Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Dutch Oven Pumpkin Pie Adventure, Part II

Well, I made the pumpkin pie on Sunday, but life’s been so freaking out crazy since then that only now can I actually sit down and blog about it. It’s Tuesday afternoon. What’s up with that?

Dutch Oven Pumpkin Pie (From Pumpkins)

12” Dutch Oven

18 coals above
10 coals below

  • 3 Cups pumpkin
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1 can evaporated milk,
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

The first thing I did was to make the crust and put that into the 12” dutch oven. That went a lot smoother than the last time I did it (the apple pie). Bit by bit I’m getting pretty good at it! The recipe is over here.

Some people like to build the pie in a normal pie plate, and then put that in the bottom of the dutch oven. I actually like just building the crust right in the dutch oven itself. I spray it with Pam or something first, and then just lay it in.

With the crust in place, I set about mixing the filling. I started with the pumpkin I made the other day. I found that I had made way too much pumpkin puree for one pie, so I just measured out 3 generous cups and later, froze the remainder.

Next, I separated the eggs. The yolks went in with the pumpkin, and the whites I set aside. Everything else went into the mix. It looked a little runny to me at first, but in the final baking, it wasn’t too bad. So, I think it all worked out. Still, next time, I think I’ll try a little less evo milk. Maybe a half can or something like that.

Then, I whipped up the egg whites. I did it by hand, so that shows you how dumb I am. It took a while, but eventually it got to the point where it was fluffy. They tell me you want to do it until it forms peaks that don’t melt right away. Then that got folded into the whole mix.

I poured it all into the crust in the dutch oven, and set it on the coals.

In the meatime, I prepped the chicken and potatoes that I did a while ago, on this page. I modded it a bit, but not much. I didn’t have any peppers, so that didn’t go in, and I added some balsamic vinagre for a really cool unique flavor. Lots of salt, lots of coarse ground black pepper, etc…

So, that went on some more coals for dinner.

The pie took quite a while to cook. Probably about an hour and 20-30 minutes. I kept the coals pretty hot, using the 350 degrees as kind of a guide, plus a few more.

Finally, I could stick a fork in it and pull it out clean. It was odd, because most Pumpkin Pies I’ve seen kinda sag in the middle, and this one was humped up. But as it cooled, it settled to flat.

After dinner, we dished it up with the aerosol cans of whipped cream. It was delicious. It was the lightest, fluffiest Pumpkin Pie I’d ever eaten. I think that might have been because of the whipped egg whites. In retrospect, I probably would have whipped and smushed the original pumpkin a bit more, as there were still some slightly stringy bits. The spices made the flavor amazing.

I’ll call this one a success! I guess that's because at the end of the day, there wasn't any left over!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Dutch Oven Pumpkin Pie Adventure, Part I

About two or three weeks ago, we went to a Halloween party for parents of handicapped kids. One of the things we did there was decorate some cool small pumpkins. One of the parents and I got to talking, and I mentioned that it would be fun to make a Pumpkin Pie in my dutch oven. Of course, having my tendencies to make things more difficult for myself than normal, I wanted to make it from scratch. I mean, from a pumpkin, not from a can.

Since then, I’ve been talking about it to pretty much anyone that will listen. Anywhere. Anytime. I’ve been doing a lot of research online, finding the best recipes. I finally found what I think is a good composite recipe.

Today, I did the first step, baking the pumpkins and making the puree itself.

Now, to show you how dumb I am, I have to confess that I have NEVER made pumpkin pie before. Not in a dutch oven, not in a regular oven. Not from a can, not from a real pumpkin. Nothing. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. All I know, I’ve learned from the ‘net in the last two weeks.

And, we all know, that if you read it on the ‘net, it must be true, right?

I bought a couple of small pie pumpkins. My research showed me that you don’t want to make pie from the big Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins. The small ones are supposed to be sweeter and a little less stringy. I got the pumpkins, sliced them in quarters and arranged them in the bottom of my two 12” shallow dutch ovens, one full pumpkin in each oven. I poured about a half-cup of water in each. Then I sprinkled about a half cup of brown sugar “in the boat” of each pumpkin slice.

These I put on coals, with about 8-9 coals below, and 16 or so on top. I baked them for about an hour each, until I could stick them with a fork and have it push through very very easily. Here’s a hint that I’ll definitely do next time: Before I’d put on the sugar, I’d take a fork and poke lots of holes in the pumpkin flesh (on the inside, not the skin side). That way, when the brown sugar melts, it melts into the pumpkin, and not so much runs off. Also, I think I wouldn’t have so much water.

