Photographs by Frankie Frankeny
He’s a Top Chef master, an Iron Chef, an Emmy Award–winning television host, a booked-solid restaurateur, and his cookbooks have sold half a million copies. And, at heart, Michael Chiarello is a master of cooking over fire.
He’s a Top Chef master, an Iron Chef, an Emmy Award–winning television host, a booked-solid restaurateur, and his cookbooks have sold half a million copies. And, at heart, Michael Chiarello is a master of cooking over fire. This passion and Michael’s great gifts for sharing his cooking philosophy (described by Publisher’s Weekly as “cooking is craft”) and his recipes with such ease and enthusiasm infuse Live Fire, a book destined to fire up the cooking of anyone who takes pride in their grilling. Live Fire features many ways to cook with open flame and embers: the beloved backyard grill, of course, and also using a fire pit, spit, or rotisserie, and more. Here are 125 of Michael’s surefire recipes for all courses and 100 sumptuous photographs. All this makes Live Fire a substantial volume to be pored over for years to come—and a grilling book unlike any other.
Strawberry Pazzo Cake with Herbed Crème Fraiche
Twelve years ago, I made a simple bowl of “strawberries pazzo”—pazzo means “crazy” in Italian—for my friend Ann Spivack (this book’s co-writer). The combination of strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper has been part of my repertoire for decades. Ann thanked me by baking me this pazzo cake. v This dessert—while easy to make—is a cut above a standard strawberry shortcake. The cake batter is very forgiving and comes out well when baked on your grill or in your oven. Bake this in a standard 8-by-8-inch baking pan in your oven; if baking inside a covered grill, pour the batter into a cast-iron skillet, enameled cast-iron baking dish, or Dutch oven. v The key to the herbed crème fraîche is a light touch with the fresh herbs. You don’t want to overwhelm the cake. We used rosemary but small tender basil leaves are delicious too. v We dressed up this cake for our Harvest Dinner by drizzling on a balsamic glaze, spooning Roasted Strawberries (page 90) onto the plate, and finishing with an herbed crème fraîche. You can serve all three with the cake, any one of them, or forget all three of them and just serve the cake simply with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
Herbed Crème Fraiche
13/4 cups Crème Fraîche (page 217)
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves (or minced fresh basil leaves)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease the pan
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting, optional
For the Crème Fraiche: Stir together the crème fraîche and the herbs. Refrigerate and let sit for 30 minutes or overnight.
For the Cake: Butter a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or 8-by- 8-inch enameled cast-iron baking pan (if cooking in the grill) or standard 8-by-8-inch baking pan (if baking in your oven). (Don’t put a standard baking pan inside your grill or over a fire.) Ignite the coals, turn a gas grill to high, or preheat an oven to 350°F.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until the mixture looks creamy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix just until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until smooth with a creamy texture.
Pour the batter into the buttered pan. Arrange the strawberry halves, cut-side down, on top of the cake batter. Don’t overlap the berries; use just enough strawberries for one layer and set aside the rest to use as garnish.
To Bake on a Grill: Set the grill temperature to 350°F. When the grill reaches 350°F, slide in the cake, resting the pan on the grill rack, close the grill’s lid and let it bake for at least 20 minutes with the grill lid closed. Test the cake: It’s done when a skewer inserted into the center (but not in a strawberry) comes out clean and the cake is golden brown on top.
To Bake in an Oven: Bake for 10 minutes and then decrease the heat to 325°F and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes. The cake is done when a skewer inserted into the center (but not in a strawberry) comes out clean and the cake is golden brown on top.
For the Glaze: While the cake is baking, in a small pan combine the balsamic vinegar, sugar, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and remove from the heat right away. Set it aside until the cake has baked. It should be the consistency of maple syrup; if it thickens too much before the cake comes out of the oven, stir in a few more spoonfuls of vinegar. As soon as the cake comes off the heat, drizzle the top with about three-fourths of the balsamic glaze.
When the cake has cooled, cut it into wedges if baked in a skillet; if baked in a standard baking pan, cut it into squares. To garnish simply, top with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar. To dress up the cake, spoon several tablespoons of the Roasted Strawberries onto one side of each plate; on the other side of the plate drizzle a small pool of the balsamic glaze, and smear it lightly with the back of a spoon. Drizzle more balsamic glaze over the cake if you like. Set a cake slice on top the strawberry syrup, and top the cake with a spoonful of Herbed Crème Fraîche. Spoon any remaining crème fraîche into a bowl and set on a platter with leftover halved strawberries to pass so guests can add extra if they like.