Buck wandered innocently into a hazardous work zone Monday evening: our kitchen. Unbeknownst to him, Cindy Pawlcyn's Napa Valley Mustards Grill cookbook had come in the mail and I couldn't resist a suppertime lab experiment. Buck was talking to me in the companionable way of long-married folks, and it took him a moment to realize that something unusual was afoot. I wasn't responding, but instead was leaning into a very (very) hot oven, where a dish of veggies was roasting furiously and a cast iron skillet holding a couple of chicken breasts was smoldering under a great big foil-wrapped Old Chicago brick (left over from our front porch).
Buck stopped talking, took a step backward when he was hit by a blast of heat and gave me a sidewise look as if checking to be sure I had everything under control.
I had a moment of doubt, when I tried to figure out how to get the huge and heavy sizzling cast iron out of the oven without hurting myself or dropping the brick or the skillet and smashing floor tiles. But it all worked out. I donned heavy pot holder gloves and removed the brick first; then hefted the 12" skillet out of the oven safely.
The Mustards Grill recipe is called "Lemon Garlic Chicken." I had heard of the chicken under a brick trick before, but never understood the attraction. Now, I do. The brick presses onto the hot chicken, and results in a crispy exterior and dense, moist interior. The recipe also calls for a fresh herb, shallot and garlic rub, and a lemon-garlic vinaigrette topping.
Okay, so what's next to try from the book: hmmmn, I think maybe the French Country-Style Vegetable Soup with Pistou. Sounds perfect for these newly-arrived cool evenings. And it doesn't involve handling hot bricks!