Although it is hardly a novel technique, our new, modern wood-burning stove has opened up a whole world of culinary experimentation to me. Before now the click of a knob or turn of a dial seamlessly preceded any cooking task, but with the crackling wood and cozy smoke scented aromas that fill our living space, I feel inclined to utilize the raw heat for more than warmth. It has defined true slow food, really driving home the concept of weaving time, energy, labor, and craft into a wood fired meal while consolidating our resource consumption instead of compiling it. It is the ancient practice of hearth cooking in today’s modern America, and anyone who still heats their house with fire can easily incorporate it into their daily food preparation plans.
First off, a full kettle on the top of the stove equals an instant hot beverage at any time of the day. My morning now just requires reaching for a mug and selecting a tea bag, and the rest is already done (that is, if a certain someone has been up early and stoked the fire before I rise). The kettle also acts as a room humidifier, battling the dryness of winter. Other water based cooking may take a little bit more time and a little advance planning, but a pot on the stove will eventually boil and lead to any number of results, from hard boiled eggs, to pasta, to oatmeal. And reheating is a breeze.
But there are some dishes that seem to improve from the slower heating and fire infusion. The recipe below is an example, where flavors fused and the texture actually improved from the gradual heat. The next chapter to take on will be baking projects, perhaps using the variety of cast iron pots and pans I have inherited from my grandparents. I’m envisioning crusty sourdough loaves in the heavy covered Dutch oven or puffy pancake souffles. Steamed puddings, roasted meats, caramelized vegetables, stews; there are a zillion possibilities and a long wet winter ahead to try them all.
2 organic fresh eggs
Homemade marinara sauce
Grated mozzarella cheese (optional)
Salt & Pepper
First, make sure you have a strong, roaring fire. In a small skillet, heat about ¼ cup of olive oil on top of the stove. Crack the eggs into the pan and cook until whites are solid (or until your desired level of jiggly or unjiggly-ness is achieved). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour about ½ cup of marinara around eggs and cover with grated cheese if using. Cover pan until melted and hot. Meanwhile, place a chunk or two of crusty bread on top of stove. Eat eggs, sopping up sauce with the hot bread.
Note: Although similar, this technique is obviously different from the one Alice Waters employs in her open home hearth, seen now in a variety of publications including lunch for Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes and a recent visit by NY Times columnist Maira Kalman. Not many of us are lucky enough to have an expansive kitchen fire pit here in the States, but open fire cooking indoors is still widely practiced around the world and is the precursor to our modern day fireplaces and wood stoves. My aim is to reclaim that energy source as a useful tool, and illustrate how easy it can be to eat from your heat.