Sunday, December 30, 2007

Belizean Rice and Beans, Escabeche in the Dutch Oven

Back in the early ‘80’s, I spent some time working for my church (an LDS Mission) in Central America. That time included a six month stay in Orange Walk Town in the northern parts of Belize.

Belize is a wonderful country, with a small, tight, and yet very diverse people. There are a lot of Hispanics, many from Guatemala, there are a lot of Caribbean Black Creole. There are a lot of British there (because Belize used to be British Honduras). To that mix add Chinese and Hindu, and all in a town smaller than Paris, Idaho (trust me, that’s small).

I learned a lot from teaching and working with these wonderful people. One of the things I learned was that you could make incredibly delicious meals without fancy pots or pans, or even without stoves. I remember meeting a guy outside his house one day. We all struck up a conversation. He had cut a big 55 gallon oil drum off at only about a third high, and had a metal plate over it like a lid. He had it on top of hot coals and was shoveling more hot coals on top. What was he making? His wife had made Coconut Bread, and he was in charge of baking it (under her watchful eye). He told us to come back in about a half hour.

We did, and it was some of the most delicious bread I’d ever tasted.

One of the church members there used to have us over for lunch a lot. He worked a hard day at the sugar factory, then he would come home and fix shoes for extra money. He took some of my worn out fancy Mr Mac shoes and re-soled them with tire treads. That lasted me through the rest of the mission!

Anyway, his wife (and just about everyone else there in OWT) used to make us this delicious onion, chicken and vinegar soup, called “escabeche”. Man, that was good stuff. It’s really a staple of Belizean cooking. She had this little stand in the back of her house (a shack, really). She’d start a fire with wood chips and twigs and cook up the meal.

There were really two things that stand out in my memory as defining Belizean cooking. One was this soup, and the other was their rice and beans dish. Both were humble, “peasant dishes”, if you will, but they were the most delicious things I’d ever eaten up to that point. And I made our Branch President’s wife teach me how to make it one day.

I’ve made it several times in the intervening years, but today, I did it in my dutch oven. And, to complete the feast, I made the rice and beans.

A note about authenticity: I have made a few alterations to these recipes. But not much. Really, simplicity is good in these ones. Also, it goes to show that you don’t have to have a schnazzy professional oven to cook a great meal. Remember? Heat on food is all it’s about!

Another note: As I’ve been traveling and interacting with people of different latin backgrounds, I’ve discovered about three or four unique dishes, all bearing the name “Escabeche”. A few of them, notably the Peruvian one, are fish dishes. There are others, though. It seems like in most cases, the only thing they really have in common is the name.

So, if this doesn’t look like your idea of what an “Escabeche” recipe should look like, sorry. It IS a Belizean Escabeche, though.

Dutch Oven Belizean Escabeche

12” Dutch Oven

20+ coals below

10” Dutch Oven

17+ coals below

  • 2-3 lbs of chicken. I like the boneless frozen chicken parts, but you use what you like.
  • 8 cups water
  • 4-5 Large white onions
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • Liberal shakes of oregano
  • Liberal shakes of salt and black pepper
  • Liberal shakes of Celery salt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 sliced jalapeno peppers
  • 2-3 Cups white vinegar
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • Corn tortillas

I started out with the Chicken and the water in the 12”. Simple enough, just boil the chicken, with the dutch oven covered.

While that was boiling, I sliced up the onions. You really need lots of onions. Slice up what you think is enough for a typical onion soup, and you’re at about half what you’ll need. Then add some more after that. This soup is mostly onion with some broth. Then, I chopped up the cilantro, sliced the jalapenos, and added all the other spices together in a bowl, and set that aside.

Once the 12” dutch oven was boiling, I put the 10” dutch oven on some coals, with a thin puddle of oil in the bottom. When the 10” oven was heated, it was just about the time that the boiling chicken was “done”.

I pulled the chicken out of the broth, dripped it off, and set it to fry in the 10” dutch oven, in the oil. Be careful, because it’ll splatter! I stirred and turned the chicken pieces to brown on all sides. That helps it get a little crunch and gives it a bit of fried flavor.

In the meantime, while the chicken is frying, I poured all the onion mixture into the broth in the 12” dutch oven. Add in the vinegar. I always wonder how much vinegar to add. Generally speaking, I say go large and put in more toward the 3 cups. It depends on how daring your audience is. Still, without a good strong vinegar taste, this dish can end up wimpy. The lemon juice is my own addition to the recipe, and I really like the flavor it adds.

Then I added the browned chicken back into the onion and vinegar broth.

Normally, I’d say to reduce the coals to just a simmer at this point, but since I was cooking in the dead of winter, I kept some strong coals on. Just let this cook until the onions are soft and the chicken has absorbed the vinegar.

While this was simmering, I worked on the Rice and Beans:

Dutch Oven Belizean Rice and Beans

10” Dutch Oven

7 coals below
13 coals above

  • Slices of salt meat (bacon, sausage, whatever ya got)
  • 2 cans red beans, with liquid
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • Liberal shakes of salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (about a half can)
  • ¾ cup water

After frying the chicken, use the same hot 10” dutch oven and coals to cook the salt meat. This time, I used smoked sausage, sliced pretty thin. Once that was browned, I added everything else, adjusted the coals as written, and cooked it, stirring occasionally, until the rice was done.

