Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread

My sister is the greatest. Every year, when we get together for Christmas, she gets each of us a gift that's well-thought out. I'm always amazed.

This year, she got me two presents that were really great. One was a book, called “The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread”. Another was a tiny little bit of sourdough start. I was really excited. I've started reading the book, but I haven't gotten too deep into it, but I wanted to use this start before I went and killed it or something. I used a basic bread recipe from "The Baking Book" by LLoyd Mexon, but tweaked it a little bit. I'd read that milk can make bread a bit fluffier, and that the lactobacillus in yogurt enhances the flavor of sourdough bread, too, so I thought I'd try that as well. Anyway, here goes...

Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread with Milk, Honey and Yogurt

12” Dutch OvenEnough coals to do 400°

Step one: Waking the start
  • ½ cup warm (not hot) water
  • ½ cup flour
  • A small pinch of sourdough start from a previous batch
Step two: The Sponge

  • 1 cup sourdough start
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1-2 cups flour
  • 1 tablet of vitamin C

Step three: The Dough

  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 Cup yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • A lot more flour

So, since I only had a little pinch of sourdough start from my sister, my first step was to make some more. Since it had been in the fridge, I didn't want to blast it with hot water, so, I just mixed the water and flour together and the stirred and blended in the pinch of start. Actually, I didn't want to use it all, because if it didn't work, I didn't want to lose the start. So, I guess I only used a half a pinch. Sue me.

This was late the night before. I set that aside in a bowl to grow. When I woke up in the morning, it was a frothy and bubbly goo.

Then, I made the sponge. That was basically just adding more water and flour. Pretty simple. I did have some extra start, which I set aside in a baggie in the fridge next to the original pinch (now a half pinch) of start that my sister gave me. I took a small tablet of vitamin C and ground it up under a spoon. That got mixed in. I've read (and seen) that a bit of vitamin C can accelerate yeast growth. Where wild yeast always takes longer to ferment, I occasionally like to encourage it.

So, with this now set aside, I pulled out the milk and the yogurt from the next set of ingredients, mixed them and set them aside to get to room temperature.

A few hours later (about 4, actually), the sponge looked like it had doubled in bulk. So, it was time to mix the dough. I started by adding a cup off flour and all the other ingredients there in step three. I stirred that all up in the bowl, and it made a pretty loose and runny dough. I put a lot of flour (about a half cup or so) onto my kitchen counter top and dumped the dough out onto it. Then, I started kneading and flouring, kneading and flouring, over and over, until the dough stopped being so sticky and started feeling like a smooth dough. Then I kneaded a bit more beyond that.

Then I shaped it into a ball, sprayed it with oil and put it aside in a bowl. It took about another 4-5 hours to raise to double the bulk.

At that point, I punched it down, and reshaped it into a ball again. I was surprised that it was still bigger than I expected. I set it in the dutch oven, and made three smooth slices in the top. I set that aside to proof. The book said to only let it proof for 20 minutes. I was a bit skeptical. In the end, it took almost forty minutes to get the coals hot enough.

I set it out on the coals. It was a quite a lot of them, to get to 400 in the cold December air. Between the cold and heating up the dutch oven, it took a little over an hour to cook. I used a quick read thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be up to 190 or so.
When it was all done, I sliced it up and served it to our visitors. Even the lady that swore she didn't like sourdough bread recipes loved it. Of course, it didn't really have a harsh sourness. It was there, but not as edgy. It wasn't a “San Francisco” kinda sour.

Still a delicious sourdough bread, though.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Dutch Oven Christmas Party

Today was a big dutch oven day, in many ways. I was up cooking from 8:00 in the morning, until 4:00 in the afternoon, then cleaning and conditioning afterward.

Jodi's annual family Christmas party was today, and many of them asked her if I would do that citrus turkey that I'd done for Thanksgiving. I was cool to do it. Then her stepdad said he would buy the turkey and got a 22 pounder. That's OK, but it was too big for my 14" dutch oven. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. I'd looked into buying one of those Maca big deep oval ovens. They look so cool. Since they're oval, they're perfect for turkeys.

Like I said before, we can't afford it, at least not this year.

So, I got on the IDOS message board, and asked if anyone had one they would loan. Within a day, I got a response. We communicated, and made the connection to pick it up. Now, not only did I get to use a dutch oven, but I've a new friend.

Jodi's family was not only impressed with the food, but also impressed that someone would loan that out to someone they'd met online. Dutch oven people are such cool people.

So, I made three recipes I'd done before today. One was the Dutch Oven Citrus Turkey. I started that one on the coals at 8:00. It was pretty tricky keeping the right amount of heat on it, but I kept replenishing and it worked. I went through almost two big bags of kingsford in the whole day. I started out with just the stuffed turkey and the baste. The veggies I added after about three hours of cooking.

Right after I got the turkey on the coals, I started mixing the bread. I used the same recipe I've used so many times. And I used the glaze from this day. I'm not so specific with the amounts, especially the brown sugar. I just mixed it to make a thick syrup, almost a paste.

My stepdad-in-law had also bought a couple of spiral-cut hams, so I put those in the 14" dutch ovens, and did my best ham evarr soy sauce/mustard/honey glaze recipe. And it turned out even better than that time.

The family raved about them all. Well, the turkey and the ham mostly. I only heard a few comments on the bread, but I loved it a lot. It had this sweet citrusy taste, and with butter it was heavenly.

When it was all done, I got the dutch ovens cleaned and put away. Tomorrow, my friend said he'd be out in this area and will pick up his oven. It was just a wonderful day. My muscles are all sore from hefting around big iron dutch ovens full of food, but it was pretty wonderful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Loaner Dutch Oven!

Well, Jodi, my dear wife, bragged up my Thanksgiving turkey to her family, and now I get to do it again for the whole family for Christmas. I'm pretty stoked.

