Cooking with a wood burning oven

We have installed and use the wood burning oven from Le Panyol, located at 2 Route de Larnage 26600 Tain L’Hermitage, France – +33 (0)4 75 08 96 50. These recommendations are based one my experiences of using both the Le Panyol and the Mugnaini wood burning ovens.

A Le Panyol oven is quick and economical to heat.

It takes 4 to 8 kg (8 ½ to 17 ½ pounds) of wood to reach a temperature close to 400°C in approximately 1hr30 of combustion.

The shape of the dome and the size of the opening mean that the air penetrates the lower part of the entrance and circulates naturally to provide perfect combustion while the smoke is evacuated via the upper part and the hood.

The heat is accumulated in the large volume of heat-resistant terracotta and the output is maximized by the shape and thickness of the parts.

Once up to temperature, the Le Panyol oven restores the accumulated heat very slowly by radiation.

Firing Procedures

Properly firing your oven will be the single most important step towards your cooking success. No matter how great a chef you are or how delicious your recipes are; if you don’t fully heat your oven it will cause a fluctuation in temperature that will show up as inconsistencies in cooking your menu items.

Spend the hour or hour and a half and fully saturate the oven floor and crown elements with heat and establish a bed of coals. After that you will adjust the flame pattern (by adding more or less wood) to regulate and maintain your oven temperature.

Tools and technique: By obtaining the recommended tools and following the firing procedure for your Le Panyol you are sure to have proper balanced heat for hours of cooking and entertaining enjoyment.

Step One: THE CENTER BURN (about 20 minutes)

Objective: to establish a large bed of coals, which will then ignite all the hardwood going forward.

1. Remove oven door and leave it off for the duration of the firing procedure. Start in the front center of the oven within arms reach. Place two to three firestarter cubes lengthwise on the oven floor spaced between two substantial (approximately 1.25” x 2” x 16″) pieces of kindling. The kindling needs to be large enough to elevate the wood pile, allowing for oxygen to reach the fire. Use small logs if necessary. Place three substantial pieces of kindling across, perpendicular to the first two pieces of kindling.

2. Place two small hardwood logs across, perpendicular to, the three pieces of kindling and top with one or two more small hardwood logs, depending on the size of your oven. Use this crossing pattern so that the air can circulate through the wood.

3. Light the firestarters with a match, the kindling will begin to ignite.

4. Place one piece of kindling across the front of the wood pile and with your long handled utility hook or metal peel push the entire pile into the middle of the oven floor. The fire should be just back of the center of the oven.

Within 8-10 minutes you should see large flames burning straight up hitting the ceiling of the oven. The flames should hit the top of the dome and cascade to the sides. If the flames are being pulled forward by the flue push the fire back another 1-2 inches.

NOTE: this flame position is important because flames being pulled towards the front of the oven means heat is being lost up the chimney pipe and not be absorbed into the oven components and it will take you much longer to heat your oven. If the fire is not burning well after 8-10 minutes add a few more pieces of kindling or very small logs. Resist the urge to load this initial fire with more large logs, as you do not yet have a coal bed to ignite the hard wood. The larger wood will not ignite and subsequently smolder and produce smoke.

5. Maintain the fire, checking it frequently and add more kindling or small logs to keep the flames hitting the ceiling. You will need to continue burning the fire in this manner until you see a 6-8” white spot on the dome above the fire. This will be your indicator to move onto the next step.

Step Two: THE PERIMETER BURN (30–45 minutes)

Objective: to preheat the cooking side of the oven

1. At this point you need to decide which side of the oven you will eventually cook on, either right or left side, and focus on heating this side first. (Do not worry about heating the opposite side as it will heat up quickly once all the coals are banked).

2. Using your long handle metal peel or the ash scraper, push the coals from the center of the oven to the perimeter of the cooking side of the oven, about 3-5 inches from the walls of the dome. (It is important to leave a little space between the fire and the walls so you do not suffocate the fire). The final goal is to line 2/3 of the oven perimeter with coals. Leave the center of the oven open and clear.

3. Add kindling and more logs to the fire along the perimeter. Most ovens will require 3-4 pieces of wood to cover the 2/3 of the oven’s perimeter. Elevate the logs by leaning them on each other to overlap to ensure plenty of airflow. You may however need to add another fire starter if you loose the flames.