Actually, you don’t even need the meat. In most cases, Belizeans don’t include it. But they sometimes did. I like it, myself. One lady used to make us Rice and Beans, and serve it piled up high on the plate with a couple of pieces of barbecue chicken on top. THAT was yummy!

The two dishes were served side by side, the Escabeche in a bowl, with corn tortillas on the side, and the Rice and Beans on a small plate. The people there often eat the escabeche without utensils, using pieces of the tortillas to pick up the onions and the chicken with their fingers. Some will fold the tortillas to make spoons to get the vinegar broth, others just drink that from the bowl. We used to joke that a greenie missionary became a true Belizean elder when he could eat a whole heaping bowl of Escabeche without touching his fork or spoon.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dutch Oven Steamed Crab with Shrimp and Veggie Rice

When my wife and I first got married, one of the things she fixed for me on our honeymoon was crab with a butter sauce. Ever since then, whenever we eat crab, whether at home or in a restaurant, she and I always wink at each other and remember that time twenty years ago, now. It’s really a romantic thing for us.

Add to that the fact that my now deceased mother in law used to love to take our boys out to Red Lobster to eat, and we’ve got a family that loves seafood. It’s funny. Ask most kids what their favorite food is, and they’ll probably say, “peanut butter and jelly”, or “Pizza”. Ask mine, and they’ll say, “Shrimp scampi!” or “Crab’s legs!”

Before that adventure with my new wife, I didn’t like crab very much. It seemed like so much work for so little meat. But over the years, my perspective has changed, and now breaking it out of the shells is just part of the fun.

So, for the last three weeks, I’ve wanted to do a steamed crab plate in my dutch ovens, but for this reason or that reason, I’ve not been able to make time to cook it. But tonight I did! I even managed to find some good frozen crab legs at a supermarket near me for only $6 a pound. Not the best, but not too bad…

Dutch Oven Steamed Crab with Shrimp and Veggie Rice

8 coals below, 16 above (in moderate weather. However, in freezing snow, like I had today: 12 coals below, 22 above, with windbreaks or a hood.)

  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 ¼ cups water or broth/stock (see below)
  • ½ lb medium to large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2-3 lbs king crab legs, thawed
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 2-3 stalks celery
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 lemon (or splashes of lemon juice)
  • shakes of cilantro
  • shakes of parsley
  • liberal shakings of coarse ground black pepper
  • liberal shakings of salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 heaping tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp prepared Cajun spices
  • ½ tsp salt

I started by lighting up a lot of coals. I had some trouble getting them lit in the snow, but lighter fluid overcomes all!

I noticed that as the shrimp and the crabs legs had been thawing in plastic bags in my sink, the bags were filled with water from the melting ice, and it was thick with juices from the shellfish. It was like a broth, so I drained it into a measuring cup. Not quite enough came out though, only about 1 ¼ cups, so I filled the remaining space to 2 ¼ cups with water. That went in the bottom of the dutch oven with the rice. Then I peeled the shrimp (it came from the market deveined – I hate doing that…) and arranged those on top.

I sliced up the onion, the celery, and the mushrooms, and layered those in. On top of that I poured or shook on the remaining seasonings (listed in the first set). I prefer to slice lemons and layer those on top, but I had no lemons, so I used lemon juice instead.

Finally, took a heavy object (I wanted to use a meat tenderizing hammer, but could only find my rolling pin) and smacked the crab shells, to pre-crack them a bit. Then, I arranged the crab legs on top of it all. The theory was that the cooking rice would steam the crab, and the flavors would penetrate into the crab meat better if there were some cracks in the shells.

I took this out and set it on the coals. Since it was practically a blizzard, it took a long time and some extra coals to get the oven up to boiling/rice cooking temperature. But once it did, it only took about 20-25 minutes of actual cooking for the whole thing to be done.

Once I saw that the rice was, indeed, cooking and not freezing, I got out my 8” dutch oven and added all the ingredients of the second set. I put that dutch oven on top of the 12”, and added a few coals on top of it. This became the buttery dipping sauce for the crab.

This ended up being one of the most delicious crab meals I’ve ever eaten. Some of the flavor did, in fact, seep up into the crab meat, and I could taste it even if I didn’t dip it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dutch Oven Soda Pop Biscuits and Split Pea Soup

Since I’d made ham a few weeks ago, I had to follow up, of course, by cooking the bone in a split pea soup. I did basically the same recipe as I’d done last time. Except this time I used a lot more coals (it was cold out), and I also added a lot more of the herbs.

This time I tried a different biscuit recipe, though. It was kinda cool. It uses soda pop instead of baking soda. An interesting twist…

Dutch Oven Soda Pop Biscuits

12” Dutch Oven

17 coals above
8 coals below

This time, however, since it’s winter, I used 19 above and 11 below.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/8 cup oil
  • 12 oz (one can) soda pop. I used 7-up, and not the diet stuff, either.
  • 3 Tbsp Baking powder

It was pretty simple. First, I got some coals hot, and I put them on and below the empty oven, to pre-heat it. My sister, an accomplished cook, had told me that biscuits and things that do chemical leavening (as opposed to yeasts) need to have a preheated oven. So, I tried it.

