(A Divine Comedy In a Single Act of Self Indulgence)
I may go straight to Hell for luring it to my home. An extravagant, ridiculous, totally unnecessary acquisition in times such as these.
More likely I may go directly to cousin Jennifer's. She is a chiropractor. Nearly six hundred pounds this beast weighs. (Yes, I went and picked it up.)
It is a wood-fired oven. And it now lives in the backyard, on the brick patio just outside of the kitchen. It is a good oven, constructed of steel and firebrick and stone. The built-in thermometer monitors temperatures as high as 900 degrees Fahrenheit. I built a very small fire the day after unveiling The Inferno and the temp shot to 600 degrees in the time it took to get Jen on the line and alert her that I might require her healing hands.
This particular oven (the QX-B from Quintessential) might still be 90 miles away, on the showroom floor, if not for a man I have never met (you know, like, in person) but whose influence on me has been profound and, I assume, lasting.
His name? Read the headline, would you? I'm not clever enough to make this stuff up.
Dante, you see, is the brother-in-law of my friend Joe. He owns the same oven, has for about a year. When I mentioned to Joe that I might build a brick-and-mortar oven with my own two (rapidly softening) hands, he hooked me up with Dante, correctly deducing that should a simpler option present itself I might be tempted by it.
(Dante, by the way, goes by "Dan," but for purposes of this discussion, you have to agree, that just simply will not do. Dan's Inferno? C'mon.)
Neither my friend nor his brother-in-law are the easiest men to track down, as they are more frequently traveling in the air than hoofing it on sea level. And yet, for a few days, the three of us were in almost constant electronic communication — all because of my interest in a wood-fired outdoor oven I neither needed nor had any business owning. (A generous associate of mine could rightly argue the oven's rightful ownership, but that is another story entirely.)
I have no idea how many airports, planes, taxicabs, cities, even sovereign nations may have hosted our three-way culinary gabfests. I don't want to know.
I do know this. My inbox in those days was lousy with many wonderfully enthusiastic, thoughtful emails from my newest friend, Dan.
There was this one, for instance:
I was sold on this oven when I saw three of them being demo'd side by side. One was at 600 degrees and they were doing a thin-crust pizza. The second was at around 400 and they were roasting a turkey. The third was at about 275 and they were smoking a pork butt.
Or this, after I'd expressed particular interest in the oven's pizza-making prowess:
I actually use the oven more for roasting meat than for pizza. It's a must-have for big, hulking pieces of animal flesh such as beef rib roasts, bone-in pork roasts and turkeys. It does make stellar pizza, depending on the temperature, humidity and how many black handprints my wife wants in the kitchen.
And, finally, this:
Not to oversell the thing, but this oven has changed my life. Best impulsive/expensive food purchase ever!
And so here we are — and here we go. To the first of (hopefully) many wood oven-cooked meals, spaghetti alla chitarra with mahogany clams.
Before The Inferno. (The spaghetti is only partially cooked, then tossed with olive oil, garlic, pepper, clam juice and a little pasta water. Oh, and the clams.)
If this is what Hell is like...