How to grill over a live fire
As he grew older, he cooked in a woodburning oven outside too, with his nonna, aunts, and mother. A fire’s need to be fed and stoked appealed to him: “There’s a relationship in tending it,” he says. And it could be easy to create. “When my uncle would go mushroom hunting with us, he’d bring four bricks and a grate, set up a firepit, and grill the mushrooms.” In Chiarello’s book, Live Fire (Chronicle Books), and here with us, he drew on those memories to spin a whole menu from a homemade firepit.
Light the fire. Put tinder (tiny twigs) or several balled-up sheets of newspaper in the center, then lean kindling against them to make a tipi. Lean larger kindling against it, then 5-6 small logs. Light the fire. “The tipi lets every bit of flame go up past 3 or 4 logs,” says Chiarello, so the fire starts fast. Once the logs have caught, add several larger logs to the perimeter, and let it all burn down to ashy chunks with low flames (1 1/2 to 2 hours). Because there’s less smoke and char than cooking over flame, Chiarello says, “it make your food taste much cleaner.”
Start cooking. Keep another log burning at the back of the pit. When it’s ashy chunks, rake it into the main fire to maintain heat.
The first thing to go on the fire: slices of good prosciutto, since they can tolerate the slightly higher heat of the fresh cooking fire, and because they make a great little appetizer. Chiarello grilled up a stack of them as he prepared the next course. They’re as easy as they look: just grill until crisp on both sides.
Prosciutto grilling tip: Watch Michael demonstrate this easy recipe in our video.
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