Now, while they were baking, I washed, separated, and dried the seeds. More with them later.

Once the pumpkins were squishy, I pulled them off the coals. I scooped them out of the skins and plopped them into a bow where I mushed and squashed and stirred them all up. I did pour in a little more of the sugar syrup from the bottom of one of the dutch ovens. Then I covered the bowl with plastic and put it in the fridge. I think that it will be way too much pumpkin. I might end up making a couple of pies. We’ll just have to see. Like I say, I have no idea what I’m doing.

More with that tomorrow.

The seeds, meantime, were dry. I put those in a bowl, with a few tablespoons of olive oil and some liberal shakes of seasoning salt, regular salt, and black pepper. I stirred that up, and then into the bottom of the (now clean and dry) 12” dutch oven. That went back out on top of about 16 or so still burning coals. Maybe more.

At first I just stirred it, but after a while, I could see that it needed to trap the heat better, so I put the lid back on and only stirred it about every 5 or 10 minutes. Once they got a darker brown, I pulled them off, and let them cool Tonight, I think my boys and I will watch a movie and munch and crunch!

And tomorrow after church? Pumpkin Pie!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dutch Oven Calico Chicken

I was working over the weekend in Las Vegas. It was good, but I missed cooking Sunday dinner. So, when I got sick and stayed home yesterday and today, I thought I’d make dinner. I’d seen this one over at Byron’s site, and I tried it. Of course, I can’t leave it alone, so I modded it a bit for the ingredients I had on hand, and what I thought would taste great.

Dutch Oven Calico Chicken

12” Dutch Oven

8-9 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken
  • 1-2 cups corn flakes, crushed
  • Liberal shakes of seasoning salt
  • Liberal shakes of black pepper
  • Liberal shakes of chili powder
  • 1-2 eggs
  • Cheddar cheese, some thinly sliced, some grated
  • A can of corn
  • A small can of diced green chilis
  • A can of beans
  • A can of sliced black olives
  • More salt, pepper

I started with the chicken, some frozen chicken tenderloins. If you start with full chicken breasts, you’ll want to cut them into slices about as long and wide as chicken fingers you buy at McDonalds. I thawed them in some warm water in the sink, and gathered the ingredients. Then I lit up about 25 or so coals.

I cracked an egg into a bowl. I poured the crushed corn flakes and the seasonings onto a plate and mixed them up. All was ready!

Then, I took each piece of chicken and put it in between two pieces of waxed paper. I gently tapped it flat, to about an eighth to a quarter inch thick. I laid a few thin slices of cheddar over it and rolled it up along the length, then secured it with a toothpick. I took that chicken roll and covered it in egg in the bowl. Then I coated it in the corn flake mixture. You have to be very thorough to make sure that the seasonings don’t settle down to the bottom of the plate. You gotta keep mixing it up.

This went into a greased Dutch Oven, along with all of the other pieces (probably about 10-15 or so). I put that on about 9 coals, with about 16 or so on top. The chicken browned and cooked in about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, I opened each can of the veggies and drained them, then poured them into a bowl. I mixed them all up, and added some salt and pepper to taste.

When the chicken was close to done, I lifted them out of the dutch oven and onto a plate with some wooden spoons. I poured in the veggie mixture, then replaced the chickens on top. I put the lid back on with some refreshed coals and let it bake for about another 30 minutes. After about 15-20 minutes, I opened it up and layered the top with the grated cheddar.

The family were really impressed! I loved it, too. I’m not certain that the chicken has to be cooked first. You might be able to just put in the veggies, then put the uncooked chicken on top of that. But then, the chicken wouldn’t be as crisp, I think. I did like the crispness of it. You try it the other way and let me know what you think!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dutch Oven Chicken Feast a la India

There are a lot of really good Indian Restaurants here in the Salt Lake Metro.

Sometimes, when you live somewhere, you kinda assume that other, more “exotic” or more “cosmopolitan” cities have better restaurants. That might be true in some cases. But when I’ve been in other cities, like San Diego, and others, I’ve noticed that the Indian I’ve eaten there is about on par with the small, family owned Indian houses here in Utah.

So, that brings me back to there being logs of really good Indian restaurants here in the Salt Lake Metro.

And when I talk about “Indian”, I’m talking, like, from India, not “native American”. Just to clarify, because Salt Lake Metro has some great Native American food, too. We’re clear? Nobody’s gonna turn me in to the PC Police?