4. Within a few minutes the logs in the perimeter burn should ignite and burn well with flames rolling up and filling the dome. Keep this large preheat flame burning well (you may need to add more kindling and logs) until you have burned the black carbon off of the dome on that side of the oven. The opposite side of the oven will remain black for now.

DO NOT OVER FIRE THE OVEN. IF FLAMES ARE REACHING THE OVEN FLUE (RIGHT BEHIND THE ARCH) YOU ARE OVER FIRING THE OVEN. Put the door on to dampen the flame and back off quantity of wood used.

“Le Panyol” tip: Pyrolysis is complete when the whole inside of the oven has turned white.
At this point the oven has built up enough energy for several hours of cooking.

Step Three: BANKING THE FIRE (10 minutes)

Objective: to position the fire for cooking

I recommend banking the fire to the side of the oven—about one arms length in from the opening—not to the back of the oven. Remember, wherever you place this hot bed of coals that will be the hottest part of the oven and the food will cook in relation to this. It is easier to see and manage the cooking, especially pizza with the fire on the side. If you bank the fire to the back of the oven the food will brown to the rear, which is difficult to see and quickly manage.

1. Using your long handled metal peel of ash scraper push all of the coals to the opposite side of the oven. (Do not use your floor brush to move the live coals and logs as you will burn the wooden backing and melt the brash bristles). Add additional wood to maintain the preheat flame and burn the remaining black carbon off of the dome.

2. Use the floor brush to sweep any ash from the cooking floor into the fire. Be sure to sweep well around the oven perimeter and towards the front arch opening.

Congratulations…you are now ready to start cooking!

A well-preheated oven should have a dome void of black, a bed of coals and one to two logs burning. Remember to add wood during cooking as the flame will maintain your deck temperature – more wood/large fame to maintain the pizza environment, moderate amount of wood/vertical flame to maintain the roasting environment.

For more information about the Le Panyol ovens, click here.

Fire in the Le Panyol

Starting the fire using the first step of building a fire.

The Center Burn

During this stage you will establish a large bed of coals over a 20 minute period.


Bounty of Figs

We are currently housesitting near Barjac in the department of Gard. This location has a climate very similar to SoCal or Patzcuaro in central México in that it is very arid but quite warm and windy. The property we are at has a large black fig tree that is just oozing with ripe figs right now. Since we never like to have anything go to waste, we have been preparing meals upon meals using the figs. We have had everything from fig ice cream, to chocolate fig tarts, to fig Bruschetta and finally to our new favorite, a Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Roquefort.

If you can get your hands on some ripe figs this is a recipe that will quickly become a favorite as it is quite easy to prepare and very flavorful.

Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Roquefort

In a large skillet over low heat, melt butter with oil. Add onions, rosemary and sugar. Cook, tossing occasionally, until onions are limp and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan.

Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Roquefort

Jo Ann placing the figs on the tarte before putting it in the oven.

Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Roquefort

Prepared and ready to cook.

Fig Tart With Caramelized Onions, Rosemary and Roquefort

Fresh out of the oven and ready to serve. It was so yummy.

Ferme Auberge du Claud

We are in the midst of a fairly major renovation of our kitchen which is why I have been very silent lately. One of the cornerstones will be a Le Panyol wood fired oven that not only does excellent breads and pizzas, but can be used to cook meats, fish, vegetables and most other products. One of the restaurants that Le Panyol provided to us as a reference was Ferme Auberge du Claud located in Trelissac near Perigueux. So to double up on lunch as well as checking out the oven, we booked a reservation at the restaurant.

Please note that you must make a reservation at least 24 hours ahead of your desired meal where you will be asked to make your choice for your main course offering. We also had contacted the owners of the restaurant before hand to ensure we could get some input from them on how they like the Le Panyol, installation tips and other suggestions. The owners were most welcoming and had wonderful things to say about the Le Panyol.

The meal consisted of four courses, a starter, the main course, a salad and cheese plate followed by dessert. Everything we had today was straight from the farm except for the white asparagus which can not be grown on this property due to the climate of the Trelissac area.

We started with a apéritif of a sweet white wine with strawberry liquor which was very tasty.

The entire four course meal was excellent, starting with a starter of a poached egg, white asparagus, home made salami and fresh fava beans.

For the main course we had two choices pork stuffed with a basil and walnut pesto and I had the lamb tagine, both of which were excellent, very flavorful, juicy and tender.

Our third course was a salad with some cheese offerings and for dessert we had an excellent tarte of fresh strawberries and raspberries.