But I did have a big bump in it. There's some 30 + people coming! That means a big bird. Which also means a big big dutch oven. Unfortunately, I don't have one...

So, I got on the 'net. There it was... A Maca 12” x 18” deep dutch oven. Perfect for a 20+ lb bird. Unfortunately, it's also about $170. Plus shipping. I'm sure it's worth every dime. I know I'd pay it if I had it!

But I also jumped to the IDOS forums, and I thought I'd take a shot. I asked if anyone had one to loan in the Northern Utah area. And within a day, someone (a Presbyterian minister from Layton) volunteered his! Are dutch oven people cool or what?

So, today after work, I drove up to pick it up. I only got lost two or three times, but he was very patient and helped me find his chapel. He even helped get unstuck from the ice in the parking lot after I picked up the oven. What a cool guy.

I can't wait to try it out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dutch Oven Spatzle with Onions

In my never-ending quest for dishes from all over the world to cook in my American Dutch Oven, I came across Spatzle (pronounced "Sh-PAYTS-luh"). I first had the dish cooked in the kitchen of my wife's cousin and best friend. She had spent some time working for our church in Munich, Germany. I really loved the dish, and I got it in my head to try it out. I haven't done many dishes from Northern or Central Europe (Except the rye bread). I thought it would be fun to try.

I did a bit of research, and discovered that the dish I had eaten was only one variation of millions of possibilities. Spatzle is a sort of German pasta/dumpling, and they put it with a wide variety of sauces, fillings, and other things. It's mostly served as a side dish, actually.

But, I still decided to do it mostly like I'd first encountered it. I say, "mostly", because I can never leave anything alone...

This dish is really done in two steps.

Step one: The Spatzle

8" Dutch Oven

15 + coals below

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp (or a liberal shake) of nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • ~1 cup water

I started up the coals, and put the 8" dutch oven on them, with about 4-5 cups of water in it. While that was heating and boiling, I mixed the batter. I mixed all the dry ingredients, then added the eggs. Finally, I started adding the water a little bit at a time. I added a little, then stirred, then added, then stirred. My wife's cousin (cousin-in-law?) had said that it needs to be like a very thick cake batter. I actually probably went a little to wet this time. I would probably used just around 3/4 cup of water. Maybe a little more.

I'd read that there were two ways to make the spatzle, one is to put the dough into a collander and press it through the holes. The other way is to have an actual spatzle press (which is the method I used). I'm not sure which one would be easier or messier. The jury's still out.

But you hold the press or the collander over the boiling water, and press the batter through the holes into the dutch oven. It'll drop into the water and sink. When the water boils and the spatzle strings start floating a couple of minutes later, let it boil for just a moment more, then fish it out with a slotted spoon. Drain it and set it aside. I'm told you can even put it in the fridge for another day.

You do it in bits. Squeeze a bit of batter into the water, let it cook, pull it out, then do it again. Repeat it until all the batter is cooked. Then you're ready for...

Step Two: The Main Dish

12" Dutch oven

8-10 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • The spatzle
  • 2-3 medium onions
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2-3 chopped green onions (including greens)
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • juice of one lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3-4 links of smoked sausage or bratwurst
  • 2 handfulls of grated mozarella

I stared off with all the coals under the dutch oven, and started sauteeing onions, the garlic, the spatzle, and the mushrooms. I Let them sautee until just a just a little brown. Then I added the lemon juice, and the salt and pepper. One last stir.

Then I arranged the sausage lengths on top (I put them all on one side because my wife doesn't like sausage much). Finally, I topped it with the mozarella.

Then I reset the oven on the coals as listed above and let it bake for about 20 minutes, enough to combine all the flavors, cook the sausage, and melt the cheese.

Then, dish it up and serve!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dutch Oven on the Web: A DOG Video

I just found this video on YouTube about a DOG. For the uninitiated, that stands for Dutch Oven Gathering. I've always wanted to attend one. I think it would be a blast. Unfortunately, they always seem to occur on days where I have family commitments, or some other thing going on. Our local group here is the Storm Mountain Chapter of the International Dutch Oven Society (IDOS). Ranes Carter has been instrumental in setting up a whole bunch of cookoffs and DOGs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Failed Experiment

Last night I took one of those frozen sourdough balls out and put it in a bowl with some hot water and flour all stirred up. I wanted to see if I'd have sourdough start by morning.

Not so much.

I checked it a couple of times before I went to work in late morning, and again when I came home this evening. Still nothin'. Bummer.

Oh, well.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread (A New Way)

Today I made sourdough bread in my dutch oven. I did it a little bit differently than I did last time. I did it based on some instructions I found in "The Baking Book" by LLoyd Mexon. Then I also started an experiment, that I'll write about in a bit.

Making the Start

Plain yogurt
Tap Water

About four or so days ago, I put a cup of plain yogurt in a plastic bowl with about a cup of flour and mixed it all up. It was pretty thick, so I added a little tap water. Every day after that, I'd scoop out about a big bit with a 1 cup scoop and replaced it with about a half cup of flour and a half cup of liquid (sometimes water, sometimes yogurt). That's called "feeding the start". For a long time, nothing happened. Nothing. I was looking for a foamy muck to form, but it just was gloppy goo.

Finally, yesterday, there was foam!

What that means is that there were yeast germs in it. They landed in the bowl from the air, and began growing and making the start active.

I was pretty excited. I remembered my experience last time, though, so I still fed it for another day. Just wanted to make sure. It was growing pretty well this morning. So, I went to the next step...

Making "The Sponge" 1 Cup of Start (the first step)
2 1/2 Cups hot tap water (at about 110 degrees)
4 Cups flour

I took a cup of the start and added it to a bowl (non-metal, 'cause I'm told that metal can kill the yeast, or at least slow it down). I mixed all the stuff in and stirred it up. I stretched some saran wrap over it and I left it to grow. Just a few hours. It got all puffy and looked like a big wet sponge. All ready for step three...

