One fire -- Many foods
One of the things I'm having fun with is learning how to use the oven to bake a variety of foods. With a WFO, this is not as easy as it may seem. There's no temperature knob on a WFO, so you can't just turn the heat up and down like in the typical kitchen range. Instead, you have to plan your baking to take advantage of the heat that you have available. This means getting the oven to a high temperature to start, and cook various things as appropriate as the temperature naturally falls.
One trick I've been working on is to cheat a bit and keep a small fire going even after the oven has reached it's baking temp. (Usually, you rake the fire and coals out of the oven once it's heated.) This does two things: It allows me to hold the temp a bit higher a bit longer, and it lets me add smoke to the mix. Here's last weekend's foray into the world of wood-fired cooking. It was hot, we had invited some neighbors over for dinner to celebrate his birthday, and thought we'd do the whole meal in the oven outside so we didn't heat up the kitchen with cooking.
First, there have been several questions about how much smoke a WFO produces. Unfortunately, I thought of this after my fire was already going pretty well, so I didn't get a shot of the smokey first 10 minutes, but here's a shot of the fire so you can see it's going hot & heavy, and a shot of the chimney top. Notice, no visible smoke.
Once the oven is hot enough that the soot burns off the bricks, it's time for bread. This dinner party was kind of a last minute thing, and I didn't have time the night before for the typical sourdough preferment routine, so I elected to build some Pain à l'ancienne per PR's BBA. That only takes a few minutes to put together on day one, then it's directly into the fridge until the next day, when it only takes minimal work to complete. We decided to make it into a focaccia this time, with a topping of EVO, basil, rosemary, garlic salt. The bread went in with an oven wall temp of around 550° for about 20 minutes. Here's the finished product:
Once the bread was out, the oven was still around 500° wall temps, so in went some fresh tomatoes and new red potatoes, cut up for later making into potato salad. I also tossed some oak chips/sticks onto the coals that I had kept in the oven to maks some smoke to flavor the veggies.
Wood-Roasted Plum Tomatoes:
(These were added to some other veggies that we grilled later, but I didn't get pix of the final medly.)
Here's a shot of the WFO-roasted potato salad:
The oven wall temp had now fallen to about 450°, so in went the desert - another peach/blueberry cobbler. I didn't get pix of this one, but I posted pix of one last week. You can see the very edge of the pan in this photo. You can also see how I maintain the coals during this process. I have a steel angle that I slide into the oven to make a box to hold the coals. I add small pieces of wood on top of the hot coals to maintain them and to generate smoke when desired.
Once the cobbler was done, I left the door open for a bit until the oven wall temp fell to around 400°. Then I built the fire up just a bit and added a bit of additional wood, to get things really smoking. Then I loaded some dry-rubbed ribs, and sealed the door almost tight so the fire would continue to smoke without either heating the oven further or going completely out. Left them cook for about 4 hours in the falling oven. Fifteen minutes before dinner, I mopped them with some Jack Daniels BBQ sauce (I gotta learn how to make sauce that good!) and here's the final product -- fall off the bone, don't-care-how-messy-you-get-eatin'-'em good, ribs.
Everything was very tasty, and we never went near the kitchen stove.
I'm gonna wind up fat as a house. ;-(