So, when I do Indian, I always order two things: Chicken Tikka Masala, and Chicken Saag. Those are my all-time favorites. Sometimes, if I get a third thing, I might get Tandoori Chicken, or I might try something completely new that I haven’t had before.

In my constant quest to find things I’m not supposed to be able to cook in a dutch oven, I’ve now added these dishes. And since I love to combine them onto one rice plate, I had to try it. I dove in and did my net research, and found a number of recipes, which I basically followed.

I gotta tell ya, this is not for the faint-hearted, nor for the beginner. I ran like a madman from pot to pot, from one recipe to the other. I had to chart out in quarter-hour increments so that the Saag, the Tikka Masala, and the rice would end up done at about the same time. This was NOT a relaxing meal to prepare.

Oh, but it was worth it!

Next time I do it, I’m going to streamline the recipe a bit. I’m going to combine some steps and make it so that I’m not running quite so much. Here’s the recipe and the instructions, not so much as I did it today, but moreso how I’ll do it next time. Here’s another warning, too: There are some unusual/exotic ingredients. You may have to go to an Asian/Indian market to find some of them, so you’ll want to do some shopping first.

Dutch Oven Chicken Feast a la India (a combination of Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Saag)

2x 12” Dutch ovens
1x 10” Dutch oven

Lots of coals, all underneath.

The common ingredients:

  • 4 lbs frozen chicken breast, thawed
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 med onions
  • 2 inches fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ Cups rice
  • 3 Cups water

For the Saag:

  • 4 bundles of fresh spinach (16 oz each)
  • 1 400g can diced tomatoes
  • ½ tsp chili powder (cayenne, if you have it)
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • salt
  • pepper

For the Tikka Masala

  • 1 (400g) can tomato puree
  • 4 Tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp tikka masala curry past
  • 1 Tbsp coriander
  • salt
  • pepper

First, get some coals on to burn. Lots. You’ll need probably two beds of 20 or so each. We’ll be cooking completely from the bottom, no coals on top, even though I cooked all pots covered. Make sure you have a side stack of burning coals, too, so you can replenish.

Then, cube the thawed chicken. Put a little oil in the bottom of one of the 12”, and set that on the coals to brown. Chop up the leaves of the spinach and put those in another 12” dutch oven, with about a half cup of water. Put that dutch oven on coals to boil.

The Spinach will probably boil down long before the chicken is browned. Pull the spinach out an drain it off, discarding the liquid. Mash up the spinach so that it’s almost a paste. I just kinda chopped at it with the point of a wooden spoon. When the chicken is browned, pull that oven off the coals as well, and remove the chicken. Discard any liquid in that dutch oven, too.

Next, chop up the onions, the garlic, and the ginger. Put those all in any one of the dutch ovens, put it back on the coals, and sautee these ingredients until the onions are clear and a bit brown.

Here’s where we split it up between the Saag and the Masala. Divide the onions and the chicken half and half between the two 12” dutch ovens, and put them both on the coals. Choose which oven is for the Tikka Masala, and which is for the Saag, and add all the remaining ingredients and spices for each one. Add the cooked-down spinach into the Saag oven. Cover them both and let them cook, stirring occasionally. After they get boiling, take some coals off so they simmer.

As the other two dishes are cooking, put the rice and the water into a 10” dutch oven, and put that, covered on some more coals.

I’m betting that the rice, the chicken saag, and the chicken tikka masala will all be done at about the same time. It’s not so critical if the chicken dishes cook a little longer, so just whenever the rice is done, bring it all in.

Put a bed of rice on the plate, and cover half of it with the saag, and half with the tikka masala. The two flavors compliment each other, but I like them also separate. When I eat it, I get a bite of one, with rice, and then the other.

Like I said, this isn’t exactly how I did it this time, but I think it’ll turn out pretty much the same, and with a lot less stress. Even my kids liked this one, though they did like the masala side more than the spinach on the saag. Kids. Go figure…

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Yet another Dutch Oven Roast Recipe

Today, I was going to try a great experiment. I had invited a friend and his family over to celebrate his birthday. We’ve known each other for years. He’s also a musican, a drummer, and we’ve worked together a lot of times and played in a few bands together. He helped me with the drums on my first CD. I haven’t seen him in a long time, and I was going to prepare a magnificent roast for him.

