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Contents of this issue of the
Fire Pit and Grilling Guru Guide
- The Holiday Season Is Upon Us!
- Eco-Friendly Firewood for This Winter
- Featured Grilling Recipe: Dutch-Oven Braised Rabbit
- Featured Fireplace Cooking Products
The Holiday Season Is Upon Us!
Thats right! And you know what that means! A few things actually...indoor cooking and warming up next to the fire AND gift giving!
First of all, I've got a couple suggestions for gift giving for your favorite chef (or for yourself!). Right now there are tons of sales on summer, outdoor grilling supplies including grills, smokers and other equipment. Many companies are trying to get rid of last year's stock and typically the winter is a slow time for grill sales. So you'll see marked down items almost everywhere. I was recently in a local Home Depot and they had a ton of grills and fire pits marked down for winter. So whether online or at a local shop, now is the time to stock up for next years outdoor cooking season!
If you are looking for winter cooking supplies, see the section below on fireplace cooking products. If you've never cooked in your fireplace be sure to check out my Fireplace Cooking section. There is also lots of info in my Indoor Grilling section. The cold winter doesn't have to mean you stop cooking delicious grilled foods!
Have fun this winter and be safe!
Eco-Friendly Firewood for This Winter
Just a couple tips for your fires this winter. We are all thinking about how to be more eco-conscious these days. There are a few ways to be more earth-friendly when using your fireplace or fire pit this winter.
First of all, using real firewood does create some carbon emissions, obviously. However, the amount is relatively small and is more natural than the stuff that comes out of our cars. But besides not burning wood there are ways to be a bit more conscious of our impact on the world if you do use your fireplace or firepit.
- Use sustainably farmed firewood: You may have never though about this when you go to pick up some firewood at the market. Most sources of firewood these days are sustainable. For example, one of the farms I get wood from is an orchard that only cuts down and sells firewood from old, dying trees that need to be replaced each year. They are in a continuous process of planting new trees (almond mostly in this case) and cutting down old ones that don't produce anymore. This way the overall size of the orchard stays the same and they are only selling wood from trees that would be cut down anyway, they aren't killing trees just for firewood. Some also just sell off the boughs cut off from yearly pruning, leaving the trees alive to continue to grow the next season. If in doubt go online and research your firewood source a bit and don't be afraid to call them and simply ask.
- Eco-Friendly Artificial Firewood Logs: Artificial firewood logs are sometimes handy for a quick fire if you don't have the time, energy or wood to build a full fire. They give off a bit of heat and give you a nice ambiance in your living room on cold winter months. However, many of the traditional versions, such as Duraflame, are made from artificial materials and may contain petroleum-based binders and fuels to keep them burning evenly. I personally try to keep unnatural chemicals out of my fireplace, fire pit and life. There are several new options which have come on the market in the last few years which may be better alternatives. The Java Log is a fire log made from compressed, used coffee grounds! It has a natural wax binder and no kerosene or other chemicals to help it burn. Therefore it has less emissions and is more natural. The TerraCycle fire log is another option I've tried recently that works pretty well too. It is made from recycled wax-coated cardboard boxes that otherwise would end up in a landfill. Alternatives like these and others can be increasingly found at many markets, particularly earth-conscious chains like Whole Foods. If you come across others that you like let me know!
Featured Grilling Recipe: Dutch-Oven Braised Rabbit
Winter makes me turn to more hearty, warming dishes that are aromatic and rich. All kinds of things fit that bill but there is something so warming and homey about slowly roasted meals cooked in a dutch oven. The nice thing about a big, heavy-duty pot with a lid is that you can cook just about anywhere with it. During the summer you can throw it right on a grill, fire pit or campfire; during the winter you can throw it in your fireplace or just use it on your stovetop if you prefer. If you don't have a good cast iron pot, Lodge® Cast Iron makes a great assortment of cast iron cooking equipment, including dutch ovens with metal handles and feet that can be used to cook over hot embers or hanging over a fire, such as is shown on my Campfire Dutch Oven page. SpitJack.com also has a cool fireplace skillet with long feet that you can set above your hot embers to cook similar braised or stewed dishes.
This is a fun dish I made recently on a fire pit, but could just as easily be done in your fireplace or elsewhere. If your pot doesn't have enough room to include many veggies, you can serve this along with other rustic sides like mashed potatoes.
Ingredients and Supplies:
- A large heavy-duty pot with tight-fitting lid (a cast iron dutch oven works best)
- A fire pit, grill or fireplace with a nice hot fire (you can cook this on the oven as well if you'd prefer)
- 2 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped (you can skip the bacon if you don't eat pork)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 leek, just the white part, sliced thin
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- Any other aromatic vegetables you'd like (chopped fennel bulb, carrots, celery root, potatoes, garlic, etc.)
