The SpringFest Menu
in progress

Wood-Fired Oven Cooking

To cook for the party I started our Italian wood-burning oven the day before so I could slow cook overnight. Using Paula Wolfert’s Slow Mediterranean Cooking as inspiration I set up the menu and divided up the cooking tasks. In addition to the food for tomorrow night we would also roast 2 chickens and 8 sausages to eat for two lunches and one dinner.

The oven line-up was the following:

Deviled Sephardic Eggs with Smoked Paprika
Overnight Pork Butt
from Prather Ranch
Roasted CK Leg of Lamb
with Pomegrante Glaze
Short Ribs
a la Camarque
Braised Red Cabbage
with red wine, & orange
Corona Beans
with lardo & orange
Rio Zape Beans
with salt pork & Guinness
Herb Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes
Baby Carrots
with Picholine Olives
Roasted Mixed Wild Mushrooms
with roasted garlic & gray salt

Everything would be fully cooked in the oven except the Braised Cabbage which I would start on the stove. In addition to the menu which we served I also attempted herb jam from Paula Wolfert’s book (which I burned and threw out) and Slow-braised lamb shanks, which were two charcoal pucks the next morning.

The added excitement in the schedule was that I would be away from the oven on Thursday for 4-5 hours while we attended the Tre Bicchieri tasting in San Francisco. So everything needed to be ready to put in the oven when we got back.

I remember reading somewhere that you don’t need to soak the beans if you are roasted them overnight… so this time I didn’t… Hence the requirement for the second bean dish of Rio Zape beans as the Corona ones were about 80% salvageable the next morning. I tossed out the hard or blackened ones and quick soaked the Rio Zape beans in boiling water the next morning. The other boo-boo I made with the Corona beans was adding a bottle of beer. I realized my mistake just as soon as those last drips were coming out of the bottle. Ack. Never add acid to beans before you cook them as it inhibits the water intake. That means no beer, wine, tomatoes or lemon. Oh well. The Rio Zape beans were virgin when they went into the oven.

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The potatoes, mushrooms and carrots would have to be cooked during the party and either timed perfectly or kept warm. That meant that the eggs, pork butt, beans, short ribs and lamb shanks would all go into the oven overnight, and the leg-of-lamb I would roast the next morning (and the second bean dish which I didn’t know about yet). The cabbage I would cook in the afternoon and keep warm, and the potatoes, mushrooms and carrots prepped and ready so I could cook and serve them without reheating.

On Thursday, I had presoaked the eggs in water and red onion skins, in the fridge, and now placed them deep in the oven to cook overnight. I had specially purchased white shells. The shells were nicely marbled brown with a hint of burgundy and yellow. I peeled one. Yum. Nicely smokey but they could use a little zing – I decided to devil them. I cracked the shells on them and placed them back in the cooking water and tossed them in the fridge until later. When I took them out after the chilling period and peeled and cut one – I noticed the black ring around the yolk – so definitely for appearances deviled was the way to go. I had 5 pieces of Italian white anchovies (why don’t I get these more often!) packed in a teaspoon of oil left. I dumped the oil in a bowl and shredded the anchovies with my fingers. Then a teaspoon of smashed capers and a heaping tablespoon of Mayo (I know Aioli would have been more luxurious and slow…) then one caper and a sprinkle of smoked paprika to finish. Divine.

The Pork but was a bit crusty but no problem shredding the rest without getting charred bits in it. The flavor was perfect. Onions, cremini mushrooms, carrots and celery with a healthy dose of Sherry. Yum!

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