We made our way to the river this past weekend. It was a test run for a few recipes. There are a few things I wanted to see if we could pull off on the open fire. Outcome: Awesome.
Friday night we put together a salad of 100% locally sourced produce. Wild watercress, lettuce from a Mennonite farm, spring onions, radishes, and black walnuts - all from the same farm. We added a little goat feta too. Dressed with a red wine vinaigrette. The red wind vinegar was a gift from a Spanish friend and the whole thing was just crisp and tasty. My pal Jason provided the protein in the form of locally sourced ribs grilled for what seemed like forever. The entire meal, which fed five hungry people, set us all back about $30, not counting the charcoal.
We cooked Saturday dinner on the Knoll. I arranged the firepit into two circles, one for the main fire (mother fire) and the other for coals. We crafted a paella out of duck, turkey chorizo, and the wrong kind of rice (We had to opt for arboroi rice since there was no bomba to be found in Nashville.) It was amazing. Built the soffritto in the pan amongst the duck and sausage. All of this cooked in a 17" Lodge paella pan - a gift from my pal Josh.
Here's test recipe number one: I took some of Kim's homemade bread dough and loafed up a boule to rise. We've done this at home in the thermostatically controlled over countless times, but tonight, in the woods, by the river, we put the boule in a Dutch oven and the bread turned out perfectly.
Sunday morning we pulled out the flat griddle and fried up two eggs per person and about a pound of Perry County beef bacon. For toast, we used the leftover bread from Saturday night.
Sunday night, after keeping the fire burning all day long, we made a version of Peruvian flank steak with a wicked green sauce that includes lime, feta, jalapenos, and cilantro - wicked. It's a simple meal with lots of amazing flavors from aji amarillo and aji panca - a couple of South American mild chili pastes.
Here's test recipe number two: I've been making a version of a spelt flour cake at home for the past several months, since I read an article in Saveur Magazine about Giorgia Goggi, a young female chef in Puglia, Italy. It's not a difficult cake to make and it's just the perfect amount of sweet, but not too. I lined a spring form pan with parchment, put it on top of a trivet in a cast iron Dutch oven (Lodge #12). It took longer than it usually does at home, but it was so perfect. I whipped up some heavy cream and topped the whole dessert affair off with burnt oranges.
So, what I learned this weekend is this: One can cook sophisticated, subtle, and even delicate recipes over an open flame. What I learned this weekend, which I had suspected for a long time - open fire cooking does not require in-your-face, barbecue-rub-slathered, over-cooked, huge chunks of meat. Open fire cooking is simply another way of applying heat to things.
So, give it a try. Fire up the grill, light the griddle, blaze up the fire pit.