Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dutch Oven Herb Fettuccini with Creamy Chicken Sauce using Handmade Pasta Fresca

I think that’s got to be the longest stinkin’ name for a blog entry I’ve ever written, in all my 5 plus years of blogging.


The more and more I do dutch oven cookery, the more I’ve come to realize that becoming skilled at dutch oven cookery is really more about becoming a real chef that happens to use a dutch oven as their cooking system of choice. Now, in saying that, I am, by no means, claiming to be a chef. I’m learning to cook, and along the way, some folks tell me that they like what I cook. Sometimes. Well, they usually do, because the times that I flop, I usually don’t force other people to eat it.

That’s another blog for another day.

What I AM saying, however, is that as I learn “How to Cook in a Dutch Oven”, I’m seeing more and more that what I’m really learning is more “How to Cook” in a dutch oven. And I keep getting closer and closer to the time when I think I’d like to take some culinary arts classes. I mean, there are some basic cooking skills I keep feeling more and more like I should know. Teaching myself is one thing, following recipes is one thing, knowing what you’re really doing is another altogether!

What I’m leading up to is that tonight, I took a major step forward in learning “How to Cook”. I made my own pasta from scratch.

It’s all John’s Fault. See, he got me started when, over at Mormon Foodie, he blogged for a whole month about pasta, and even made some of his own. That inspired me. I knew we had one of those cool roller things, so this was going to be easy.

But then, I couldn’t find it.

That’s OK, though, because I had remembered in one of my books, a series of instructional photos on how to roll and stretch out pasta. I dug for it, looked it up, and I couldn’t make any sense out of it. I read it and re-read it, and studied the pictures. I could tell this was gonna be a “You had to be there” kinda things.

Then, I wondered if there might be someone somewhere that had made a youtube video of it! And there was! This one that I found is of this nice old Italian lady (I know she’s Italian ‘cause that’s what she’s speaking) mixing and rolling out the pasta. And the rolling she’s doing looks very much like the pictures in my book! Now, there’s like 8 or 9 videos in this series that make up the whole sequence, and you have to kinda look for each one on the previous one’s page. It’s not like there’s one page that has them all on it. (note, added later: I combined them onto my own youtube channel page)

But anyway, I studied the videos, and figured out what she was doing. Then tonight, I tried it myself! I did have some troubles with the sauce, because I couldn’t find a sauce recipe that we had all the ingredients on hand for (I don’t like to go shopping on Sunday). But I finally found one, and tweaked it a bit. But I’ll talk about the sauce later. First, the pasta!

Handmade Herb Pasta Fresca

  • 2 cups Flour (you’ll use more for rolling later)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • ½ Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water

In retrospect, I’d probably used a little more garlic powder and a third egg instead of water. I didn’t use semolina flour. I’ve heard that regular flour works well, and that was my experience. Maybe next time I’ll try it. I’ve heard of some people mixing it half and half.

Anyway. The first thing to do was to mix it all up. In the video, the lady makes a volcano of flour and dry ingredients, and then puts the eggs in the middle, then mixes it up with a fork. I tried that and it got all over. Still, I managed to mix it all up and not get it on the floor, but the area I was scooping kept getting bigger and bigger.

Once that was all mixed, I kneaded it for about 8-10 minutes, just like I knead bread, shaking bits of flour on the table as I went. Then I set it on the table top to rest for a while.

Then, I went to get my stick! About a week ago, as I had been preparing for this event, I was at Home Depot, and I bought a yard-long, 1 ½” dowel. After watching the videos, I could tell that a simple rolling pin wasn’t gon’ cut it. It would simply not be wide enough, and that proved to be true, even though I didn’t make as much as the lady in the videos. Still, I could tell that three feet was gonna be too much for my little kitchen counter, so I cut about a foot off of one end.

I started just like in the video. I rolled it out to a disc maybe a little under a foot in diameter just like I would do with a normal rolling pin. Then I rubbed on a light layer of flour, flipped the far edge up and over and rolled it up and started the rolling and stretching process.

Here’s how it works: I applied a bit of rolling pressure as I moved the stick towards me. Then I released the pressure and slid the stick (without rolling it) away from me. Then I rolled it towards me again. Actually, I was doing a bit of “back and forth” rocking motion as I rolled the stick toward me. While I was doing this, I was moving my hands “outward” to help stretch the dough side to side.

Then, I unrolled it, turned it a little, rolled it up again and worked it the same way. Just like in the video. Each time I unrolled it, I watch to see if it was sticking at all. If so, I smoothed on some flour. Gradually, it got thinner and thinner, and bigger and bigger. I gotta tell you, too, just how goooooood it smelled while I was rolling it out. Those herbs and the garlic had me in heaven.

