Garlic Roasted on an Open Fire

December 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Sunday morning we were sitting around, wondering how to fill the final day of our long weekend.  We love each other, but as I’ve mentioned, our house is small.  I was looking through my new favorite cookbook, Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater.  His recipes are beautiful and simple, and he describes his meals with gorgeous prose and just enough snark.  I was inspired by a passage where he went ‘to market’ with no shopping list, just a vague idea he would like something to go with the paper-thin slices of French ham in his fridge.  The resulting lunch: Celeriac and Walnut Remoulade with Bayonne Ham, Slices of Grilled Black Pudding, Pan-Fried Apple and Triangles of Crisply Fried Bread with A Simple Salad of Frisee with Lemon and Oil, and Old-Fashioned Cake.  Well. That’s lovely, Nigel.  I said to my husband: “Let’s go to the farmer’s market with only a vague idea that we would like to cook our family dinner and see what happens!!” So we did.

Several hours later, soaking wet and chilled to the bone we were back home with a small fortune worth of Ballard Farmers Market goods, plus two toys purchased at Clover as bribes to keep our children cooperative.  I went to the kitchen and waited for The Muse to tell me what to make for dinner.  My husband went to the living room to start a fire to stave off pneumonia.

My favorite thing about our little house is its unreasonably large, wood burning fireplace.  Completely inefficient, probably toxic, it gets me through November and December every year.  When I have to drive my children home from school with the headlights on, when lamps get turned on before 4 o’clock everyday, a wood fire is all that stands between me and a serious case of crazy.  It took us a few years to master the art of building fires  – a bad draft, damp wood, or lack of attention and our little house can get smoked out right quick.  The irony of trying to start a warming fire and having to open all of the doors and windows on a chilly December night was completely lost on us.  We just kept trying (“…cough…wheeze…hack….Close the girls’ bedroom door!…cough…’).  Now we are expert.

Our take from the Ballard Market: 4 pork sausages from Sea Breeze, chanterelles from Foraged & Found, a loaf from Tall Grass Bakery, butter from Golden Glen Creamery. We still have squash (oh yes we do!) from our wonderful Hand-Farmed Organics CSA, so I’ll include that with dinner.

I was waiting for my Muse in the kitchen, but she visited my husband in the living room first.  “I’m going to try cooking the sausages in the fireplace,” says he.  Daring!  I love it!  He arranges some bricks in the hearth, fusses with the embers, and secures an iron skillet.  He spends the next hour+ on his belly in front of the fire, creating embers, moving embers, shifting skillets, and cursing, as I toss prepped food in his direction.  The children really wanted to help and participate in the excitement, but between the cursing and the flames it wasn’t the most family-friendly dinner preparation.  And I’m not going to lie, we have a way to go before we are expert at open-hearth cooking.  But it was not bad for a first effort!  The sausages were fantastic.  By the time my husband was ready for the mushrooms, he had already burned the diced squash, so I took the Chanterelles back to the safety of our electric range.  The best part of the meal, what tied it all together, was the easiest to make.

Roasted Garlic on an Open Fire

Take an entire head of garlic, slice of the top 1/4.  Put on a square of heavy-duty tinfoil, drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap it, stick it in the embers of your fireplace, turning occasionally.  After 30 min or so test for doneness by squeezing it gently (cover your hand with a dishtowel – the tin foil is molten).  When it’s soft, it’s done.  Fish individual cloves out of their papery skin with a knife and spread on bread, or use them in pasta sauce.  

I think I’ll roast a head of garlic with every fire this month.  Despite the burnt squash, we had a lovely dinner.  Bread slathered with butter and roasted garlic, piled with chanterelles, sausage on the side.  I need to develop a relationship with my muse, and invite her back often.  She needs a name, something I can shout out at critical moments… I’ll ponder that.

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