Interviewer: "If your house were burning down and you could take one thing, what would it be?"
Jean Cocteau: "The fire."
"'Fire cooking' is actually a misnomer. You're cooking over the embers," said Joshua Skenes, chef-owner of Saison in San Francisco and one of Food and Wine's Best New Chefs of 2011.
Sometimes, you don't even need the embers, as he demonstrated:
1. Use a broom to compress the mbers in the corner, clearing just enough space for a small pot.
2. Use the cleared space, the hot bricks, as a "stovetop" for cooking.
Josh has become famous for his use of fire. He has classical training and loves his high-end Japanese Nenohi knives, but nothing captures his imagination quite like the open flame. The back of his business card sports three words, stark on ivory white:
Play with fire.
"One of the first things that I cooked in a fire was a leek," Joshua recounts. "I gently turned it in the ash, and it got carmelized on the outside. I sliced it and put it on a plate with amazing olive oil, local sea salt from Monterey, and Meyer lemon juice. (Meyer lemons have an intoxicating aroma and sweet taste, almost like a blend of lemon and orange.) I ate it and thought, This is out of control. The way fire pulls depth of flavor out is magical."