The wine list was limited but featured a number of local Bergerac wines which paired well with the meal.

I rate this a 5 start out of 5.

We also talked to the owner who said we can email them to order some of their fresh produce when ever we want as they do sell some at the Perigueux and Trelissac markets and at the coop near Sarlat.

If you would like more information about Ferme Auberge du Claud you can check out their website or their TripAdvisor page.

Ferme Auberge du Claud

The starter consisting of a small salad with a soft egg, some home made sausage, white asparagas and fresh fava beans. The only product not produced on the farm was the white asparagas. Straight from the farm is the best way to enjoy fruits and vegetables.

Ferme Auberge du Claud

Lamb Tagine, cooked in the Le Paynol wood fired oven. The meat just fell off the bone but was juicy and oh so flavorful. Wonderful.

Ferme Auberge du Claud

Pork stuffed with basil and walnut pesto was also cooked in the Le Paynol wood fired oven. The pork was tender, moist and so flavorful.

Ferme Auberge du Claud

Some of the most tasty and delightful potatoes I have ever eaten. They were crispy but still moist.

Ferme Auberge du Claud

A wonderful mixture of summer squashes with some excellent seasonings that added just the right touch.

Origo Panadería

Having lived in México for over the past ten years one culinary treat we have failed to get (other than at Lalo! in México City) is authentic French baguettes and croissants. Well thanks to our friend Rose Calderon of Morelia, we found our second authentic French boulangerie, this time in Morelia, Michoacán. To emphasize this point, when we decided to move to France last year, one of our criteria for deciding where we were going to live was the quality of the local boulangerie so we visited every boulangerie in each village/hamlet we visited. This hopefully shows how important we view the quality of our bread and croissants, as well as demonstrates that one can live on bread alone (with maybe a little butter and red wine).

So yesterday we had lunch at Origo Panadería and we were blown away. When we entered the restaurant we were greeted by Nico, who is a French trained baker who is helping his friend in getting this restaurant up and running. Not only being very friendly and multi-lingual (we talked English, Spanish and French) he had a great knowledge of the restaurant as well as the process.

To ensure the quality of the products, the restaurant imports their flour and butter (for the croissants) directly from France so there is no loss of quality that you experience when you try to make a traditional baguette or croissants at home when living in México (we know we tried many different methods). Everything is done the traditional methods although they do provide some creative flair to their final products.

We started out with a traditional croissant that was extremely flaky and tasted like it oozed of butter, even though it was not greasy. For our main plate Jo Ann had a sandwich of Gravalax and Goat Cheese on a cereal baguette. I had a pizza of Smoked Salmon with Pears on a Béchamel sauce. Both of these were excellent.

We strongly recommend this restaurant if you are ever in the Morelia area and looking for an enjoyable French treat.

You can find more information about the restaurant on Trip Advisor or Google Maps.

Origo Pandería

Gravalax and Goat Cheese on a cereal baguette.

Origo Pandería

Smoked Salmon with Pears on a Béchamel sauce.

Origo Pandería

The flour mill that the restaurant plans to use to mill the wheat that they are starting to grow here in México.

Origo Pandería

The flour mill that the restaurant plans to use to mill the wheat that they are starting to grow here in México.

Le Tour de Lacanche

We are in the middle of a major renovation (read that as EXTREME MAKE OVER) of our kitchen including taking down some walls and replacing the entire hardwood floor on the first level. However the center piece of the renovation is the Lacanche Pianos Gastronomes, in a deep Rouge Bourgogne.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 5.51.30 PM

The Lacanche brand is manufactured by Société Industrielle de Lacanche S.I.L, which is located in the village of Lacanche, in the department of Côte d’Or. The origin of the business commenced in eighteenth century when the owner of the land decided to combine the local iron ore that ran under his property and use the local wood and water to produce cast iron products.

Originally the produced all types of cast iron stoves (for heating not cuisine) but then in the early 1900s migrated into wood fired stove/ovens. The factory remained in the family until 1972 when it was sold to the Valéo Company, however by 1981 Valéo decided to divest of the business.

That decision created the opportunity for André Augagneur, a former employee to acquire the property who with his son Jean-Jacques have transformed the Lacanche line to a world class manufacturer of Pianos Gastronomes.

When we placed our order for our piano we were informed that they only manufacture the products to order and that it would take six to eight weeks for the piano to be produced. Thus we decided that we should take a trip to Burgundy and visit the factory. Boy are we glad we did ask for a tour.

