In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review -- Around the fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant

Written by Chef Donna Marie Desfor | Jun 22, 2016 3:17 AM

Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, with Stacy Adimando
Photography: Evan Sung

Get it: Ten Speed Press, Hardcover, 272 pages, $32.50 (Amazon (new) $21.87; Kindle $18.99)

See it: 94 photos, with a photo of just about every completed recipe, including a few step-by-step photos for breaking down a whole fish and making empanadas.

Make it: 87 primary recipes with all the component recipes to make the completed dish.

Not long into the summer grilling season I had exhausted my standard backyard go-to repertoire.  Frustrated with what I found in my 'big book' and 'bible' cookbooks on grilling I went in search of a more current spin on the backyard barbecue.  I found Around the Fire, and though intimidated by the first few color photographs of blazing fires and open outdoor grills big enough to hold a side of beef, I was equally captivated by the gorgeous photos of salads, seafood and grilled meats.  I took a closer look and to my delight found this book filled with innovative and achievable grilling recipes.  

Chef/authors Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton of the celebrated Ox restaurant in Portland, Oregon manage to transform restaurant-like inventive, flavorful, year-round grilling recipes into achievable, adventurous cooking for wood-, charcoal-, and gas-fired home grills.  And while these recipes require a bit more effort than the familiar summer minimalist mantra to just "throw something on the grill," you'll enjoy the complex flavors some of the more straightforward recipes offer.  I suggest starting with something like Grilled Maple-Brined Pork Chops or Grilled Side of Salmon.  Even the Grilled New Potato and Onion Skewers with bacon sherry cream, take your barbecue game to the next level. 

While you'll find a whole host of lesser known (but easily tracked down) cuts of meat and ingredients (oyster leaves anyone? I opted for the suggested substitution of edible flowers), there are steaks, too.  And, a whole host of seasonal vegetables and seafood.  But unlike most grilling cookbooks, there are a slew of sautéed side dishes, crisp salads, creamy soups, chilled ceviches, and roasted and toasted elements that the authors believe are the essential accents that will bring balance to every meal.  Vegetarians and Pescatarians will delight in the options contained in Around the Fire

 For those beginning their foray into backyard cooking, Around the Fire includes a smart primer that condenses some 13-years of world-wide cooking experience down to 9 pages of grilling basics - from the styles of grill, to types of fuel, to essential tools.  And while it sounds a bit prosaic, the entire page dedicated to lighting the fire is worth a serious study.  Interested in turning your grill into a smoker?  They've got step-by-step instructions including notes on hot versus cold smoking, and the overrated crosshatched grill marks.

There's a definite Latin/South American flair to the impressive flavor profiles in Around the Fire that encourage long relaxed meals shared around a table filled with friends and family.  Perhaps that's why I keep going back to this book over and again.  It feels like the way grilling should be.  Intense and engaging without being overwhelming.  Its pages are inspiring and full of flavor that promise long delicious evenings in the backyard.

Try these amazing recipes from Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant 


with celery, cilantro, charred orange, and cumin-chile oil


Around the fire: ash-seared lamb loin. Photography credit: Evan Sung © 2016

 For those nights when you want to be liberated from the grill while the festivities are going on, this lamb loin can be finished in advance and served chilled or at room temperature. It's light enough to serve on the hottest summer nights, but the easy-to-find components (like celery, an unsung favorite of ours) make it friendly for year-round eating.

 Think of the charred orange as a trick up your sleeve. The burning sugars of the orange lend a crème brûlée-like sweetness, making the orange amazing on everything from sweetened yogurt to a smoky Old-Fashioned.


 1 (12-ounce) boneless lamb loin

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus about 1 teaspoon more to garnish plates

1⁄4 cup Orange-Chile Oil (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (gluten-free if desired)

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 oranges

Flaked sea salt, for garnishing

1 large rib celery, sliced thinly on a diagonal

6 chives, sliced into 2-inch pieces

1 cup cilantro leaves

 Coat the lamb loin with the kosher salt, pepper, and cocoa powder, rubbing with your fingers to help the spices adhere. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Prepare a grill to high heat. Meanwhile, to make the cumin-chile oil, in a small bowl, whisk the Orange-Chile Oil with the soy sauce and vinegar. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds until fragrant and starting to pop, about 1 minute. Remove and add to the chile-soy mixture.

Using a sharp knife, cut away the orange rinds and reserve the fruit.

While the grill is at its hottest, grill the lamb and the oranges: Unwrap the lamb loin and place it on the hottest part of the grill (if it's a gas grill), or--if using coals--set a metal cooling rack directly atop the coals and place the lamb loin on top. Cook for about 1 minute, until seared, then flip and cook the other side for 1 minute. (If your lamb loin is more round than oblong, give it a one-quarter turn every 30 seconds so that it cooks evenly.) Remove the loin from the heat (it will still be rare to medium-rare) and wrap it tightly in fresh plastic wrap to allow it to keep cooking while you grill the orange. At this point, you can store the cooked, wrapped lamb loin up to 3 days.

To finish the dish, place the oranges on the hottest part of the grill and cook, rotating until charred--and almost burnt--around the outside, 4 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest until cool enough to handle; slice into 1⁄2-inch-thick rounds.

