Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Son

So, the other night, I was making some Kofta. Remember, I made that one a while back, and I'm the only one in my family that will eat it...?

Well, suddenly my son says he wants to cook something, too. My first reaction is to sigh and roll my eyes, because I'm kinda stressed putting this meal together already. But, he's insistent, and I want to teach him how to cook, and especially how to cook in the Dutch Oven. So, we start looking around at what to cook.

He grabs a bag out of the fridge which contains the tiny fillets of a fish he caught on an outing a couple of weeks ago. Really, the fish should've been thrown back, but it was still in the legal keeper range, and it was the only one he'd caught thus far, so we kept it. Good thing, too, as it was the only thing caught in the whole boat the whole day. I think I'm cursed, but that's a subject for another blog.

Anyway, I latch onto this as a great idea. We can make this work. I grab up my 8" oven, and we pour about a half cup of rice in the bottom, with about a cup of water. On top of that, the fish fillets. Then some seasonings. Hmmm. Seems like the lemon pepper isn't shaking out so smooth. He opens it up and shakes. You guessed it--it dumps!

We spend a few moments scooping out as much as we can, and put it out under the coals, next to my 12" of Kofta.

Before long, they're both bubbling. One time, he checks it and stirs it up a bit, and of course the fish breaks up. That's what I'd expected it to do, so it's really a rice dish with fish and lemon for flavor.

It actually turned out not too bad. It was a bit sour from too much lemon pepper, but not intolerably so. The fish was cooked fine, and my boy had the experience of dutching with his dad, and cooking a fish he'd caught. A pretty good evening, doncha think?

Oh, yeah, about the Kofta...

I did it pretty much as the old recipe was, except that I did 3 cups of water instead of two. That made for a more "sauce-y" mixture. I also lightened up on the parsley, which I liked, and the lemon juice, which I didn't like so much. I do like it with more lemon. I did the salad, too, and that was yummy. I chopped up the jalepeno bits more so this time, so it gave an edge to the whole dish instead of getting a hot bite once in a while.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dutch Oven Split Pea & Ham Soup With Biscuits

For the last few weeks, now, that ham bone has been staring at me from the back of the fridge. Covered in aluminum foil, in a colorful ceramic bowl, it mocked me. “You never finished me off!”

So, today I did. I got this basic recipe from the book “Wholly Frijoles! – The Whole Bean Cookbook” by Shayne Fisher, Golden West Publishers, then I modded it a little for Dutch Ovening.

Dutch Oven Split Pea & Ham Soup

12” deep dutch oven
10-17 briquettes below (more when getting a boil going, less when simmering). At times, when getting it boiling, I also had a few on top.

  • 1 lb bag of dried split peas
  • 1 ham bone with lots of meat left on it.
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 1 diced potato
  • Generous shakes of oregano, thyme, and garlic
  • Liberally season with salt and coarse ground pepper to taste

I started out with a lot of hot coals, probably around 17+, maybe as many as 20, all underneath my deep 12” dutch oven. I put in the ham bone first. It was the one I had left over from a couple of weeks ago. When it was all done, there was a hint of the original baste from the ham in the taste. Mmmmm…

I added the peas (dry, of course), the onions and the water, and set it on the coals, covered. After about 20 minutes or so it was boiling. At that point, it was interesting to manage the heat. I had to take off enough coals to have it simmer, but not so many that it just sat there being hot. I can’t really tell you how many that was. I started with about ten, and that number changed both up and down as the coals burned and the soup cooked.

Now in the process of simmering the soup, I worked on the biscuits.

Doing the biscuits was a kind of last minute thing, since I hadn’t really planned on it, and it took me a while to find a recipe that included all the ingredients I had.

Dutch Oven Whipped Cream Biscuits

Modified from a recipe at Byron’s

12” shallow dutch oven
20 coals above
12 coals below

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 Tbs baking powder (not heaping, but not level either)
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 3 half pint cartons of whipping cream

First, I blended all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, then one by one stirred in each carton of cream. When that was mixed, I did have to sprinkle on a touch of flour because it was still a little sticky.