- 1 rabbit, whole or cut up (you can substitute poultry as well, chicken, game hens, guinea hen and pheasant all work well)
- 2-3 cups chicken or veal stock
- Fresh thyme
- One bay leaf
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Get your heat source (campfire, fire pit, grill, fireplace, whatever) nice and hot.
- When your ingredients are ready and chopped, place the dutch oven directly over your heat by laying it on a grill grate or hanging it by its handle over the fire.
- When the pan is hot, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and the chopped bacon. Sauté the bacon for a few minutes until the bacon starts to brown and throw off its fat.
- Season the rabbit generously on all its surfaces with salt and pepper. Add the rabbit and cook briefly over high head to brown all the surfaces, flipping as needed. Once nicely browned, remove the rabbit to a plate and hold.
- Add the onion, leek, celery and any other aromatic vegetables you want to include and stir. Sauté until the onions begin to soften and become aromatic but before they start to darken.
- Add back the rabbit, along with any juices which have accumulated. Add the bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme. Pour over the chicken stock just to barely cover the rabbit about halfway or more as shown above. Season well with more salt and pepper and cover.
- Let sit to braise over medium heat checking occasionally to stir and adjust the heat as needed to maintain a light boil. After a while, flip the rabbit so that it cooks evenly.
- Continue braising until the meat is tender and just starting to fall of the bone. This timing varies depending on the heat of the fire, the type of meat and the size of the rabbit or poultry.
- When done to your liking, remove from the heat and let rest a few minutes before serving. Adjust the seasoning with some additional salt if necessary and serve! Be sure to spoon over some of the juices and vegetables on each plate.
I hope you enjoy this recipe idea and have many great home cooked meals this winter! For other recipe ideas check out my Grill Recipes page!
Featured Fireplace Cooking Products
If you haven't figured it out already, I LOVE cooking in my fireplace. There is something so romantic and rustic about cooking a hearty meal right in your cozy hearth. There are many ways to cook in your fireplace, many of which are discussed in my Fireplace Cooking section. Without any special equipment you can cook string-turned roasts. But if you want to get a bit more fancy this winter, you can buy some fireplace cooking accessories that take it up a level. A fireplace grill or rotisserie, pictured above and discussed below, also makes outstanding winter holiday gifts for a loved one who loves to cook with fire.
SpitJack.com is a great resource for all your cooking with fire accessories including fireplace cooking supplies. They are the only good supplier of fireplace grills that I know of. They carry three different models of fireplace grill as pictured above. All of them work in basically the same way. You start a firewood fire in your fireplace and as the wood burns down and forms a core of embers you place the grill over the heat. You can then grill foods right there in your fireplace as you would on a grill or barbecue! It's that simple! Imagine your guests faces when they see you cooking their dinner right in your fireplace!
The three models are called, from left to right, the SpitJack Fireplace Grill, the Hearth Grill, and the Cast Iron Tuscan Grill. While the Tuscan Grill model is a model of simplicity, it is not adjustable. Both the SpitJack and Hearth grills are adjustable to change the height of the grill over your heat source. The SpitJack model is a modern model which is the ultimate in design and functionality while the Hearth grill has a more rustic, old-fashioned look.
SpitJack.com also carries a line of outstanding and classy fireplace rotisseries. Beautifully designed, these rotisseries sit right in front of your fireplace, slowly rotating your roasts in front of the heat. Available in both clockwork, cranked and electric models, these sturdy cast iron devices are beautiful and functional. They can hold two independent spits so that you can cook more than one thing at a time. These allow you to slowly roast larger cuts of meat that don't work well on a fireplace grill. Leg of lamb, roast chicken, beef roasts, game birds...they are all perfectly suited to the SpitJack Fireplace Rotisserie.
I hope my site and these accessories help you get ready for the Winter cooking season! They also make great holiday gifts for your favorite cooking lover!
Don't forget to stock up for the summer on all your grill and fire pit related supplies!
Here are a few places you should check out that have a great selection of "cooking with fire" related items:
SpitJack is a great online retailer that sells all sorts of tools for food & fire. They have all the basics like fireplace tools, wood storage and fire pits. But what makes them really special is that they have hard to find fireplace cooking items like fireplace grills and fireplace rotisseries! They also have big outdoor rotisseries for next spring or summer's pig roast.
The Fire Pit Shop has dozens of choices of fire pits and outdoor chimneys. Get warm this winter with a nice outdoor fire pit to cozy up next to!
Grills Direct stocks virtually every major brand of grills, barbecues, fryers and smokers. While it's probably too cold in most areas to grill right now, this can be a great source for gifts for your grill loving friends and relatives.
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