To serve, divide the orange slices among four plates. Unwrap the lamb loin and slice it into 1⁄4-inch medallions; divide among plates. Garnish each slice with a light sprinkling of sea salt. Garnish with the celery, chives, and cilantro leaves. Drizzle the toasted cumin-chile oil over the meat and vegetables, stirring between each spoonful to properly distribute all of its ingredients. Sprinkle a small amount of cocoa across each plate and serve.


This chile oil can be used on almost anything, but it's particularly good drizzled on any sashimi-grade fish with a dash of soy sauce or a pinch of sea salt, or used as a base for a vinaigrette.


 1⁄3 cup dried hot chiles, such as Thai, pequín, or arbol, stemmed

2 to 2 1⁄3 cups neutral-flavored vegetable oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1⁄4 cup Hungarian sweet paprika

Finely grated zest of 3 oranges

In a dry skillet, toast the whole chiles until slightly darkened but not blackened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, then pulse to chop.

In a small, heavy nonreactive pot over medium-low heat, combine 2 cups of the oil, the salt, and the chopped chiles. Once the oil starts to shimmerand the chiles start moving around, remove from the heat and add the paprika and the orange zest. If the oil is too hot and the paprika starts to sizzle and burn, be ready to cool it off quickly by adding the remaining 1⁄3 cup of vegetable oil.

Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a few layers of cheesecloth. This oil will keep indefinitely when stored in the refrigerator.

Reprinted with permission from Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, with Stacy Adimando, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photography credit: Evan Sung © 2016



with "black gold" fingerling potatoes and capers

Smoke is famously good with trout, and this preparation takes advantage of that. This particular whole fish can also be a good gateway if the idea of whole fish freaks you out: most seafood shops and grocery counters sell trout already gutted and deboned, so you can enjoy all of the drama of presenting a whole fish but without the messiness of the guts or paranoia about swallowing bones.

 Primarily the pleasure of a whole trout or any grilled whole fish is the bronzed, crispy skin. Done properly, the skin takes on the texture of a thin, well-done slice of bacon and a little of its saltiness, too--a nice contrast to the tender, mild-flavored flesh. We balance out the richness of the skin with plenty of lemon, some briny capers, and fresh herbs.

It is very important that you have all the ingredients for the recipe prepped in advance and at the ready beside the grill, since the fish takes just a few minutes to cook.


5 medium fingerling potatoes

Kosher salt

2 (12-ounce) whole boneless trout (preferably head-on, tail-on), fins removed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons "Black Gold" (see separate recipe)

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 lemon, halved

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1⁄4 cup fresh marjoram leaves

Put the potatoes in a small pot and cover with water; season with salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer the potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and let cool enough to handle. Slice into 1⁄4-inch rounds, then chill.

 Prepare a grill to high heat. Preheat a cast-iron pan or any pan that can withstand high heat from the grill by placing it directly on the coals or over the hottest area of the grill.

Meanwhile, using paper towels, pat away any excess moisture from the trout. Brush the outside and inside of the cavity with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Close the fish cavity.

 Add the "Black Gold" to the preheated pan, then add the fish. Cook until browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Gently flip the fish using a metal spatula. Add the potatoes and capers (removing the pan from the heat and then returning it to the heat, if needed). Cook until the potatoes have started to brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Squeeze the lemon into the pan, then add most of the parsley and all of the marjoram.

 Remove the fish from the pan and transfer to a platter or two plates; divide the potatoes and capers between the plates. Taste the pan juices and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Spoon it generously over the fish. Garnish with the remaining parsley leaves.

 Reprinted with permission from Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, with Stacy Adimando, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC."

Photography credit: Evan Sung © 2016


 While the intention of the V-slat grooves on an Argentine-style grill is to help prevent fat and oil from dripping into the coals and causing flare-ups, there is an added bonus to channeling these fats and juices off the grill. At the restaurant, we collect them and flavor them with aromatics, then use them as a basting liquid for grilled meats. We call this elixir "black gold" since it takes on a black tint from the meat juices, spices, smoke, and char.

While most home grills do not allow for collecting any meat drippings as food cooks, you can easily fake this seasoned basting oil by rendering any animal fat and warming it with fresh herbs and citrus. Olive oil also works in a pinch, though of course, neither of these options will have the same dark color as drippings off the grill.

This is less of a recipe and more of a suggestion for infusing a little more flavor into your grilled foods by basting with delicious aromatics. You can use any combination of the ingredients you like.


1 1⁄2 cups rendered fat, such as bacon fat, beef fat, good-quality lard, or duck fat, unsalted butter, or extra-virgin olive oil (or any combination of these)

8 to 10 sprigs assorted fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and parsley (no more than 3 sprigs of each)

2 green onions

1 head garlic, halved crosswise

1⁄2 lemon

Place the fat in a small pot over low heat. Add the herbs, green onions, garlic, and lemon half and cook just until the herbs begin to wilt (but not sizzle), 140°F to 150°F. Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can marry. When using to baste, keep in a warm spot on the grill. Strain before storing and refrigerate for up to a week. Add more fresh herbs upon rewarming.

Reprinted with permission from Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting from Ox Restaurant by Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, with Stacy Adimando, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC."

Photography credit: Evan Sung © 2016


Published in Donna Marie Desfor, In witfs Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

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