The beauty of a “Fogon” (fire hearth) used 25 years ago is that it is a stove, an oven, and a grill. Even when fish was the only ingredients for the menu, some of the best cooking went on these “fogones”.
First let us build one check the box on the four legs. The box is filled with sand and ashes will odd to the fill once you start burning the firewood. Place to large rocks or 2 concrete blocks with a metal girl over the rocks leaving just enough space below for you to burn the firewood. Use mangrove or even mahogany and coconut husks as firewood as it makes a good charcoal. Pine wood is too oily and may give an unpleasant flavor.
Now for a few cooking tips. A flat iron is called a “Comal” and excellent to bake your flour or corn tortillas. The large pot that you see is good to prepare your beans, soup or even gravies or stews. The beauty about the pot is that you do not need to clean the outside since it will get black once again the very next use so why bother. Now on the grill you can place your chicken to barbeque or fish.
When barbequing fish, do not remove its scales or skin as they will help to keep the dish in tact. You can also wrap fish fillet in tin foil, or preferably place it on top of banana leaves as was done 25 years ago. On the grill you can prepare some of the most delicious steaks, T-bones, sirloins etc. Now to leave you, here is a thought. For those bean lovers, you re-fry some beans over a stove and some over a Fogon and tell me which one tastes better. There is no doubt in my mind that the smoke flavor added by the firewood will give you some of the most delicious dishes you have ever tasted. You too will smell a little smoky, but what the heck, it’s worth the time and effort. Also try baking some sweet potato pudding which we call in Creole “potato pound” and don’t forget to send me a piece.
Good luck with your “Fogon”. Note that I have not yet mentioned the economical aspect of it. Friends retiring in San Pedro , your “Fogon” will quickly give you that proud feeling of being a San Pedranos not if you come from Benque because they have “Fogones” too.
– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist