Saturday, September 29, 2007

Simple Dutch Oven Apple Pie

Today was a pretty odd day, in a lot of ways. I’ve been feeling quite stressed and down these last few days. Today, I was looking forward to attending a DOG (Dutch Oven Gathering) up in Salt Lake City.

But a major storm blew through. What a disappointment.

Not the storm, mind. We need the wet here in Utah. The disappointment was that I couldn't go to the DOG.

The storm was weird, too. It actually started snowing. And we’re not really that high up in elevation. The city of Eagle Mountain is in a valley, actually.

But I was determined to cook something. I had originally planned on doing a pie, since I figured there’d be others there that would cook main dishes. So, I held to my plans. I used the last recipe I’d been successful with, but I’d been doing some research and thought I’d add a few things. So, I added the whipping cream and the nuts and raisins. It’s cooling upstairs as I type.

Simple Dutch Oven Apple Pie

12” Oven

10 coals below
18 coals above

The Filling:

  1. 6 apples, peeled and sliced
  2. 1 c Sugar
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon
  4. A shake or two of Nutmeg
  5. 2 Tbsp Flour
  6. ½ c chopped nuts (I used almonds)
  7. ¼ cup rasins
  8. ½ pint (1 carton) heavy whipping cream

The Crust: (I made two batches)

  1. 1 1/4 c Shortening
  2. 3 c Flour
  3. 1 Tbsp Vinegar
  4. 5 Tbsp Water
  5. 1 egg

I started off making the filling. I peeled and sliced the apples (they were kinda medium sized, so I did seven or eight. I probably coulda done one or two more, and filled out the pie a little more. I cut the apples away from the cores, then sliced them really thin. I put all the other ingredients in and stirred it up. This time, actually, I forgot the nutmeg. Bummer.

Then I made the first batch of crust. I am NOT an expert crust maker by any means. This is the third time in my life I’ve made a pie, and I’ve never done it in a normal oven. I poured everything into a bowl and used a pastry cutter to mix it all up. Those are hard on my wrists. But they work. Then I dumped it onto a couple of sheets of waxed paper, side by side, and layered some more paper on top. Then I rolled it out. I used the dutch oven lid as a template and cut a big circle out.

I have learned one cool trick, though. With the circle cut out, in between two layers of waxed paper, fold it in half. Then peel off the outer layer of waxed paper, so there’s sort of a crust “taco” half circle with a folded sheet of waxed paper inside. Then lay that down on one side of the bottom of the dutch oven. Finally, flip the upper half of the crust over the other half of the dutch oven, and peel off the waxed paper, and your bottom crust is perfectly placed. Since it was cut from the lid, it’ll be just a bit too big for the bottom. That’s part of the plan. I formed it into the corner where the base meets the side of the pot.

Then I rolled out some more, and cut it into strips about 2-2 ½ inches wide, as long as the rolled out dough was, and then put that onto the side of the dutch oven, smooshing it together with the base crust. I kept doing that until I had a nice wall all the way around the dutch oven.

Then I poured in the filling.

By this time, I was pretty much out of crust dough. So, I thought I’d better mix up some more, or there’d be none for the top. I rolled it out and played the same half-circle game to get the top crust placed.

Then I cut out some vent slices, and used those pieces as decorative bits. I sprinkled milk on top of it and then followed with some more cinnamon sugar over the top crust.

Then on the coals for about an hour or so, and it’s done!

It was a lot of fun watching the September snow come down, seeing all the neighborhood kids playing in it, while I sat on my front porch in my sweats and jacket cookin my pie. It’s all done, now, and all the screaming and laughing is quiet. It’s more of a cold rain, now, but it’s still flaking a little.

I think I’ll go have some hot pie!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dutch Oven Philly Steak Sandwiches

Last spring, while I was at a family party, one of my sisters -in- law made some steak sandwiches. She bought the buns, and made the meat in her crock pot. Well, my mind instantly went to the dutch oven. I started thinking of how I could make the same thing. But just doing the meat and the veggies would be too easy, of course. I needed to challenge myself. So, I decided that I would make the buns, too.

Well, that's all well and good, but I just filed it away in my list of ideas. Until last week, as I was contemplating what to make this week. I hadn't really tried anything new lately. I did a bigger batch of tamales for my wife's scrapbooking party, and there was the jambalaya a bit before that. Not much to write about, not much to read about, eh?

So, I found a recipe for hoagie rolls, and I'd gotten some meat and veggies. I was ready to give it a try!

Dutch Oven Philly Steak Sandwiches.

The Rolls

2x 12" shallow dutch ovens

10 coals below
20 coals above

  • 5 tsp yeast (2 packets)
  • 3 C water (1/2 C to start, 2 1/2 C later)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar (1 to start, 1 later)
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • ~8 C flour (4 at first, add rest as you knead)

I started by mixing a half cup of warm water with the yeast and a Tbsp of sugar. I left it to foam up, and it did, pretty readily (about 5 minutes).

Then, in a mixing bowl, I put the rest of the water, the rest of the sugar, the oil, and the salt. To that, I added the yeast mixture.

I dumped in the first four cups of flour and started mixing. It was quite sticky, of course, as I stirred. I started adding the rest of the flour a cup at a time, stirring and mixing as I went. I used pretty much the full 8 cups. After it had stirred, I started kneading it until it all stuck together in a ball. Then I pulled it out of the bowl and set it onto the floured table, and started kneading in earnest. I kneaded for about 5-6 minutes, sprinkling on a little bit of flour as it needed it to keep from sticking. I scraped out the bowl and sprayed it with oil and put in the dough ball. I finished that off by spraying the top of the dough and covering it all with a plastic bag.

After about 45 minutes I was surprised to see how much it had risen. I mean, most of the bread recipes I've made don't rise that much at all, and I let them sit sometimes for as much as 2-3 hours. So, I started the coals on fire. I was a bit nervous about that, because it was sprinkling rain when I started them. But I could see it was moving over quickly, and the showers would be scattered. As it turned out, that was the last of the rain today.

Back to the dough. I punched it down and cut it into 8 equal pieces. In retrospect, I'd probably do 10 or 12, just to keep them from being so big. I rolled them in my hands, and cut diagonal slices across the top. I'd read that it allows the steam to escape the bread. I put them into the 12" dutch ovens as best I could. I tried to make at least an empty inch between each long dough ball. I too the ovens outside, and let them sit, "proofing" the bread for another 15-20 minutes or so, while the coals got hot.

Finally, I put them on the coals. It took a good 30 coals for each oven. I also had a few left over, and I added more to that so that I'd have enough hot coals for...

...The Meat

10" dutch oven

15-18 coals below

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs finely sliced steak beef. I used "stir fry" beef, but I'm told you can get any cut of beef sliced Philly-style.
  • 1-2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 med onions
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2-3 Tbsp freshly chopped chives
  • 1 Cup fresh sliced mushrooms
  • liberal shakes of salt
  • liberal shakes of steak seasoning mix
  • a little water
  • 1-2 Tbsp flour

I put the 10" dutch oven on a bed of coals, and packed them in underneath as best I could. Then I dumped in the meat pieces with the oil. I just cooked that, browning it, with a bit of stirring until it was pretty much cooked through. I also added the liberal shakes of the steak seasoning here.

While that was cooking, in between stirrings, I jumped inside and sliced up the veggie ingredients. The jalapenos I sliced pretty thin, and halved them. I don't like to get a big bite of chile surprise, but I do like the edge it gives the rest of the food. I put all the veggies in, and stirred it all up. I cooked it, covered, and stirred it occasionally.

Meanwhile, the bread was cooking. The coals count should have brought it up to 400 degrees. I baked it for about a half hour. After about 20 minutes, I pulled the dutch ovens off the coals, and let it continue baking with just the top heat. Next time, however, I think I'll keep it on the heat the full half hour, as the bottoms were a bit soft. Not really doughy, but not as crisp as I'd have liked. Still, the entire buns were done all the way through. I let them sit in the hot ovens, after I took the top heat off, for about another five minutes or so, just to let it finish. Then I took them out of the pots to let them cool and air out a little bit.

By this time, the veggies were cooked down pretty nicely. There was some water in it from the veggies and the meat, so I sprinkled on a little flour to thicken it up. My wife suggested a bit more "sauce" as we were eating, so I included the suggestion of a little water in the dutch oven as it's cooking. But I'm not convinced it needed it.

Finally, it was all ready to serve! We sliced open the buns, with a little mayo and mustard (not too much, to compete with the meat's own flavor), and topped with some swiss cheese. I was amazed. I think it was one of the best hot sandwiches I have ever tasted. And it was filling, too. I had a full one, and I finished half of my son's, and I was stuffed. I couldn't eat another bite to save my life. Hours later, I'm still full, just starting to feel like I could have a little som'pm som'pm for dessert.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Salmon and Jambalaya in the Dutch Oven

Last weekend, we had some good friends over for games and dinner. They're a young couple, and my wife and I had become fast friends with his parents, and watched him grow up. Now he's married and telling this story makes me feel really old...

Anyway, I made some dutch oven for them. I did a variation of the old Jambalaya recipe, combined with the Lemon Salmon recipe I did for my folks and at the cookoff. It turned out REALLY well.

I started off just making the jambalaya according to the recipe. The only thing I added was a hefty portion of medium-sized shrimp. I did cook it a bit differently, though. I put the dutch oven (a 12", open) on a lot of coals to cook the sausage, onions, and peppers, and then when I added the broth (I used a cup and a half) and the tomatoes and spices, I covered the oven, and did coals on top as well as under. Using more liquid and keeping the lid on cooked the rice much better, and I found it wasn't runnier, like I'd feared it would be.

When I put the broth and tomatoes, etc, into the dutch oven, I also set the salmon portions on top. I dusted them liberally with this really great cajun spice mix we've got, and then topped that with a slice of butter and a slice of lemon, just like the other salmon recipe.

I also tried to do some garlic butter cheese biscuits, but that didn't turn out so spectacularly. I did it from a mix, and added butter, grated cheese and minced garlic. They tasted OK, but I'm wanting really bad to match what they do at Red Lobster, and I'm not even getting close.

Still, I got lots of kudos on the jambalaya, and my friend said he doesn't even really like seafood. So, that worked out well!

I get to do Dutch Oven Tamales again this weekend, for my wife's scrapbooking party!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Dutch Oven Tamales


As luck would have it…

Many years ago, when we lived in West Jordan, there was this Mexican family that lived down the street. I don’t recall their names, but one of the young boys was named Miguel. He’d come by and say Hi occasionally.

His Abuelita moved up from Aguaprieta, in the north of Mexico, if I recall correctly. She was a nice lady, and about once a quarter, she would take a couple of days and make pots and pots of tamales.

Now, I liked tamales, but this lady made tamales like there was no tamale! They were the most incredible I’d ever tasted. And she would send Miguel and his sisters door to door with these 5-gallon buckets full of these corn-wrapped delicacies, selling them for a buck apiece. We’d always get as many as we had cash for, sometimes up to twenty.

I was told you could freeze them, but they never lasted that long at our house.

Well, the family ended up moving. Some of them went downtown, I think, and the Abuela moved back to Mexico, again, if memory is serving me correctly. Ever since then, I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect tamale. No restaurant has ever equaled the magnificence of La Maestra De La Cocina.

Well, of course, I also had to try my hand at making tamales. At first, I wanted someone to show me how. That would be cool. But scheduling and everything is just too tough. But last week, while we were in San Diego, we had some Tamales in a restaurant that were almost, but not quite, half as good as the ones I remembered. It was then that I determined that Tamales would be my next dutch oven project.

Immediately, I began my research. I bought a steaming rack that would fit in the dutch oven. I bought the corn husk sheaves. And tonight, I made my first batch, of about 15-18 tamales. I didn’t count.

Oh, they were delicious. I’m biased, so I’m not sure I can claim if I got it close or not. And frankly, it was kind of a happy accident, because the instructions on the recipe I ended up choosing weren’t very clear, and I bungled the spices.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to make a second batch, ostensibly to freeze. We’ll see if any survive that long.

Mark’s Dutch Oven Tamales

Several Dutch Ovens (I used my 12” shallow, my 12” deep, and my 8”, but I guess I didn’t really need the shallow 12)

Lots and lots of coals below, about 10 or so on top, depending on the stage of the project.


  1. 3-4 lbs boneless chicken (I used frozen chicken tenderloins). You can use pork or beef, too.
  2. Lots of water, maybe 6 cups or so
  3. 1 medium onion, sliced and quartered.
  4. 1 heaping teaspoon of chopped garlic
  5. 4 bay leaves
  6. 2 Tbsp salt
  7. 32 whole black peppercorns (I don’t know what’s so magical about the number 32, I just followed the directions)
  8. Liberal shaking of dried oregano (2-3 tsp)
  9. 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  10. 4-6 Tbsp flour (added later)

Masa (Dough)

  1. 4 Cups Masa Harina Flour
  2. 2 tsp baking powder
  3. 2 ½ Cups broth from cooking the filling (see below)
  4. 1 ½ Cups shortening
  5. Dried Corn Husks to wrap the Masa and the filling.