Then, I just mixed the ingredients in a bowl and stirred. It ended up being a little sticky, so I sprinkled in a little more flour. It was so light and airy, that I didn’t have to roll it out, I could just spread it out with my hands on the floured tabletop. I spread it to about 3/4" thick, and cut it with a drinking cup.

Then I took them outside and put them in the heated oven, and started the baking. After about a half hour to fourty minutes, I took it off the bottom coals, but left the coals on the lid, so the tops would brown without burning the bottoms.

Unfortunately, my timing was really bad. Because just as the soup was finishing, I had to get the boys ready to go to a birthday party, so I didn’t get to taste the soup until a couple of hours later. It was delicious, however, as were the biscuits!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dutch Oven Heat!

I was going to cook split pea soup today. Even found a new recipe for biscuits I was going to try. But, I didn't. After going to church, I came home feeling very bleah. So, I took it easy tonight. I did end up cooking omlettes for every one for dinner. Thanks to John, over at Mormon Foodie. He taught me the tricks of omlettes years ago. Served me well ever since.

But I also spent a little while compiling a cookbook of sorts. A "Best of" for the end of my first calendar year here at the black pot. One of the bits I wrote about was an article on managing the heat for Dutch Oven cooking. Here it is. It's kinda more for those new to the dutch oven.


It was a kind of interesting revelation to me to suddenly realize that cooking is simple. I mean, we’ve been doing it for thousands and thousands of years. There are lots of ways to do it. Lots of different kinds of ovens, stoves, hearths, grills, and griddles. But the bottom line is: You’re applying heat to food. How you do that and how much of it you do has varied over the centuries. But still, that’s all you’re doing.

In the Dutch Oven world, you do it by burning something. That can be wood burned down to coals or it can be commercially made charcoal briquettes. For my backyard kitchen, I use briquettes, because they’re easy to control, and easy to light. If you use the good brands, they’ll burn long and steady. The cheap ones give off inconsistent heat and burn out too fast. You don't need fancy mesquite or smoke flavoring because none of that will get through the iron to the food anyway.

In most dutch oven recipes, you need heat coming up from the bottom and heat coming down from the top. The “camp” dutch ovens” have a lip around the lid that keeps the coals on top and the ash out of your food.

As a general rule, each briquette will produce about 10-15 degrees of heat. Now, if it’s a windy day, a hot day, or a cold day (I like to dutch oven even in the winter) that will change. Cold weather requires more briquettes. Windy days get more air to the coals, and so there’s more heat, but the coals burn faster. If you have a bigger dutch oven, obviously you’ll require more heat.

Lodge, the company that makes the best dutch ovens, put out a heating chart:

Oven Size



























































In this chart, the total number of coals you need are in bold. The pairs of numbers are there as a convenience to use when you’re baking. The first number is the number of coals on the lid, and the second is the number of coals below the oven.

If you’re boiling or simmering, either put all the coals on the bottom, or a third above and two thirds below.

If you’re baking, put two thirds above and a third below.

If you’re roasting, then split it evenly top and bottom.

The recipes in this book list how many coals to put where. Truly, the best way to learn heat management is by experience. Just try it! I hold my hand over the ovens about a foot or so in the air. I’ve learned how hot that feels. I can tell how the weather conditions of the day are changing the temperature of the oven. That comes with practice.

It’s also important to keep a side fire going. Charcoals burn down, and if you’re doing a recipe that takes longer than an hour to cook, you’ll need more coals to add back to your ovens. When I start the coals to begin cooking, I light too many. More than I will need. The extras become my side fire. About a half hour into the cooking, I’ll add another ten or so coals to that pile. The older coals will catch the new coals, and by the time I need more coals, I’ll have them ready. I’ve ruined too many dishes (and at least one pie), by having my coals go out halfway through. By rotating my coals through a side fire, I can cook almost indefinitely.

It’s also good to be careful how you place the coals. In most cases, You want to focus the heat on the rim of the oven. Set the bottom coals in a ring around the bottom edge of the oven. You want the coals fully under the oven, but not so much in the middle. The same on top, as much as possible. This makes the heat travel down and up the sides of the oven, and radiate toward the center. Coals in the middle will tend to create hotspots which will burn the food. That’s sometimes less critical on the lid, where it’s not directly touching the food, usually. The picture above shows good coal placement for baking.

It’s good to have some long-handled tongs to grab and place the coals. Don’t use your hands. It will hurt. Duh. It’s also good to get some long handled pliers for lifting the lid to check on the food, or an actual “lid lifter”.

For simmering, you’ve got liquid on the bottom that’s going to disperse the heat anyway, and so I just pack the coals in any way I can get them under the oven. When I roast, I still try to keep a bit clear of the center, but there’s more coals to put down there, so you need to pack them in more. A second ring works, and some people go with a sort of checkerboard pattern.

Remember, all you’re doing is applying heat to food. Do it a few times and you’ll get better and better at it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Best Dutch Oven Ham EVARR

OK, well, at least it was the best Dutch Oven Ham I'VE ever made.

