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Foodie Friday: Wood Fire Pit Grilling

IMG_20130615_155816One of the most primal preparations for food is open fire or ‘pit’ cooking. The complex flavors of smoke will permeate and season just about anything you cook over a wood fire. This last weekend I thought I would celebrate the summer and my backyard by having some friends and family over for a fire pit grilling party. The event was a huge success, with everyone getting their fill of delicious fire roasted meats and vegetables. Although we had a wonderful time and everyone was very happy, there was a tremendous amount of planning and calculation that went into our fire pit party. This week I want to share some of the tricks and details that really make cooking over a wood fire enjoyable and safe. Cheers!

Pit placement & safety equipment

Regardless of the size of your pit you will want to make sure you don’t start any wildfires. Place your pit a good distance from any wood structures, trees, brush or any flammable materials. Make sure you clear the ground at least four feet around the perimeter of your pit and keep a shovel, bucket, plenty of water and fire extinguisher close. It’s also advisable to check the local laws and regulations for burning in your area, some places have seasonal designations for open fires.

Building materials

If you are out in nature and there are an abundance of large rock from which you can build your pit that is great. I, however, found that yIMG_20130613_101053ou can get a perfectly round four foot diameter pit built easily using retaining wall bricks.

When it comes to a grill I have decided to use nine gauge non-galvanized expanded steel grating. This material is very common and can be purchased easily, although you might want to request they cut it to your specifications which may take a few days extra. It is very important that you get non-galvanized steel. Galvanized steel is processed with lots of chemicals and can make you sick. In addition I also used two pieces of non-galvanized angle steel (optional) to separate my 2’x4′ sections of grill for quick and easy access to the fire.
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Foodie Friday: Khoresht Fesenjaan

As most of you know by now, cooking has always been a passion of mine. There was a point in my career when I wanted to learn as much as I could about as many different styles of cuisine. My adventures included working for many small independently owned family restaurants.

Of all the different styles of cuisine that I tried my hand at, I’d say that Persian food has always been one of my favorites to cook and eat. The first place I worked was a thirty-five seat casual dining restaurant specializing in Persian BBQ. Waking up at 5am to start the wood fired oven/grill and get the dough made for the flat bread, served to every guest, is one of the defining moments in my life. I enjoyed the calm quiet of the early morning while the fire crackled and hissed. I then butchered leg of lamb and prepared my mise en place for the day.

For those of you who have never had this type of food I can tell you that it is delicious, mostly consisting of large skewers of lamb, chicken, and vegetables. Many of the items on the menu were fairly Americanized and simple, while these items were still wonderful and delicious, the authentic dishes were my favorite to cook and eat. Khoresht Fesenjaan, a puréed chicken and walnut stew is my favorite, hands down. This rich, savory-sweet sauce with chunks of chicken and onion served over fluffy rice seemed a physical impossibility to duplicate using standard methods. After much research I was able to learn how to make not only the Khoresht Fesenjaan but also the rice that came along with it!

Persian style rice is an art form. Its importance in the cuisine and culture of the region is very dear to the hearts of those who have ever eaten it. When left to cook slightly longer than intended, a crust of golden brown rice called ta-dig forms on the bottom of the pot, this is considered a treat.

Here are the recipes for Khoresht Fesenjaan and Polow (Persian style rice) that I have been using to impress friends and employers for years. Enjoy!
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