The beginning of warmer weather is always cause for celebration in Vermont. We welcomed the warmer weather with FIRE – Francis Mallmann style FIRE.
“Think of fire as a love affair of a kind between heat and food. Like real love, it must be nurtured and replenished or the fire will go out and, with it, the passion that inspires our cooking” Francis Mallmann
It was fitting tribute to our one active military member in our family, Nicholas McGowen USCG, who along with his family (wife and 6 month old baby boy) were about to embark on a cross-country trip from Burlington, Vermont to Ketchikan, AK. They were re-stationed and left shortly after this weekend. We were so glad to send them off with fire, food, and family.
One note of caution if you decide to light your backyard on fire, as we did, the temperature outside should probably be between 40-60 Fahrenheit. It was 85 the day we did this and our men over heated. Over heated men equate to angry baby men, but the meal was fantastic.
Francis Mallmann’s seminal first cookbook, The Seven Fires, describes the 7 basic fires you need to know to cook outdoors. Our men discovered Mallmann a while ago from his television shows and they fell in love instantly, and as is usual with Big Swing he had to do all of them in one day. We didn’t quite make it to all 7 but we did 4: Parilla (Grill), Chapa (Griddle), Rescoldo (Embers and Ashes), and Asador (Spit). Seven fires: grilling the Argentine way, Mallmann, Francis Artisan (2009).
ASADOR– A method for cooking the entire animal secured to an iron cross or hooks.
Todo bicho que camina
Va a parar alasador.
Every creature that walks
Ends up roasting on the iron cross.
-OLD ARGENTINE PROVERB
Roast Suckling Piglet
40lb. piglet with skin
Basting Juice (recipe below)
We raise Berkshire and Mangalitsa hogs are our farm, and this particular piglet was injured and wouldn’t have made it to market weight. We couldn’t sell it, and we didn’t want it to sit in our freezer so, “here piggy, piggy, piggy.”
Begin your fire 1 to 1 ½ hours before you wish to begin cooking. True Mallman fire is over wood and he suggests you start with 10 large pieces of wood and continue to add as needed. (Please refer to his Seven Fires book for greater detail on fire and iron cross cooking)
This size piglet took us 4 hours.
To prepare the piglet, wash it down and clean out the cavity. Salt the inside of the cavity to lightly coat and salt exterior of piglet. Pepper using the same method but ½ the amount of pepper to salt. Tie the piglet to an iron cross of your making using wire (nothing that will melt) and place iron cross over flame. As this cooks you need to move the iron cross closer or farther away to ensure the piglet cooks evenly. Once cooked allow it to cool for 30 minutes and then begin the processing of un-tieing. Serve immediately – Enjoy!
4 c water
2 c maple syrup
½ c salt
RESCOLDO is a method where you cook your ingredients by covering them with the hot embers.
Whole Salmon Baked in Clay
1 Whole Salmon
Salt to taste
5 lbs. Potters Clay (or foraged mud from riverbed)
Wash Salmon and salt cavity. (Our fish was already scaled and organs all removed) Peel lemons and place whole lemons inside fish.
This is the creative part –
Place the fish on counter you can get dirty and wrap fish in parchment paper. Encase the entire fish in clay/mud forming ½” thick cover around entire fish. Big Swing then shaped it into the fish and molded eyes and fins and scales – but you don’t need to do that to cook it – its good no matter what the clay looks like.
Place clay covered fish inside bed of hot coals (again refer to Mallman’s Seven Fires for technique) and leave for 1 hr. When cooked remove from coals and let sit until cool enough to break open clay. Serve fish by scraping the flesh out with a spoon and add a dollop of lemon garlic aioli to the plate.
Lemon Garlic Aioli
1/4 c lemon juice, plus extra for adjustment
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
4 garlic cloves
2 c olive oil
1 ¼ tsp salt
Blend garlic first and then add egg yolk and whole eggs but stir into garlic mixture gently.
Add lemon juice and blend.
As motor still runs add olive oil in slow stream paying attention to the emulsion that is building.
If it clots (breaks) you have to start over again. Test and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.
The end result should be frothy and creamy not oily.
Squash a la Rescoldo
1 Butternut Squash
2 Acorn Squash
4 cups fresh chevre (goats milk)
4 cups baby arugula
Salt to taste
Once your bed of coals is hot (refer to Mallman’s Seven Fires for testing temperature of the coals), place the squash directly in the coals. Cook for 1-2 hours or until charred and very soft to the touch (be careful it will be very hot!).
Let sit and cool until you are able to touch with bare hands.
Quarter or slice squash.
Place slices on plates or platter and dollop fresh chevre in center of each slice.
Place handful of arugula over each slice.
Finish with salt and serve – Nom Nom.