See, my Thanksgiving ham was great, but it wasn’t what I’d expected it to be in the end. The “glaze” mixed with the liquid that cooked out of the ham, and (since it was pretty runny to begin with) ended up more like a baste. It tasted great, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

So, I did it again tonight. I had some ham left over (remember I had to cut it up because it wouldn’t fit into my deep 12” Dutch oven?).

This time, I mixed the glaze to be more, well, glaze-y. More like a thick sauce or almost a paste. Another thing I did was let the ham cook a little bit to open up the slits I carved in the top. That way, when I put the glaze on, it would stay more in the meat, and not so much on the bottom of the dutch oven.

I also cooked it a bit hotter. This was primarily because it was cold out, but I think that browned and crisped the top much better.

Anyway, here it is.

Mark’s Honey Mustard Ham in the Dutch Oven

12” shallow Dutch Oven

14-15 coals above and below

  • 1 ham, not so big, maybe 3 lbs or so
  • Quite a few whole cloves
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • ~ 1/3 cup mustard
  • ~ 1/2 cup honey
  • Liberal shakes of:
    • Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Coarse ground black pepper
    • Celery salt
    • Chopped, dried parsley

First, fire up some coals, and let them get white and hot.

I started by putting the ham in the dutch oven and checking to see that it was below the lid. Then I sliced the diagonals across the top, and put the cloves into the slices.

Once the coals were ready, I put the ham on.

Mixing the sauce was a bit tricky. I started with the soy sauce, and kept adding mustard and honey and stirring until it was thick. I went much heavier on the honey, but I was also pretty liberal with the mustard. The amounts shown here are approximate. Then, add the spices. The parmesan also helped thicken it a little.

Since it was cold outside, it took quite a while for the oven to get warmed up and begin cooking the ham. Once the slices on the top started to open up, I poured on the sauce. Then, every twenty minutes or so, I’d open it up, scoop some sauce up and pour it back over the meat. I could see it stayed on a lot more, and it really seeped into the slices.

I’ll bet it cooked for about an hour to an hour and a half

While that was cooking, I made Creamy Potatoes and Peas, from this recipe (minus the bacon).

When it was all about 20 minutes from done, Brendon came out with a can of crescent rolls he wanted to cook, so we put another oven on the coals (actually, we stacked it on top of the ham oven), and baked those. It was a great meal. The peas and potatoes were great, but the ham was the star. Wow!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dutch Oven Pizza in the Rain!

Normally, I cook on Sundays. But on Fridays, I come home from work early. And on this particular Friday, I was kinda hankering to cook something on the back porch in the dutch ovens. As I drove home, I was a little bit deterred by the drops of rain on my windshield, and the “wikk, wikk, wikk” of my wipers. But I decided to go for it anyway.

I didn’t want to do anything complex, or fancy this time. I decided on pizza. It had been a really long time since I’d last done that. In fact, as I recall it was another rainy day, I believe, last March or so when I did it. Jodi’s not a big fan of pizza, so whenever I suggest it, she comes up with other ideas. But she’s working late tonight.

So, I stopped off and bought some supplies. Pepperoni, canadian bacon, mozzarella, olives…

The first thing I did, of course, was to mix up the crust so it would start to raise. Here’s the recipe I used: It’s actually the same one I posted a long time ago as “GIGO Pizza.” The fundamental concept of that recipe still holds true.

Dutch Oven Gigo Pizza

2x 12” dutch ovens
8 coals below
16 coals above

(In this case, because of the rain, I did the coals differently)

The Crust

  • 1 ½ c. warm water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~4 c. Flour

I started by putting the yeast in some of the warm water to let it foam up. My experience has shown me that things tend to raise very slowly or poorly in my house (could be the altitude), so I do a little sprinkle extra of yeast.

Mix the other ingredients in a bowl, add the water and the yeast, and knead it into a ball. I also put in a little extra sugar to help the extra yeast along. Use the last bit of flour to adjust the smoothness of the dough. Not too dry, not to sticky. You might not use exactly 4 cups. I sprayd the bowl with cooking spray, put the dough ball in it, and then sprayed the top of the dough.

I set that aside to raise.

After about a half hour to 45 minutes of twiddling my thumbs and watching lame TV on the Disney Channel (my kids are home), I went outside and lit up about 50 coals or so. At that moment, it wasn’t raining, so I was doing OK. Once the coals were glowing, I scattered them into to groups and put two 12” dutch ovens on. I split a pound of mild Italian sausage between the two ovens, and let that start to brown. Pretty soon it was drizzling, so I put lids on the ovens.

In the meantime, I mixed up the sauce.

  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp celery salt
  • 1 Tbsp oregano (maybe a little more)

Actually, those amounts on the spices are estimates. Just go until it smells rich!

My timing was good. Just about the time that the sausage was browned, the dough had risen enough. I brought the dutch ovens inside and pulled the sausage out. In the bottom of each oven, now well greased from the sausage, I added some minced garlic (about a tablespoon), a bit of butter (about a tablespoon), and some generous shakings of celery salt.

I took the now-raised ball of dough, split it in half, and formed one half into the pizza flat. That went into the bottom of one dutch oven. The other half of the dough did the other dutch oven.

