Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Earth Oven Thanksgiving....(and deep fried pumpkin pie)

Now that we have this Earth Oven in our backyard, and Thanksgiving is one of the few cool weather/bug free times of the year here in Charleston, we decided it was the perfect year to host Thanksgiving at our house.  So both sides of our family came from Virginia and North Carolina, as well as some South Carolina family and friends...all total 20-25 people!  I knew there would be tons of yummy foods...and some interesting ones too... and so here begins this tale of gluttony and goodness which we get to selfishly enjoy once a year!

We decided we better fire up the oven on Wednesday night and go ahead and knock some things out before company arrives later that night. We lit the oven around 6pm and got the fire real nice and hot and let it burn for the next 2 hours.  I had decided to make a cake called The Hobo Cake which is a spice cake made in a cast iron skillet and cooked over fire or in an earth oven; this was going to be a surprise birthday cake for my mom and Matt's mom's birthdays.  I killed the fire and let the oven cool a little, but my impatient self threw the cake in when the oven was still WAY too hot! We closed the door and started sniffing the sweet smelling goodness cooking. After only 9 min. I decided to check on it; I pulled it out and it was black as tar and smoking!!!  Completely black!  
Lesson #1: Never underestimate the Earth Oven's capability to hold heat, hot heat....for a long, long time. 

 Moving on....

We all dug into the middle of the burnt cake (I'm very sad I have no pictures to show) and decided it was pretty damn good as long as you didn't get a really big burnt chunk. We let the oven cool down more, and then I threw in 2 loaves of wheat bread I had made earlier in the week.  Once again...too hot! There's a definite learning curve to the Earth Oven.  They seemed to brown on the outside faster than the inside could cook.
(look back at my previous post for bread baking)
Lesson #2:  See Lesson #1.

After patiently waiting for over an hour since initially killing the fire, we threw in Jake's 2 home made pumpkin pies, which cooked up beautifully in about 20 min!  I think we were finally at a good baking temp.

Earth Oven Pumpkin Pie
Lastly, we threw in raw chestnuts to roast....YUM!  This was my first chestnut experience!

At the end of the night we filled the oven with semi-damp wood and closed the door as to dry out the wood and help retain heat for the morning cooking.

firing oven
The next morning we lit the fire around 11am.  The wood was surprisingly dry from spending the night in the oven, and the oven still very warm. The fire lit right up instantly and began to burn hot and clean.  After only an hour we decided it was time to have some pizza appetizers!  I rolled out a thin dough, which cooks up best in about 3 min, and we enjoyed a few wood-fired pizzas, just to wet our palettes.  Mom made a pumpkin bread dough which was rising in the sun.
Pumpkin Bread and Pizza Dough

We decide that the oven needs to cool quite a bit before sticking the turkey in. So mom and I prepped the turkey (she shows me how....yik) and we leave the oven alone for about an hour with the door on; this helps the temperature equalize all over, which is good for baking and roasting.

Mom helping me prep turkey
Pizza read to cook!

Once the oven felt to be a good temp for the turkey (375), we slid it in, closed the door, and waited 30 min. to check.  After 30 min the turkey was starting to brown in just a few places already and smelled delicious! We rotated 180 and put back in (after glazing) for another 30 min.  We check again, looking even browner and better! Rotate 180, glaze, put back in.  Lucky for us, my brother Kevin shows up right after the third 30 min. interval (he can be very slow), with the meat thermometer. We checked the temp and it rose to almost 180 degrees! (it only needed to be at 160).  It was golden brown and crispy, the most beautiful turkey I've ever laid eyes on! (Recipe on blog to follow) So, it cooked for a total of an hour and a half, but I honesty believe it was done around 1 hr - 1 hr. 15 min. (11 lbs bird).  
Lesson #3: Same as 1 and 2. 

Earth Oven Roasted Turkey

Once the turkey came out, other people threw a variety of dishes into the oven to either heat up or to cook; just to name a few: eggplant casserole, mac n cheese, stuffing, vegetable medley....(drool).

Jake let up the grill and we all consumed local oysters with a buttery/spicy dipping sauce.

Grilled Local Oysters
The day was spent almost entirely outside, near the oven, eating, in the yard, under the oak, playing music, eating, laughing, at the bon fire, playing corn hole, can-on-a-stick, and eating....we all slept like babies.

Everyone digging in


The day after. 
Food coma. 
There's only one way to cure a food coma: to eat again.

We decide to roll out more pizza dough as well as some Chapati dough made by Anne.

Wenny tosses dough
 Once again, the fire is easy to light and the oven gets fast quickly (in about 45 min.) due to it being the third cooking day and contains so much retained heat.
We start with normal pizzas, but then we decide to get a little crazy with the leftovers.
Kevin makes a turkey/mashed potato/gravy pizza, then there's a kale/mashed potato pizza. Then someone pulls out the eggplant casserole and it's one of the most delicious pizzas we've ever had!!!  We try for vegetable medley but it's too wet and rips the dough.  As we get hungry for something sweet we try cranberry sauce with cream cheese icing and sliced apples, then we throw a brie wheel in a skillet, pour fig jam all over it and melt it into creamy goodness!
Cranberry/Cream Cheese Apple Pizza

Turkey/Mashed Potato/Gravy Pizza

Melted Brie w/ Fig Preserves

Once we are all completely pizza'd out, Kevin and Matt decide they must re-use the gigantic cast iron skillet filled with peanut oil(i was worried about my kitchen).

These guys are turning it out....the music is blaring, the oil is popping, and the geniuses are at work.  They fry pickles (frickles) and jalapenos.  They fry mashed potatoes.   Then...the grand finale....they fry pumpkin pie bites!  But wait, that's not all....then they inject the pumpkin pie bites with home made whipped cream!!!  It's like a Thanksgiving Twinkee!!! 

Matt and Kevin's Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie w/ Injected Whipped Cream!!!

In the mean time, we wait for a 'baking ready' oven temp and bake 2 trays of mom's pumpkin bread for the morning.

After delving into the fry master's inventions, we are all completely full and content (and a bit sick feeling).  Although these 3 days were over the top, extreme, a bit unhealthy, and probably somewhat wasteful, the beauty in it all was the coming together of family and friends...to cook and to create and to eat together.  The Earth Oven definitely did it's job this year! I heard several comments such as, 'It just makes cooking fun again' and 'it completely changes the whole eating experience!'  
Lesson #4: Eat, drink, and be merry...over-indulge every now and then, sit back and laugh, and most of all, be Thankful for being able to experience this kind of a life!!!  And NEVER, underestimate the Earth Oven. 

Me, rather impatiently waiting for my turkey


evalarevolution said...

All this food looks delicious. Thanks for describing the process. Melted brie with fig preserves?! I am spending next Thanksgiving with you!

Our First Rodeo said...
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