Making the Dough 2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 Tablespoon salt
3-4 more cups of flour

So, when it was ready, I uncovered it and added the sugar, the oil, the salt and a cup of flour. I mixed all that up with my trusty wooden spoon. Then I spread about a cup of flour on the countertop and turned the "pre-dough" out onto it and began kneading it. Every time it got sticky, I would sprinkle on about another quarter to half cup of flour and keep kneading. I kept going until it was pretty much not sticky any more, and felt smooth and firm. I know that's pretty meaningless, but after a while of baking bread you kinda get a feel for what bread dough should feel like.

Once it was done kneading, before I shaped the round ball to start the rise, I cut off about a handful/cupful of dough. That was for the experiment. More on that later, again.

Then, I greased the bowl, and set the dough ball in it, and greased the dough. I set that aside to rise. It took a long time, 5-6 hours. It seems sourdough usually takes more time for that.

Baking the Bread

Finally, at about 8 o'clock, It looked like it had doubled in bulk. So, I got out the coals and fired them up. By this time, it was dark and cold, so I planned on putting a lot more coals on the oven.

I spread out some more flour, and dumped out the risen dough. I kneaded it just a little bit, then shaped it into a ball and put it into a greased 12" shallow dutch oven. I slit some slashes across the top of the bread, and took that out and put it on the coals. I put about 10 coals below and 20 above. I tried to maintain a pretty hot temperature. About every 15 minutes, I rotated the oven and rotated the lid. I did replenish the coals after a while, too.

Finally, after about an hour, it was all done. And it was really great! It could've been done a bit better, maybe cooked a little longer, but with a slightly lower temperature (a bit longer) so the crust wouldn't be as hard?

The Experiement!

OK, so I read in the same book about this idea that really excited me. Since bread dough (before it's baked) has live yeast, and since yeast bugs can survive freezing, you can make little balls of dough and freeze them. Then, you can pull a ball out of the freezer, put it in a bowl with some warm water and flour, and in the morning, you have start!

At least that's what the book says. So, I'm going to try it. If it works, I think it would be a lot of fun to give off some sourdough balls as christmas gifts!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"Throw it all in the Dutch Oven" Chili

Today, Jodi had a Christmas party with her work. She helps other parents of special needs children. So, we were serving soup in a bread bowl. I made some dutch oven chili. Chili, I've discovered, is a very easy dish to make, and I've learned a few tricks.

One trick is to add cinnamon. Yummy spice, that adds some good kick, but a different kind of kick. One that you don't expect.

Another cool trick is, toward the end of the cooking, to add about a half cup of corn masa or crushed corn chips. It thickens up the broth with a rich flavor and aroma.

Other than that, it's pretty much the same as any other chili. There are a few key ingredients, and the rest of it is just what every you have on hand. Chili is one of those things that you can make with a pretty wide variety of ingredients. So, I just threw some things in.

Dutch Oven Combo Chili

12" dutch oven
20+ coals underneath

The essential ingredients

1lb ground beef or other beef
2-3 medium onions
3 cans beans with liquid
2 cans tomatoes with liquid
1/2 cup corn masa harina or crushed tortilla chips

The other things I added today (you can add whatever you like to it)

2 tbsp garlic
1-2 jalapeno peppers, cored and seeded, chopped
2-3 bell peppers
Liberal amounts of

Other things you could add

Crushed red peppers
lemon juice
Brown sugar
Barbecue sauce

This is a great dump meal, basic dutching. But you can also do it in a couple of steps. The first step would be to brown the meat and sautee the onions and garlic, and then add the other ingredients. I added it and let it simmer for about an hour and a half. Then we took it to the party and it was wonderful. Great fun.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More on the Sourdough Bread Start

I've had lots of people message me about getting sourdough bread starts. My friend Ranes offered one, as did my sister. I've had people give all kinds of advice. There are websites where you can buy sourdough start, and one where you can get it sent to you for free! Makes me wonder about shipping biological materials... But I guess yeast spores are hardly a matter of national security, now, are they?

Well, I'm gonna try to catch a sourdough bread start again. I'm going to try to do it with some plain yogurt I bought. We'll see if it works. I might order me up one from the websites, just to see what I can get...

I'll definitely keep you posted...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dutch Ovening 'Round the Web - Venison and Wild Game

I just caught this article about cooking venison and other wild game. It caught my interest because my hunter brother-in-law gave me an elk roast today. I'm excited to get it in the pot and try it out. I might even do it this weekend. But I need to do some research first.

This article says, "Like most other wild game, venison is leaner than beef or other domestic meats. The lack of internal fat can result in dry, tough dishes unless venison is cooked with two things in mind – don’t overcook venison, and use moist heat when possible." And, "Another way to incorporate moisture into cooking whole cuts of venison is to use a crock pot or Dutch oven."

Another suggestion they make is to cook venison with a lot of other moisture producing veggies like onions and peppers.

I'll keep you posted as I learn more!

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.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dutch Oven Basics: Salmon and Rice

When you’re cooking in your dutch oven, and especially when you’re just learning, you do a lot of really simple recipes, and cook a lot of easy stuff, like cobblers and biscuits from a can. These are great. They taste yummy.

But for me, I wanted to learn to cook some dishes that also carried a lot of “Wow!” factor, both in the look and in the taste. I wanted to also make some things that, when I set it down in front of people, they would really be dazzled.

I guess if you wanted to, you could look at something like that and say that I have a deep-seated need for approval and I need therapy. And you probably wouldn’t be too far off!

This dish is very simple. Like the stew from last week, it is a one-step, one-pot meal. It’s not really a “dump” meal, however, it’s more of a “layered” meal. Still, it’s very simple to prepare, and very easy to cook, too. And, when it’s all done, and you put it on people’s plates, it really wow’s them.

