In my endless quest to be the greatest gear head in history, I created my own mini Trangia set. I bought the mini Trangia setup, and hated the little fiddly base that came with it. I bought a triangle base and a kettle, and hiddy hiddy ho, I have a fantastic three piece cook set, with stove. The new triangle base is even better than this old one.
And then it all packs up in this little package. Minimalists, read it and weep. If I get any more simple than this, expect to see me on an episode of Naked and Afraid. That would be your worst nightmare.
There actually is a process involved in building and maintaining a fire in a brick oven. Begin with completely dry soft wood, and then add hardwood if you want to build up a bed of hot coals. Here I start with yellow pine, and then go to a pine/oak mixture. We might as well start at the beginning.
Aristotle said a good plot had a beginning, a middle, and an end, in his Poetics; a good brick oven fire begins in the front, is pushed to middle, and then to the back. This is especially true for all applications involving cooking meat or pizza.
TV chefs will bring out something dramatic to light a fire, like a propane blow torch. I use two cardboard egg cartons and one match. The results are the same–fire.
Time for a break now that the fire has been pushed to the middle of the oven. This tool keeps me in firewood.
That’s a 24 volt electric chainsaw. I liked it so much I bought a 24 volt weed whacker, and a 60 volt lawnmower to go with it. I charge up the batteries with a solar generator, which is in turn charged by a single 100 watt solar panel. I’m inching toward sustainability, and did I mention the thirty percent tax credit on solar panels and batteries?
Push the fire to the back, and sweep and mop for pizza. A pie with sliced Vidalia onions makes all the work worth it. And I get to play with matches, and a chainsaw.
The forecast for Sunday was for a high of only 93 degrees F, so I decided to build a 900 degree F fire, and cook a couple of pizzas. Why the hell not?
Fortunately, I spent most of my time indoors, making the crust and sauce. I will do a step by step explanation of this process in a series of posts, but here’s an outline of what to do. I will also give an alternative cooking method, for those who do not have a bakery-sized brick oven. The following is for a Pizza Margherita, one of the originals, and still the best.
Dough for two Pizza Crusts–1 1/2 cups OO Italian Flour, salt, water, yeast
Pizza Sauce, preferably made with Italian or locally grown Tomatoes
Italian Mozzarella Cheese
The basil goes on after the pizza comes out of the oven. It probably wouldn’t look too sporty, otherwise, after a couple of minutes of this.
Other than eating this, the best part is smelling the basil cook on top of the really really hot pizza, right out of the brick oven. Simple and complex–the heart of a good pizza.
Herr Orff, one of my German Professors at the University of Alabama, came to class one Monday, and said, “I had some of that food that you people eat every weekend. What do you call it? Pit-sa. It was very good.” That actually is the correct pronunciation of the word pizza-if you’re German. Good thing he didn’t eat one of these. He might never have gone back to Deutschland.
This is a regular to-food fight, brought to you by the state whose most famous politician once said, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” That would be slick William Clinton, who is the only person who could ever have pulled off that sentence.
From the AP: The Tofurkey company is having none of the new Arkansas law that states a producer can’t say “veggie burger” or “plant based meat” on its labels. So now it’s all up to the federal courts, over whether or not Arkansas can outlaw such outlandish verbiage.
Several other states have turned into word police when it comes to “meat,” including my home state of Alabama. I at least hope our legislature spelled the word “meat” correctly. It is four letters long.
This is something of an empty out the spice cabinet dish, and a boil can have everything from crayfish, shrimp and sausage, to artichokes and corn. Since this was for two, we stuck with the basics of shrimp, sweet corn, and new potatoes.
For the Boil:
Water to cover the Ingredients (2 Quarts here)
1 teaspoon Thyme
1 teaspoon Oregano
Cayenne Pepper Flakes to taste
2 tablespoons Salt
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Dill Seed
1 teaspoon Fennel Seed
And anything else you like. Cover, and bring this mixture to a rolling boil. Turn it off, and let it steep for awhile. If you have a cold, stick your face down in the vapor. If it’s well seasoned, it will clear your head out.
For the Edibles:
4 new Potatoes (we have 2 Red and 2 Yukon Gold)
2 ears Sweet Corn (these are Silver Queen)
1/2 pound+ Shrimp, deveined (we usually use Gulf shrimp, but these are Florida Keys shrimp)
Boil the potatoes for 30-35 minutes, then add the corn. Cook for 8 more, and add the shrimp. In about a minute or two, the shrimp will curl up and turn opaque, which means they are done. Strain in a colander, and serve in a bowl with a rustic paper towel lining.
Have beaucoup amounts of butter for the corn and potatoes. Our favorite condiments are cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and Chinese hot mustard. If the boil didn’t clear out your sinuses, a combination of hot mustard and cayenne flakes surely will.
Believe it are not, according to latitude, we are farther south than Italy. However, Italian food can be simple and complex at the same time, just like Southern. Much of our cuisine is also based on la cucina povera, or poor people’s food. So here’s a Southern take on a few Italian classics.