Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ham in the 14” Dutch Oven

Here’s a tradition in many Mormon wards (congregations): The Dinner Group. Maybe John, over at Mormon Foodie will take it up and talk about it some day. The basic idea is that everyone that wants to signs up, and then each family is assigned to a group, usually of 3-5 total families. They get together for dinner once a month, rotating the household that hosts each time, until everyone has had a turn, and they’ve all gotten to know each other.

Then it’s all shuffled up and it starts all over again. Fellowship over food.

So, tonight was our turn to host. I immediately thought about cooking up a meal in my dutch oven, so that I could show off my mad dutchin’ skillz—I mean: humbly serve my fellow man… of course...

But what to cook that would do both?

Last Easter, I’d done a big ham in a Dr Pepper sauce, and I wanted to try that again. I looked through my records and I couldn’t find the recipe. So, I dug into the ‘net and looked all over but I couldn’t find the one I’d done. I did, however, find one at Byron’s site, for Dutch Oven Dr Pepper Pork Ribs. I thought I could mod it for the ham, so I did.

Dutch Oven Dr Pepper Ham

14” Dutch Oven
15-17 briquettes each above and below

  • 10 lb ham shank
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 20 oz can pineapple chunks
  • 1 11 oz can mandarin oranges
  • 20-24 oz Dr Pepper (2 cans, 1 bottle, etc…)
  • 1 cup mild-medium commercial salsa
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp minced garlic
  • Salt & Pepper (lots of coarse ground pepper, for my taste)

I started by thawing the ham overnight in the fridge. I took it out of the fridge, and put it in the sink (still in its plastic packaging) when I woke up this morning. I’d start cooking it at around 3:00.

I put the ham into the dutch oven, and cut half-inch scores criss-crossed over the top of the meat, about 2 inches apart. Then I added the pepper, the tomato, and the onion. I drained the syrup of the canned fruits into a bowl, and dumped the pineapples and oranges into the oven, too.

I mixed the fruit syrups, the Dr Pepper, the salsa, the brown sugar and the garlic in the bowl, then poured that into the dutch oven. I suppose you could dump it all into the oven at once, but the Dr Pepper helps dissolve the sugar.

Then I put it on the heat. I actually didn’t use the briquettes I recommend above, but I think that using these numbers, especially on the higher side, will yield better results. I cooked the ham for about 3 hours, and, while it was done, I think it would have been better done had the oven been a bit hotter. Every half hour, I'd open it up, and use a ladle to pour the juice and veggies/fruits on top of the ham. About every hour, I'd refresh the coals, so if you do this, make sure you've got your side fire goin' on.

(Note from Mark, posted 8/5/07: I found a chart published by Lodge that showed that the amount coals I had started with would have produced only about 300 to 315 degrees. The numbers listed above, especially on the high side, will give you 350 to 375, which will cook much better.)

Now, through all this time, I was also making my becoming-famous rolls, that I did at the cookoff. You can find that recipe here. I actually did a double batch, because we were having a lot of people coming over, and I wanted to make sure that there was enough. I did those in two 12” shallow dutch ovens.

When it was all done, I carved the ham from the oven, and served those slices on a plate. In a separate bowl, I used a straining spoon to pull up the veggies and fruits as a sweet/salty side dish.

The verdict was that everyone was thrilled with the meal. One family brought a salad, another brought dessert, and we all had a great time. And what a spread!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Creamy Potatoes and Peas

I first made this a year ago, and I did it in a 12”. I found the basic recipe for potatoes and peas, and then thought it might taste good with the bacon added. It really did add a zip to the whole dish. I found that it turned the milk more tan, but if you’re OK with that, it still looks and tastes great.

Today, we didn’t have any of the fresh baby potatoes, so I just cut up some regular ones. It still tasted great, but I love it with the fresh ones.

Creamy Baby Potatoes and Peas

10” Dutch Oven
7 briquettes below
12-13 briquettes above

  • 1/2 package of bacon, sliced into 1” slices
  • 1 dozen baby potatoes or 5-6 med potatoes
  • 1 ½ cups milk (I used vitamin D whole milk)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 package frozen peas
  • Pepper
  • Ms Dash or other dried veggie seasoning mix
  • Seasoning salt
  • About 3 Tbsp Flour

Start by lighting up some coals. When they get hot (good bits of white around the edges), cook the bacon until it’s crispy. Then drain off the grease.

Add the potatoes, the milk, the butter, the water, and the peas. I was a little nervous about adding the cold peas and the cold milk to the hot oven, but it seemed to come out OK.

