The only way to get the smoky essence and crisp crust of a Neapolitan pie? Install a wood-fire oven at home.
It’s the cold truth of making pizza on your own: A run-of-the-mill oven simply can’t get hot enough to deliver the bubbly, blistered crust you crave. That’s where California manufacturer Forno Bravo comes in. The company crafts Italian-style wood-burning ovens ($2,600–$7,000, fornobravo.com) for indoors or out, adorned with anything from handsome and simple brick to kaleidoscopic tile mosaic.
The ovens are ridiculously simple to operate. Just load in a pile of wood (pecan or maple work great, but chef Brandon Gillis of San Francisco’s just-opened Fiorella restaurant swears by a combination of almond and oak), light it and let it roar for about half an hour. Then push the wood to the side and put in your pie. Capable of temperatures north of 800°F, the oven cooks a pizza to charred perfection in about two minutes, with 90-degree turns every 30 seconds.
And the flames linger for hours, plenty of time to try your hand at other fire-roasted dishes: whole fish (rainbow trout, branzino), roasted root vegetables, or simple Mediterranean classics like warm olives and flatbread.
Did we mention that playing with fire is also just more fun?
We went on a hunt for a few of the best wood-fire dishes in the country, and lucky for you we got the recipes to match!
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoon Tabasco
3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons lemon zest
1/4 cup shallots, minced
2 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoon salt
12 gulf oysters, shucked on the half shell
24 crawfish tails
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
6 strips bacon, fully cooked and chopped
1. In the bowl or a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add butter, Tabasco, Worchestershire, lemon zest, shallots, garlic, and salt.
2. Turn on low and mix, gradually increasing the speed to high. Whip until all of the ingredients are well blended.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
4. Preheat wood-fire grill or oven to 500 degrees.
5. Top each oyster with a teaspoon of butter mixture, two crawfish tails, a teaspoon of chopped bacon, and a pinch of Parmesan cheese.
6. Place directly on the grill or bake on a sheet tray lined with rock salt in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and just browned—about 10 minutes.
7. Let cool down slightly, then enjoy!
AREA FOUR'S WOOD-FIRED MAC & CHEESE
1/2 pound butter
8 ounces flour
1 gallon whole milk
1/2 gallon heavy cream
5 pound sharp orange cheddar
1 .5 pounds Pecorino Romano Cheese—grated fresh
6 tablespoons Coleman’s Mustard Powder
1. In a medium sized sauce pot, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook the butter mixture until golden brown, approximately five minutes.
2. Add the milk and cream.
3. Bring to a simmer, while whisking often to avoid scorching on the bottom.
4. Add mustard powder, cheddar, and pecorino.
5. Whisk diligently until all ingredients are homogenous and smooth.
6. Strain and cool.
7. Mix your desired cheese level with your favorite pasta—Area Four uses orecchiette.
8. Place in a bakeware dish—Area Four uses mini-skillets.
9. Heat in wood-fire oven until bubbly goodness is achieved—a 400-degree oven works at home.
10. Top with fried breadcrumbs if desired.
3/4 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons pink salt
2 crushed garlic cloves
1.5 tablespoons thyme
3 sprigs fresh sage
1/2 gallon water
4 16-ounce bone-in pork chops
4 cups ice
1. Combine salt, sugar, pink salt,
garlic, thyme, and sage in a pot
with two cups water.
2. Heat over medium heat until salt and sugar are fully dissolved.
3. Place the pork chops, ice, and remaining six cups of water into a large mixing bowl or bucket.
4. Pour hot liquid into bucket and stir to distribute the solution evenly with the other water.
5. Place pork chops and brine in large ziplock bags and let sit 24 hours in refrigerator.
6. Smoke pork chops in smoker to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, then let cool.
7. Place smoked pork chops on food-grade, untreated cedar planks and cook in wood-burning oven at 500 degrees. (Pork chops can also be grilled instead of cooked in a wood-burning oven at home.)
For the poaching liquid:
1 carrot, rough chop
1 onion, rough chop
2 ribs celery, rough chop
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted
1 teaspoon black peppercorn, toasted
1/2 bunch parsley, divided in two
1 quart white wine
3 quarts water
Salt to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
For the dish:
1–2 pound octopus, whole, tenderized
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
2 tablespoons castelvatrano olives, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons leccino olives, pitted and chopped
2 lemons, halved
1/4 cup good olive oil
Pinch of chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
First prepare the poaching liquid for the octopus:
1. In an eight quart stockpot, heat oil. Add in onion, carrots, and celery. Season with salt, and sweat until slightly soft, careful not to create any color.
2. Add in the quart of white wine, do not reduce.
3. Add in remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer.
4. Holding your tenderized octopus by the head, dip the tentacles into the simmering poaching liquid for five seconds, then lift out for five seconds. Repeat this step four times, finally leaving the octopus in the liquid to poach. The liquid should have a soft rolling boil. Do not boil rapidly.
5. Cook octopus for approximately one hour. Check for tenderness with a meat fork at the thickest part of the tentacle. The meat fork should experience no resistance passing through the tentacle.
6. Once tender, pull the octopus from the poaching liquid and set aside to cool. Discard cooking liquid (or, you know, make ramen broth).
7. When the octopus has cooled, it will be time to portion the tentacles.
8. Using a sharp knife, cut the tentacles off from the center of the body, following the natural lines of the tentacle.
9. When you have your tentacles separated, use a paper towel to clean the loose, purple skin from the sides, being careful not to disturb the suction cups.
10. Portion the number of tentacles you desire.
Next, make the chickpea puree:
1. In a small sauce pot, combine your soaked chickpeas and salt to taste. Cover with 2–3 inches of clean water.
2. Cook chickpeas on low heat until tender, but not mushy.
3. Once cooked, add the chickpeas to a food processer and process on high, adding in olive oil until you have a smooth consistency.
4. Season with lemon and salt, then set aside.
Then, create the condiment:
1. In a small mixing bowl, combine chopped pistachios, both olives, and parsley. Season with lemon, chili flakes, salt, and garnish with remaining high quality olive oil. The mixture should be dressed, but should not carry excess oil to the plate.
Lastly, Assemble the Dish:
1. Preheat an oven or saute pan to medium-high heat. Coating with a little oil, roast octopus until slightly golden on both sides, carful to not burn the tips.
2. While the octopus is roasting, distribute a few dabs of chickpea puree around your chosen plate.
3. Once octopus is hot and slightly caramelized, place on top of chickpea puree.
4. Add condiment generously over the octopus, and serve immediately!