This April 2012 issue of the Wood-Fired Newsletter is packed with content, including an article on Forno Bravo’s commitment to producing high-quality, Made-in-the-USA ovens, a recap from Peter Reinhart on his recent adventures in NYC at the IACP conference, and a recipe for kohlrabi gratin. So we’ll get right to it.
But first, I’d like to quickly mention that on Monday, April 16, I reached a personal achievement: At around mile 5 of the Boston Marathon, I hit 8,000 miles run over the past three and a half years. Lots more to go.
With Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation parties and nice warmer days, we’re sure those wood-fired ovens are going to be cranking out some amazing dishes. Enjoy some wonderful times with family, friends and neighbors.
Here’s to the joy that is wood-fired cooking,
Forno Bravo, Made in the USA
Every Forno Bravo oven (other than the Artigiano) is made in our own factory in Marina, Calif. I am extremely proud of our manufacturing team and their commitment to high-quality, American-based manufacturing. There has been a great deal of attention in the media over the decline of the U.S. manufacturing base. Of course small manufacturers like Forno Bravo are dwarfed by losses in the heavy industrial manufacturing sectors, but every bit helps.
Over the past three years, we have added new manufacturing personnel, capacity, capability, equipment and expertise. In terms of pure real estate, we have tripled our footprint in a little more than two years. We have made thousands of really great pizza ovens.
We have also developed a large number of “softer” assets. We have improved our refractory technology by introducing the new, third generation of FB Castable, the material we use to cast our oven domes and vents (made using raw materials manufactured in the American Midwest). We are constantly improving the way we cast our products, resulting in smoother surfaces, sharper edges, fewer air pockets, and oven pieces that fit together tightly and accurately (and don’t have unattractive grinder marks). Plus, we do all of our own metal work in-house, and the craftsmanship of our metal stands and enclosures is excellent.
Side note: We have a couple small competitors in the market that seem to think it is in their best interest to spread misinformation on Forno Bravo. If you have talked with other pizza oven companies recently, you will know who they are, and you will know that they will tell you Forno Bravo ovens are made in China. Now, I am a really competitive guy (heck, I am a nationally ranked marathon runner) and I really like winning – but I don’t think lying is the right way to win. It’s like cheating in sports, and at some point you get caught. It’s also pretty offensive to our production manager and our team.
But I don’t want to end on a sour note. We have come a long way since Forno Bravo was founded eight years ago, and the real winner has been you, the consumer. We have significantly increased the quality and lowered the cost of modular pizza oven kits; we have introduced new assembled oven designs, ovens on wheels and ovens that you can set up without any tools; and we are on the verge of introducing an oven that two strong people can bring to a party. It’s been a great ride and we are just getting started.
More choices, lower prices and better quality. That sounds like a good market dynamic to me.
Peter’s Corner: IACP Conference Recap
Peter Reinhart, our Pizza Quest host, baking instructor and baker extraordinaire, shares his report from the recent International Association of Culinary Professionals 34th Annual Conference.
Last week, I spent five exciting days in NYC attending the annual IACP conference, which includes an awards component. As we previously announced, Pizza Quest was honored to be nominated for Best Culinary Blog. We didn’t win after all. That honor went to a terrific blog called 5 Second Rule. But many of you voted for us, and thank you so much.
Now on to the actual conference.
I think of it as fantasy camp for professional foodies. There were over 40 workshops, panels, tasting sessions and field trips throughout the conference, so it was impossible to attend more than a small percentage of them … which is why so many of us come back every year, to make up for the ones we missed. Here’s one of the field trips I did:
“Eat the Street,” a tour of Queens’ famous Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, considered to be the most diverse street food scene in the world. In our short (but very filling) tasting, we had Tibetan Momo Dumplings filled with a tender, spicy meatball; Ecuadorian Bollos de Pescado (a plantain-wrapped fish tamale); a classic Elote tamale bought from a little old lady holding an insulated box filled with them; an amazing Columbian cassava (tapioca)-and-cheese-filled roll called Pandebono (chewy and cheesy – I could have eaten them all day and I definitely plan on learning how to make them!); tacos from one of the most popular and successful street taco trucks, run by Mirna Allone, called Mexico Lindo, where the tacos and also the homemade hot sauces and salsas are truly quest-worthy; then killer street quesadillas at another stand, Las Quesadillas de la 86, which were like the tacos except they were grilled to order on a small outdoor flat grill, serving businesspeople in suits as well as pedestrians like us; and then we washed it all down with a wonderful Columbian rum-spiked coffee called Carajillo, at a sweet little jazz bar called Terraza 7.
There were other bites in between – I can't recall them all – but we were stuffed by the time we got back on the elevated/subway #7 train and headed back to Manhattan. I could (and probably will) do a whole posting on this excursion alone, as it fits so nicely in with our Pizza Quest themes. But let me say thanks to tour leader Andrew Silverstein, who is putting himself through an economics doctoral program by taking people on these street food tours. If interested, contact him at: streetwisenewyork.com
Next year, the conference will be held in San Francisco, my old stomping grounds, so you know I’ll be there! Perhaps you will be there as well.
Kohlrabi Gratin Recipe
We hope you enjoy this month’s featured recipe from the Forno Bravo Community Cookbook, written by our moderator Dan Compton. Want to add your own recipe? Take a few moments to create a free Community Cookbook account!
A member of the cabbage family, kohlrabi has a sweet, mild flavor that is hard to pin down, but if I had to try I’d say it’s like a cross between broccoli, rutabaga and potato. When I reread that description, it doesn’t sound very good, but please don’t let it scare you away. Give kohlrabi a chance!
- 3 lbs kohlrabi, with leaves still on
- 1 qt cream
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 T freshly grated horseradish
- 1/2 C fresh basil leaves, torn
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Butter for greasing your baking dish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim the leaves from the bulbs of the kohlrabi. Remove the woody center ribs from the leaves and then blanch the greens in the boiling water for approximately 1 minute. Remove from the water and allow to drain. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible and then give them a rough chop. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring the cream to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Reduce by half, then set aside and allow to cool.
Peel the kohlrabi using a knife or peeler. The tough outer skin can be thick; keep peeling until any signs of woodiness are gone and you’re left with the somewhat translucent greenish-white inner flesh. Using a mandoline or a sharp kitchen knife, slice the kohlrabi into very thin rounds. Blanch in the boiling salted water for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The kohlrabi should be more pliable but still have a crunch to it when you take it out of the water. Allow to cool.
Whisk together the reduced cream, mascarpone cheese, eggs, horseradish and salt and pepper to taste. Butter the sides and bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. Pour a small amount of the cream mixture into the bottom of the dish. Next, build your gratin in layers, alternating kohlrabi, blanched greens, basil and cream until you’re within a quarter-inch of the top of your dish. Top the gratin with more of the cream mixture and use your hands to press down the gratin in order to remove any air pockets and allow the cream to seep down between everything.
Place the gratin on a rack in a low-to-medium wood oven. You don’t want to cook this too hot or the cream will burn around the edges. This is a recipe you’ll want to try after you’ve done your high-heat cooking and the oven is cooling down. Allow to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cream mixture has started to set up and the kohlrabi feels tender when pierced with a knife. If the gratin starts to get too dark on top, cover with foil and continue baking.
Allow the gratin to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. This dish would make a great accompaniment to a wood-oven roasted prime rib or beef tenderloin.