Friday, November 28, 2008

Dutch Oven Pumpkin Pie

This is the kind of day that I like. Low key, getting a lot done but with no stress or pressure. My wife went shopping with some friends late last night/early this morning, trying singlehandedly to save the economy. So, she slept most of the day. My kids played with friends and on the computer.

Meanwhile, I got up and cleaned after the party yesterday. Last night, I had put the remains of the bird into the crockpot (I know, I know, it's not the dutch oven, but...) with some water, so this morning, there was some delicious stock. I got that portioned out and in the freezer, and pulled what meat I could off the bones.

Then I started on the Pumpkin Pie. I had thought to just bake up the pumpkins this morning, and maybe make the pie tomorrow. But it all cooked up, and life was so relaxed today, I went ahead and made the pie. I followed the directions just as I did last year. I used a hand blender to puree the pumpkin a little better, so it wasn't as stringy. Whipping up the egg whites makes it one of the lightest and fluffiest pumpkin pie I've ever tasted. I really comes out great!

And this time, I put just a smidge more shortning in the crust, and rolled it out a little thinner than I have with the apple pies of the past. It made for a great crust that was tastier and easier to work. Overall this turned out to be the best pie I've ever made. It was a real "he shoots, he scores" moment to open up the oven and see it cooked and smell the spices.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dutch Oven Citrus Thanksgiving Turkey

I got the idea for this one last week watching the Food Network. Up until then, I had pretty much planned on doing the usual herbal thang that's been in my 14" Dutch Oven for the last few Thanksgivings. But when I saw them stuffing oranges and lemons in the body cavity, I got really intrigued.

Unfortunately, when I went back a few days later, I couldn't find the recipe. I'd forgotten the show I'd seen it on, as well as the chef's name that demo'ed it.

Still, the 'net is huge, and after a few searches and a bit of experimenting, I arrived at my usual conglomeration of ingredients, pulled from many different recipes.

The results were staggering. It was moist and tender (most of the time dutch oven turkeys are), and the delicte hint of lemon and citrus throughout the meat was especially tasty. My guests (excellent chefs in their own right) pronounced it delicious, and my wife said it was the best turkey she'd ever tasted.

Dutch Oven Citrus Thanksgiving Turkey

14" Dutch Oven

12-13 coals below
22-24 coals above

11-13 lb hen turkey


1/2 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon garlic
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/8 cup chives/green onions
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
a big pinch of kosher salt
liberal shakes coarse ground pepper


1 lemon, cut into pieces
1 orange, cut into pieces
1/2 medium onion, diced

Surrounding veggies

1 large Potato, quartered and sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1/2 cup baby carrots, or sliced carrots
3-4 sprigs of sliced celery
1/8 cup chives/green onions
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley

On top of it all

1-2 sliced citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruit)
More kosher salt
More coarse ground black pepper

I pulled the turkey out of the freezer and put it into the fridge for a few days before Thanksgiving. It was getting soft, but still quite frozen the night before, so I put it in my kitchen sink to fully thaw overnight. Even still, there were still some frosty parts deep inside when I went to put in my stuffing.

I started off lighting up a lot of coals. You can see from the header, there, that we're talking around 40, just to get it started. Once it was cooking, too, I developed a system of transferring on new coals as the old ones burned off that worked pretty well. More on that in a minute.

In the kitchen, first, I cut open the turkey bag and let it drain. I put it onto a towel on my kitchen counter. Then, I made the baste. I put the softened butter in a bowl, and zested up a lemon. I added that and the juice to the butter, as well as the garlic, etc... It was pretty easy to mix. I also cut up the stuffing items and got those ready.

The stuffing step was pretty easy. I just packed it full, alternating items between the lemons, the onions, and the oranges. I pressed it in pretty tight, partly to get more there, and partly to squeeze it a bit to get more juices flowing from the fruits. Then, I put that into my 14" dutch oven. People are sometimes surprised that I can cook a turkey in a dutch oven, but they're often looking at the 20+ pound toms. We've only got four in the family, and with only two guests, the smaller bird makes more sense, and it fits in my oven.

