By: Stephanie Burt, The Southern Fork
Katie Button was born in the South, raised in the North, and educated in Europe. She’s the chef and owner of Cúrate Tapas Bar and La Bodega by Cúrate in Asheville, NC. She and husband Felix Meana also ship Spanish foods and wines through Curate at Home and the Cúrate Spanish Wine Club. She tops the list of notable chefs with nods from the James Beard Awards to Food & Wine’s list of Best New Chefs.
But when she’s not cooking at the restaurant or on the road -- she loves cooking at home on the Sea Island Forge Fire Kettle. In 2020, Steve and Sandy delivered a Kettle and cooking accessories to Katie and Felix in Asheville. When she saw the setup, she immediately thought - Paella and Open Fire... this is the perfect setup!
The wheels started turning and soon we were delivering our first iteration of the Paella Rig. With some feedback and guidance from Katie and Felix, we perfected the piece and it is now available to backyard chefs – amateur and professional alike! So, it’s only fitting she take a turn on the Hot Seat before you take a turn with our new Paella Rig.
Do you have a grilling or campfire memory that started your love of outdoor cooking?
Growing up, my father was always the one that manned the grill. My mom was the chef and cook of the family, and she would marinate and prep, and we’d have simple things. I always liked it because we ate outside. And the simplicity of cooking on an open fire, once you dive into it, there is something that pushes you to mastery of it, of perfecting your own technique.
What’s one meal that really shines on your SIF Kettle?
Paella. When I first started cooking on the Sea Island Forge Kettle [and Grill] with that unique lift feature that gives you the perfect control over, heat, fire and distance, I immediately thought of paella. You need a hot pan for searing the meat, seafood, or vegetables, and then it needs to come to an even simmer. Paella is everything in one pan: starch, vegetable, and protein, and there’s simplicity in that. And it serves a lot of people at once!
What is something that you’ve cooked on the Kettle that surprised you?
I have loved using the Side Kick and throwing a pot of clams on it. Add some garlic, white wine, and herb in it and let them steam, and you have a snack while you’re cooking.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Very ingredient-focused. I like simplicity, and light, bright, focused dishes like roasted vegetables and a simple vinaigrette.
What type of wood do you like for your Kettle and why?
A hardwood you’d use for the fireplace like oak. I haven’t been using a fancy wood at all, but I’m excited to experiment with different types of wood as I continue to cook on the Kettle.
What’s something tricky about open fire that the average cook needs to know?
You want your wood pieces to be small, so that it makes even chunks of coals. Having a side of small, evenly cut pieces to one side will give you more control, so you’re not throwing a big log into the center of the coals.
What is your favorite element of the SIF?
I love the lever function ability to lift and lower [the Grill]. That provides amazing control.
Sea Island Forge Arroz
a paella-style open fire rice recipe
By: Chef Katie Button of Cúrate
1/2 jar Sofrito
3 cartons Aneto Seafood Base (1L each)
4 cups Arroz Calasparra
High Heat Cooking Oil (such as grapeseed or avocado)
3 lbs Clams or Mussels
Your choice of Vegetables
1. Set up the Sea Island Forge Fire Kettle with the Paella Rig, and ensure that your pan is level. Use the leveling kit to make sure that the Kettle doesn’t move under the weight of the Rig & pan.
2. Build a fire in the Kettle and allow it to burn down a bit into coals, while keeping it hot.
3. Add a few turns of high heat cooking oil to the pan and place it over the flame.
4. As the pan heats up, take a look at the oil - the bowl is level if the oil pools in the center of the pan. If it streams to either side, make adjustments to the Kettle using the leveling kit. (Tighten to raise a side, loosen to lower)
5. When oil is hot, sear optional proteins and hardy vegetables. After they are seared, set them aside. Clams, mussels and more delicate vegetables do not need to be added at this point.
6. Add half of the jar of sofrito, and allow it to toast in the pan for 30 seconds, stirring around the pan with Paella Spoon. Add in the stock, combining it with the sofrito as it’s added. Continue to make micro-adjustments with the leveling kit as needed.
7. This is a good moment to check the fire. The liquid should come to a heavy simmer which must be maintained for about 25 minutes throughout the remainder of the cooking process.
8. Once the stock comes to a hard simmer, add rice and stir into the stock.
9. Add clams or mussels to steam. At this point, do not continue to stir.
10. When the stock and rice resume a medium simmer, it will take about 15 minutes for the rice to cook.
11. After the first 5 minutes, add in all vegetables along with anything that was seared earlier on. Arrange them nicely, and avoid stirring – this is how they will appear when served.
12. As the stock becomes mostly absorbed, raise the pan slightly. Be patient and aware of what is happening, look out for a delicious brown, nutty smell. If a burning smell is detected, pull the pan from the heat.
13. At the end of the 15 minutes, pull the pan off the Grill and cover with aluminum foil for 10 minutes.
14. Finish with all i oli (recipe below) and enjoy!
all i oli (Garlicky Catalan-style Mayonnaise)
1 clove Garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
1 whole Egg
1 cup Olive Oil, mild like arbequina
Kosher salt to taste