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Rozanne 09-29-2009 04:30 AM

Help with planning a feast
 
Hi,

My oven has just been completed, and am planning a small gathering to try it out. I'd like to serve a couple of pizzas to share around as appetizers, then bake some bread to go with the main meal. The main meal will probably be a Roast Lamb with a potato bake. Would then like to follow on with a dessert that has been made in the oven.

What would be the order of cooking the above? Can the lamb be cooking slowly to the side of the oven, while I'm also cooking the pizzas? Etc. Help please?

Jed 09-29-2009 12:51 PM

Re: Help with planning a feast
 
Hi Rozanne,

Congratulations on completing your oven! Now the fun begins...

It can be tough to cook that range of foods at a single event.. The reason is that the basic technology of the oven is 'retained heat masonry' oven. The effect is that you can't change the temperature quickly. That said, if you have time, it may be great fun prepare the full meal at a single firing of the oven.

So, for the pizza's we make here, I like the oven to be around 750 to 800 degree's F, with a fire in the oven on one side of the space.

When I cook bread, I wait for the oven to cool to around 500 degree's F. I will put the door in the oven, and cut off the flow of fresh air, extinguishing the fire. It can take an hour or two for the oven temperature to fall to this range (and you need to have a way to deal with partially hot coals and ash - metal can of some variety). After cooking the bread (this will take from 30 to 45 minutes) the oven temperature would be in the low to mid 400 degree F range. A good temperature to roast a bit of meat and vegetables, and by the time the main course was complete, the oven will probably be in the high 300 degree F range, a reasonable temperature for a desert of some type...

So this could all be a great project, but it will take a bit of time...

One challenge you will need to consider is that a new oven will require several firings before it is 'seasoned' and will heat up and hold heat consistently. A new oven is still driving off moisture from the masonry, and is harder to heat and to get to hold heat than a seasoned oven (plan on 10 or 12 firings before the oven will respond consistently. It will be good until you have this many firings, the oven just won't hold the heat as well..).

Good luck with your project and keep us posted with pictures and a full report from your success!

JED

texassourdough 09-29-2009 02:17 PM

Re: Help with planning a feast
 
Hi Rozanne!

JED's comments are right on. The oven has its own rhythm and if you fight it and try to do things it doesn't want to do, it will bite you!

When you get your oven to temperature - around 800 degrees (the dome interior will be clear - i.e. no soot), the hearth will (almost certainly) be too hot for pizza (unless your oven is really wet in which case you are probably cooking prematurely and risking a cracked dome). So you get the oven organized, rake out the extra coals. move the log into position on the side, brush the ash off the hearth, etc. At that point you have about ten minutes or so until the hearth will probably be at a pizza bakin temperture (around 750 oF).

This is a good time to do an appetizer in a cast iron skillet. Choose something that cooks FAST like shrimp or mussels. Or take baguette slices and toast bruschetta with whatever toppings you like. (The pizza peel is pretty good for this, simply load them on the peel and hold the peel in the upper dome. They will toast FAST!)

Once the oven hits the pizza temps you can still cook similar appetizers or flatbread (effectively pizza dough with herbs, seeds, etc.) for they can reasonably be cooked at 750. You may be able to cook something on the landing in front of your oven, depending on how hot it is and the setup of your oven. That will be somewhat cooler and more versatile than the oven.

As JED suggests, cooking bread in the pizza oven with fire at 750 degrees has real problems as does a leg of lamb. They will burn on the outside before the interior can cook. (It IS possible to do steaks if you buy or make a Tuscan grill and they can be great for the oven is seriously hot (up to about 1100 degrees for steaks on the grill with the coals pulled forward under the grill), but going much over about an inch thick gets to be a burning problem - even for medium rare! After the steaks you can easily reconfigure the oven for pizza again.

Bread is usually baked at about 550 starting temperature and is best done in a sealed oven (no fire!) unless you like really cardboardy, strange, dried out crust. Bread in a WFO is pretty demanding.

Much easier is the next day. Once your oven is dry it should be in the mid-to-upper 300s the next morning. The French love to slow roast at about 250. Just load up a dutch oven, with a pot roast, leg of lamp, veggies, wine, whatever, and slow cook it for 4 to 6 hours (less if you start at 300 or more!)

It will be hard to do it all in one party/firing unless you party for a couple of days!

Good Luck!
Jay

MetalHead 09-29-2009 05:09 PM

Re: Help with planning a feast
 
Myself being sort of a poser at this point (Still building) here is how I would plan it.

An option would be to plan everything a little backard. Fire the oven the day before and get the baking of the breads done (even a day or so in advance).

Then do the roasts after the bread so they finish the day of the event. You can also get your pizza dough and toppings ready as well.

Then before the party fire the oven to bring it back up to heat and then you can do Pizzas or the tuscan grill for appetizers...better yet both. Or do what some others say they have done and get a few pizza pans and let the company have at it. They can build in the pans or brave the hearth. Either way I bet will be fun!!! While you watch :D

This way you can enjoy the company. Which will be one thing I will enjoy doing as well !!!

ThisOldGarageNJ 09-30-2009 05:06 AM

Re: Help with planning a feast
 
Quote:

An option would be to plan everything a little backward.
Hey Metalhead,, I like your thought process, I think Im gonna give that a shot when I do my thanksgiving meal,,,

Thanks Mark

Rozanne 01-03-2010 01:12 AM

Re: Help with planning a feast
 
Hi Jed,

Thanks for your reply, and sorry it's taken so long to respond, but our renovations took a bit longer than expected. We've built on an alfresco (indoor) entertaining room with the woodfired oven built in to the side. Eventually got it fired up on New Years Eve, and it was fantastic. A few teething problems with the pizzas sticking, plus the 20 or so guests we had all thought they were "experts", so it was quite funny getting everyone's different versions of how things should be done. After a while, we mastered it and the pizzas were excellent. We made a bit of a mess cleaning out the oven, but reckon we just need to get a bit more organised. Will post some photos in a few days.
Have found a few good recipes, so will plan a feast one of these days and let you know how we do.
Cheers for now.
Rozanne


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