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Lawrenceville restaurant featured in Gourmet's issue on cooking with fire

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 10:47 p.m.

Italy native Domenic Branduzzi feels the burn at his Lawrenceville establishment, Piccolo Forno, much to the delight of the editors of Gourmet magazine.

In its May issue, Gourmet includes the Butler Street restaurant -- complete with a red-tiled oven that burns oak and cherry woods -- as part of its Hot List of international eateries where chefs are cooking with live fire.

"Pittsburgh has always been a great pizza town, so it's no surprise that the city has embraced pies from a wood-fired oven, especially those from Piccolo Forno," the article says. "(Branduzzi's) pizza Margherita is a paragon of its type, slathered with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. (He) roasts some toppings in the oven, too, including red peppers, caramelized onions and sausage."

Piccolo Forno's flames rank with East Coast Grill & Raw Bar in Cambridge, Mass.; Stephan Pyles in Dallas; Savoy and Peasant restaurants in New York City; The Hitching Post in Buellton, Calif.; Li Qun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing; Cha Cha La Vong in Hanoi, Vietnam; La Tupina in Bordeaux, France; and Robert et Louise in Paris.

The issue's theme is "Cooking with Fire Around the World," featuring "volcano cooking" from the Azores, asado from Argentina -- by smoke and fire enthusiasts John Willoughby and Chris Schlesinger -- and communal wood-burning ovens in Marrakech, Morocco.

Road food experts Jane and Michael Stern travel to the White Gull Inn in Wisconsin to witness the "extraordinary cooking ritual known as the fish boil," in which the defining moment involves throwing kerosene on the fire. Other food visits are made to Spain, Brazil, India, Tunisia and Greece.

Want to build your own outdoor wood oven• Three gourmets from San Francisco are followed step-by-step as they put together a personal backyard food furnace, complete with adjustable grill, slow-cooking rotisserie and brick oven on top. Retail sources for wood-burning ovens also are offered.

To protect outdoor cooking enthusiasts from the flames, Gourmet tests 10 oven mitts and lists the brands by preference. Kool-Tek ($29.95) takes top honors.

And to get the coals burning, Gourmet offers a recipe for meaty ribs perked up with a spice rub flavored with cumin, paprika and chipotle chile powder.

Sticky Spicy Ribs

Plan for 2 1/2 hours marinating time and 30 minutes to bring the ribs to room temperature before grilling.

For the ribs:

  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing foil and grill rack
  • 2 (2 pounds each) racks baby back ribs

For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/ cup water
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the ribs for grilling: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the paprika, chile powder, cumin, allspice and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Line a 17- by 12- by 1-inch heavy-duty baking pan with a double layer of foil, then oil the foil. Pat the ribs dry and arrange in the baking pan. Rub the ribs all over with the spice mixture and marinate, meaty sides up, covered and chilled, for 2 1/2 hours. Bring the ribs to room temperature, for about 30 minutes.

Put an oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/4 hours. Remove the foil.

To make the sauce: While the ribs bake, cook the onions, garlic and ginger in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, for about 6 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Puree the sauce in 2 or 3 batches in a blender until smooth, using caution when blending the hot liquid. Set aside 1 cup sauce for serving with the ribs.

To grill the ribs: Prepare a grill for cooking over indirect heat with a medium-hot charcoal fire. If using gas, set the heat to medium.

For a charcoal grill: Lightly oil the grill rack, then transfer the ribs to the area of the rack with no coals underneath, reserving the pan juices, and cook, covered with the lid, basting generously with the pan juices and sauce and turning over and rotating the ribs every 10 minutes, keeping the ribs over indirect heat, until tender and browned, for 30 to 40 minutes total.

Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into individual pieces.

Gas grill: Lightly oil the grill rack, then transfer the ribs to the rack above the shut-off burner, reserving the pan juices. Grill, covered with the lid, basting generously with the pan juices and sauce and turning over and rotating the ribs every 10 minutes, keeping the ribs over the shut-off burner, until the ribs are tender and browned, for 30 to 40 minutes total.

Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into individual ribs.

In the oven: After baking the ribs covered, remove the top sheet of foil and continue to bake, uncovered, basting generously with the sauce and pan juices every 10 minutes and turning the ribs after 20 minutes, for 40 minutes total. Then turn on the broiler and broil the ribs, meaty sides up, 4 to 6 inches from the heat until browned, for about 3 minutes.

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