Onto that went the sauce and a thin layer of cheeses. I had bought one of those shredded Italian cheese blends, with mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, and romano. Mmmmmm….

Then, I piled on the food! The sausage, the Canadian bacon, the pepperoni, fresh sliced onions, olives! And finally, the whole thing gets layered under a pretty thick blanket of the cheeses. I was doing this all as fast as I could, since the coals were outside getting rained on.

So, I took the ovens back outside. I have this big round metal hood that’s designed to shelter dutch ovens, and so I decided to use it. I put about 12 coals in a circle, and put an oven on top of that. Then, I put about 14 coals on top of that oven. I stacked the second oven on top, and put about 14 coals on top of that one. Then the whole thing went under the hood.

After about 15 minutes, I unstacked them, turned them, and restacked them to distribute the heat more evenly. It was raining pretty steadily, but not heavily the whole time. Finally, after about 35 minutes, it was done! ...And it was snowing!

Dang yummy pizza, and very filling! There’ll be leftovers for lunches!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread, The Adventure, Part III

I am so glad I wasn’t cooking for company last night. It was one of those days where it tastes OK, but it just didn’t come out quite right.

I did the sourdough bread. It cooked OK, but not great. Not fluffy like I wanted, even a tich doughy. For the dinner part, I made the salmon that I’d done at the cookoff last June. It wasn’t done right, either.

I think it has a lot to do with the weather. It was cold yesterday, and I thought I had compensated for that with some extra coals. But apparently it wasn’t enough extra coals. The rice and the veggies weren’t fully cooked, and the bread just didn’t work.

Well, and the bread took three hours to raise the first time, to get to the “double in bulk” part. And then, I’m supposed to let it raise again to “double in bulk”, but at that point I already had the salmon on the coals, and I wasn’t too interested in waiting another three hours. And, in the end, it didn’t really taste that sour. It had a good white bread taste, but not the tang I was hoping for.

So, I guess I’ll try again later. When I do, I’ll post the recipe and results.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Sourdough Adventure, Part II

As instructed, every day, I've been taking some goo out of the bowl and replacing it with fresh flour and water. The first few times, I only took out about a half cup, because there didn't seem to be much more than a whole cup in there. I guess it settles or something as it ferments? Anyway, then I'd add a half cup of warm water and a half cup of flour and stir it all up again.

Last night, it was much more bubbly and frothy than before, so much so that I said to myself that this is what they must've been talking about. I'll keep watching it. And reporting...

And, thanks to the many people who have commented and emailed with their suggestions, advice, and recipes! I've been learning a lot!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Sourdough Adventure, Part I

Yesterday, I was surfin' the 'net, and I found some good (and funny!) instructions on how to make sourdough. I've been wanting to do some sourdough bread for quite a while, so I decided to give it a try.

So, the first thing I did was to find a container, as he instructed. I mixed in 1 cup of warm water, and 1 cup of flour. Also, at his suggestion, I "seeded it" with a dash of yeast. not much, actually, but it seems to have had an impact.

So, yesterday, a day after starting the starter, I went to "feed" it. I scooped out 1 cup of the gunk (and believe me, it was gunky), and mixed in a half cup of warm water, and a half cup of flour. The instructions say to do this every day for a week. The instructions also say that when it's bubbly and frothy, it's done, and it can be refrigerated.

Well, it looks pretty bubbly and frothy to me already. Maybe I shouldn't have seeded it...

Well, I can't use it until the weekend anyway, so I'll just keep doing the feeding thing, and let you know how it goes. Maybe it'll grow and grow until it becomes sentient and devours my kitchen and takes over the WORLD, muahahahahahahaha!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

World-wide Dutch Ovening

I just got this link from the Dutch Oven Cooking Yahoogroup. Great group, by the way.

It shows the website of the JDOS, the Japanese Dutch Oven Society. Who knew there even was one? So often, when we think of cooking in the dutch ovens, we think of the American west, but it truly is beyond our borders. There were pictures at the site from their annual cookoff. At least I guess it’s annual, I can’t read Japanese, but that’s sort of the implication. What I found fascinating about it was that with the exception of their faces, those pictures could have been shot at any dutch oven gathering or cookoff here in America. The same smiles, the same eager cooks, even some of the same recipes as we have here.

And, of course, the same dutch ovens!

In my mind, it just goes to support my theory that if we truly wanted world peace, we’d just get everyone in the world to sit down to dinner. No agendas, no summits, no arguments, just food.

And actually, asian food is one cuisine that I've not really explored much yet in my dutch oven, other than my foray into India. I'd really love to hear if anyone out there has done any asian dishes, and what those recipes were!

In the meantime, I’d encourage you to click into the site and check out the pictures. Get to know dutch oven cooks all over the world!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Turkey and Ham in the Dutch Ovens

We had a lot of people in for Thanksgiving this year. It was our first Thanksgiving in the new house, and I think Jodi kinda wanted to show it off a bit. I guess technically, it was the second, but last year, we had only been in the house about a week. No time to set up for a party.

