It had been far too many months since I had found myself with a good day to build a small campfire in the backyard. But Saturdays, even chilly ones in mid-Spring, can sometimes avail themselves of enough freedom and opportunity to reignite something interesting, sometimes literally.
My plan to have winter fires outdoors this past cold season was met by a couple struggles with weather, timing and general distraction. I lit up the pit a few times while there was snow on the ground, but by choices of days were never ideal and I spent multiple hours outside in the dwindling light of dusk trying thaw the ice from the bottom and sides of my fire pit for long enough to sustain a flame of anything worthy of the name.
So with the snow consistently melted and the remaining autumn leaf litter cleared, I dusted off everything — pit, grill plates, benches and tools — late yesterday afternoon and burned a couple hours worth of wood to both get rid of the winter remains and kick-start another season of backyard cookouts.
I not only slow-grilled a pair of thick pork chops for nearly an hour, roasting them slowly over the coals and smoke, turning them into deliciously flavored hunks of savory meat, but I also attempted a simple stir fry: rice.
Basic white rice finds itself in our home cooked meal rotation often enough that we usually have a cup or two of day-old rice in the fridge. My wife was planning on simply microwaving our leftovers to accompany the chops, but I suggested instead that we fry up some rice over the already-to-cook fire.
Some scrambled egg, a few finely chopped veggies in butter, a heap of left-over cold rice, and some soy sauce, all step-wise added to my twelve inch cast iron pan, and sizzled up to a toasty brown with the smoke and the flame licking around the outside.
It was delicious and nutty and savoury, and the perfect side to go along with two caramel-toned smoked pork chops that followed the bowl of stir fried rice through the backdoor and to the kitchen table.
Sometimes I wonder what the neighbours must be thinking, but I guess if they could smell my outdoor cooking they’re probably mostly jealous.