Then, I took my baste and coated the top of the bird with it. I like to poke holes in the skin to allow the baste and the seasonings to seep in. Then I sprinkled it with more kosher salt (I like the bigger granules) and the pepper.

Then, I cut up the surrounding veggies, and packed those in surrounding the bird. Finally, I added the slices of citrus on top. It was ready for the coals.

In some ways, this qualifies as a basic dutching dump meal, because you really do just put everything in and the cook it on the coals. But because there's so much in the management of the heat, over such a long period of time, I'd hesitate to call it "basic".

About every 20 minutes, I'd pour a few more fresh coals into the metal chimney next to the dutch oven. Then, I'd shake it up to circulate the already lit coals in between the new ones, so they'd all get lit. Then, every so often, as I could see the coals burning down, I'd pull 5-8 larger lit coals from the chimney fire, and add them on top. I'd pull 3-4 and just set them on the bottom. By doing that, the old coals burned out, the new ones came on frequently, and I was pretty much able to maintain a 350-375 degree temperature throughout. It took about 3-4 hours to cook. A little longer than I'd wanted, but it was worth waiting for, and my guests were patient. The last 30 minutes or so, I put a lot of extra coals on the lid, and that helped brown the upper skin.

When you take it off the coals, bring it in for everyone to ooh and ah and sniff over, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. That'll finish off the cooking and let the meat settle into the juices and the seasonings.

Another hint I learned from the Food Network. When you're carving the turkey, cut off the leg first, then in a deep sweeping cut, take the whole breast off. Set that on the plate, and slice it into pieces. That way, not only is it quicker, but everyone gets a bit of the crispy and flavorful skin as well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sourdough Strains?

Let's take a quick sidestep from the main discussion of Thanksgiving.

I've been taking an interest in sourdough cultures lately. I've been wanting to catch a wild strain of yeast. The other day, I put some milk and flour outside in our back yard. I left it there for a couple of days, but nothing started. Maybe I shoulda left it out longer, maybe it's too cold. I dunno.

So, I'm asking in sorta open forum, here. Anyone have any advice on how to catch a wild strain of sourdough? Anyone have a wild strain they'd be willing to share?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Preparations for the Big Dutch Oven Meal on Thanksgiving!

Last year, when I made that pumpkin pie, things were different.

First of all, I did it right around Halloween, not around Thanksgiving. So, I was a little earlier in the year. Second, I remember the stores carried the small pie pumpkins all the way through the Thanksgiving holiday.

The practical upshot of these two factors was that I was having a very tough time finding pumpkins to make my pie out of. I went from store to store, on a holy and sacred quest for the most sincere of pie pumpkins. I searched grocery stores, farmer's markets, nuthin. I had pretty much resigned myself to not doing it this year. I was more than a bit bummed by that, because I'd looked forward to it all year.

So, today, I took a different route to work, and drove past one of those little farmer's produce stands, and I saw them! I was so psyched! I almost left rubber on the asphault, I was so excited. But I pulled over and bought these to marvelous specimens for only a buck. You can't get much better than this!

And we bought our turkey the other day. I was originally planning to use the
same old herbal baste and stuffing that I've done every year since two Christmases ago. But then, a few days ago, on the Food Network, I saw this bit about brining the turkey and stuffing it with quartered lemons, oranges, and onions. It really sounds great. I might give it a try...
Oh, and here's a picture of some bread I baked the other day. I would have posted about it, but my computer was down. It still is, in fact. I'm writing this on my son's. Not convenient, but it works. It was really good bread. I was trying out this new procedure I'd found in this book that talks about taking the yeast and letting it proof with some hot water and flour for about an hour or so, before you start adding the rest of the flour and the other ingredients. I'm going to do it again really soon, and I'll step through it in more detail for you all.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dutch Oven Mongolian Stir Fry

There are some local Chinese restaurants here in Salt Lake City that do something called “Mongolian Stir Fry" (sometimes: "Barbecue”). You get a bowl and you go through this line like a buffet. First you pass the meats. There’s all these meats that are sliced really thin, almost like potato chips. Beef, pork, chicken, and others are all there. Then you go past noodles and vegetables. You get to choose what you want, and you put it all in your bowl. Then you get to pour in all kinds of sauces, and add garlic and hot sauce if you like.