Finally, just like the video, I folded it up and sliced it. Really, I probably sliced it too thick to call it true fettuccini. Sue me. After slicing it, I lightly tossed it with my fingers to separate it, and left it on the tabletop to dry a little. I didn’t let it dry out, though. I could have, but I didn’t. Then it wouldn’t have been pasta fresca, but rather pasta secca (fresh pasta or dried pasta).

Then on to the cooking:

Dutch Oven Herb Fettuccini with Creamy Chicken Sauce

2x 12” shallow dutch ovens
20+ coals under each one.

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1-2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 4 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1-2 lbs chicken, sliced or cubed. (I used frozen breasts, slightly thawed)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinagre
  • Some leftover sun-dried tomato and oil stuff we had in the fridge. (about 2 -3 Tbsp worth)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parsley

I started with the onion, the garlic and the mushrooms, sautéing them in one of the dutch ovens in a bit of olive oil. The other one had water on, so it could get boiling. I’ve found that it takes a while to get boiling, since it has to heat up the dutch oven on the way. I keep it covered, since it boils faster that way.

Once the onions and the ‘shrooms were browning, I added the chicken. I like to keep the lid on when I cook frozen chicken this way, as it tends to steam the chicken and keep it moist.

Once the chicken was cooked through, I added the butter and the flour. The butter melted, along with the oil, and made a bit of a roux. I added all the other ingredients, and let it simmer, stirring it often. This was all done with the lid off.

Somewhere in all that, I checked and saw the water boiling. A pasta book I had been reading all along this whole adventure said to put the pasta in gradually so that it doesn’t stop the boil. Somehow I managed to forget that brilliant suggestion and dumped it all in anyway. It still cooked up fine. I put the lid back on to help it boil. I only cooked it for a few minutes once it started boiling again. I tested it for “al dente”-ness, and it was there! I drained the pasta in a colander in the sink and served it up with the sauce and parmesan cheese. It was fantastic!

I also tasted several strands of the pasta by itself, and enjoyed the herbs and the flavor. It was yummy just as it was! The sauce was great with it, too.

So, I learned an important lesson. Making pasta from scratch. I enjoyed it, too. It was work, but it didn’t take very long. I think next time, I’ll make more and dry some out. The results were certainly delicious!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Well, the party’s over, and the cleanup is done. I even had a day of rest today. Now it’s time to write it all up.

The cool thing about it is that all of these recipes were things I’ve done before, with the exception of the appetizer (the stuffed mushrooms). The dessert (the Paradise Pie) is one I’ve done, but I didn’t post the recipe, for some reason. I don’t remember why not.

The day itself, while long, went pretty smoothly. There were only a couple of bumps.

I started out making the dessert at about 10:00. It was all according to plan. The recipe follows here. I also started the sausage for the stuffed mushrooms, which also follows. The other recipes are posted here as links to the original blog entries.

That was all interrupted by a sudden need to run an errand with my wife. Brendon was kind enough to pull the cookie dough off the coals in time, so that went well.

At about 12:30 or so, I was getting the bread dough mixed and kneaded for the first raising.

After that, I started peeling the tomatoes for the soup, and preparing the other veggies. The next step was to prepare the roast meat and get that on the coals.

Soon after that, the bread had risen, so I shaped it into three long strips, braided it and put it in the dutch oven for proofing.

At this point, the soup was cooking, the meat was roasting and everything was in order. I started preparing the veggies for the roast. Also, throughout this effort, I would take a few minutes to work on the stuffed mushrooms. I also would step downstairs to prepare the tables.

The last thing I put out on the coals was the bread. This is where the panic hit me. After a little bit of baking, I came out to turn the lid and found that the bread had puffed up in the Dutch Oven so much that it had actually lifted the lid! I wasn’t sure what to do! Would it still bake with a big gap in the lid? Would the coals on the lid burn the upper crust? I didn’t know what to do!

In the end, I finally realized there wasn’t much I could do. I couldn’t transfer it to a different oven. The bigger ovens I had were either in use, or very cold, and would take time to heat up. I did notice, however, that since there was a gap in the lid, I could stick a thermometer into the bread. I’d heard somewhere that baking bread is done at a specific internal temperature, just like meat. Soft bread is done at about 200 degrees. So, that way I knew when it was done!

