Chief among the virtues of an open fire? Versatility. From its smoldering embers to its rising smoke, a single flame offers endless possibilities.
1. Above the fire: At TBD, chef Mark Liberman hangs whole legs of lamb and more and cooks them à la ficelle (by a string), letting the hot drippings fall into a waiting pan of onions and potatoes.
2. On the grill: Tim Caspare of Cotogna grills bistecca over hot coals for a short time to get a quick sear, then lets it rest until it reaches medium-rare juiciness.
3. In the embers: To make ember-baked carrots, Hi Lo BBQ chef Robin Song covers whole carrots with a bed of hot embers and cooks them slowly until they’re ready to peel and eat.
4. Within the flames: At Fog City, chef Erik Lowe cooks broccoli di cicco directly (and briefly) in an open flame to create a smoky char and then adds it to dishes such as albacore tuna salad, where it makes an earthy foil for the black garlic–miso vinaigrette.
5. Up in smoke: Cortney Burns and Nick Balla, co-chefs at Bar Tartine, give their potatoes the Holy Trinity treatment: The spuds are roasted, smoked over alder wood, and then fried, with addictive results.
Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco