Fireplace Feast

Our technology has become so speedy, we forgot how our forefathers {um, mothers} cooked way back when.....Cooking indoors over a hardwood fire.

Cooking over hardwood has become a lost art. It is the epitome of slow food eating. Who doesn't love to sit idle by the fire for a few minutes? It is like a meditation and I, for one, can sit quietly for hours mesmorized by a flame. Consider it permission to slow down to the speed of a delicious pace of life. We often don't realize how fast we are running until we actually put on the brakes. It is time to slow down and savor.

After all of the chaos of the holidays, this is a perfect way to unwind and get back to a more sane routine. Artful eating and slow food cooking at its delicious best. Enjoy the sound of crackle, snap, pop in the background and a soothing and ambient atmosphere from the billowy, yellow-orange flames.

When the flames settle and the wood starts to shrink, this is the time to pull out the grill. This is not just any grill, this is the Tuscan Italian Grill. An 18th century Italian cooking tool that I have been using for many, many years. 20 years and counting....the same grill! Indoors, out of doors. {see future blog postings for more information!}

Cooking over hardwood is the new cooking trend for 2009. Restaurants in the know have been or are now cooking on hardwood. Zuni Cafe, Chez Panisse, Manka's, Craft. These are some of my favorites. It's time to bring the flavor of hardwood into your own kitchen!

You may never go back to the propane tank again. I never did.

Here's a recipe to introduce you to the aromatic flavor of hardwood cooking.


To Prepare the Creamed Cabbage:
2 oz. pancetta or four slices of applewood smoked bacon
4 cups sliced green cabbage
salt & pepper
1/2 cup cream
1 Tablespoon butter

Cut the pancetta or bacon into thin strips. In a large saute pan, heat the pancetta or bacon over medium heat and render out the fat. The pancetta or bacon should get crispy, but not too brown. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels or brown paper. Set aside. Keep the bacon grease in the pan to cook the cabbage.

Add the cabbage, season with salt & pepper, and saute over medium heat just until the greens are wilted. Add the cream and continue to cook until the mixture is creamy and tender. Add the butter and stir until melted. This gives a nice glossy finish to the dish. Keep warm until ready to serve.

4 Medium apples in season, cut in half and core removed {Mcintosh are one of my favorites for this recipe}
1 cup apple cider, like Martinelli's
1 stick cinnamon * optional
1 stick vanilla bean, split in half * optional
1 tsp. chestnut honey

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the apples and apple juice, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. When the mixture begins to until simmer, cover the pan and cook until the apples are soft. This will take about 30 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Rinse the vanilla bean pod and dry. This will make a wonderful flavoring for sugar.
Remove the cinnamon stick and disgard. Add the honey. Mash the apples until mixture becomes a chunky puree. Set aside or refrigerate up to 2 days until ready to serve.

Olive oil
2 large bone-in center cut chops
1 tsp. Tuscan Rose & Pink Peppercorn Salt {or your favorite sea salt herb blend}

Bring chops to room temperature and lightly brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt on both sides.
Place on the grill and cook until pink and tender, about 4-6 minutes on each side.
Remove from grill and serve over the Creamed Cabbage with the Apple Mash

serves two hungry carnivores.

stay tuned to learn more about the Grill!

Buon appetito!
copyright 2008 Alisa Barry

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