We don’t do much fireplace cooking here in Miami. So here’s a scene from the wood-burning hearth at Barbecue University.
If this is a subject that interests you, check out William Rubel’s book, The Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking (Ten Speed Press, 2002). The jacket reads, “Hearth cooking is a hobby with almost no entry barrier…” Amen.
In the meantime, here are some of my tips for fireplace cookery:
1) Build a robust fire using well-seasoned hardwoods. When it matures, rake the glowing embers into a pile in front of the fire using a shovel or long-handled grill hoe. Roast whole onions, bell peppers, eggplants, yams, even steaks, etc., directly in the embers.
2) A cast iron grill grate, such as the Tuscan one seen above in the right hand corner of the fireplace, will give you the ability to grill steaks, chops, chicken breasts, fish fillets, etc. Again, using a shovel or grill hoe, rake the embers into an even pile, then position the grill grate several inches over the top of them. Let the grill grate heat for 5 minutes before putting food on it. If the embers are too hot, rake them into a shallower pile. Buy the Tuscan grill–and the aforementioned grill hoe–here: www.amazon.com.
3) Position two parallel courses of firebrick near the main fire and rake the embers between the bricks. Rest the ends of skewers of meat or vegetables on the bricks and grill, turning occasionally, until grilled the way you like it.