My sister and bro-in-law came out and I spent a good time talking with them. They are both excellent cooks, and gave me some good advice. One of the problems I have with biscuits and soda bread is that it doesn’t rise like I want it to. She said that non-yeast leavening should be put into a hot oven. I usually just put things into the oven and then put them on the coals. I didn’t realize it would make a difference. They also had some good advice about the balance of wet and dry in breads.

So, anyway.

You know, there are so many ways to do a turkey, and so many recipes it’s just amazing. I’ve been reading over on the dutch oven yahoogroup about all the ideas and methods and recipes, and it’s just amazing. While I’m giving thanks, I’ll give all my friends over there some good thanks for all their advice and help this last year.

I did the same herbal roast turkey that I did for Christmas last year, from Byron’s. I did it pretty much straight as he lists it. Still, I’ll include the recipe here. We also did one of that in the regular oven, because I could only fit a 13 lb turkey in my 14” Dutch oven. Then, in the 12” deep dutch oven, I did ham recipe of my own design. I’ll write the recipes up separate, even though I roasted them concurrently.

Byron’s Dutch Oven Herb Roasted Turkey

14” Deep dutch oven

15-18 coals on top
24-28 coals below

Turkey Stuffing

• 1 onion; quartered
• 3-4 slices bread (I used sourdough rye)
• 3 tbsp melted butter
• 12 bay leaf
• 2 Tsp minced garlic
• Salt
• Pepper (I like it coarse ground)


• 13 lb. turkey
• 2 more Tsp minced garlic
• Salt
• 1 cup water

OK, I started out with the turkey, and began by mixing the stuffing ingredients and removing the neck and giblets, and various pouches that the company sticks in the turkey. I’d kept it in the fridge to thaw for the last few days, and took it out early in the morning. I wanted to have it on the coals by 10, to get it on the table by 2:30 or 3:00, including carving time. A 13 lb turkey isn’t going to have very much room for stuffing so I didn’t really do that much. But I stuffed it in the body cavity and set the turkey in the 14” dutch oven. Then I rubbed the additional minced garlic onto the body and sprinkled some salt over it. Then, I added a cup of water to the dutch oven, for steaming, and closed it up. I put that on the coals.

Basting Sauce

• 1/2 cup butter
• 1 tsp. dried mint leaves
• 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
• 1/2 tsp. dried sage
• 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
• 1/2 tsp. sweet basil
• 1 tsp. celery salt
• 1 tsp. salt

In the 8” dutch oven, I combined all of the basting sauce ingredients, and simply set that on top of the turkey dutch oven lid, using those upper coals to melt the butter and simmer the sauce.

From then on, it was simply a matter of keeping the coals fresh and basting the turkey occasionally. The total cooking time was about 4 hours.


• 7 medium potatoes; sliced
• 2-3 carrots; peeled & sliced

About an hour to an hour and a half from serving time, I sliced up the potatoes and the carrots and just dumped them in around the bird.

I didn’t bother with mashing the potatoes, I just served them alongside. Someone else in the family brought the mashed potatoes, anyway.

Some folks I’d been talking to mentioned that a dutch oven turkey doesn’t brown up like an oven-baked turkey. While that’s true, I found that this one did brown up quite nicely on top. I imagine that’s because of it’s proximity to the lid with coals on. I did try and keep the coals toward the edges rather than in the middle of the lid, so it wouldn’t burn.

Mark's Dutch Oven Honey Mustard Ham

12” deep dutch oven

12 coals below
14 coals above

• A medium-sized bone-in ham
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup deli mustard
• ½ cup soy sauce
• 8-10 whole cloves

I started by putting the ham in the dutch oven. I actually had to cut it up into chunks to make it fit, and one chunk is still in the fridge. This would have been better in my 14”, but that was being used by the turkey. I also sliced diagonals back and forth across the surface of the ham, to let the seasonings seep in.

I mixed all the other ingredients in a bowl, and then just smoothed that over the surface of the ham.

Then, I put that on the coals. There was a lot of liquid in the ham, so as I baked it, from time to time, I’d open up the dutch oven, scoop up the liquid, and baste it over the meat. I cooked the ham just as long as the turkey.

Keeping the heat on was tricky. I went through a LOT of coals. You have to watch the under coals, because it’s easy to pay attention to when the coals on top are burning down, but the ones on the bottom need to be replaced, too.

Well, this was a long one, but I hope it helps you!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dutch Oven Pork Chops with Dressing and Glaze

We had a whole bunch of friends coming over last Sunday night. Not being sure what to cook initially, we settled on pork chops, since that’s what we had. I did some digging around and found some good recipes, as usual, over at Byron’s. Unfortunately, as I tried it, I messed it up a bit. Since we had lots of people coming over, I spread the dressing part over three dutch ovens. Two of them for pork, and one for chicken (one of our guests is muslim, and doesn’t eat pork).

That made the ratio of stuffing to water all off, and ended up with mush. It tasted good, and all the spices in the dressing added to the meat, but it wasn’t a great texture.

So, today’s recipe is another one of those where I post how I shoulda dun it instead of how I did dun it.

