Monday, January 17, 2011

Cooking IN a Wood Stove

When the nights get long here, we tend to think a lot about good food. Buck and I love Indian food. It is our very favorite treat, but the nearest Indian restaurant is about an hour drive (each way), so we usually make our own. I was talking to someone the other day about my invented method for baking the yummy East Indian bread, Naan, and it occurred to me that it would be a good thing to share with others who have wood stoves.

A lot of evenings we are in a hurry or too worn out to make an elaborate dinner and Indian food takes some time. Once in a while though, we are planning ahead and Indian food sounds so good. On one of those cold winter days I was stoking the wood (heating) stove and I thought to myself "man, Naan sure would taste good."

I had a moment of complete clarity and my "Home Tandoori" method was born.

Authentic Naan is baked in a tandoori oven which gets up to about 900 degrees. For those who have never seen a Tandoor, It is a big
round clay pot thing that is heated by actually burning briquettes in the bottom (some are gas). What you get from baking Naan with this method is a crispy outside and a moist inside because, at this high temperature, it cooks so fast. You also get this great, slightly smokey flavor. All these qualities are not easy to replicate in the average American kitchen, and that is why my past attempts to cook Naan have been considered failures. Naan is just not the same when baked in an oven or fried in a skillet, which I have tried to no ones great satisfaction.

So this is what I do now:

I inform everyone in the house that we will keep the stove stoked all day but let it die down to coals an hour before dinner. Everyone is happy to comply. Naan!

2 hours before dinner I mix up the Naan dough (my new favorite recipe) and let it sit near the fire for it's first rise.

A half hour before I bake the Naan, I put the old dutch oven into the woodstove, right on top of about 3 inches of very red coals, with the lid sitting upside down on top of it. This is to bring the pan to the same temperature as the inside of the stove and the upside down lid I will use as the baking surface. This set-up buffers the heat from the coals.

When the Naan dough is doubled, I divide and roll it out into flat pancake shapes, keeping them covered in enough flour to prevent them from sticking together as I pile the naan on a plate.
I get my fireproof oven mitt and a good set of tongs. I take off any extra layers of clothing because it gets very warm and there is no time to waste once the process is started. Everything moves very fast.

I sit on a stool or piece of wood that keeps me eye level with the wood stove, so I can see and reach in easily.

I have a basket and cloth ready to receive the baked Naan and to keep it warm.

I pay attention so I don't burn myself while flopping the uncooked Naan onto the pot lid and opening and shutting the stove door every 2 or 3 minutes.
The first few breads cook very fast (1 or 2 minutes each side) because the stove is so hot, so I have to really focus and be ready.

Most of them will almost immediately begin to puff up into a big bubble. I flip it as soon as the bubble stops growing.

Close the door and let it cook on the second side until it is golden on the edges then put it into the basket and brush it with Ghee (clarified butter) and start on the next one.
Oops. The one peeking in on the right, fell and couldn't get up. It was eaten for it's impertinence.
My preference is to have a helper stand by to lend a hand if there is a problem (Naan falls in the fire, butter spills etc) but it is not essential. If someone wants to help they can brush the ghee on, but don't let them distract you.
Enjoy with Chicken Korma, Chana Masala and some basmati rice! Heaven!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. We should get our woodstove in sometime this summer, so I'll have to remember this. I love fairly quick and easy recipes.


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