Add the Pepper and Ms Dash to taste, I prefer it pretty liberal. Apply the heat and slow cook the mixture, stirring frequently. In the last 15 to 20 minutes, add the flour, a tablespoon at a time until it’s thick enough

Today, I also grilled up some burger patties, because my family wanted to have some “meat” with the side dish. I also pulled out my shallow 12”, boiled some water and cooked some corn on the cob. It all added up to a full meal.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Zebra Cake

Today, we had some friends over to celebrate my wife's 40th. So, I wanted to do something a little bit special when it came to the cake. I kinda got the idea from one of the teams in the Eagle Mountain cookoff. But I ran with it in a different direction.

It's called "Zebra Cake", for reasons which will be obvious when you look at the pictures.

There really isn't a "recipe" per se, since I used boxed cake mixes. It's really just a set of instructions. If you really want to go from scratch (and I'm going to try this someday), you could do that instead.

Zebra Cake

2x 12" Dutch Ovens (I actually had to borrow one, since my two deep 12" dutch ovens are currently out on loan).

8-9 coals below each oven
15-16 coals above each oven

Begin by lighting up the coals and letting them start, then mixing up a bowl of chocolate cake mix according to its directions. After that, mix up a bowl of white cake mix according to its directions.

Give your two dutch ovens a good blasting of PAM or some other good coating of oil, maybe some flour. I just used PAM. Using a soup ladle, I put in alternating stripes of chocolate mix and white mix until I had used all of the batter and divided it pretty evenly between the two dutch ovens. Then, I took a wooden spoon and gently swirled the two batters together in each oven. NOT mixing, but just a little bit of swirling.

I took both dutch ovens out and set them on the coals, as I set out above. They both only cooked about 35 minutes until I was able to do the toothpick test with each one. I pulled them off the coals and brought them inside.

While they were cooling, I took a sheet of foamcore board and cut two circles (a little more than 10" diameter). I put one of the circles directly onto the cake in one of the dutch ovens, and then carefully flipped the oven over, while holding onto the foamcore circle. I tapped the oven lightly on the countertop until I could feel the weight of the cake on the circle, then lifted the oven off. the cake was neatly perched on the circle, completely and smoothly removed from the dutch oven.

This was all last night. I wasn't sure how to handle them at this point, but my wonderful wife clued me in. I wrapped them in aluminum foil and put them in our big freezer.

The next morning, I got them out, and opened up a tub of white vanilla frosting, and dark chocolate frosting. I laid down some stripes on the top of one cake, then set the other cake right on top of it (without the foamcore, of course). Then I laid some stripes in frosting all over the now layered cake. When I do this next time, I'll do all the white frosting first. I did the chocolate first this time, and the frosting knife tended to pick up the chocolate and "brown up" the white frosting.

Finally, I broke open bags of white chocolate and regular milk chocolate chips and meticulously hand placed the chips on the stripes on the top of the cake.

It was quite a hit at the party. I often got that reaction I'm looking for, you know, that "You did that in a dutch oven?" Really, though, it's much simpler than it looks. You mix the mixes, bake the cake, and then stack it and decorate it. Here in this final picture, you can see the marbling in the cake itself.

Really, sometimes it's in the cooking, and sometimes it's in the presentation.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Venison Chili

Over the years, I've discovered something interesting about chili. There's only about a million different recipes. Some are great, some are greater, some are hot, others are hotter.

Some have beans, some don't. Some have tomatoes, others don't. Some have meat, others don't. It's almost as if there's a challenge out there to see just how far away you can get and still call it chili.

Well, I thought, how hard can it be? I mean, if there are so many different recipes, and you pretty much follow one of them, you can't really go wrong, then, can you?

Then a friend of mine mentioned that the best way he'd ever had venison was in a chili, and that also intrigued me. I have a brother-in-law that's an avid hunter, and I thought I might get some venison from him. That turned out to be so, and I started!

Venison Chili

12" dutch oven
10-12 coals below

  • 1/3 cup red kidney beans, uncooked
  • 1/3 cup pinto beans, uncooked
  • 1/3 cup black beans, uncooked
  • 1-2 lbs venison stew meat
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • Black pepper to taste
  • About a cup of water
I spent a bit of time researching recipes, and learning how to cook beans. I have this thing about starting from scratch, so I didn't want to use canned beans.

So, I started off with three different kinds of beans: red kidney, black, and pinto. Last night, I started them soaking. When I put them in the bowl with the water, it kinda looked like red, white, and blue. Cool! I'd read that adding baking soda to the soaking water makes them less "gassy" later on. I thought I'd try that. (Note, added by the author several days later: I found this not to be the case. I might have to issue a formal written apology to my co-workers who had to work close to me the following day...)

