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Mushrooms and Pea Soup

The pizza oven we built tops out above 1,000°F.  That is with a very hot fire and sniper-like manipulation of the IR thermometer’s red laser target pointer to measure the floor’s temperature.  This is both amazing and useful for cooking pizza but its a fairly easy characteristic to understand and use.  It basically just means that this oven has twice as many little hashes around its (theoretical) temperature dial.

What I’m still getting used to is how long the oven holds heat and has it available to be used for cooking.  Even without an insulated door the floor and dome of our oven are still above 200°F the day after a moderate fire.  Right now I’m looking for ways to use this heat.

I’m approaching this technique with caution but it seems to me that as long as the temperature does not drop below 140°F and into the so-called danger zone food will be just as safe in the oven for extended periods of time as it would be in the refrigerator.  Safety is one thing but there are a limited number of dishes that are more delicious after an extended period of cooking.  But, I guess it’s really “limited” only in the strictest sense of the word.

It seems to me that anything with bones, fat, or connective tissue will taste better after roasting overnight at 175°F to 250°F.  Many stews and soups with earthy vegetable or herbal flavours will also improve under these conditions.  Best of all are those culinary intersections of both categories.  Things like split pea soup flavoured and augmented by a meaty bone from that most delicious animal, the pig.

Berkshire pork bone ready to be made into soup.

Luckily, I found myself with one such bone–a meat-covered shoulder from an ethically-raised Berkshire pig leftover from my meal in honour of Terry Fox.  A large pot with the pork bone, two pounds of dried split peas, a couple of sliced onions, and enough water to generously cover everything else went into the oven (tightly-lidded) and I blocked up the door with spare firebricks and plywood and let it bubble overnight.

After a delicious night of slow cooking the split peas have browned nicely.

In the morning I lifted the pot’s lid with some trepidation and was happy to find a delicious-looking pea soup.  I’d really only been worried that the peas might have dried out and burnt because the intoxicating aroma of smoky pork was detectable from fifteen paces away.  While not burnt the top layer of peas was a bit drier than I would have liked, so next time I may use one of those slightly-French techniques for keeping more moisture in a braising pot: Sealing the lid to the pot with dough or a parchment round like the one Ruhlman demonstrates on Youtube.

I also waited until the morning to add a couple bay leaves, a handful of thyme, salt and pepper and cooked the soup for another hour.  I was afraid that if added before the overnight cook these flavours might overpower or lose some of their vibrancy.  Next time, I probably won’t worry about this and except in the case of the salt will throw it all in the night before.

Pea soup ready to roll.

What to do with the delicious soup on a September day whose weather was entirely appropriate for the meal?  I’d heard reports of a giant puffball spotting (probably the safest and easiest wild mushroom to forage because it is so recognisable and large) so packed mine in one of those mason-jars-cum-handle–an essential element of cottage paraphenelia.

Unidentified mushrooms. Anyone know what these are?

The puffball had been plucked by someone else and was, we found out, over-mature and its inside had turned sulphuric yellow and was inedible.  We continued on but could only find the mushrooms pictured above which aren’t one of the two or three guaranteed recognisable species (as well as puffballs, chanterelles come to mind)  that are in-season at this time. As consolation the soup was delicious and thankfully very warming.

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Posted in: Foraging, Meat, Vegetables, Wood Oven Cooking.

One Comment

  1. [...] crap – David makes pea soup – in his outdoor pizza oven. That deserves rock fingers. m/_ [Food With [...]

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