There's a wealth of information over at fornobravo.com . They not only sell wood-fired ovens, but offer free plans and host a forum for building them. With their information, I built my WFO about a year ago. It's not exactly the same as fireplace cooking, of course, but there are a lot of great techniques and recipes in their wood-fired cooking e-book (free through their store at http://www.fornobravo.com/store/Instr... ) that would apply.
When we redid kitchen we put waist high wood burning fireplace in it. We located a mason who does mostly commercial kitchen wood buring fireplaces and he designed cooking grates that are up while logs buring to coals and are lowered for placing foodstuffs. We grill everything in it from pizza to pineapple to pork chops. We have glass doors to control the occasional smoke blow back ( house high on hill near ocean and high winds aren't your friend) We have chimney professionally cleaned every 6 months or so. We are able to control the heat as mendogurl describes by moving coals in the bed and use lower heat for pizza and somewhat higher for chops etc. so yes we use it 3-4 nights a week and its nice not to get cold when you are grilling that ribeye in January. It is a joy. ( and little clean up except for keeping the grates well scrubbed with a wire brush)
I have one of those Tuscan grills that I use in the fireplace for steaks and chops. Sometimes I just put them in a cast iron skillet on a trivet over the coals.
It is a joy.
One of the most awesome dishes so far has been asparagus tossed with oil and thyme, roasted in a dutch oven over the coals. It was amazing how good it was.
Open hearth cooking is quite an art. There are some forums on the web dealing with that specialty. Here's one:
and lots of links:
Yes, those are great sources. There are some really great spots around the web, which is great because I haven't found a lot of books.
I get pretty elaborate with cooking over a fireplace when camping, so a lot of what I do has been nothing more than moving those ideas into the house.
How will you cook it in the fireplace on a string? What about the drippings and the flare ups? How do you do it with out the string burning?
It is so easy and simple it is scary.
I got interested about years ago, after going many times to a restaurant in Marin, CA. that cooked in their fireplace. A trip to Ireland sealed it, and the obvious understanding that there has been a lot more cooking done over fire than on stoves.
Anyway, found a great book called The Magic Of Fire. I started collecting antique cooking tools for the fireplace, but most of them aren't really necessary, you need nothing but string for the chicken. There are a couple of You Tube videos as well.
After you build your fire, you want to settle it into some really good hot coals. You can create an indirect method of cooking by keeping the burning logs to one side, and pulling out mounds of hot coals to do your cooking with.
Soak the string for maybe ten minutes, use enough to truss the bird, and another couple of feet for hanging.
You don't roast the bird over the fire, you roast it in front of the fire.
I have a bar that goes from one side of my fireplace to the other, that the metal screening hangs from. You can also fix a nail or a hook anywhere along the front of your fireplace.
Truss the bird and then tie your extra string to the trussing, and hang it in front of your fire.
Put any kind of pan down under the chicken to catch the drippings. The heat from the fire will cause the bird to spin slowly, roasting it on all sides.
It is not a fast method, but it make the most delicious bird.
You can put cut up potatoes in the drip pan and let them slowly roast in the drippings. Heavenly.
This method also works with meat. I am going to do a leg of lamb tomorrow night.
It doesn't hurt to have an oven thermometer handy. You want to keep the temp of the fireplace around the same you would keep the oven. You regulate the temp by adding or removing coals from the fire.