THE HOT SEAT: Anya Fernald of Belcampo, Various Locations, CA
By Stephanie Burt, The Southern Fork
Anya Fernald set out to feed her family better food and ended up changing her slice of the meat industry with her company Belcampo Meat Company. It all started as Anya’s desire as a mom to feed her family the healthiest meat possible and blossomed into a revolutionary business because, as she puts it in her founder’s letter, “Companies in the meat industry are allowed (and encouraged via subsidies and legislation) to produce and sell products that don’t put human and animal health first.” So she set out to change that. In 2012, the 27,000 acres that would become Belcampo Farm was purchased, and in the years since, the company has expanded to include a FDA-approved processing facility, full-service butcher shops, and restaurants serving farm-to-table dining experiences. And Anya is still right there on the farm -- even more these days since she’s sheltering in place because of the pandemic -- firing up the Sea Island Forge Kettle to cook some of the freshest cuts of meat available, right from her own land.
Do you have a grilling or campfire memory that started your love of outdoor cooking?
When I lived in Italy in my early 20s, I lived in a house from the 13th. Century. It had a huge fireplace inside -- so big I could stand in it -- and an outdoor bread oven. I had the pleasure of learning how to cook bread in that old oven, and it was a cool challenge. I even caught the dough on fire once, but I loved learning how to manipulate the fire to bake.
What’s one meal that really shines on your SIF Kettle?
Lambchops. I also really like anything with a tortilla. It’s so fun because you can cook the tortillas alongside anything else you’re cooking and if the juices from the meat get on the tortillas, well, even better.
What is something that you’ve cooked on the SIF Kettle that surprised you?
It’s big enough that I did a whole rack of beef ribs. That’s a huge thing, and it’s a long, slow cook, but they turned out great.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Primitive. I use a lot of wood fire and good ingredients.
What type of wood do you like for your SIF Kettle and why?
Almond wood. Here in California it’s a wood you can get pretty easily [California is a leading producer of almonds] and it is a nice burn.
What’s something tricky about open fire that the average cook needs to know?
You have to start it two hours before you want to cook. So in general, there’s more planning, and if you don’t start the fire enough ahead, it won’t be right. It has to burn down to coals.
What is your favorite element of the SIF Kettle?
The grill on the cantilever arm that moves up and down provides really good control over the fire. It works very well. And I like the clip-on thing -- Side Kick -- for hooking your coffee pot on when you’re making breakfast. That’s cute and fun.
Tale of Two Chimichurris
from Anya Fernald of Belcampo, California
Chef’s note: Chimichurri is a green condiment that Anya suggests goes on or with about everything that comes off a grill. She loves it so much, she developed two variations for her cookbook, Home Cooked.
Traditional Uruguayan Chimichurri
1 1/2 cups packed fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons packed fresh oregano leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons packed fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon packed fresh thyme leaves
1 fresh bay leaf
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, combine the parsley, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper. Add the olive oil and vinegar and pulse to combine, and transfer to a bowl. let stand for at least 1 hour before serving. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days; let come to room temperature before serving.
1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
4 anchovy fillets
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bunch italian parsley, stemmed
1 loosely packed cup fresh oregano leaves
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, vinegar, and water and let stand for 10 minutes. put the anchovy fillets and garlic in . pile on a large cutting board and, with a sharp knife, finely chop into a paste. place the parsley and oregano leaves on top of the anchovy-garlic paste and chop just to combine; you want the herbs to remain largely intact.
Transfer the herb-garlic mixture to the bowl containing the soaked bread crumbs and stir to combine. Pour in the olive oil and season to taste . with salt. Let stand for at least 1 hour before serving. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 days; let come to room temperature before serving.