Then you hand it off to a chef (who, in Salt Lake City, is usually Mexican, it seems. Go figure…), and they put it on this big round metal disc like a table, heated with gas from below. They flip it and toss it. If you’re lucky, you get a chef who’s a bit showy about it. Finally, in a whoosh, they scrap the cooked food off the cooking table and onto your plate and hand it to you, ready to eat.

I love it. It’s great food, and fun to watch. One thing I love about it is, like wokked stir fry, the veggies are cooked, but still crisp.

So, I got to thinking that I could do that, too, in my dutch oven. And today, I tried it.

Dutch Oven Mongolian Stir Fry

8” Dutch Oven
12” Dutch Oven

8-10 coals each above and below 8” dutch oven
20+ coals below 12” dutch oven

In the 8”
  • 2 cups chicken Broth
  • 1 cup rice
  • salt

The Mongolian Stir Fry line

  • Chicken, sliced thin
  • Beef, sliced thin
  • Pork, sliced thin
  • Shrimp
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Celery, sliced
  • Onions, sliced
  • Bean sprouts
  • Snow peas
  • And any other veggie you care to add

The Sauces
  • Minced garlic
  • Soy sauce
  • Vineagar
  • Teriyaki
  • Hot Sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Other herbs and spices
  • Any other oriental market sauces you care to add

I started out by lighting and heating up the coals for the 8” dutch oven. Light extras, because you’ll be using more for the 12” and you’ll need them to keep the fires going. While those were getting hot and white, I sliced up the meat and the veggies.

I put the rice and the stock into the small dutch oven and put it on the coals. The way I cook rice is to simply watch it for steam venting. That tells me that it’s been boiling for a bit at that point, and I just keep it on for about another 10 minutes. Then I pull the coals off, and just let it sit for a while longer with the lid on. The less you remove the lid, the better. If you can cook it completely without ever lifting the lid, you’ve perfected the art of cooking rice in a dutch oven!

Once the rice is on the coals, I set up the side fire with more coals. By the time the rice is almost done, those coals are ready. I put those coals on the little dutch oven table and put the 12” dutch oven on them, no lid, with a couple of shakes of olive oil on the bottom. Then I called the family dinner!

They picked up bowls in the kitchen, and filled them with the ingredients they wanted in their stir fries, and poured on the sauces they wanted, as well as the spices they wanted. They brought these to me, the chef!

By this time, the dutch oven and the oil was heated, and I just took the first bowl and poured it in. I had a couple of wooden spoons and I used them to stir the food as it was cooking. At first, I just did a quick stir to make sure it all got coated with the oil, then kept it cooking, stirring and tossing it every few minutes.

While it was cooking, I put rice in the bottom of their bowl, and when it was all done (I might have added a little salt, pepper, and garlic occasionally), I scooped it out with the spoons and put it onto the rice. Maybe 3-5 minutes tops, dinner DONE!

This would be a great way to host a party. You'd just have to make sure that you had enough ingredients and rice for everyone. You could even have 2-3 dutch ovens going, each cooking the stir fry.

Bonus note!

This morning, before church, Brendon was going to make his famous Pizza for his visiting grandpa. He asked me if he could do it in the dutch ovens. Duh! Of course!

So, this turned into a full dutch oven weekend. Three whole meals cooked in the black pots!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Basic Dutching – Dutch Oven BBQ Pork Ribs

A while ago, we bought this rack of ribs, and I always thought we’d just throw it on the grill. But this week, I got to thinking that it would be fun to try and do them up in the dutch oven. I looked around and found a bunch of different recipes, and a few ideas.

I found a bunch of recipes that made it out to be truly the ultimate in basic dutching. One, in fact, was the purest of simple. It said to cut apart the ribs, put them in the dutch oven and pour barbecue sauce over them, then to cook them for about an hour and a half.

It doesn’t get much more basic than that!

So, even though I like it simple, I can’t leave it at that… You know me! So, I just had to tweak it up a bit. First a spice rub, then some homemade barbecue sauce.

