A couple of weeks ago I was cooking a chicken. Now, this is something I do quite often, but in this instance I was cooking a chicken differently than I normally do. That’s because I’m working on a cookbook! Yes, some of you may know this already but I’m writing a real live cookbook with a friend of mine, and former coworker from my Saveur days–Kathleen Brennan. Rodale Books will be publishing it and we have a great title (which I cannot share with you because it’s so awesome I’m afraid someone might steal it!). I can tell you that it will contain not only 100 delicious, interesting, and essential weekday-friendly recipes, but it will also help everyone from the accomplished home cook to the wary wannabe home cook enjoy cooking more, with less stress, guilt, and emotional turmoil and more confidence, fun, and skill. Can we pull that off? I think we can!
So back to the chicken…
I was testing a recipe for our book and had decided to broil a split chicken breast to see if I could get the cooking time down while still producing a delicious roasted bird with crispy skin and juicy meat.
I made a bed of sweet potatoes (aka kindling) and rubbed the bird with spices, lemon juice, and olive oil (aka gasoline).
I moved the oven rack to what I thought was a safe distance from the overhead flame and then put the roasting pan with the chicken beneath it. I closed the oven, set a timer, and went to watch The Electric Company with the kids (I love the new Electric Company).
After a few minutes the fire alarm went off. Now, at this point there was no burning smell (I usually have a very acute sense of smell, which I attribute to my extremely poor eyesight–I’m sort of like a dog) or recognizable hints of imminent danger, so I got up to turn off the alarm which I just assumed was being a little oversensitive.
As I climbed a chair and started banging on the alarm my mom suggested that maybe I should check on the chicken…just in case.
So I did. I walked over to the oven, nonchalantly opened the door, and was met with a flaming inferno. The bird, the pan, the potatoes, they were all ON FIRE.
I know we all like to think that, faced with a crisis or emergency, we will be unflappable. Like a character from NCIS. But in reality, when faced with a flaming chicken, most of us will just run around in circles screaming. This is kind of what I did. I shouted for the kids to run out to the backyard (which they did, sprinting to the jungle gym that’s about 50 yards away and climbing to the very top of it where they spent the next half hour bawling that mommy was burning the house down).
My mom tried to call 911 but couldn’t find her reading glasses so instead just ran around the house holding the phone and hunting for her glasses (I could have dialed it for her, but clearly that would have made too much sense).
I located the fire extinguisher in the coat closet (And if there’s any lesson I can impart from this experiences it’s to always have a fire extinguisher