Upon arriving in the village, you see a town that looks like time has past by, and we had a hard time trying to find the factory. However we finally found these small signs that lead us to the main entrance.

We were given a tour by the sales manager for International Operations so it was great that we could have him explain to us the production process in English. Almost the entire product line is manufactured in this factory and the only process performed elsewhere is the enameling of the pianos.

The factory uses many state of the art techniques including robotics but you still can feel the Artisan pride of the people who manufacture the various parts and for those to handle the assembly. The final step of the process is a computer quality assurance process that tests every combination of usage and only once the piano passes, is the piano given its serial number.

We are now anxiously awaiting the completion of our piano so that it can be shipped to Le Bugue and installed in our cuisine.

You can get more information about Lacanche from their website or from their International website.

Lacanche Factory Tour

One of the Lacanche Pianos in the showroom.

Lacanche Factory Tour

The entrance to the Lacanche factory.

Lacanche Factory Tour

The machine that cuts out the stainless steel pieces.

Lacanche Factory Tour

One of the many stamping machines that form the walls of the Lacanche ovens.

Lacanche Factory Tour

Another one of the machines that cut out the stainless steel pieces.

Lacanche Factory Tour

The factory is highly automated using what looks like state of the art robots.

Lacanche Factory Tour

One of the processes which can not be automated, where the edges of the walls are ground to form the perfect edge. These edges are curved and not straight which provides a stronger joint.

Lacanche Factory Tour

The standard models assembly line. The difference is that for the standard models, the oven travels from station to station and multiple people will work on the oven.

Lacanche Factory Tour

One of the rouge bourgogne pianos that is almost fully assembled.

Lacanche Factory Tour

A completed Lacanche piano ready for quality control testing. This is the same model that we are buying, but ours will be Burgundy Rouge.

Lacanche Factory Tour

The Lacanche Rotisserie, one of the many options that you can choose from.

Lacanche Factory Tour

One of the original furnaces that the Lacanche factory used to melt the iron ore.

Lacanche Factory Tour

The Lacanche Logo.

La Table de Leo

Located in a small town called Saint-Avit-Sénieur, located between Monpazier and Belves in the Dordogne, is a wonderful restaurant called La Table de Leo. It is a very contemporary looking restaurant that prepares excellent cuisine. The menu was very creative and we both had the Menu du Jour, which is only available for lunch during the week.

Everything about the meal was excellent, starting with a beautiful amuse bouche, followed by an Entrée, a Plat and then of course Dessert. We also had a glass of wine at lunch which perfectly complemented our meal.

You can find more information about La Table de Leo at TripAdvisor or Michelin. Alternatively you can also contact them via their website.

La Table de Leo

La Table de Leo

Salade de Chevre Chaud, very yummy and I liked the cheese wrapped in the filo packets.

La Table de Leo

Pigeon with a chestnut purée on artichoke hearts.

La Table de Leo

Twelve hour roasted pork on a bed of home made sauerkraut and potatoes.

La Table de Leo

Exotic Fruits with a Mango Sorbet.

La Table de Leo

Deconstructed Couer du Café.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

Last night we prepared a new meal for us, duck breasts with a port-cherry sauce. Living in the Dordogne there is no shortage of duck and we thought this would be an excellent albeit, fairly simple recipe.

The duck is marinaded for several hours in a mix of soy sauce and Sherry. Then you will prepare a sauce by reducing cherries, chicken stock, beef stock, Port and a thyme sprig until there is around ½ cup.

Around the same time you will start to cook the duck breasts in a heavy large skillet over medium heat until the skin is crispy, about 10 minutes. Turn duck over and continue cooking to desired doneness, about 5 minutes for medium.

Finish the sauce by adding cornstarch and whisking in butter until it is velvety.

Slice the duck thinly and diagonally, plate and serve. We paired this with a full bodied Bergerac wine which complemented the meal very well.

If you would like the recipe you can get it here.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

The duck breasts scored and marinading.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

The cherry sauce properly reduced with all the butter whisked in.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

Once they are golden brown (after about 10 minutes) turn them over and cook until done.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

The duck is ready to serve.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

The cherry sauce properly reduced with all the butter whisked in.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

Thinly cut the duck breasts diagonally to be served.

Duck With Port-Cherry Sauce

Duck with Port-Cherry Sauce, plated and ready to serve.