This, for me, is also a landmark dish. It’s one of the first ones I created myself. I took it to forth place at the Eagle Mountain Pony Express Days Cookoff one year. You’ll notice that I altered this recipe slightly from the one back then.

Baked Salmon and Rice

12” dutch oven
8-9 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 1 1/2 Cups Rice
  • 3 Cups chicken broth
  • 2 cans Cream of Something Soup1 can tiny shrimp
  • 1 tsp minced garlic

  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 small can water chestnuts
  • Chopped parsley
  • Chopped thyme
  • black pepper (preferably coarse ground, or, better, fresh ground)
  • Salt
  • 3-5 Good sized portions of salmon (1 for each person eating) It can be frozen or fresh
  • Butter
  • 2 lemons, sliced

I started by lighting up a bunch of coals. By the time all of the food was prepared and in the dutch oven, the coals were white and ready, too.

This dish is created in the dutch oven, but it’s not dumped in. It’s built up in layers. Once it’s cooking, you won’t want to stir it. The bottom layer is the rice, the broth (or water), the garlic, and the cans of soup and shrimp. I mixed those up fairly thoroughly.

Once that layer is done, I sliced up the onions and the celery. I added the water chestnuts, and stirred those together. Then, I gently laid those three veggies on top of the first layer. I sprinkled a generous amount of the parsley and the thyme over the top, as well as the salt and the pepper.

Then I covered the veggies with a layer of the salmon filets. I dusted each piece of salmon with more salt and pepper, then put a small pat of butter on top of each one. On top of that, I added two slices of lemon. The dish was ready for the fire!

While it was cooking, I turned it often. I would turn the lid about a quarter turn, then pick up the oven and turn it back the other way a quarter turn. That way, the coals were in different positions relative to the food, and it cooks more evenly. I cooked it for about an hour and only opened the lid a few times. You want to keep the steam in to cook the fish and the rice. While it’s cooking, the cells of the lemon burst and the lemon juice runs down with the melted butter onto the fish and into the rice. It’s an incredible flavor.

You have to keep heat on it. After about 30 to 40 minutes the coals will start to burn down, and so you’ll need to replenish them. About 15 to 20 minutes after I put the first batch of coals on the oven, I’ll add fresh coals to the “side fire”, where there are still a few leftover coals burning. These coals will catch the fresh ones, and once the coals on the dutch oven are dwindling, they’ll be ready to add.

Not only is it delicious, but it’s really easy to fix. And it really impresses people!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dutch Oven Basics: Beef Stew with Everything

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I were talking, and he asked me to give him some good simple recipes. Apparently his church group was having a dutch ovening event, and he wanted to get in on it. He wanted something that was delicious, even fancy-tasting, but not difficult to pull off. Not so overwhelming for a novice chef.

That got me thinking. I know a lot of really good, really simple recipes and I ought to put together a series of posts on them.

I did some digging and came up with some recipes in three categories:

  • One-pot, one-step meals: These are dishes that are full and hearty, and simple to do. You assemble the ingredients right in the dutch oven, and put it on the coals and cook it. Simple, clean, easy.
  • Two-step meals: These are dishes that have an extra preparatory step. You might have to brown the meat before adding all the other ingredients, for example. You might have to cook something in one pot, then add more to it for the final cooking.
  • Easy breads: Breads have lots of steps, and are tricky to cook. So I made a category of their own for this.

Even though I’m trying to keep things simple, I’m also trying to make them as much “from scratch” as possible. It’s easy to pour ingredients from cans and heat them up, but I find it much more satisfying to go deep and make it as much on my own as possible.

I also want to dispel the idea that “simple” is “bland”. You can still take easy dishes with few steps and with some cool spices and flavors, make them really elegant and special.

So, my plan is, over the few months or so, to do a lot of these dishes from these categories. I’ll share them here, obviously, and hopefully, give the dutch oven beginners a chance to find some yummy things to cook, and even impress their friends with. I’m also hoping that we can get some dialog going on here. I’m hoping that some of the dutch oven chefs with some real experience will also pop in and add their ideas in the comments. Hopefully we can all learn, here.

So, the first entry is: Dutch Oven Beef Stew with Everything!

12” Dutch Oven
18-20 coals below

  • 2 capfuls (or shakes) of oil
  • 1-2 lbs stew beef
  • 2 medium to large potatoes, quartered and sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 sweet peppers, chopped. (I like to choose a green and one of a different color, like red or yellow. It adds color and a slightly different flavor)
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1-2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, cored, and sliced.
  • ½ tbsp crushed bay leaves (or crumble a few whole leaves)
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • ½ tbsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • Some liberal shakes (maybe 1/6 cup) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 14 oz can beef broth
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour (added at the end)

This is one of those in category one. A one-pot, one-step meal. Sometimes I call these "dump meals", because you just dump it all in the dutch oven and cook it!

I started by lighting up about 25 or so coals. While those were heating up, I came back inside. I put a little bit of oil at the bottom of the 12” dutch oven, with the stew meat. Then I started chopping and slicing veggies. I just added everything into the dutch oven directly, stirring it up as I went. You can really make this with just about any veggies you happen to have in the fridge. I think the only ones that are “required” are the potatoes and the onions. Well, maybe the carrots.

Then, with all the veggies in, and the meat in, I poured in the can of broth, and added the salt and pepper. I’d keep adding salt and pepper throughout the cooking process.

It doesn’t really matter what order you put things in. It’s all going into the same pot, and then it gets added to the heat.

…Which was the next step. I took it outside onto the front porch (it had looked like rain, and my froth porch is covered). I spread out about 18 to 20 coals on my cooking area (a small metal table), and set the dutch oven on top of it. Within 15 to 20 minutes it was boiling, and so I removed a few coals (maybe 4 or so), to reduce the heat a little. I still had some coals going in my side fire, and I would add some to it from the bag from time to time to be able to have hot ones to replenish the ones under the dutch oven.