Sourdough Fire Wraps
(we recently scored some King Arthur Sourdough mother starter, so we followed their recipe with a few of our own embellishments)
1 cup (8-1/2 ounces) unfed sourdough starter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) hot water
2-1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instand yeast
4 teaspoons of seasoned olive oil of your liking. We used an herb/garlic infused olive oil.
Directions: Combine all the ingredients. Mix then knead the dough, by hand, mixer, or bread machine, until smooth and slightly sticky. Let rise in a lightly greased, covered container until just about doubled in bulk, 2 to 4 hours depending on how vigorous your starter is. (We will sometimes let ours go overnight to enhance the flavor of the dough.)
Rip sections of the dough off and form into shapes of your choice (don’t forget to dust your hands and counter with a bit of flour), but flatter is better with this cooking technique. Place dough onto hot coals. The time it takes to cook really is dependent on how hot you have your coals, as well as how thinly you have rolled your bread. We found in order to get the right amount of char without burning as well as a thoroughly cooked dough, your best bet is to roll out the dough thinly. This is definitely not a set it and forget it dish – keep an eye on your bread so the shit doesn’t burn!
CHAPA is essentially an iron griddle which is great for quick grilling smaller items.
Smashed Potatoes with Tapenade Adapted from ‘Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way’ (See Above)
For the Tapenade: 1 c. kalamata olives, minced 2 T. capers, minced 1 t. grated lemon zest 1 T. fresh lemon juice 1 1/2 t. fresh thyme, chopped 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil Fresh ground black pepper
Mix everything in a bowl. Let it sit and ruminate up to two days before serving.
For the Potatoes: About 1-1/2 pounds of waxy small red or white potatoes, 1 bay leaf 6 black peppercorns Salt
Wash potatoes. If not uniform in size, cut to size and parboil, with all added seasonings, until tender. Drain and discard seasonings. Cool.
Once the chapa (griddle) is hot (again refer to Mallman’s Seven Fires) add a little olive oil to chapa and then place potatoes on the chapa and smash them with a fork. This is meant to look messy.
Cook potatoes until crispy around edges. Remove from chapa. Plate with tapenade dolloped over potatoes.
As if we didn’t have enough to eat, we thought it a great idea to grill an octopus for a salad dish.
This was a super simple, light dish that plated beautifully!
1 whole octopus
Arugula (we used about 10 oz for our gathering)
Edible Flowers (we foraged wild pansies from our property)
5 lemons cut into wedges
4 cloves of garlic (2 cloves whole for water pot, 2 cloves minced for grilling)
4 tablespoons of fresh thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
Before grilling the octopus (clean it, obvi) and boil for 40 minutes in large pot. Season water with salt and peppercorns to taste along with 1 lemon and 2 garlic cloves. Remove and pat dry. Drizzle the octopus in olive oil, black pepper, remaining garlic (minced) and thyme.
While the octopus is boiling, you can prepare your greens. Like I said earlier, we kept it simple on this one. Simply toss the greens lightly with olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper.
Grill octopus on chapa for 16 minutes total. When grilling you want to grill each side for 4 minutes, rotate a quarter turn each time. Once done grilling, we simply arcade the tentacles on the bed of greens and garnished with our foraged flowers.
PARILLA utilizes any sort of grate grill on.
1 full Wagyu Beef Tenderloin
1 c butter
We raise Full Blood Wagyu at our farm, and while farming is long days and no weekends, there are some benefits. We used a tenderloin for this event and it didn’t disappoint. We served it with Mallman’s Argentine Chimichurri, yummy.
Melt the butter.
Salt the tenderloin
Baste with butter.
Once Parilla is hot enough, add tenderloin to grill.
Cook to desired temperature.
Let sit for 15-30 minutes, depending upon the size.
Argentinia Chimichurri –
Adapted from ‘Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way’ (See Above)
1 cup water
1 tbsp coarse salt
8 cloves garlic, peeled, minced finely
1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped finely
1 cup fresh oregano leaves, chopped finely
2 tsp dried red chilli, crushed
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Add the salt. Stir to dissolve. Remove from heat to cool.
- In a medium bowl, put the garlic, parsley, oregano and chillies.
- Whisk in the red wine vinegar, then the olive oil, then the salt water.
- Transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid. Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
Makes 2 cups
Lately we have been drinking a lot of Moscow Mules. They are refreshing in the warmer weather and are a great excuse to break out our copper mule mugs. For this event we had Margaritas, Mules, and Micro-Brews. Here is our bar set-up.
“When it comes time to sit down to eat, it doesn’t matter to me how people dress or speak, how they look or sound or even smell. They’re all beautiful if they share one simple quality: respect for the meal, the moment, and one another – those who cook, those serve, and those who eat. Such people are always welcome at my table.”
Seven fires: Grilling the Agrentine way, Mallman, Francis Artisan (2009).