Fans swear on the enhanced flavour of food cooked over firewood. The smoke infuses an extra element of taste, especially if you use fruitwood. The live flames also give the food a unique colour, more so if they come into direct contact with the food. This works with cuts of meat or roasted vegetables that are cooked on roasting spits or wire trays.
Skeptical chefs may worry about controlling oven temperatures because it’s not as reliable as switching the temperature dial. Your only choices with a wood-fuelled oven are to reduce or increase the amount of wood you’re using. Alternatively, you can wait until the wood has dulled to glowing embers before you add your food.
Still, wood fires do have their proponents. They claim food cooks more evenly, and that natural flavours are heightened by this method of cooking. It’s a popular choice for alfresco pizza, but it can also be used for cake, cookies, meat, casseroles, barbeques, or grills.
Woodfired ovens are ideal for slow-cooking your ingredients. If for example, you’re a fan of beans, you can make them in a wood-fired oven. This recipe has some interesting, globally diverse ingredients including beer, maple syrup, orange marmalade, and peppercorn.
- 1 and a 1/4 cups of diced onions
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup of dried white beans
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1/2 a cup ketchup
- 1/2 a teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns
- a 1/4 cup of light beer
- 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons of orange marmalade
- 2 to 3 teaspoons of chipotle puree or more, depending on your taste
- 3 stars of anise
- salt and pepper to taste
If you’re worried about beans making you gassy, soaking them overnight breaks down most of the elements that cause bloating. It helps to change out the water as it soaks, though it’s not absolutely necessary. Either way, if you find yourself awake in the course of the night, make a quick trip to the kitchen, pour out the liquid, and refill the dish with clean water.
In the morning, pour out the soaking water. Put the beans in a pot with clean water, and your bay leaf. Boil the beans until they are soft but not mushy. Overnight soaking will drastically reduce your cooking time, so this may take 2 to 3 hours. Using a pressure cooker cuts your cook-time even further. Add salt towards the end, when the beans are almost fully cooked.
Drain any excess water and put the beans aside. Next, fry your onions and garlic in olive oil until soft, then add anise and peppercorns in a cheesecloth bag. In an oven-proof pot, put in all the other ingredients plus the beans, onions, garlic, and cheesecloth bag. Mix them well, then cover the pot and place it in the wood-fired oven.
The temperature of the pot should be on the lower side, about 180 degrees Centigrade or 325 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use an oven thermometer to check the heat levels and remove a few logs to lower the temperature. You could also take out the flaming wood, let it burn down, and use the resultant hot coals.
To ensure the right cooking temperature, prepare the embers in advance, long before you start baking the beans. You could, for example, boil the beans, set them aside, then get the oven to the right temperature before you sauté the garlic and onions.
Every ten to fifteen minutes or so, open the pot and stir to mix the flavours and keep the food from sticking to the pot. Add hot water if the food gets too dry. Bake the beans for 2 or 3 hours, and as you wind up, you could add a tablespoon of bourbon for a little extra kick. Taste as you cook to see if the flavour is right, and feel free to add more salt or chipotle.
This delicious slow-baked dish is ideal for breakfast, served with toast, scrambled eggs, and sausages. You could also serve it as a barbecue side dish, with hotdogs, roast potatoes, lamb cutlets, or corn on the cob. Alternatively, serve it for lunch or dinner with quinoa or rice. It keeps well and tastes even better when you rewarm it a few days in. Bon appétit!
After your delicious meal, don’t forget to clean your Wood Fired Oven!