Cooking by the Fire

This is really crazy nuts, but I had to cook in my fireplace one night. My stove went on the fritz and I had fresh fish on the counter next to a nice cold bottle of French white wine. A tossed salad waiting for its dressing was in the making and the most divine garlic bread was on the broiler rack with considerable anticipation. There was no question of calling a 24-hour repairman at their steep rates.

I was not going to miss this meal! The fish was fresh-caught and expensive from the best market in town. I used pricey endives in the salad, and the wine—don’t ask. It was a splurge but I was celebrating a very important occasion with a good friend, and we would both be crushed if the evening did not come to fruition.

You don’t mess around with electronic appliances, even the non-digital ones. This is why you get a warranty when they are new. A stove may never break, but if it does like mine, you won’t kill yourself fixing it. I certainly wasn’t going in there with my bare hands. But I was going to cook someway somehow. I had to be get out of the box for a moment and take an imaginary brain ride.

I do own an iron skillet my grandmother sort of bequeathed to me for making pancakes. I love hers so much that I keep it in on a lower shelf. So I lit the wood stove in the lounge room and let it sputter into a full flame existence. I didn’t feed the fire to keep it modest. The fish went into the pan with a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper after a coat of soft butter. Lemon wedges and parsley sprigs were to be the final garnish. A restaurant it wasn’t, but it would look darn close when the various elements were “plated.”

I’ve seen old movies and read books about pioneers. How hard can this be? It wasn’t. The fish didn’t take long although the bread was a bit dark and overly crusty on top—but still edible. No worries about the salad that didn’t need to touch a lick of flame. I did try to grill some vegetables but ended up with a sautéed version using the iron pan. There is too much flame in a fireplace for grilling without protection at the front and sides. I was worried about drippings, but there wasn’t any real grease to cause a major situation. I was very, very careful! I used a barbecue mitt (given as a Christmas gift with Santa on it!) even though I don’t own a grill.

Not that I would do it again. I was panicky the whole time. But it tasted great and was certainly a new accomplishment. I am not a cook and had planned a simple-to-prepare meal fortunately. Not a lot of sauce or spices. No need to get close to the pan to stir or glaze. Just heat and eat.