I changed the water in the morning, and again when I got home from church. After church, I started the coals, and put the beans in my 12" shallow. I'd heard that it could take quite a bit of time to cook beans, even after they'd soaked, so I was all ready to cook them for hours, if necessary. I put the dutch oven over about 15 or so coals, and put on the lid, with no coals on top. In no time, it was boiling away. After a few minutes of boiling, I took some briquettes off so that it would be more of a simmer.

Then, I got out my 8" dutch oven, and put some oil in, on top of about 8-9 coals. When that heated up, I put the venison stew meat in to brown. Before long, the meat was browned, and the beans were starting to soften. I put the meat in the beans. At that point, I also added about a cup of water.

Then, I started preparing all of the other things, chopping the onions, the pepper, the tomatoes. All of those went in. I blended up all of the dry seasonings, and added them as well. From that point on, it was just a matter of stirring it and keeping the coals fresh so it simmered. The total cooking time was about 2 hours.

When it was all done, I served it up with shredded cheddar on top and some of my wife's homemade bread. Man, it was good.

Also, when it's all done, I've read that it's a good idea to get chili out of your oven as soon as possible, because all the acid will eat away at the patina you've built up with all your seasonings.

Anyway, that's my chili!

Saturday, July 7, 2007


So, this morning, my son gets me up and asks if we can cook pancakes in my dutch ovens. I've been wanting to get him more and more involved in cooking, so I jump at the chance. We start up the coals, and then come inside to mix the batter up.

Then I have him spread out the coals around my lid stand, and we put the lid on top, and we start waiting for it to heat up.

...And we wait

...And we wait.

Finally, I think it's hot enough, and I tell him to pour on some batter. By this time, of course, he's lost in his Gameboy, capturing Pokemon. But he sets it down and pours on the batter.

And we watch it start to cook.

Sort of.

It does finally cook enough to flip, but it's not really a golden brown, more like a pale white. Pretty soon, he goes inside with the air conditioning, leaving me to sweat it out in a 90 degree morning over a hot griddle. Well, a sort of hot griddle, anyway.

I did manage to cook all of the pancakes, but it never really got hot enough to cook them right. I'm not sure why. I guess, I just need more coals, and need to have them lit a little longer before I put on the lid. Hmmm...

Friday, July 6, 2007


Tonight was the third time I've made lasagne in my dutch oven. It's always fun, because I often get that reaction like, "Lasagne? In a dutch oven? Is that... um... legal?"

I love it when they do that!

And this one is pretty easy to do, so I'll include it in the "Basic Dutching" list of recipes. It's a two-step, but neither step is complex. Brown the sausage, then make the layers and bake. Unlike most indoor lasagne recipes, you don't need to cook the noodles first. In the times before, I mixed the ricotta with the sauce, but this time, I didn't. I like the separate layers. It makes the tastes more distinct.

Anyway, here it is:

Dutch Oven Lasagne:

10" Dutch Oven
7 coals below
14 coals above

  • 3 links (which amounts to a little under a lb. About 3/4 lbs, actually) mild to medium italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jar commercial spaghetti sauce
  • a coupla hefty shakes of oregano
  • a mild shake of Basil
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • Lots of salt (to taste)
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 box (12 oz) uncooked lasagne noodles
  • Shredded mozarella
To start with, fire up a lot of coals. As they get white, layer them flat and close together and put the dutch oven with the sausage (crumbled) in it. Cook the sausage.

While this is going on, mix up the sauce, the onions, and the spices. When the sausage is done, add it. Stir it all up.

Then, you'll make a stack of layers in the dutch oven. From the bottom, those layers are:

  • A thin layer of the sauce mix
  • A layer of dry noodles (still uncooked)
  • Spread on a layer of ricotta cheese
  • Scatter a layer of mozarella
  • A layer of sauce mix
  • More noodles
  • More Ricotta (the last of it)
  • More mozarella
  • More sauce
  • More noodles
  • A little more sauce
  • smother the whole thing in deep mozarella.
Spread the coals into a ring of 7, and set the dutch oven on it. Then put 14 burning coals on top. Bake it for about 45 minutes or so, turning the oven and the lid every 20 minutes or so. The cool thing about it is that the moisture in the sauce and the ricotta will cook the noodles soft, so you don't have to precook them. It's really delicious.

And for sunday, I'm going to try venison chili. My brother-in-law is an avid hunter and has some that he offered me. I'm pretty excited about it.


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