack of the oven and turn on the heat, setting it for 500 degrees Fahrenheit. (I’m too old for Celsius – that’s another discussion.)
Wipe the chicken, cut off any extra fat, rub a little salt (less than a tablespoon) in the cavity, if you can get your hand in. I buy my chicken trussed and keep it that way so I don’t have to use skewers or string. It sits very nicely on its doubled-up wings, breast side up. Pat some sea salt over the body and grind some black pepper over it and rub it all over with good olive oil. (I have a friend who doesn’t like olive oil so the second time I cooked this, I rubbed it with canola oil. Not as good to my taste.)
When the oven and the skillet reach 500 degrees, lift the skillet out (top of the stove is safest) and put the chicken gently into it – with a satisfying sizzle.
Put it back into the oven and let it cook for 15 minutes at that heat before lowering the temperature to 350 degrees. Let it roast for about an hour. I didn’t bother checking the weight of the bird; it fit my pan, that’s all I needed to know.