It’s no lightweight, this skillet. A solid twelve inches of cast iron heavy with history, the rich dark patina of seasoning testifying to years of constant use.
It was through a sad event, a death in the family and the subsequent clearing out of her house, that Michael came into possession of his grandfather’s skillet. But the skillet itself bore nothing but happy memories.
He has told me about his grandfather’s ranch in Texas, going fishing there, eating homemade peach ice cream. And now, there is unmistakable satisfaction in holding this tangible remembrance of his grandfather. The ineluctable weight of generations of family rests in his hands.
“What did your Grandpa make in it?” I ask.
“Everything!” Michael replies. “Everything good. Fried chicken, fried fish, hot water cornbread…this skillet is probably older than I am.”
We are eager to cook something in it, and I know the very thing. The other day, I saw a recipe on The Pioneer Woman for Buttered Rosemary Rolls made in a cast iron skillet. Just looking at the pictures made me hungry.
I’m not confident in my dough handling abilities. Kneading and rising worry me a little. There is a willfulness to yeast that resists my uncertain grasp. I rely on my bread machine for the most part. But these rolls can be made from frozen bread dough, so we forge ahead. The skillet is filmed with olive oil, and the dough thaws and rises beautifully all afternoon, becoming crowded cumulus clouds. I dab the rolls with butter, sprinkle with rosemary and salt, and they are ready to bake.
When the rolls come out of the oven, they are dimpled and nubbly on top, golden brown and fragrant. Pulled apart, they release a breath of steam. They are at once light and substantial, simple and luxurious. They are the staff of life.