When the fire is crackling and all you want to do is roast your tush in the raging warmth, take it one step further and use it also to cook your meal. You are arguably being more efficient in energy use and maximizing time by your beloved blazing soporific, but perhaps more enriching is the sense of being an alchemist at your hearth, infusing the coziness of your fire into the food you eat.
All you really need to cook on a wood stove is a flat surface, says Devon Perry, who does sales at Mountain Home Center in Truckee. Most wood stoves are made of plate steel or cast iron, he says, and either work well for cooking. Bonus: If you scratch the matte black surface of steel or iron when cooking, you can use a high-temperature black spray paint to repair it. But, “stay away from using porcelain or enamel surfaces,” says Perry, “as they are more susceptible to chipping and if it does, it’s really difficult to repair.”
The surface of a regular wood stove gets mighty hot, ranging from 400 to 1,000 degrees, Perry says, so beware and be safe. For those in the modern world, a pellet stove doesn’t get as hot, usually staying within 300 to 500 degrees, thus they aren’t a great option for cooking.
When winter hit this year, the wood stove in my home became host to a range of cooking experiments, everything from broth to omelets. Below is a recipe I created there, inspired by the ultimate dance, for a meal that is warming inside and out, while filling your house with a delightful spicy aroma. Words of Wisdom: Start with good ingredients and your job is made easy.
Gear for wood fire Cooking
For this recipe, I like to use a Rockcrok Dutch Oven with a lid and a 10-inch cast iron pan for sautéing
Small table for supplies
Fire-Infused Thai Chicken Soup
5 tbsp high-heat oil, split
1 medium onion
2 garnet yams
2-ish cups of other veggies
1.5 lbs organic boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 cups broth or water
1 13.5-oz can of coconut milk, full-fat
4 tsp Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste, to taste
Salt to taste
Build a hearty fire and let it roar for about an hour.
Meanwhile, cut vegetables, all about three-quarter-inch size. In addition to the yams and carrots, I used bell peppers and cauliflower because I had those on hand. Reduce food waste and use the stem and leaves of the cauliflower or other veggies.
Put Dutch oven on stove and let it heat up about 15 minutes. Test by flicking water on it. It should sizzle. When hot, add 3 tbsp oil and sauté yams for about 10 minutes. Let them caramelize and start to be aromatic, but don’t overcook. Sprinkle salt.
Put cast iron sauté pan on stove to heat up.
Add other hearty veggies to Dutch oven. I put in the carrots and cauliflower stems/leaves at the same time. Sauté for 5 minutes.
Cut up chicken, also into about three-quarter-inch squares.
Add softer veggies to Dutch oven. Sauté for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the curry paste with a cup of broth. The paste is spicy so adjust accordingly. Put it in the pot, along with remaining broth/water, then add coconut milk. Stir well. Cover.
Add 2 tbsp oil to sauté pan. Heat up for 2 minutes. Drop in chicken and stir. Sprinkle with salt.
When the chicken has seared well, about 10 minutes, add to pot and stir. Cover.
Let simmer for at least 20 minutes. You want the sauce to thicken slightly. Enjoy by itself or over rice. (Of course this can be made on a traditional stovetop, but be adventurous and try to cook this on your wood stove!)
Main Image Caption:FIRE IN A POT: The curry paste I use was a recommendation by Wolfdale’s Douglas Dale in a cooking class I took with him years ago. It is fire-encapsulated — not just heat, but also a dynamic flavor profile. Photo by Mayumi Elegado/Moonshine Ink