Dutch Oven Pork Chops with Herbal Dressing and Orange Glaze

12” Dutch Oven

18 coals above
9 coals below

The Meat

  • 4-6 pork chops
  • salt and pepper to taste

The Dressing

  • 2 medium onions; diced
  • 3 stalks celery; diced
  • 1 cube butter, sliced (to mix more evenly)
  • 5-6 slices of bread, diced (I used sourdough rye)
  • 1 large apple; cored, peeled, and diced
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 Tbs. parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water

8” Dutch Oven

10-12 coals below

The Glaze

  • 4 oranges; juice & zest
  • ½ cup orange or pineapple juice
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2-3 Tbs. cornstarch

I started by mixing all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Then, because there were a lot of people coming over, and I had a lot of meat, I put the dressing evenly on the bottom of three dutch ovens. In this case, I would recommend not doing that. Put it all in one dutch oven. Then rub the pork chops with liberal shakes of salt and coarse ground pepper, or maybe even a commercial steak seasoning. Arrange the pork chops above the dressing. It’s ok to overlap some if you have to. Then put it on the coals. Because there’s bread on the bottom, I would turn this oven frequently to avoid the hot spots.

While that was cooking, I prepared the glaze. I shaved the zest off the orange skin, and chopped it up to be a bit finer. That went right into the 8” dutch oven. I juiced the oranges right into the dutch oven, too. That was all that the original recipe called for. But it looked like not enough liquid, as I had squeezed the juice just with my bare hands, not a juicer. So, I added the pineapple juice. Then I added all the other glaze ingredients, except the cornstarch. That went on some coals right away also. I got it boiling pretty quickly, and I adjusted the coals to a pretty steady simmer.

Once it was boiling, I took the lid off to help it boil down and thicken. I added the cornstarch a little bit at a time, waiting a bit between each application to see how thick it was going to become.

The pork chops cooked about 45 minutes to an hour, and by that time the glaze was pretty nice and thick, too. Pull it off the coals. Scoop up the dressing that’s under the pork chop and serve them together. Pour some glaze on top. It is delicious!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Guest Blogger: Brendon's Dutch Oven Meat Salad

Hi, my name is Brendon. I’m Mark’s son, and I do dutch oven, too.

Today, I got to cook in the dutch oven with my own recipe. This is my “meat salad.” I call it meat salad because there’s lots of meat, and there’s some vegetables, too. You can choose any three meats, but we did sausage, hamburger, and chicken. You can also choose your own vegetables. And here’s my recipe

Brendon’s Meat Salad

10” Dutch oven
8 coals below, 15 coals above

12” Dutch oven
9 coals below, 17 coals above

  • ½ lb of pork sausage
  • ½ lb of ground beef
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 3 medium red potatoes, sliced
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • Seasoning salt
  • Steak seasoning
  • Salad seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp flour

First, slice the chicken into strips. Form the sausage and hamburger into meatballs (or whatever shape you like). Put the meat into the 12” dutch oven. Add a few shakes of seasoning salt and steak seasoning.

Then, put the sliced vegetables into the 10” dutch oven. Add the butter and a few shakes of salad seasoning.

Put each dutch oven on the coals and cook for 20 minutes, stirring the vegetables. Mix both dutch ovens into the 12”, stir and cook for 20 more minutes. Once mixed together, add the flour and stir it to thicken the juices.

It tasted really good! This is the third time I’ve cooked in the dutch ovens, and had only a little help from dad.

Tell me how you liked it when you try it!

Extra comments from Mark: Brendon is a young guy, about to turn 10, and he's taken to helping me cook, when he's not playing his Nintendo DS, or watching "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy." This time, he asked me to let him cook. So, we talked about his recipe ideas, and got all the ingredients together. He's quite inventive. And it actually turned out very delicious! I'm quite proud of my young black pot chef!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mark's Dutch Oven Biscuits and Gravy

The first time I ever had biscuits and gravy was at a scout camp. Our patrol piled into the mess hall alongside everyone else’s patrols one morning, and we were served big bowls full of biscuits. That was cool enough. After the generic non-denominational “grace” was said, everyone but me started grabbing biscuits, tearing them open and laying them out on their plates. I had some biscuits, but I was wondering where the butter and jam was.

Then they started pouring this white gravy all over them. I’d never heard of this before! But it looked really good. So, I joined in, and it was amazing. The best breakfast food I’d ever had.

So, for some reason, I remembered that this week, and wanted to recapture that. I decided that this weekend, I would cook a Saturday morning breakfast (Sunday morning is too hectic).

It was a little tricky working on both dishes and timing them out to be done at about the same time. I also had a little trouble with the biscuits. I need to do more of those, to get some good practice.

Mark’s Dutch Oven Biscuits and Gravy

10” Dutch Oven
15-18 coals below

12” Dutch Oven
12 coals below, 24 coals above (for 500 deg. F)

The Gravy

  1. ½ lb -1 lb ground breakfast sausage
  2. 1 medium chopped onion
  3. 2 ½ Tbsp flour
  4. ½ Cup Buttermilk
  5. 1 ½ Cups Milk
  6. A shake or two of:
    1. Salt
    2. Black pepper
    3. Celery salt
    4. Parsley
    5. Cinnamon
    6. Worcestershire sauce

The Biscuits

  1. 2 Cup + flour
  2. ½ tsp baking soda
  3. 2 tsp baking powder
  4. 2 Tbsp Shortening
  5. 1 Cup Buttermilk

I started out cooking the sausage in the 10” dutch oven. I also chopped up the onion and added that. While that was working, I started on the biscuits.