Every half hour or so, I’d open it up and stir it. Having that much liquid, and cooking mainly from the bottom makes this dish an easy one to learn on, since regulating the heat isn’t that tricky. As the coals die down, add new ones from your side fire. The total cooking time was probably an hour and a half to two hours. My gauge is the potatoes. When they’re done, I’m safe, and I cook it a bit longer just for more flavors.

Just at the end, I added the flour as a thickener. I imagine that I could have added it at the beginning, and it probably would have been OK, but I think it maintains the thickness better. I’ve heard that tapioca powder is a really good thickener, and it can be added at the beginning.

This is a yummy basic stew. To pick this up a bit, and take it to another level, put the dutch oven on the coals with just the oil. Let it heat up a bit, then brown the meat, the onions, the garlic, and the mushrooms. Then add everything else. Also, when you serve it, garnish it with a few crumbs of feta cheese!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dutch Oven Chicken Enchilada Soup

So much stuff to write about! Good news and bad news.

First the bad news. As is my tradition, I tried to make sweet rolls for conference. They bombed. Badly. I could NOT get them to rise, and they ended up baking up as inedible bricks. Bleah. I double-checked my recipe, and I’d followed it right. I also checked it against some other recipes in books and it seemed reasonable to work. So, I have no idea why it flopped.


But, later that day, I made a chicken enchilada soup, sort of in the style of chili’s restaurant. THAT turned out GREAT!

Here’s the recipe:

Dutch Oven Chicken Enchilada Soup

12” Dutch Oven
20+ coals underneath

½ c vegetable oil
1 chicken bullion cube
2 medium onions, diced
2 t minced garlic
1-3 lbs boneles chicken, cubed or cut into small chunks
2 t ground cumin
2 t chili powder
½ t cayenne pepper
1 jalapeno, sliced thin
Liberal pour lemon juice

2 C Masa harina
1 quart water

2-3 more quarts water
2-3 chopped tomatoes
½ lb processed American cheese, cubed

I started out by putting my 12” dutch oven on a lot of coals, about 20 or so. I put in some oil and let it heat a little while I gathered all the ingredients in the first list. Once assembled, I dumped them in and started them sautéing in the oil.

The next step is to prep the masa. This is corn masa, the same stuff used to make tamales and things. I mixed the two cups with a quart of water, and stirred out all the lumps. Actually, I got out my pastry cutter and used that for a while, too. Once the lumps were out, I added that to the pot. I’m keeping the pot covered this whole time, opening it up only to stir, because it’s cold out, and I’ve found I can keep it hotter inside if I do it that way.

Once that was bubbling, I added more water. I don’t really know how much, I just added enough to fill the dutch oven. Not to the brim, but close. I also wanted it to have the texture of a really thick soup, not a paste.

Finally, I added the tomatoes and the plastic cheese. I really don’t like using velveeta. I shudder even to type that. My wife insisted that it was the only way it would melt smoothly. Later, a friend of mine said that there was probably enough masa to keep the cheese smooth. I don’t know. I just have this aversion to “pasteurized process American cheese food substitute”. I mean, how far from “cheese” can you get?

But in the end, the result was what I was looking for. It tasted great!

As it was simmering, I put another 15-20 coals under an upturned dutch oven lid, and I heated up a stack of flour tortillas. The way I love eating this soup is to scoop it up in a torn tortilla and eat them both.

Now, this recipe makes a LOT of soup. And, it’s also VERY filling, so unless you’re feeding an army, there will be lots left over for lunches. I’ve found that when I reheat it, I need to mix in some more water to get it back to the consistency of a soup, and not so much of a gel.

Oh! And I promised another bit of good news…

Brendon, my budding chef, made fruit smoothies tonight. Ice, milk, grapes, sugar, all like he likes it, but he couldn’t find the cinnamon to spice it up. So, on a whim, he tries ground dried mint leaves. I was blown away. I couldn’t believe the taste! It had a delicious, and almost indescribable aftertaste. A bit minty, yes, but with the grapes very different! It has made me start to rethink all of my rules regarding “sweet” herbs and spices.

He’s good, that one…

Monday, September 29, 2008

Guest Blogger!

I got to be a guest blogger over at! Come check it out!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brendon makes Pizza!

Here's a proud Dad moment over at Mo' Boy! Brendon makes Pizza!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reseasoning My Ovens

I got started cooking in my dutch ovens two years ago last Father’s Day, when my wife presented me with a 12” shallow Lodge Dutch Oven. I didn’t remember it at the time, but apparently at some point in our marriage I had mentioned to her that I wanted to learn to cook in one. So, she surprised me with one.

I knew that I would have to practice with it or I’d never get it down. We only go camping at best twice a year, and I knew that I’d never really learn if that were the only times I’d cook. So, I started cooking dinner every Sunday.

At the time, we were living at my in-laws, waiting for our current home to be completed. Sometimes, my food turned out great. Sometimes, not so much. But my family was patient with me, and not so critical when it didn’t turn out so yummy.

At any rate, I’d been noticing that the patina that I’d built up over time on that, my favorite dutch oven, was wearing a bit thin. The outside, also, was a sort of dark amber/brown, a sign that it was never truly seasoned correctly. The 8” dutch oven that my son had picked out for me, for a birthday present later that same year was also showing some wear. So, this week, instead of cooking something, I decided to reseason those two pots.

And, I thought it would be a good thing to share with all of you. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures.

I started by firing up my gas grill and removing the upper level grills, to make room for the dutch ovens. I have a thermometer on the lid of my grill, so it was easy to track the temperature (assuming it’s accurate). My goal was to heat it up to 400°. More about that later. I put the pot part of the dutch oven, upside down, without the lid, on the grill. The lid, I set on the legs of the upturned pot. I put the 8” dutch oven next to the 12”, set up the same way. I just let them heat up, with the grill lid down to trap the heat.

