5@5 - Chef Christopher Hastings
October 12th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

As commenters continue to fan the flames of Ron Eyester's epic 5@5 yesterday, we decided to keep things burning.

Christopher Hastings is the chef, cookbook author and co-owner - alongside his wife Idie - of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama. He was also nominated for “Best Chef: South” by the James Beard Foundation in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

While it may not be time to start roasting chestnuts on an open fire just yet, that doesn't mean Eatocracy's proverbial flame can't be occupied with alternate edibles - and Hastings is here to tell you just what those should be.

Five Favorite Things to Cook Over Wood: Christopher Hastings

1. Whole hog
"Standing by a pit with the South’s greatest Pitmasters and pulling the meat off a perfectly smoked whole hog with a little cracklin’ can only be described as life changing!"

Cooking notes: The keys to successful whole smoked hog is green hickory wood and a heritage breed hog cooked low and slow, smoking over a small, even fire. Take your time to oversee the process with some Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and a few friends."

2. Wild trout, cured and smoked
"As a young man, I learned to fly fish under rhododendrons in the North Carolina Mountains. I learned that salt, sugar, fire and smoke were always in the camp. Once I began cooking seriously, I combined all four of the simple ingredients to create streamside perfection - a tradition I will pass on to my boys.

Cooking notes: The good news on this is that it's simple. Take trout that’s scaled, gutted, boned and split open flat, and combine two parts sugar to one part salt to cover the trout on its flesh side. Cure for two hours, rinse and smoke over green wood collected from the camp site, using a grill grate and a method to cover the smoldering wood that keeps the smoke on the fish (tree fronds, aluminum foil etc.). Cook slowly with just a little heat and lots of smoke for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh is just firm from the smoke/heat/curing."

3. Eggplant
"Thickly-sliced Bianca eggplant, first salted, patted and then marinated with extra-virgin olive oil and basil, is a set-up for learning to grill to perfection. Cooking it until just tender on a hot grill creates flesh that is rich with that classic eggplant flavor, and it pairs perfectly with heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese. A favorite at the house on Sundays in the summer.

Cooking notes: Peel the eggplant and slice into one-inch thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Salt draws out some of the liquid and bitterness. Pat dry. Toss with fresh chopped basil and good quality olive oil, salt and pepper. Over a medium-high wood or natural charcoal fire, cook eggplant until golden brown on each side and just tender all the way through - approximately four minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and garnish with more fresh basil. Arrange with tomatoes and cheese."

4. Argentine beef
"My wife and I took our boys on a family vacation fly-fishing in Patagonia. Our host, Mama of Arroyo Verde, and the local gauchos prepared the classic Argentine barbecue for us while overlooking Traful Lake. We had blood sausage, sweetbreads and all manners of beef slow-roasted over the asado pit with a glass of Patagonian Malbec after a day of casting to wild trout!

My technique and ingredient advice: book a trip to Argentina and set up a barbecue with the gauchos - a life-altering experience."

5. Foraged spring meal of turkey, ramps and morels
"Each spring, I take a week to hunt turkeys with friends in Southern Missouri. At that time, every ridge has a gobbler on it and the streams are choked with wild watercress and trout. Also, morels and ramps can be found in abundance. One day each week, we prepare a meal of entirely foraged food while old timers regale us with stories of life on working Missouri farms in the 1930s and 1940s. Moonshine, root cellars, lye soap and a lot of hard work are stories that belong in the Smithsonian.

Cooking notes: Remove the breast from a wild turkey and cut into one-inch thick bias-cut slices. Season with an herb-and-garlic-infused salt, olive oil, fresh ground black pepper and let marinate for an hour. Grill the slices over a hot wood fire until just barely cooked through, about one minute on each side. Sauté the morels in butter and thyme until just tender – three to four minutes over medium high heat. Toss the morels, watercress and a little lemon Dijon vinaigrette together and divide up among guests. Place the turkey slices on the greens and morels and serve immediately."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. eatocracy.cnn.com

    55 chef christopher hastings.. Amazing :)

    April 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  2. Linda

    Great Story – Learn how to cook with herbs very easy at http://www.lindasgarden.com – Some great Recipes and Products Here.

    October 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  3. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    I hate! Hate, hate, hate. AAArrrrggg!!! I hate open flame! I hate meat, I hate veggies, I hate people, I hate animals! I hate people that eat animals. I hate veggies that eat meat!

    Actually, strike that. I love all that. Was just trying to fan the flames. That was the point, right? Attempt yesterday's message board fire?

    October 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • RickSanchez

      I'm the only one that can do that! I want my job back!

      October 12, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
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