“Cooking with fire means that you become more aware as a cook. you have to master two living things: the fire and the ingredient. For me, cooking is like music, it’s completely different when you do it unplugged.” – Niklas Ekstedt, Food From the Fire
Between my two brothers and I we have nine children. There are enough of us to easily warrant the group campsites we inhabit every summer. We spend the better part of a week letting our kids run free in the woods, chasing snakes (and in the meantime terrify their aunt), constructing forts, creating and reenacting elaborate scenes that take place under the wooded canopy of our campground.
While the kids run barefoot in the woods I busy myself with the fire. It takes very little for me to stoke the fire for dinner as the coals still burn hot from lunch and breakfast. As we’ve settled into a camping routine I have given myself the title of camp chef. I prepare the menus then divide the prep and clean up tasks. To me, cooking over the fire feels both thrilling and completely natural. Somehow the weight of the cast iron pan in my pan and the manipulating of the coals in order to tame the fire to give off just the right amount of heat just feels right.
Somewhere between the caramelized fennel and cream steamed mussels and the apricot cobbler with spiced biscuits cooked with coals in a dutch oven my eldest brother and I dreamt up plans for Kitchen Unnecessary.
It feels just like that; a dream.
Here’s how we describe that campfire cooked dream on our website.
“Outside cooking is not just for the summer, this series shows you the magic of cooking seasonal ingredients outside all year long. Rain or shine – or snow, Ashley Rodriguez and her guests will take you outside to show you how to embrace cooking outdoors.
Each episode we will show you how to plan, prep and prepare a seasonal and local menu that you can cook and enjoy outside.
Cooking outside with seasonal and local ingredients we do not sacrifice taste or technique but we add a whole new layer of experience and create memories that last long after the food is gone.”
I could not be more excited to share this new project with you all here. Nothing is changing in this space, in fact I am more inspired than ever to cook and share recipes with you. Kitchen Unnecessary is just one more way for me to share my passion and encourage people to cook and gather as often as possible.
Please enjoy our first episode!
We are so excited about our future adventures. Currently we are exploring the idea of digging for Geoduck in the middle of the night. We’re making plans to get out to Alaska in June in search of the prized Copper River Salmon and we’re eager for Spring morels to start popping up.
This project is the work of a small but mighty team. My brother (Chris Baron, Baron Visuals) is my partner in this and I could not be more honored to be a part of this project with him. I have been hoping for years to have something like this to work on with him as his cinematography is beyond stunning. He has been nominated for an Emmy and has filmed for some incredible shows and films including, Food, INC.
My husband, Gabe is the incredible eye behind these photos posted here not to mention the website and logo.
My dear friend and planning genius, Julie Hubert, is our fabulous producer.
Bryan Tucker, John and Chris took about 10 hours of footage and turned it into 9 stunning minutes.
And Daniel Winkler, our star and mushroom expert. From the first phone call we knew we found the right guide. This episode would not be the same without Daniel.
The first episode would not be possible without the support of our partner, Barebones Living. I’ve been using their product and developing recipes for their site for awhile now and I was so thrilled that they saw our vision for Kitchen Unnecessary and jumped on board.
Fire Roasted Pumpkin Fondue with Chanterelles and Chorizo
This one is a show-stopper. Smoky roasted pumpkin becomes a serving dish for fondue with a spicy mushroom cap. Don’t fear the char that will inevitably coat the exterior of the pumpkin but do keep an eye on it while it roasts so that the char doesn’t go beyond the skin. You can roast the pumpkin completely in the cast iron pot but it will take quite a bit longer. Bring along the cheese already grated to save yourself from doing that work on the campsite.
1 3 pound kabocha squash (or other small pumpkin or squash)
8 ounces chorizo
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces chanterelles, cleaned and sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup white wine
8 ounces grated comté or gruyere
4 ounces grated swiss cheese
2 pounds fire cooked potatoes
2 apples, sliced
1/2 loaf crusty bread
Set the pumpkin in hot coals at the base of a campfire. Pile up the coals around the pumpkin.
Roast until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the heat of your fire). Don’t worry about the exterior char but you may have you move it around while roasting so it cooks evenly.
Carefully remove the pumpkin from the coals then let cool a bit before removing the top and scooping out the seeds.
Place the pumpkin in a small cast iron roasting dish then return the whole thing to the coals. Place the lid on and keep warm while you prepare the chorizo and chanterelles.
Set a cast iron skillet over low flames on a grill grate or directly on the coals.
Sauté the chorizo until cooked through. Remove to a platter then add the the butter and chanterelles. Sauté until deeply caramelized, add the garlic then return the chorizo back to the skillet. Add a pinch of salt then stir everything together well.
Remove the lid from the roasting dish with the pumpkin. Add the wine then slowly begin to stir in the cheese, waiting for each new addition to melt before adding the next. Once all the cheese has been added top with the chorizo and chanterelles, remove from the fire then enjoy.
The quietness in this space is in no way an indication of a lack of cooking. The cooking I have been doing has been less calculated and getting back to the pure pleasure of tossing in this and that without pausing to grab the measuring cups. For months I detailed the intricacies of what hits our dinner table. I measured salt down to the grain for the purpose of writing another cookbook (coming out October 2!!) so it’s been a lovely reprieve to simply cook and eat.
The table at the shop has been full. I have found my favorite spot in this space. It’s behind the stove, tucked into the kitchen watching the full table pass around the platters of food and joyously clean their plates. I love hearing the dull roar soar to a raucous booming filling our little space.
These simple sprouts are a riff of a recent recipe I served here at the shop. The process of separating the leaves from the Brussels Sprouts may seem daunting and it can be but it’s the sort of task that is almost meditative. That is if you don’t have little children clamoring at your feet eager for dinner and saddened by the site of these little green vegetables. You could just as easily quarter them but there is nothing quite as divine as the crispy frilly leaves basted in a salty and sweet bath. In fact, I think my diners were fearful that I had burnt their lunch when this platter hit the table but after one bite and you taste the smokey char from a deep roast (*ahem* burn) in the oven they saw the intention behind my madness.
Equally delicious is this same sort of method on broccoli. You could also substitute the fish sauce for soy if you prefer.
Frizzled Brussels Sprout Leaves with Chili and Maple
1 pound brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 Calabrian chili, finely chopped (or 1/4 teaspoon chili flake)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 small lemon
Preheat your oven to 425°F and line a sheet tray with parchment paper then set aside.
Trim the ends off the brussels sprouts then pull off the outer leaves. Trim more off the end to release more of the leaves. Once the sprouts get too small to pull off individual leaves quarter what remains.
Add the Brussels sprouts to the sheet pan then drizzle with the olive oil and add a couple of hefty pinches of sea salt. Roast for 25 minutes in the top third of the oven. Stir halfway through.
In a small bowl whisk together the fish sauce, maple syrup, and Calabrian chili.
Take the sprouts out of the oven. Then 5. pour the sauce all over, stir well to coat. Top with the Parmesan and again stir to evenly coat.
Turn the oven to broil then crisp up the leaves for 3 to 5 minutes. Watch this process closely and stir often but don’t be afraid of the char. This is where deep, roasty and bitter flavors come from.
Transfer the sprouts to a serving platter then finish with a squeeze of lemon. Serve while warm or at room temperature.