Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dante's Excellent Inferno

(A Divine Comedy In a Single Act of Self Indulgence)

Behold, the new toy.

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.)

And after.

If this is what Hell is like...


Malcolm said...


S. said...

What a gorgeous new toy!!!

Jeannie said...

A pretty cool oven you've got there....I mean hot oven!

Claudia said...

I covet your oven. Dreams of a brick oven in my patio intrude on sleep. "I will build you one," exclaims my husband when he doesn't think. And the clams would finish my day in the most perfect way.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

You only live once ...and what a way to live! I have visions of many wonderful foods coming out of that oven! Your spaghetti alla chitarra is an excellent start.

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

So, you needed this oven to cook big joints of meat to feed your vast immediate family?
Those are big bulking clams!

How has it changed your life exactly, except, of course, to deplete your bank account?

eplantz said...

Why not mention the price instead of making your readers go searching the net for it??? My appreciation of this toy is diminished when I know it costs $2500.

Mister Meatball said...

Tough crowd tonight.

Anonymous said...

$2500 is very little to spend considering the years of enjoyment. This is an investment, not a purchase.

Beth said...

I think some serious pizza testing is in order. After seeing the clams, I think we need to try a clam pizza a la Franny's. And then we can try a calzone a la Lucali...

Mister Meatball said...

Music to my ears, Bethie.

I'll die a happy (and, probably, much fatter) man if we can reproduce Lucali's calzone.

Get here quick, before I run out of firewood!

Velva said...

Oh my God, this is fabulous. I would gladly go to hell for this steel patio wood burning oven. Cheers to new toys!

Proud Italian Cook said...

You're going to have some good eating coming out of there, it's gorgeous and it will be worth it everytime you pull something out of the inferno!

3M said...

I'm having some serious oven envy!