When they were at 350°, climbing up to 400°, I pulled the dutch ovens off the grill and set them on my back porch. Brendon and I spread a layer of shortening over them, inside and out, lids and legs and all. It was very tricky putting on the grease, because the pots were very hot. A couple of times I touched the pot a little and got zinged. I put the pots back on the grill the same way as they’d been heating up, and closed the lid again.

After about 20 minutes, I opened it up and both pots had a beautiful, smooth night black patina on them.

I turned off the gas, and left the lid open for them to cool a little. After a few minutes, I pulled them off and coated them again in another layer of shortening.

After I let them sit and cool, I brought them in. The 8” was perfectly coated in a shiny black patina. It looked great. The beloved 12” dutch oven was nicely covered, as well, especially outside, but there were some spots on the inside where the patina had burned and cracked, flaking off. I washed it off with hot water, using a plastic brush to shake off the flakes. It still has a good usable patina underneath, so I’ll keep on using it.

The heat was obviously too much. Two thoughts: One, that I should have been shooting for more like 350°. Two, I wonder if my thermometer on the grill is accurate. At any rate, on this grill, as the thermometer is currently calibrated, I should heat it up to read 350°.

And that’s how it’s done!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dutch Oven Jerk Chicken, with Seasoned Baked Potatoes

I tried an experiment tonight, but I’m not sure if it worked. The end result was delicious, but I don’t really know if that was because of the technique I tried or in spite of it. I just don’t know…

I saw this recipe for Jerk Chicken, and it was really intriguing. But, it’s supposed to be grilled or broiled. That means that the marinade dries in place in a sort of glaze. Since dutch ovens trap the moisture, that wouldn’t happen. So, I thought to myself, what if I could raise the lid with the heat a bit, and let the moisture out. So, I lifted the lid on a couple of sticks across the top. I had to put a lot of extra coals on it.

In the end, it worked, but I had to cook it a very long time. So, I’m not certain that there might not be a better way.

I think the way I’d do it next time is to bake it closed lid, as normal, and then change it up in the last 15 minutes. At that point, I’d take off the lid and put a bunch of coals on the bottom to reduce out all the liquid in the dutch oven, leaving only the sauce.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Dutch Oven Jerk Chicken

10” Dutch Oven

6-7 coals below
12-14 coals above

  • 2 lbs chicken (I used chicken tenderloins, but I’d also recommend boneless breasts)

  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp sweet juice (I used pineapple)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 5-6 stalks of green onions, chopped
  • 1-2 jalapenos, cored, seeded, chopped
  • 2 tbsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • shake of nutmeg
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • salt
  • black pepper

I started by mixing all of the ingredients (except the chicken in the bowl). I put those all in a ziplock and added the thawed chicken. I shook it all up to get it good and coated and put it in the fridge to marinade.

In the meantime, I started the coals, and started working on the potatoes.
Dutch Oven Seasoned Baked Potatoes

12” Dutch Oven

10 coals below
19-20 coals above

  • 5-6 medium potatoes
  • Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried parsley

I started by putting about a quarter inch of oil in the bottom of a bowl. I coated a potato in oil, then sprinkled it with the salt on all sides. I put that in the dutch oven, then repeated that with all the others. Then, I sprinkled the pepper, garlic, and parsley over all the potatoes. Those went on the coals.

At that point, the chicken came out of the fridge, and I put it in the bottom of the 10 inch dutch oven in a single layer. And here’s where what I really did and what I would do in the future diverge. I would put the dutch oven on coals with the lid on, and then, as I said above, I’d cook the chicken, then pull the lid off.

At any rate, it all tasted GREAT!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Parmesan Crusted Cornish Hens in the Dutch Oven

Looks like this is turning into a kind of a poultry month here at the Black Pot, eh? I didn’t plan that, but I’m sure liking it. This week, my wife and I found some frozen Cornish hens on sale and picked up three of them for our Sunday dinner.

I’ve seen these things in the store millions of times, and thought how fun it would be to cook them up. They seem so exotic and different, like little compact chickens.

In fact, there’s this apocryphal story about someone stuffing the body cavity of a turkey with a Cornish hen at a family Thanksgiving gathering, and then freaking everyone out when they discover the bird they’d just cooked and eaten was pregnant! I guess in the surprise everyone forgets that turkeys also hatch from eggs, and that it’s not likely that the turkey would live long with it’s child taking up all the space that the turkey’s unessential organs would normally be using… Or the fact that the “baby” bird was cleaned and plucked…

For this and other good turkey stories, see

But I digress…

I looked over the ‘net and tried to find a good recipe. I found lots, and had a bit of trouble trying to narrow it down to one that I wanted to do. I found one that was crusted with a flour, parmesan, and herbal paste, and I thought I’d try that one. As I made it, I had some trouble getting the paste to stick to the bird, but in the end it worked. The recipe below isn’t the exact one from the web, but I think it will work better, based on my experience. In any case, my wife pronounced it fabulous.

Parmesan Crusted Cornish Hens in the Dutch Oven

12” Dutch Oven

18+ coals above
8-9 coals below

  • 2-3 cornish hens (1 hen serves two)

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch salt, coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Enough olive oil to make a paste

I started by thawing the hens in the sink for hours (I don’t know how many), and then opening them out of the plastic packs, draining them and patting them dry.

I mixed all the other ingredients, and then attempted to mud up the hens with the paste. Like I said, I did have a difficult time making the paste stay on, but I did finally manage. I tried basting on a bath of whipped egg, but I’m not really sure that helped. I placed the three hens squished side-by-side in my 12” shallow dutch oven. I put that on the coals, for about an hour to an hour and a quarter.

Then, while that was cooking, I made some rice in my 8” dutch oven.