Then, I floured my counter top and rolled it out to a ¾” thick slab. I’m not too accustomed to rolling dough, so I actually got out a tape measure and checked it. If my wife had come out and seem me doing that she would have laughed her head off. Hey, I didn’t know. Now I do. I’m not OCD. Really.

I used a small 3” cup to cut the circles. The original recipe said that if you twist the cup, it ruins the biscuits. I was careful not to twist, but I’m not sure how it would ruin them. Something about releasing the air in the dough?

Anyway, pammed (oil spray) the inside of my dutch oven, I arranged a bunch of them pretty snug in the bottom. Then I took that outside and let it raise for 10 minutes or so with the lid on.

By then, I had some more coals ready, and I set it up. Many of the coals that I put on the biscuits had come out from under the soup dutch oven. Some were nearing the end of their useful burning life. But I figured that since the biscuits would only bake for 20 minutes, tops, that would be OK.


We’ll come back to this.

With biscuits baking, I chopped up the potatoes and the celery for the soup. I mixed all the seasonings (generous and liberal) into that bowl, and then dumped it all in the pot. I replenished the coals, making it hot again to boil. Not long after this, I also took off the lid. I was hoping to boil down some of the liquid in the soup. That turned out to be a good idea.

Meanwhile, the biscuits weren’t cooking right. The poofed up like they were supposed to, and they looked great, but they just wouldn’t finish, and they just wouldn’t brown. I don’t know if I just never got it to the 400 degrees I needed, or if I was checking them too often, or what. Finally, they looked and felt like they were baked through, but still not even tanning up much on top. So, I took them off the bottom coals, and piled more coals on the lid. The final cooking time for the biscuits was almost an hour, including the last ten minutes with only top heat.

I’ll have to say that they ended up both delicious and a nice fluffy texture. Still, I’m not sure why it took so long.

The soup was incredible! Everyone seems to like their split pea soup to be a different consistency. I just simmered and cooked off the liquid until the potatoes were done and the peas were my kinda consistency.

I brought it in, cut the meat off the bone, and served it. I always eat too much on Sundays…

Post Script:

I was surprised to find a linkback! Someone found some interest in the ham recipe and noted it in their blog! Thanks for the contact!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dutch Oven Baked Spaghetti

OK, I know that just sounds wrong. On a lot of levels. But, I tell ya, I tried it, and it’s possibly the BEST spaghetti I’ve ever tasted.

It’s kinda funny how I got there, though. I found a recipe for dutch oven spaghetti online somewhere. I don’t remember where. However, it called for boiling the spaghetti noodles first, then layering it with the sauce ingredients into a dutch oven for the final cooking.

But see, I thought about the lasagna noodles, and I realized that they don’t need to be cooked first. The liquid in the sauces, trapped under the heavy lid, cooks the noodles while it’s all baking. So, why couldn’t it do the same for spaghetti noodles, right?

So, I got some noodles, and I got some Italian sausage (never make a meat sauce with hamburger…), and today I came home from church ready to go for it.

But I’d lost the recipe!

So, I looked through all my notes, all my recipe files in My Documents, and couldn’t find it. I did a search of the Dutch Oven yahoogroup, but that also turned up nothing. I couldn’t remember where I’d found it it or who’d sent it to me.

So, I went out and did a search. I found a recipe on the website. This is a great resource, by the way. Still, I didn’t quite like the recipe. It did confirm that I could put in the spaghetti dry, however, so that was cool. But the base of the sauce was tomato soup! Yeesh…

So, I just started experimenting. I figured that spaghetti sauce was kinda like chili, right? There’s so many different recipes, how can you go wrong, really…?

Dutch Oven Baked Spaghetti to Die For

10” Dutch Oven
15 briquettes below, then 10-12 briquettes above and below each once the baking starts

  • ½ lb Italian sausage
  • One medium onion, diced
  • ½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms*
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced*
  • 2-3 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 ½ Cans tomato paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried chopped parsley
  • ½ Tbsp Cumin
  • ½ Tbsp Chili Powder
  • ½ Tbsp Paprika
  • 1 well-crumpled bay leaf
  • 3-4 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Grated cheddar or mozzarella
  • Feta Cheese

I started by cooking the sausage, and browning the onion and the garlic as well. I did it over about 15 or so coals. That’s all I can really fit under my 10” dutch oven.

