- Juan Mari Arzak born (1942)
'Cooking with Fire' Star Talks Mud Ovens and More
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So obviously when it comes to cooking with fire, especially, in the summertime, we all think about grilling. But how else can we cook with fire this summer?
We’ve done lobster boils, paella in a pot of water cooked over fire, and we also boil oysters. Cooking with fire has come a long way from Neanderthal days.
What are the most unusual ways you’ve cooked with fire?
We did this thing where a woman puts a rock on a table and surrounds it with mussels, and coal. She takes a handful of dried pine needles and puts it on of the coal and lights them on fire. When the ashes blow away, the mussels are opened up and have this great smoky flavor. We also have an episode where a woman makes a mud oven, and cooks carnitas and corn. First, you make a framework out of wire and wood, then you pack mud and clay around it, you take out the wood and the mesh stays. Then you put in a flue chimney, fill up the oven with food, and seal up the doorway with mud. Then you sledgehammer it open.
What are your favorite foods to make over an open flame?
I never cook the same thing twice — it depends on how many people I have to feed. If I’m with my family, I set up a Big Green Egg with a pizza stone, make dough, and let the kids use toppings to make their own pizza.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten that was cooked over a fire?
We did a whole cow on this 20-by-10-foot contraption with pulleys, chains and ropes. They had to make a fire pit 20 by 120 feet and needed 10 football player types just to lift the cow!
What are the best tools for grilling or smoking?
First, you need fresh wood or fresh charcoal. I have been known to chop down a tree or two to get the fresh wood. You get a good vessel to cook in. You need an accelerant, and some oil woodchips, as well as tongs and gloves. But other than that it depends on what you’re cooking.
What’s the best method for perfectly-grilled meat?
We cooked some grilled chicken recently and it had a sweet sauce. If you cook that over a medium or high heat it will burn the sugar. You have to cook most meats low and look every once in a while at how the meat is doing.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi
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