  1. 3 Tbsp oil
  2. 3 Tbsp flour
  3. 2 ½ cups water
  4. 2-3 Tbsp chili powder
  5. Liberal shakes of garlic powder
  6. Liberal shakes of salt

First of all, I made the filling. Now this recipe was one that I originally found on, but since I bungled it, I rewrote it to reflect my “mistakes”, or as we like to say “enhancements” or “innovations”.

To start with, I put the frozen chicken into the dutch oven (I originally did it in my 12” shallow. I could have saved some cleaning and done it all in my 12” deep, but I didn’t), and added the other ingredients for the filling, except the flour. I put that pot on a lot of coals, probably around 20 or so, covered, and let it start boiling. After about 45 minutes or so, the chicken was boiled and it was smelling really good.

I brought it in, and used a straining spoon to lift the chicken and the onion out of the dutch oven. I shredded the chicken into a bowl with a couple of forks, then sprinkled some of the broth back onto it. Onto that, I sprinkled the flour and stirred it up. That gave it a bit of thickness, and also shredded the chicken up a little bit more. I also added a bit more of the cumin powder, oregano and a bit of ground black pepper. Not too much, just some sprinkles to replace what was settling in the bottom of the dutch oven.

Now if I were in more of a hurry, I’d have been soaking the corn husk hojas in hot water while I was cooking the meat. But, then again, if I were in a hurry, I wouldn’t have been making tamales in a dutch oven, now, would I? So, at this point, I put the hojas on to soak, and started to mix the masa.

The masa was easy to make, just put all the ingredients into a bowl. There really are only two special instructions. At the bottom of the dutch oven I used to cook the meat, the spices had settled to the bottom. When I dipped out the broth to mix in the masa, I tried not to disturb it so as to get a clearer broth. I did pick up some of the spices and powders, but not too much. The other thing I did was to get out a pastry cutter/mixer to blend it all. I guess you could just mix in the shortening by hand, but the pastry cutter worked really well.

Once the masa was mixed, and the hojas of corn husk were softened, I started making tamales. I have to confess that I’ve never watched it be done, I’ve only read about it, so my technique is not necessarily authentic. Nonetheless, it worked. I laid out a single hoja with the pointed end toward me. I spread a small ball of masa out so that it covered about a 2 ½” to 3” square toward the top of the hoja. Then, I spread out a 1” wide line of meat filling the top to the bottom of the masa. Then, I folded the right hand side of the hoja over the filling and pulled the corn husk back. I folded the left hand over and held the hoja there, and re-folded the right hand hoja back over, wrapping the masa and the filling up in corn husk hoja. Then, I folded the point up into a nice tamale envelope. These I stacked aside.

When I’d made all the tamales, I put the steamer rack into the 12” deep dutch oven, and put water in the bottom up to the level of the steamer. I started to stack the tamales in the oven, on the steamer, so that the open end of the tamales was up. This was kinda tricky, since they didn’t always want to stack. Still, I managed to get them all in. If I’d made more of them, I’d have been able to stack them all the way up against the walls of the dutch oven. As it stood, the recipe didn’t make enough to do that. There was plenty of meat, but I’d have had to make more masa. I decided to cook what I had and test it, rather than risk making a bigger disaster.

This dutch oven, now covered, went out on some fresh coals. Again, about 18-20 coals went underneath, packed in, well, like the tamales were. Another ten or so coals went on top, around the outer rim. Within about 15 minutes, I could start to see steam coming out of the edges of the lid, and that’s when I marked the timing to start. I steamed them for about an hour, refreshing the coals once. I only opened the lid once, and that was just to make sure that they were all still standing up, and that all was well.

Finally, after about an hour, I pulled one out, cooled it, and tasted it! Wow! It was great.

Also, in my 8”, I made a milder version of that enchilada sauce that I’d done a few months ago. The only real difference was not so much chili powder. It started out by heating the oil and the flour into a roux in the 8” dutch oven (I still had plenty of coals left over), and then adding the remaining ingredients once the roux was browned. Those I stirred and simmered for about another 20 minutes or so, until it cooked down and thickened.

Finally, you unpeel three or so tamales, spoon on some sauce, and enjoy. Wow!


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