I mixed the dry ingredients, then added the shortening, cutting it all together with a pastry knife. Then I mixed in the Buttermilk, and continued cutting with the pastry knife. After it was well mixed, I kneaded it a bit, and then rolled it out on the floured countertop. I suspect that I worked it too much, because they didn’t “poof” up much in the oven. They tasted great, but they were more thin, and not as fluffy. I might have also rolled them too thin. The recipe said a half inch. I might have rolled it out too flat. Brendon was helping me with all this, too, which was fun.

The recipe also called for the dutch oven to be pre-heated to 500. I did light up enough coals, but I didn’t preheat the oven. I wonder if that also effected the fluffiness.

So, once the biscuits were in the oven and waiting to go on the coals, I mixed the flour into the now-browned sausage and onions in the 10” dutch oven, and then added the milk and spices. I left that on to heat up and thicken.

I put the biscuits on and under the coals, and that was, frankly, a lot of heat. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked anything at 500 before. I turned the biscuits several times, and I think I cooked them a total of about 25-30 minutes. The recipe called for 10-12 minutes, but then, I didn’t preheat the oven either.

The biscuits baked, the gravy thickened, and finally it was time to bring it all in and try it. It was delicious. I knew as I smelled all those spices in the gravy that it was going to be heavenly. I wasn’t disappointed.

The biscuits, like I said, tasted great, but were thin, and not so light. I really need to practice that.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dutch Oven Chicken Rolls, Au Gratin Potatoes

I just can’t figure out the chimney.

A long time ago, I got one of those metal cylinders with the handle on it, and it’s supposed to make it so that you can light charcoal and heat it up more quickly. Supposedly, you should be able to put some newspaper underneath, coals on top, and light it. The flames, they say, from the paper ignite the charcoal, and the convection of air through the holes in the bottom carry the heat upwards, igniting the rest of the charcoal and getting it good and hot.

Even though that’s what is supposed to happen, it’s never, ever worked for me.

Well, today, I found that I was out of lighter fluid (it’s what I usually use). So, I thought I’d give it one more try. I tried all kinds of configurations. Newspaper below, charcoal above was one. Another was newspaper below, then charcoal, then newspaper, then more charcoal…

Nothing. The paper burned beautifully. Never caught the charcoal. What am I doing wrong?

Finally, I just went to a neighbor and borrowed some starter fluid. Then it lit right up.

I made two dishes today. One was a recipe for Cashew Chicken. After deciding to do it, I realized that I didn’t have half the ingredients, including the cashews. So, I just sort of muddled through with what I had. It did turn out pretty well, all things considered. The second was for Au Gratin Potatoes. They both turned out great.

Dutch Oven Cream Cheese Chicken Rolls (Without Cashews)

8” Dutch Oven
12” Dutch Oven

Lots of coals, once it really gets cooking in the 12” dutch oven, 8-9 below and 16-18 or so on top

But first, I marinaded some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I did five. You can really pick up whatever commercial marinade you happen to have. This time, I used a Ginger & Sesame marinade with some minced garlic and a lot of lemon juice. Italian dressing with some extra seasonings would work great, too. I let that marinade for a couple of hours.

Then, in the 8” dutch oven, with 8 coals below and 8 above, I combined:

  • 1 8oz brick of cream cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small can mushrooms
  • 1-2 diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 Stalks of celery, finely chopped.
  • ½ jalapeno, chopped
  • Liberal shakes of grated parmesan

I let that simmer until the cream cheese melted.

Then, I took the chicken breasts out of the marinade. I took one and pounded it flat between two sheets of wax paper. Then I put a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce from the 8” dutch oven and put it in the center of the flattened chicken. I folded it over and secured it with a couple of toothpicks. Then I rolled it in whipped egg, and then into crushed crackers. This I set in one of my 12” shallow dutch ovens. Four more rolls were made the same way.

Then I poured the rest of the sauce from the 8” dutch oven over the chicken rolls. In retrospect, I might have saved that and poured it over to serve, after the chicken was done. Not sure.

Anyway, it went on the coals and cooked for about 45 minutes. It turned out really good!

Dutch Oven Au Gratin Potatoes

12” dutch oven

8-9 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 1 package bacon
  • 4-5 medium to large potatoes
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • liberal shakes of parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups grated cheese

This dish I started by putting a 12” dutch oven over about 20 coals or so. I fried the bacon pretty crispy.

While that was frying, I quartered and sliced the potatoes and chopped up the onions. All of this went into a bow with all of the dry ingredients.

Once the bacon was done, I poured off most of the grease, and added the bowl mix. I also added the milk and the grated cheese. It all got stirred up and put on the coals as listed above. It also cooked about 45 minutes, until the potatoes were soft.

That was actually just about the same time as the chicken was done, so I brought both pots in, and sprinkled another half cup of grated cheese on the potatoes. That melted pretty quickly, and by that time everyone had gathered and was ready to eat.

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!


Related Posts with Thumbnails