Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dutch Oven Biscuits and Mark’s Tomato Soup

Some days, it feels like life, the cosmos, and karma are all three conspiring against you. The coals won’t stay lit, the storms rage, the winds rush, and it’s just plain tough to cook your food. Then the recipe bombs and you end up with something that is almost, but not quite, totally unlike what you had thought you were cooking. Sometimes, it’s still edible. Other times, it’s not.

Well, today was definitely NOT one of those days.

It was truly the first day of spring. I know the calendar says that a couple of weeks ago was the first day of spring, but this weekend was truly the first spring-like weather we’ve had for more than five or ten minutes. Beautiful temperatures, sunny skies, light breezes… It was a perfect day to dutch oven.

Frankly, it was a perfect day to do just about anything outdoors.

For several weeks, now, I’ve been planning this tomato soup. I’d read what looked like a really good recipe, and I’d thought of some things that, in my mind’s tastes, would really enhance it. It was to be made from scratch, as I tend to like doing. And by “scratch”, I mean “from tomatoes, not from a can". I’ve been excited to try it. In fact, I’d pretty much decided that if I could pull it off, I would make it one of the first courses of my big Mother’s Day dinner, to come in a few weeks.

I’d also thought I’d do a sourdough bread to go with it, but my start didn’t have enough germs in it, I guess, so it never really rose much. I had to throw it away. I still wanted to do a bread, though, so I thought that I’d try some biscuits again. I’ve never really had much success with biscuits (or any baking powder/soda based leavened bread). I really needed to master it.

Well, it all came together. A beautiful day, some magnificent biscuits, and possibly the best soup I’ve ever tasted. And, I decided that since it ended up being so incredibly different from the original recipe, I’d claim it as my own!

Man, what a day!

Mark’s Dutch Oven Tomato Soup

12” Dutch Oven, with lots of coals underneath to keep the soup boiling, then simmering. Somewhere around 20+.

  • 2 Med Onions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp minced Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp oil/butter
  • 6-7 med tomatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 Sprigs chopped celery
  • 5-6 green onions, chopped (include some greens)
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 2 crumbled bay leaves
  • Liberal shakes (at start and occasionally in the cooking)
    • Salt
    • Coarse ground Pepper
    • Dried parsley
    • Cumin
    • Any other herb or spice you like
  • 1-3 Tbsp flour

I started out by firing up a whole bunch of coals. Lots of them. I put the 12” over some 18-20 coals, and put in the first set of ingredients. I just let the onions and garlic cook to transparency.

Then, once they were getting done, I added all the second set of ingredients. I seasoned it at that point, and then again later on. It took quite a while for it to start boiling. I had to keep the lid on, although I didn’t actually put any coals on the lid. I just kept it cooking and simmering while I made the biscuits.

The total cook time was somewhere around 2 ½ to 3 hours. After about an hour and a half or so, I could see that the tomatoes had pretty much dissolved. Some of the other veggies were looking pretty frail, too. I got a wire whisk and kinda beat it through the mixture to blend it better and chop up any bigger veggie chunks. If I’d had one of those hand blenders I would’ve used that. You know, the ones with the cranks that spin a couple of blades around…

After that, I let it simmer a while with the lid off. I had thought to cook it down, some, but it’s not easy to get enough coals under it to keep it boiling much without the lid on.

With about a half hour to go or so, I added the flour. I actually added it with a fork, so I could just tap it and sprinkle it into the soup. Then I’d grab the whisk and blend it in. That just thickened it up a bit. Not too much.

Dutch Oven Biscuits

12” dutch oven

11 coals below
20 coals above

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 cups milk
  • More shortening

I started by just combining all of the dry ingredients, then added the shortening into that. With a pastry cutter, I mixed it all up, then added the milk.

When that was a nice, hefty dough, I pulled it out of the bowl and onto my floured countertop. I rolled it out, the folded it over. I kept doing that five or six times. Roll it out, fold it over. Sometimes I would flour in between folds.

While I was doing all that, I’d put on some more coals. A lot of them, in fact. I was shooting for 400 degrees. Once the coal were white, I put the number shown above and below, with some more shortening in the oven. I checked to see when it would finally melt and coat the bottom of the oven.

With the biscuits rolled out, I cut them into circles with a small drinking cup, and then folded up and re-rolled the dough. Finally, I had cut all I could out of the dough, and I carried the dough rounds out to the dutch ovens. The biscuit oven was now pre-heated.

I had decided to try a trick I’d read about. I set one of the biscuit dough rounds into the dutch oven, into the melted shortening. Then, I turned it over and set it in place. That coated what was now the top of the biscuit, and supposedly that would make for better browning. I did the same with all the dough discs, and then I set the dutch oven lid with the coals back on the biscuits.

I cooked the biscuits for about a half hour, turning every five to ten minutes. That pre-heating the oven thing was just the trick. The biscuits were light, fluffy and raised up. That’s the first time I’ve done biscuits that worked that well.

So, tonight’s meal was a big success. The biscuits were finally fluffy, and the soup was all *wow* and zesty. Yummmm…

And, as I was cooking it, I realized that with only a couple of ingredient changes, it could have been a completely vegetarian meal. If I’d used veggie stock instead of chicken stock, or even just water, and if I’d used something besides milk in the biscuits.


  1. Sounds awesome though it would have been easier to just open a can of soup. I'm sure not as good though! Congratulations on your successful biscuits! Sounds like a great day.

  2. Thanks! Yes, it was. I don't really cook in the dutch oven because it's easy. I dunno, I guess I'm a bit of a wacko. I like to take on challenges and cook weird and sometimes hard thing. Sometimes the fall apart on me, other times, it turns out great.



Related Posts with Thumbnails