So, I looked over the ‘net to find something that would just “wow” to the next level. I found a bunch of great recipes, and after a bit of thinking, I came up with one that would just be amazing. And, I was going to throw in an extra touch that would just throw it over the edge. In addition to all the spices and flavorings, I would drape the roasts in thick sliced bacon!

So, I made the roast according to my mishmashed recipes, and served it up with some dutch oven biscuits, and it was fantastic. Then when I came downstairs to blog about it, I realized I had forgotten the one magical ingredient. The bacon. So, instead of being magical and innovative, it turned out to be just another cool dutch oven roast recipe.

Oh, well. Next time I make it I’ll remember, and I’ll tell you how it turned out.

In the meantime, this was truly a fantastic roast. In fact, my friend, always quick with a quip, sat back and sighed, “Well, that cow sure died with honors!” So, I guess the recipe still passed approval. Here it is in its original form. Maybe YOU can cook it and tell me how it turns out.

Dutch Oven Bacon-Draped Roast

12” deep dutch oven

14-16 coals above
14-16 coals below

Start with slab of roast meat. I actually did two that added up to a little over 5 pounds. I knew we’d be feeding two families. I started the coals, and when they were ready, put some olive oil in the bottom, and set the dutch oven on about 20-25 coals (underneath) to heat up. While that was heating, I prepared the rub.

The Rub

  1. Liberal shakes of salt and coarse ground pepper, maybe as much as a Tbsp of each. I used sea salt, but I don’t know if that made a difference or not.
  2. 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  3. ½ tsp mustard seed
  4. ½ tsp marjoram
  5. ½ tsp rosemary
  6. ½ tsp thyme
  7. 1 Tbsp parsley

I stirred it all up and rubbed it all over the meat. That was a bit messy. Then I put the meat in the oven, and let it brown on all sides.

While it was browning, I prepared the liquid. What do you call that, in the roast? The sauce? The baste?

The Baste

  1. 1 Cup hot beef broth (I used an Au Jus mix)
  2. 3 Tbsp brown Sugar (I was out of brown sugar, so I used honey)
  3. A couple of liberal shakes of soy sauce and balsamic vineagar
  4. A couple of bay leaves
  5. A bit more liberal shakes of black pepper. I like it coarse ground.

Now, had I been thinking, I would have carried the bacon out to the meat when I carried out the baste, but I wasn’t thinking, so I didn’t. If I had, I would have draped a bunch of slices of the bacon over the top of the roast at this point. But I didn’t. Did I mention that I forgot that part? Did I mention that I was upset that I forgot that part? Just checking.

So, I poured in the baste. At that point, I pulled the oven off the coals, put 14 coals on the lid, and put 14 coals below in a circle (I had to pull some from my side fire).

Then, I set about making the biscuits. Just for the record, I used the same recipe I used for the Split Pea Soup a couple of months back. So, interspersed with all the cooking of the roast, I was also cooking the biscuits. Maybe that’s why I forget so much. I’m not so good at multitasking.

While the roast was cooking, I rested for a while. I figured it would take about 3 hours to cook the roast. So, after about half that, I chopped up the veggies, stirred them up, and added them. All the while, I’m maintaining my side fire, and pulling fresh coals to replenish the ones that were burning out on the (now three ovens) that I had cooking (one with the roast, and two shallow 12”-ers with the biscuits).

The Veggies:

  1. 2 medium onions, sliced
  2. a bunch of small green onions, sliced
  3. 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  4. a green bell pepper, sliced
  5. I took a jalapeno pepper and sliced about 6 very very thin slices off of it. Then I chopped those slices a little
  6. 1 large carrot, sliced
  7. 4 medium potatoes, quartered and sliced
  8. A handful of mushrooms, sliced

At that point, everything that was goin in was in. It was just a matter of keeping the coals hot and waiting for it to get done.

Just before my guests arrived, I got out my 8” dutch oven and a ladle. I carefully pulled about 1 ½-2 cups of broth out of the big dutch oven, and poured it into the small one. By this time, I’d taken the biscuits off, so I had some extra coals. I arranged them packed pretty tight and close on my bricks and set the 8”-er on top. Then I stirred up some flour into some water. I don’t really know how much, maybe a total of 2-3 Tbsp into about a half cup of water, maybe less. I stirred it up to dissolve the flour, and poured it into the broth. I let that sit and boil for a while, stirring it as it got thicker and thicker.

Finally it was ready to serve, and we all ate hearty tonight.

Even without the bacon…


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