Fire is primal--the first and most basic way to cook. Since the beginning of time, it gives man the power to control his food. It is also by far (smokers, barbecues, ovens and other technology be damned) one of the most effective ways to release flavor. Fire is warming, hypnotic, yet dangerous. It strikes a deep chord in us--of hearth, tribe, warmth--that we gather around it, even watch videos of it, complete with crackling sounds, to create a homey atmosphere during the holidays.
At my in-laws' house, the horno de barro--the clay oven that is an Argentine backyard staple, is right next to the brick parilla. In it, all manner of delicacies are prepared--grilled meats, rescoldo vegetables, even pizza, bread, and empanadas. But the most revered of all is the lechon--the suckling pig.
Lechon is a classic rite-of-passage meal. A company's coming or holiday meal. And one that Esteban thoroughly enjoyed making with his abuelo and papi while visiting.
This summer we plan to build a clay oven in our own backyard stateside. I'd love your ideas and suggestions. What are your family's traditions surrounding the horno de barro? Do you have one at home? How did you build it, and did you run into any issues (zoning, HOA)? Thanks for your input, and looking forward to your stories!