It takes about two hours and eight logs to get a nice bed of embers for cooking. We learned this when a glowing red and white-hot bed remained after another lazy holiday fire was fed log after log. Surely this glorious heat could be used to cook real food — not just chestnuts and s’mores, but a cast-iron skillet of sizzling chicken, roasted red peppers close to the embers for peeling and turning into a sweet-and-sour Italian salad, a pot of quick baked beans with hot dogs.
And so the fireplace at home became the cooking hearth for certain things. Equipment included a favorite cast- iron skillet found years ago at a flea market, a couple of old cake racks to set on the log stand, fireplace gloves, and long tongs. The daily experimentation began.
We made grilled cheese sandwiches with Muenster and honey-baked ham in double-handled pie irons (from a camping trip), rotating them above the embers. We unlatched the hook to find perfectly toasted sandwiches.
A trip to the library yielded “The Kids Campfire Cookbook,” by Jane Drake and Ann Love. The recipes for hot dogs with a coil of homemade biscuit dough, for baked apples with cinnamon, and for bananas, split and stuffed with chocolate chips and marshmallows wrapped in foil, were all delicious.
The volume often mentioned as the go-to source for cooking with fire is “The Magic of Fire: Hearth Cooking: One Hundred Recipes for the Fireplace or the Campfire,” by William Rubel, originally published in 2004. On Amazon a new copy is over $1,000, used $120.
Looks like we’re not the only ones with an interest.