It turned out OK. It was delicious, even if it had a pretty thick upper and lower crust. I figured out what had gone wrong. I had forgotten that the recipe I used made enough dough for two 12” dutch ovens of bread. I had put all that dough into one. I had prepared an orange and brown sugar glaze, too, but since the lid was resting on the bread, I decided not to use it!

At last, everything was getting done. Guests started to arrive. I served the stuffed mushrooms with crackers and cheese upstairs as an appetizer.

The table was already set, but I first served the soup in bowls, with a slice of bread on each plate. The guests came down and sat ate the soup and bread. After that, I passed around the salad ( just a tossed salad with a couple of types of lettuce, radishes, carrots, celery, and mandarin oranges), and I served up the roast and the veggies.

We were all having a great time just hanging out and talking. Finally, we were getting ready for dessert. I put the 10” dutch oven back on the coals to reheat the cookie mixture of the Paradise Pie. I also made the cinnamon sauce in my 8”. Then I brought all that down and served that up.

It was a lot of fun. There were about 10 people there, and the conversation was lively the whole night. A great night, and a wonderful tribute to all the moms there, especially Jodi, the one that brought me our children!

The recipes:

Dutch Oven Stuffed Mushrooms

12” Dutch Oven

20+ coals below for the sausage
8 coals below, 16 above for baking

  • ½ lb Italian sausage
  • About a pound of fresh mushrooms (not portabello)
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese

First, I put the sausage in the dutch oven over the 20 some-odd coals and cook it, crumbling it as I go. I want it in small crumbs, so they’ll fit better into the mushrooms.

While that’s cooking (or afterward, if circumstances are better), I rinsed off the mushrooms and break the stems out of them (if you’ve got enough to be picky, then just do it on the bigger ones, and eat the others as you go).

I pulled the cooked sausage off the coals and out of the dutch oven and let it cool. I’d actually leave a coating of drippings in the dutch oven. This time, I used the oven and the drippings to start the soup.

Meanwhile, I chopped up the mushroom stems and mixed that with the sausage, the parmesan, and the cream cheese. With a spoon, I filled each mushroom “cup” with the mixture and placed it into the greased dutch oven. Finally, when they were all in, I sprinkled on a layer of grated cheddar. I put that on the coals listed above for about a half hour. They’re great!

Chili’s Paradise Pie Knockoff in the Dutch Oven

Warning: This recipe has been officially condemned by many heart and health organizations worldwide. It is not recommended for anyone on weightwatchers, body for life, Atkins, or any other weight loss plan. It IS delicious, however…

10” Dutch Oven

7 coals below, 14 coals below

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • vanilla ice cream
  • chocolate syrup
  • caramel syrup
  • more chopped walnuts

I started by combining all the dry ingredients in the first set. Then I blended the sugar and butter from the second set together, whipping it as best I could. I added in the other wet ingredients and mixed them all up, then added the dry mix from the first set. That was my basic cookie dough.

I put the 10” dutch oven on the coals and melted the butter with the sugar. While that was melting, I crumbled the graham crackers. Once the butter was melted, I brought it in, and added the crumbs, smoothing it all into a crust on the bottom of the dutch oven. Onto that went a layer of chocolate chips. I would have added the walnuts at that point, too, but my wife doesn’t like walnuts, and so, we don’t have them in house.

On top of that, I spread the cookie dough. That all went on the coals and baked for about 35 minutes or so.

Now, I did this early in the day, so I could focus on the main meal dishes right before serving. So, I came out and reheated the cookie part. If I were serving it right away, I would prepare the butter drizzle, and get out the ice cream and the garnishes and serve it right up. It is amazing!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm well into cooking the Mother's Day meal! It's exciting. Not overwhelming just yet. We'll have to see how it all goes.

Those of you that want to can follow the action on Twitter! Otherwise, I'll be posting the full write-up within a few days here at the Black Pot!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mother’s Day

For a long time, now, I’ve thought it would be a fun and unique challenge to do a big, fancy meal, for a lot of friends, completely in my dutch ovens. I finally chose a day and just started inviting friends. I chose the day before Mother’s Day, so that I could make it special for my wonderful wife.