Mark’s Dutch Oven Whatever Ya Got Rice

8” Dutch Oven

6 coals below
10 coals above

  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups water
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 onion, quartered and sliced
  • Chopped green onions
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Generous outpouring of lemon juice

All these things I just dumped into my little 8” dutch oven and put on top of the 12” with some additional coals on top. It really is a “Whatever Ya Got” dish. If I’d had other veggies I woulda put them in instead.

I really like the taste of lemon rice under poultry, so I was thinking it would compliment really nicely. I was right.

When it was all cooked and came time to serve, the birds were actually more meaty than I’d originally thought when I’d bought them, so I cut each one in half down the spine line. It was actually pretty easy once they were cooked. Then I served the half on top of the bed of rice. It was great!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chicken in the Dutch Ovens this Weekend

I took a day off work today. Today is my 21rst wedding anniversary! That means that 21 years ago, in the Salt Lake Temple, my wife accepted me, and for reasons that I’m still not sure of, hasn’t kicked me to the curb yet. It was kinda special for us, because a good friend of ours got married on Saturday, in the same temple. All the time I was there, and at the reception, I kept thinking back to our wedding. At the reception, the groom had asked me to sing a couple of my songs, so I did a few that I wrote for Jodi. One of them, “The Summer of ‘87” is a celebration of the memories of the summer leading up to our wedding.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to cook this week. Our family finances have been pretty stretched out recently and it’s been difficult. That meant I couldn’t go out and splurge on all kinds of fancy ingredients. But still, I wanted to cook some things for our anniversary. My wife had bought a chicken for cooking (whole), and so I thought it would be fun to roast it. And, of course, once the roast chicken is carved, then you gotta make stock and soup out of the carcass. So, it’s been a chicken weekend!

Dutch Oven Herb Roasted Chicken

12” deep dutch oven

9-10 coals below
17-18 coals above

  • 1 roasting chicken (about 5 lbs)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

  • 2 large potatoes, quartered and sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2-3 sprigs celery with leaves, sliced
  • 1-2 crumbled bay leaves
  • Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper

  • ½ Cup butter, melted
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Minced garlic
  • Juice of 1 lime

I started with the chicken itself. After unwrapping it and shaking out all the liquid, I gave it a light coating of salt and pepper. I set that into the center of the 12” deep dutch oven. Around that, I added all the sliced veggies and all the stuff in the second set of ingredients. I really should pay attention to exactly how much of each herb and/or spice I include, but I don’t. I just shake some in. I’m learning that you should really just be liberal with them.

The next step was to make the baste out of the third set of ingredients. I got out my basting brush and slathered that onto the chicken. I like to poke holes in the chicken skin, too, to let the bastes drip down into the meat more. I put that on the coals.

From then on, it was simply a matter of keeping fresh coals on the chicken. I would open up the dutch oven about every 15-20 minutes and slap on some more basting sauce. It cooked pretty steadily for about 2 to 2 ½ hours. I stuck a small meat thermometer in the breast and cooked it to 190 degrees. I looked it up, and the chart Jodi found said it was done at 180, but I just hadn’t been paying attention, and it got all the way up to 190. I hope I’m not in trouble for that!

Then I just carved up the bird, and served it with the potatoes and vegetables that cooked alongside it. It was delicious! Very moist and tender. That’s one thing I love about cooking birds in the dutch oven. The lid traps the steam, so the meat doesn’t dry out.

I saved the bones and the leftover meat for then the next day, when I made…

Dutch Oven Chicken Noodle Soup

12” Shallow Dutch Oven

Lots of coals below

  • 1 Formerly 5 lb chicken carcass

  • 2-3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1-2 large carrots, sliced
  • ~1/4 cup lemon juice
  • More salt and pepper

  • Noodles

I started out by putting the carcass of the previous day’s roast into the 12” shallow dutch oven, with about 2-3 inches of water. I had lit up a lot of coals, and I shook them out and arranged them on my little cooking table. The carcass and the water went on that.

After about a half hour, it was boiling away. While that was boiling, I was making noodles. I went back to the black pot archives and did the herb garlic handmade pasta. I set some of the pasta aside to dry up a bit before cooking. If you don’t want to make your own pasta, you can just use it from a bag. But making it yourself is soooo much fun.

Then, I pulled the dutch oven off the coals. I took the bones of the chicken and picked off as much meat as I could. The meat I put back into the broth. The broth, by the was was permeated with all the spices and herbs that I’d used the previous day. If you don’t have the remains of a picked over chicken to boil up, you can cube up some frozen chicken breasts and boil them to make the broth. If you do, then add some of the herbs in that I used yesterday. Or any others that you want to add yourself. Go for it. It’s your soup, ya know…

Then, with just the meat and the broth left, I put that back on the coals, and came inside to slice up the veggies. Those went into the pot. Once it was boiling, I added the noodles. I made the mistake of stirring it right away, so the noodles broke up a bit too short, but they were still good.

It doesn’t take long to cook pasta fresca. I probably should have let the veggies cook a little longer before adding them. I would recommend about 20 minutes or so on the veggies once it starts boiling again, and then add the pasta for another 5 minutes or so.

If it’s too runny for your tastes, add a tich of flour and stir it all up. Then pull it off and serve it! Yum!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dutch Oven Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

This one’s a kind of a busy recipe. The original recipe calls for boiling some of the ingredients before adding to other ingredients. I did that, but I’m not really sure what that accomplishes, other than melting the butter.

It did turn out really tasty. The frosting was a bit thick and hard to spread. I had to heat it up in the microwave to make it pliable enough to spread. I wonder if the recipe has enough butter or milk.

Here it is:

Dutch Oven Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

8” Dutch Oven
10-12 coals below

12” Dutch Oven
8 coals below, 16-18 coals above

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup cocoa

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

First, I set some coals on to burn. While those were getting white, I went searching the house for the first set of ingredients. I coulda sworn that we had them all the other day. But I had to go into the basement and dig up a big bag of flour, then scrounge up some sugar. The baking soda was easy to find.

