THE MONTH OF COOKING DANGEROUSLY
I’m giving up my kitchen. I’m going to cook only outside. I will wash my dishes with a hose and teach my young Wolf to gnaw bones, if only to make the hose washing less frequent. I may decide to only pee outside, although I’m not remodeling a bathroom.
Yes the time has come to scrap my kitchen, ending a year and a half long lesson in mediocrity. Put plainly, it’s time for the old girl to shoot on through, bite the dust, meet the business end of a contractor’s sledge. I might be being a little cruel. And if I think hard there will be some things I’ll miss, I do have a particular fondness for the early ‘50s yogurt yellow and powder blue tile that makes up a few of the current walls and counters. But that fondness has been scrubbed away like so many hours standing in front of a tiny sink, washing big dishes after big dinners and attempting to stack them in tiny dish racks on tiny counters.
It’s time the kitchen grew up and so I must push myself out of the nest and into the yard. The one indisputable truth of gutting your kitchen, ripping out your walls, moving your plumbing, and cringing at your incurred price tags is that you lose your kitchen in a cocoon of zip-walls and construction lingo before it emerges a beautiful infrared broiling butterfly. If it’s not clear yet, this is not a DIY project for me. That’s mostly because I don’t want the house to burn down or somehow split in half. My roll-up-the-sleeves-and-just-make-it streak starts and ends with pork… Potentially poisoning myself and my family with a piece of uncooked meat that’s been hanging at room temperature for 6 months? Of course. Moving a copper thing seven inches to the left and attaching it to a silver thing with a wrench-shaped thing? Not really my language.
So I’m going feral. For the next 30-45 days my only cooking utensil will be fire… in addition to the far less sexy microwave, toaster oven and induction hot plate. BUT all of it is outside. I’ve got myself a little sweetie set up on my back porch for days when it rains or when my pregnant wife and daughter revolt at the idea of yet another pork chop and pork chop breakfast. And if I’m being honest, it’s probably a good back-up plan for my own sanity. Forty-five days of straight grilling could get me into Col. Kurtz territory: seceding from reality, chopping up neighborhood raccoons and sleeping in a dug out agave stump. And nobody wants that.
And so I go from one kitchen, to zero, to two sort of half-assed ones. Should be good. And it already is. I’ve simmered and portioned a nice venison stock, braised boar and antelope into stews and sauces for quick reheating, and officially kicked off The Month of Cooking Dangerously with some oak grilled prosciutto-wrapped chicken thighs, zucchini and rosemary sourdough. It’s a meal that took me all of 30 minutes to get from grill lighting to table setting… 30 minutes in a very un-Racheal Ray kind of way.
Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Thighs
This is basically a grill version of saltimbocca without the white wine and lemon sauce. It’s main advantage is there’s more fire, less pounding, and no pots and pans to wash with a hose. And you can always garnish with grilled lemon wedges if you’re feeling fancy.
1 lump charcoal fire
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4-8 large thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma
Several sage leaves
Salt and pepper
Light your fire in a chimney starter. Season your chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Place a couple sage leaves in the thigh cavity where the bone was and fold the chicken over them. Place the thigh at one end of a prosciutto slice and roll, so that the prosciutto covers all of the chicken, using a second slice if you need to. Grill indirectly with the lid down for about 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally so you don’t burn the ham. When the bird is at 165, it’s ready to eat. Serve with a little grilled zucchini dressed in goat cheese and balsamic vinegar and garlic-rubbed grilled bread. Eat then return to the yard, warn the bastard raccoon who eats your birdseed that you have a few prosciutto slices earmarked for his backstrap, fluff your agave pillow and dream sweet feral man-dog dreams.