So, for the last two months, I’ve been pouring over past recipes, and new recipe books, planning out the menu. After I figured out what I was going to make, I’ve spent some time occasionally trying out recipes, in preparation. I didn’t want to do any of them for the first time that day. Here’s what I’ve ended up with:

  • Appetizers: Sausage stuffed mushrooms with cheese and crackers.
  • First Course: Tomato Soup.
  • Second Course: Salad
  • Main Course: Bacon Draped Pot Roast with potatoes and other veggies, and Orange Glazed Bread
  • Dessert: Paradise Chocolate Cookie Pie

So, tonight, I laid out each course on a time table. I had to figure out when I would prep and cook each one. Otherwise, I would be an overwhelmed, nervous wreck by the end of the day. As it stands, it looks like I’ll be cooking starting at about 10:00 in the morning, and the pace will be pretty easy. I’ll never have more than three things cooking at any one time, and most of the time will have only one or two things cooking.

The Salad and the cheese/crackers will be prepared the night before. Just for less stress.

Then, at 10:00 I’ll start working on the Paradise Pie. At about 11:00, I’ll cook the sausage for the stuffed mushrooms, then I’ll prepare the filling.

At noon, I’ll start on the bread, mixing and kneading. I’ll set that aside to rise, while I prep the veggies and put the soup on at around 1:00.

At around 2:00 or so, I’ll get the roast on. Once that’s cooking, I’ll get the tables set up. I might do that earlier in the morning, or the night before, just to give me more time. Somewhere in there, the bread will probably have risen, so I’ll shape the loaf and put it in the dutch oven for proofing.

By 4:00, I’ll probably be ready to put the bread on the fire. That’s also probably about the time that I’ll add the veggies to the roast.

At around 5:00, it’ll be getting closer to Zero Hour, so things will start to pick up. I’ll put the mushrooms on to bake, and pull out the cheese and crackers.

Then, folks should start arriving by about 6:00. At that point, I’ll pretty much just be serving. I will probably put the Paradise Pie back under a few coals for about 20 minutes to a half hour, just to heat it up again, then I’ll just ladle on the ice cream and serve it up!

Now, of course, by writing this all out and telling all of you about it, I will have jinxed myself, of course, and it will all come crashing to a chaotic finish. But then, at least I’ll have something to blog about!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dutch Oven Chile Verde for Cinco De Mayo

So, today is Cinco de Mayo. There are those that would say that this is more of an American holiday than a Mexican one. It’s not even a national mandatory holiday. Originally, it celebrates a victory over the French at the battle of Puebla in the 1860’s. Now, it’s a chance for Mexicans in America to celebrate their heritage. Like for a day we all get to be Mexican, like on St Patrick’s Day, we all get to be Irish.

At any rate, in my own attempt to be Mexican for a day, I made some Chile Verde. As usual, I gathered this recipe from a number of sources, mostly from the good folks at the Dutch Oven Cooking Yahoo Group.

Whenever I have chile verde, I remember once when we were foster parents, in a mex-american restaurant with one of the kids we were hosting at the time. He was of Mexican descent, probably second or third generation. He was getting all uptight about how inauthentic the food and atmosphere was, and talking all about brown pride and “la raza”. Then when he ordered it, he pronounced it like a gringo: “chilee virdee”. He was a funny kid.

Anyway, here’s the recipe I used. I don’t know how “authentic” it is, but man it was tasty!

Dutch Oven Chile Verde (pronounced “Chee-lay Vehr-thay”)

12” dutch oven
Lots of coals below


  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 lbs lean pork, cubed
  • 3 mild anaheim chili, seeded and sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced (or more, to taste. In retrospect, this verde turned out pretty mild. I'd have added another jalapeno or two.)
  • 8 large tomatillo, husk peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon dried ancho chile powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tsp corn starch

First, I got some coals going, and I sliced up the onions. I put the oil in the bottom of the dutch oven, and added the onions, the garlic and the pork. I put all that on the coals to brown.

Then, in a bowl, I chopped up all the other veggies (I’d never used tomatillos for anything before), and added the spices. The amounts here were from a recipe. They’re good guidelines, but I didn’t stick to close to them.

Once the meat was browning, I added everything else, and let it boil for about 45 minutes, covered. Then, I let it simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour or so uncovered, to boil down, some. By that time the tomatillos had dissolved, like tomatoes do, and I added the cornstarch (mixed with a bit of water to help it dissolve), just for a tich of thickening.

In the process of cooking, some neighbors were having some friends over, and invited us as well, so I took the whole pot over. He’d made some rice, and heated up some black beans. I brought tortillas as well. They also had pork chops and veggies, and it make for a great pot luck party.

When I eat Chile Verde, I like to mix in the rice and the beans, tear up a flour tortilla, and scoop up the mixture in the tortilla. I don't know if it's more or less authentic, I just like the taste of all the foods mixed in. The rice adds texture, the pork and the chile give great flavor, and the the tortilla has a bit of a salty zing to it.


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