Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let me stand next to your fire

I've had a huge stack of bricks in the yard for years. A while back I decided to dissemble the brick patio in the backyard as it had shifted and humps and dips had formed so that it wasn't exactly pleasant to walk on. I certainly didn't want to get rid of the bricks, so I just stacked them up at the bottom of the yard for future use. I've been thinking about building (and I use that term loosely) a firepit with some of the bricks and today, with its lovely temperature, seemed like the day. Since I was just placing and stacking bricks, not using any kind of mortar or anything, this was a pretty quick job. I started with some concrete blocks and surrounded them with bricks, adding a second layer on the inside for a sort of insulation. (I have no idea what I'm really doing, officially, but I figure I can't do much harm burning some sticks in my yard.) In the inside bottom, I poured a half a bag of river pebbles I happened to have, just to give some separation between fire and the ground. It seemed like a good idea.

We have three trees in our yard so there is no shortage of dried sticks and wood to burn. I started the fire with some tightly rolled newspaper, piling on some larger pieces of wood and kindling on top. Soon enough I had a pretty good fire going.
I love fire. I love playing in fires. I love poking at fires. I love burning things. Is this a bad combination? Time will tell, I suppose. Although I intended to eventually cook on this fire, initially I just wanted to kick back and enjoy it. I had attempted, just by eyeing it, to match the width of the pit with the grill grates that I had. Not so much, but it still works for the time being.
Foxy Brown is somewhat skeptical about the fire.
On the menu for the inaugural firepit meal was steak, fish and foil-packet potatoes. I threw the potatoes into the embers and covered them with a fairly flat chunk of ember for a time.
Then it was time to amp up the flames for the meat cooking. I put the monkfish in a small cast iron skillet with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and covered it with foil.
After letting both of these things cook for a bit, I added the steak and did add a little wood to get the flames going a bit more.
I also pulled the potatoes out of the embers before they could burn.

I couldn't be more pleased with the food results. The steak was unbelievably delicious, cooked quickly and licked by the flames and infused with the smoke. The fish absorbed a bit of smoky flavor, which was a wonderful counterpoint to the lemon. The potatoes were nicely steamed and had a bit of smoke too.

I can't wait to cook over the fire again soon. I will have to get a bigger grate and some bigger chunks of wood to grill something that needs a slower, gentler cooking. Also, this is as close to campfire cooking as I'm ever going to get with the Boy in tow. And that's okay.

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