Playing With Cast Iron and Fire
By Monica Smith
**A recipe for Chicken ‘N Rice Soup is at the bottom**
The beginning of fall always means bonfires around here. Families look for any reason to gather around outside with a fire roaring, laughing and enjoying each others’ company. I enjoy a bonfire as much as anyone, but we decided to tone things down a bit this fall. Down to a fire pit.
After taking Zander and Lucas outside, I showed them how I wanted the fire pit dug. They proudly went to work, knowing what was to come. We had an unused grate laying around that would suit our purposes perfectly.
My cast iron was just begging to be re-seasoned on the new fire pit. Who was I to argue? The kids and I sat around for hours feeding the fire and seasoning pots, looking forward to the evening when we would cook our very first meal over an open flame. I was nervous and scared and excited all at the same time. Lana, Constance, and Aubrey walked through the yard picking up sticks while the boys chopped wood.
As the evening wore on, I looked up and saw this gorgeous sight. And I was thankful I wasn’t cooped up inside to miss this. There was actually more to see, but the camera just couldn’t bring it all into the picture. It was breathtaking and memorable. Perfect for the day.
I could only shake my head at some of my chickens through it all. The fire seemed to beckon them. Or perhaps it was the stew pot. Several came running the instant the fire was lit, and one little anxious rooster ran onto the grate! We saw where he was headed and was able to scoop him off less than a second after his foot landed on it. Although he was uninjured, I had to explain to him that his time would come soon enough to be over that fire! Our patience will be rewarded; he just isn’t old enough yet. But you know kids. They hate hearing they aren’t old enough.
It took a few gentle swipes of my stick towards chickens wandering too close for Chewie, the Great Pyrenees, to understand what I was doing. After that, I never had to worry again. He was on the job.
Then … the time had finally come.
I can’t even begin to describe the little thrill the children and I had when that water had come to a boil. You’d have thought none of us had ever cooked a blessed thing in our lives. Soon, the cast iron had cooked the chicken through, and it was time to add the rice. Normally, I would pull the chicken out of the broth and de-bone it first, but decided to leave it as-is and serve everyone a chicken leg with their rice. It turned out great!
We sat around as the coals died down and enjoyed a great meal. We had put a wash basin full of water close to the fire to wash dishes with before we brought them into the house. Cleaning up didn’t take long since there were no surfaces to wipe down. And I have to admit … sitting down the whole time I’m cooking is a great way to go. Who ever thought standing up and cooking was a great idea?! They need knocking in the head.
**Recipe for Chicken ‘N Rice
(this isn’t an exact recipe. If I see the water is getting too low, I just add more a little at a time.)
• 1 lb chicken, boiled (reserve broth)
• 2 cups of rice
• 4 cups (or more) of chicken broth
• 1/2 stick butter
• 1 cup milk
• salt & pepper to taste
1. After boiling the chicken, use tongs to pull chicken out of the pot and into a bowl. Allow to cool enough to de-bone. At this time, add salt & pepper to the broth. Taste and see if you should add more. Word to the wise — blow the broth before putting it to your lips.
2. Add meat back to the broth and stir in rice. Cook over medium heat, stirring often. If the broth gets low, add water. Cook until rice is tender. (Sorry, I never time anything. Follow package instructions for length of time.)
3. Once rice is completely cooked, add milk and butter. You can also add a little flour if you want to make it thicker. Allow to come to a boil again, then remove from heat. Letting it sit for 15 minutes will give it time to thicken up a little.
The last step is always to enjoy!
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