I’d figured that the sausage would make lots of grease, but I guess I got some that was more lean. There wasn’t much grease. I thought about adding some olive oil to it, and had my olive oil not been solidified in the fridge at the time, I probably would have done it. *Also, I would have added the mushrooms and the celery, if I’d had any. But I imagine that they would have made it taste even better.

While the sausage stuff was cooking, I mixed everything in the second group of ingredients and stirred it up in a bowl. I have to admit that the amounts I’m mentioning here are approximations. I put stuff in. I’m guessing at how much. Sorry I’m not more OCD about it. In fact, next time I might try it with only 2 cans of tomato paste. I do like a very thick sauce, but in some ways, it ended up too thick. And, actually, I started with only two cups of water, but as it cooked, I realized it would need more and added it.

I stirred the sauce mix into the dutch oven, over the sausage and onions, etc. Then I took about a half pound of uncooked spaghetti, broke the noodles in half, and added them on top of the whole thing, and set up the coals as specified above. I marked the start time on my watch.

About 20 minutes later, I opened it up to check, and stir. The noodles were getting loose, so they didn’t break when I stirred them up. I didn’t stir them in when I started the cooking for that reason. I like my noodles longer. I did break them in half, though, to make sure they’d fit into the dutch oven.

I checked it about every 20 minutes, with at cook time of about an hour. This time, the coals lasted pretty well, through the whole ordeal. I did have to replenish from the side, but not much. The last few times I checked, I fished out a noodle and ate it to try and see if it was done.

When it was all done, I brought it in and served it right away. Don’t want tomatoes eating off the patina of my oven, now, do I? Once it was in my bowl and ready to eat, I sprinkled liberal amounts of grated cheddar and crumbled feta.

Honestly, I don’t like to brag… (OK, I do…), but I think this recipe is the best spaghetti evar!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Hot Chicken and Potatoes

Tonight was kind of a strange night. I came home, and picked up my boys from the babysitter. My wife was out of town. The boys had already eaten, so I was the only one hungry. I thought about cooking up one of my favorite chicken dishes on the stove, and then I thought how I could try it in the Dutch Oven.

So, I did. Here it is:

Hot Chicken and Potatoes

10” dutch oven

7-8 briquettes below
12-13 briquettes above

  • 4-5 frozen chicken pieces, boneless (I used chicken tenderloin, but cut up breasts work just as well)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 medium potato, sliced
  • 1-2 stalks of sliced celery (would have been nice, if I’d had any)
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • lots of salt, black pepper, cumin powder
  • about 1/3 cup water
  • cayenne pepper wing sauce
  • grated cheddar

I put the first set of ingredients in the dutch oven and set it on the heat. Interestingly enough, just as my coals were starting to get a little white, it started to sprinkle rain.

So, I covered the dutch oven with this big metal cylindrical hood my mother-in-law got me. It’s supposed to keep in heat, but every time I’ve used it, it also cuts back on the airflow, and ends up with the coals burning much slower and cooler. Sometimes, they even go out.

This time, I propped it up so there was plenty of airflow underneath, and it has holes on the top, so it was pretty well ventilated. After a while, the rain stopped, and it was never really that strong of a rain, anyway.

So, once the chicken and the potatoes were cooked (about 45 minutes), I pulled the pot off the coals, and put all of the lid coals on the ground, then replaced the dutch oven over those coals. I left the lid off, and let the rest of the liquid boil off. Sometimes, when I do this in the house, in a skillet, I let the chicken brown a bit, but in this case the potatoes were starting to disintegrate, so I didn’t.

Then, I shook in a lot of the wing sauce. I was really liberal with it, to the point that the chicken and the potatoes were coated in it, much like buffalo wings. I stirred it, and let it cook a bit, to get the wing sauce flavor more cooked in, and then I pulled it off and smothered it in shredded cheddar.

It could have easily served two, and with a side dish, three. But by then, I was starved and I ate it all with a glass or two of cold milk.


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