Hot dogs roasted over a campfire or toasted marshmallows by the fireplace on a winter night are classic fireside delicacies. For centuries, cooking over a fire was the only way to prepare a meal. Now, for the modern cook, open flame or hearth cooking is a fun way to vary your cooking options.
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For a main dish treat, try a grilled cheese sandwich made in a pie iron. Pie irons form a metal pocket around your food while toasting the bread and heating the sandwich fillings. Butter the bread and layer with the fillings of your choice. Then, place on one side of the pie iron. Close the hinged lid and secure it. Grill your sandwich over hot embers for about 10 minutes. The irons come in square, circular or rectangular shapes and have long handles to keep your hands from the flames.
Popping corn over an open fire, whether indoors or outside is a fun activity, especially for children. All you need is a long-handled, covered pot. A specially designed corn popper is nice to use, since it typically has an attached lid and air vents that allow steam to escape. Pour 1 tbsp of oil in the pan, add your popcorn kernels and hold over the flame. Shake the pan continuously, so the kernels do not burn. When the popping noises have almost stopped, remove the pan from the flames. Add salt and melted butter, and enjoy!
Follow the words of the holiday song and roast some chestnuts on an open fire to add some traditional fun to your winter celebrations. After scoring each nut with an X shape to allow steam to escape, place the chestnuts in a long-handled, lidded pan or popcorn popper. Hold over very hot embers and shake the pan frequently to prevent scorching the nuts. Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes. Peel one open to check if it is fully cooked. Roasted chestnuts should be soft, yellow and slightly sweet.
If you plan to indulge in decadent, gooey smores for dessert, first try a healthy side dish of savoury roasted vegetables. Foil-wrapped russet or sweet potatoes can be placed directly over hot coals and roasted for 45 to 60 minutes, turning occasionally. Ears of corn can be roasted in foil or in their own husks, if they are first soaked in water for 30 minutes. Skewer mushrooms, onions, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, peppers or pineapple on a marshmallow fork. Brush with olive oil, season and roast over hot coals for about 15 minutes, turning frequently.
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