I’ve been baking for so long now with a woodstove oven that it’s second nature. But baking bread using my horno (my clay, wood-fired bread oven, see picture below) is always an adventure. Even though I’ve had it for at least 4 years now, I’m still far from mastering the fine points of the perfect fire, the perfect heat, and knowing when to do what. But, the challenge is part of what makes it fun!
Yesterday, I baked in the horno–and then, made a small feast!
I baked 2 dozen bagels and 2 loaves of bread (rosemary and plain wheat). Also grilled red peppers, salmon and steak with the coals I swept out of the oven and into the kettle grill. The salmon was the best I’d had in ages– very fresh and flavorful, and thick enough that it was easy to not overcook it. I took it off the grill when it was only about half way cooked, and then let it sit in the kitchen with a big bowl turned over it. The good little kittens didn’t dare to disturb the arrangement, while Kiva and Rhiannon went to town to take care of a lot of mail orders. (“the kittens” are all fully grown, but I still enjoy calling them all kittens…)
While cooking, I sat out next to the horno with a timer and read Paula Marcoux’s fantastic book Cooking with Fire, checking on the contents of the oven every 5 minutes while the temperature was really hot, and daydreaming about roasted eggplants, of which Paula had included some terribly seductive photos.
But even checking that often was not enough, in the beginning. I’d guess that the oven was about 500 or more degrees when I put the first batch of bagels in, which I burned. But not too badly, thankfully. Everything else turned out great. Paula suggests using a infared thermometer to help “learn the oven”, which I’m considering. I like being able to manage without one, but sometimes I’m a little too stubborn about these things.
While Kiva and Rhiannon were gone I finished baking and grilling just before a lovely downpour, and had already put some carrots to roast in the oven. Wolf helped me run around and tend to everything so we didn’t lose much water, (we gather up as much rainwater as we can during this monsoon season, for all our water uses) and he put most of the overflow into the garden. (he so hates for the plants to miss out on a single available drop!) By the time they got back the the raw part of the salmon flesh had become not as raw, and meltingly textured. I didn’t warm it up any more, because it couldn’t have been more perfect!
Above: Just before the rain
I smeared soft butter all over my portion, and ate it on basil leaves with smoked salt, and the grilled red pepper on top, with butter-sautéed portobello mushrooms and kalamata olives on the side, in between nibbles of preserved lemon. It was so lovely I didn’t even want any garlic, or dill. But Kiva suggested we open up some Icelandic blueberry yogurt, not too sweet, and try that with the salmon. Sounds really weird, but it was amazing– especially with the basil-red pepper bites, and pear hard cider!
Below: Roasted Carrots and the Basil Patch, Grilling Peppers
And of course, there was fresh rosemary bread…
What is your favorite way to eat, or cook , or marinate salmon?
Or your favorite fish?
Or, tell me (or send me a link to) a recent cooking adventure!