AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Fireplace Cooking DATE: 12/14/2009 01:54:00 PM ----- BODY:

A few snowy winters ago, I invited friends over for dinner and a fire. When the guests arrived, I wanted to cozy up with them in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine. Not wanting to leave the meal simmering on the stovetop unattended, I brought the food with me into the living room. I rearranged the fire and balanced the pots on the logs and irons. The potatoes boiled atop a small flame while the venison gently simmered in the corner. When the potatoes were cooked, I mashed them with scallions and a little bit of butter. They took on a smoky quality which married beautifully with the earthy venison stew.

This weekend, some friends rented a house in Vermont. It was requested that I make “tandoori” lamb for Saturday’s dinner. I knew it wouldn’t be as good as past versions when I’ve roasted the meat over a wood-charcoal grill. It wouldn’t get the intense heat of the grill to caramelize the meat nor the nuanced flavor only achieved by wood smoke. I doubted the rental house would have a grill (and given the weather, didn’t know that I would be able to cook outside anyway) and I didn’t want to make the mess of searing the meat on the stovetop either. But when I saw the wood fireplace in the dining room, I knew we were in business!

Cooking in the hearth requires a vigilant eye while the food is cooking. The temperature fluctuates depending on the strength of the fire. And as the logs burn and the fire moves around, the cooking pots will need to be rebalanced. Occasionally rearranging of the logs and the pots ensures even cooking. I use pots that I don’t mind getting dirty, as it’s tough to clean off the smoky residue. Better yet, you can use disposable recycle-able aluminum pans.

…and if you wonder why I prefer wood burning fireplaces over gas, this is it! Hopefully, someday I will again live in a house with a fireplace.


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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:12/14/2009 03:51:00 PM I'd really like to try this someday. I once met a woman who is a food historian, and will periodically hold hearth cooking classes. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:12/14/2009 07:12:00 PM We took a hearth cooking class a few years ago from a woman who owns a B&B in Westerly, RI. Every dish on the menu was cooked in the hearth, using a variety of techniques involving turning, repositioning, and tending the fire. It was great fun, and the food was delicious. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Fresh Local and Best DATE:12/15/2009 03:53:00 AM I'd like to try fireplace cooking someday too! I'm imagining the wonderful smokey flavors on the dishes. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:12/15/2009 01:22:00 PM How amazing. I watched a whole show on TV last night about fireplace cooking...how cool. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous we are never full DATE:12/17/2009 09:35:00 PM oh my god - I LOVE THIS!!! what a great idea!!! love the rusticity of it all. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:12/22/2009 10:42:00 PM I wouldn't have the first clue how to cook in my fireplace without distroying the food or burning the house down. But, I like the idea! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lori Lynn DATE:12/26/2009 12:18:00 AM You are a brave woman.
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