It is still very simple, only two steps. My son proclaimed it the best ribs he’s ever eaten. I was even a little bit impressed, myself! I based the recipe off of one I got from the book of recipes from the 2008 IDOS World Championship Cook Off*. So, it’s at least got a great pedigree.

Dutch Oven BBQ Pork Ribs

12” dutch Oven
8-9 coals below, 17-18 above

  • 2-3 lbs rack of pork ribs
  • One medium onion

The Spice Rub
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • ½ Tbsp paprika
  • ½ Tbsp salt
  • ½ Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder

The BBQ Sauce
  • 1 18oz jar apricot preserves
  • 2 8oz cans tomato sauce
  • ½ cup mustard
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vineagar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp crushed red peppers
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

I started by lighting up about 35 coals or so, enough for the pot and a few extra for the side fire. While those were getting warmed up, I got the ribs ready. First, I mixed up the spices in the rub. Next, I put a little oil in the bottom of the pot. Then I sliced up the onion, and layered it over the bottom of the dutch oven. I cut the rack of ribs into three pieces (you could cut it into individually separate rib bones if you wanted), and coated them on both sides with the spice rub, placing them into the dutch oven. I put that on the coals.

While that was cooking, I mixed up the sauce. I just put it all into a bowl, and mixed it up.

After about a half hour, I added some more fresh coals into the side fire. Within 15 minutes, the original coals were pretty died down and I was replacing them with the newer coals. I checked the ribs and they were cooking up nicely.

Pretty soon after replenishing the coals, I brought out the BBQ sauce, and poured it over each rib piece. I turned each one over and smothered the other side as well.

I wanted the sauce to glaze onto the meat, so instead of just putting the lid back on, I wedged one side open a little bit, so the moisture could escape. Since some heat would be escaping, too, I added a few extra coals on the bottom and on the top.

The total cooking time was between an hour and a half to two hours. Probably closer to two.

When I brought it in, it was covered with this delicious glaze, and the smell of the sauce permeated the house. Wow. It was GREAT!

*From Scott and David Clawson, 2007 IDOS World Champions , with Jared Cahoon

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dutch Oven Herbal Chicken and Potatoes

Yesterday, I was really needing to cook.

My life is seriously stressful right now, and I needed to unwind. One of the best ways for me to do that is to cut up some food and put it over coals. Then, I get to watch it while the coals burn down. That all adds up to some serious relaxing.

So, I didn’t want to dig up something new. I didn’t want anything that would particularly challenge me or make it very difficult. I just wanted to cook something. I also wanted it to be something that I knew I could do well, and something that I knew I could really do better than I’d ever done before. I also didn’t want to go shopping for exotic ingredients, so I knew it would have to be done with stuff on hand.

Thank heavens for frozen chicken, onions, and potatoes. You can do almost anything with those three basic ingredients and it’ll work.

Dutch Oven Herbal Chicken and Potatoes

12” Dutch Oven

12 coals each below and above

  • ½ lb bacon, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 1 lb boneless chicken, cubed
  • 2-3 medium to large potatoes, quartered and sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • Liberal shakes of parsley, thyme
  • Salt, Pepper
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

I started by lighting up 25-30 coals in a pile, and letting them get white edges. While those were heating up, I started cutting up the bacon, the potatoes, the onions.

Once there were enough hot coals, I spread them all out underneath the dutch oven, and added the bacon pieces, separated into the pot. I kept a few coals aside, to light other coals later. It took a while to crisp up the bacon, and I also added the garlic in to roast up as well. After the bacon was crisp, I added in the onions, and cooked them until they were translucent. By this time, the coals were burning down, so I added a stack of fresh charcoal to my side fire.

Once the onions were done, I added everything else. At that point, I pulled half the coals from the bottom and put them on top. From then on, it was just a matter of stirring it every 15 minutes or so until it was all done. That took probably about 30 to 40 minutes. The chicken was cooked and the potatoes were soft.

As it was cooking, I got to thinking that it would be tasty to serve it on rice, and to have some desert, so I put a cup of rice with 2 cups of broth into my 8” dutch oven. Then I made a dump cake with peaches, yellow cake mix, sprinkled with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

It all cooked up great! It was nice to have it all turn out well.


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