Argentina’s most celebrated chef can sauce and sauté with the best of them. But Francis Mallmann staked his reputation on a venture so outlandish, only a fire-obsessed South American could pull it off: He taped a TV show based entirely on campfire cooking outdoors on a Patagonian glacier in winter. Chef, restaurateur, TV personality, author—Francis Mallmann uses a curious word to describe his cooking: barbaric. He attempts nothing less than to achieve the pinnacle of flavors through the use of live fire, be it the massive heat of a bonfire or the slow steady warmth of dying embers.
This recipe comes from his book Seven Fires. “To put it simply, I returned to an Argentine cuisine of wood fire and cast iron,” he writes in the book. “I am drawn to fire and the aroma of things cooking over wood.”
Burnt oranges with a sugar-and-rosemary crust is one of my simplest recipes. But the flavors and texture—bitter, sweet, fruity, floral, herbal, and smoothly creamy—are supremely intense and complex. The amount of smoke involved makes this a dish you definitely don’t want to do indoors.
Step 1: Cut both ends off the oranges. One at a time, using a sharp paring knife, remove the peel and all the white pith from each orange in strips, working from top to bottom all the way around the orange. Cut the oranges crosswise in half and place them on a plate cut side up.
Step 2: Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over the oranges, and push some of the rosemary leaves into them so they adhere. Sprinkle half the sugar on top.
Step 3: Heat a chapa or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Spread the remaining sugar on the cooking surface and when it begins to melt, put the oranges cut side down on the sugar. Do not move them for 3 to 4 minutes, and adjust the heat so that the cut side burns nicely but does not smell acrid and the oranges are softened.
Step 4: Transfer “burnt” side up to individual plates. Spoon the yogurt next to the oranges. Drizzle the burnt sugar and juices from the pan over the oranges and yogurt, and serve.
Excerpted from Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2009. Photographs by Santiago Solo Monllor.