Once the coals were hot, I put the next set of ingredients into the 8” dutch oven, and put that on some coals. I stirred it frequently, and took it off once it was boiling. I poured it into the powdered ingredients gradually, while stirring. Then, I added the eggs and the sour cream.

I greased and floured the 12” dutch oven and poured in the goo. That went on the coals, as listed above. I turned it every 10-15 minutes.

While it was baking, I rinsed out the 8” and started up on the frosting

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

8” Dutch Oven
10-12 coals below

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk (plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 4 1/4 cups powdered sugar (1 16-ounce bag)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
I started making the frosting by combining the first set of ingredients into the 8” dutch oven, and putting that on some coals. Again, I stirred it occasionally until it boiled. Then I added the rest of the ingredients and stirred it up.

The cake baked for a little over a half hour. When it was done (a toothpick came out clean), I brought it in and let it start to cool in the dutch oven. After a few minutes, I put a plate on the cake in the dutch oven, and turned it over, tapping it gently on the countertop while holding the plate directly under the cake. It popped out and onto the plate as easy as… well… a piece of cake…

After it had cooled, I put the frosting on the top. I tried to put it on the side, to, but it didn’t stick very well.

When I sliced it and served it, I draped it in a little bit of hot fudge sauce I had. It was a really yummy cake!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dutch Oven Yogurt and Herb Fish

Last weekend, my family got to go fishing.

I mention that for a couple of reasons. One is that we are not really a fishing family. We go fishing pretty much once a year. There’s a program called C.A.S.T. (Catch A Special Thrill), which sets up a day where volunteer boaters take handicapped and special needs kids and their families out on a lake and everybody fishes all morning. We’ve done it three years running, and it’s always a lot of fun. I’m always impressed at the hard work of those volunteers, as well as the organizers. It’s a really impressive day.

Another reason I mention it is because this year was a very special year. It is the year that my curse was broken!

See, every time I would go fishing, nobody caught anything. I don’t just mean me. I mean, nobody. Nobody in our group, nobody in our boat, nobody. I started to get this emotional, gut-level complex. I began to think I was cursed.

But this time, I caught some, Brendon and Jacob caught some, the Pursells (our friends) caught some, EVERYBODY caught some! And since the Pursells don’t really like to eat fish, I got to bring it all home. And, today, I got to cook them!

Now, since I don’t usually catch ‘em, I sure don’t know how to fillet them. But after literally butchering the first one, I kinda got the hang of it, and the rest turned out pretty well. They were all bass. Most were smallish, with not much meat, but there were a few pretty sizable ones.

I’d found, in a cookbook I have, a recipe for a yogurt and dill sauce for chicken. I thought it would taste good on fish, so I looked at it again, and modded it with some additional herbs, and put the whole thing on potatoes. Here it is:

Dutch Oven Yogurt and Herb Fish

12” Dutch Oven
8 coals below, 16-17 above in the baking stage

  • A lot of white fish filets. I think there were probably about 10 fish we kept, most of which were 10 to 12” before filleting, and a few were as long as 14”

  • 2 small tubs of plain yogurt
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Very liberal applications of:
  • Dill weed
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper (coarse ground)
  • Any other herb or spice you want

  • 1 medium to large onion, quartered and separated
  • 1 lb bacon, cut into 1” squares
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 large potatoes, quartered and sliced

I started by Filleting the fish, and putting them all in a big mixing bowl. Then, in another bowl, I mixed all of the sauce ingredients. I poured that over the fish, and stirred it up to coat them all thick. I put that in the fridge to marinade.

I continued by sautéing the bacon, the onion, and the garlic until they were all pretty brown. I had the oven over a lot of coals at the time, probably around 25-27 or so. I added the salt and pepper, then the potatoes. I stirred it all up to coat the potatoes in the bacon grease. At that point, I pulled the dutch oven off the coals, and set it up for the baking, with the above listed coals on top and below.

Since fish cooks pretty quick, I baked the potatoes for about 20-30 minutes before adding the fish on top. Then, about a half hour later, it was all done.

I was kinda surprised by how much liquid there was at the bottom. It was almost like a soup. But the yogurt and the herbs on the fish tasted great! Fish and yogurt are not very strong flavors, so make sure that you really let go with the herbs!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Swirled Bread in the Dutch Oven

So, today was the culmination of a few of my recent posts about breadmaking. These last few efforts to do a dark bread were all pointing in the direction of baking a loaf of swirled bread. I wanted to mix up a light white bread and a darker bread and then combine them. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to combine them, but I had a couple of ideas. One was to create roll out two flat panels of each dough, stack them and roll them, kinda like a cinnamon roll. The other was to create a couple of long ropes and twist them over and around each other, then wrap that in a circle in the dutch oven.

So, I tried it today. I made up one of my wife’s honey bread recipe, and one of the cheater bread recipe. Rather than chase you around my blog trying to find those, let me just reprint them both here, especially since there were a few minor changes.

Swirled Bread in the Dutch Oven

2x12” Dutch Ovens
8 coals below each one, 18 coals above

The Dark Bread (Dutch Oven Cheater Bread)

  • 1 1/4 Cups warm/hot water (about 100 to 110 degrees f)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) yeast
  • 2 cups Bread flour
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 heaping Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1 heaping Tbsp Postum (or coffee, if ya got it)
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 2 Tbsp Molasses
  • About a tsp each of red and green food coloring (probably a tich more red)

The White Bread (Dutch Oven Honey Bread)

  • 1 cup warm/hot water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 5-6 cups flour
  • 1 egg for the glaze

I started off making the dark bread. I don’t know why I picked it, I just did. It does have a few more steps in the making. I started by activating the yeast. I put the yeast and the sugar into the hot but not scalding water. While that’s foaming up, I mixed the dry ingredients into a bowl. Then I added the butter and used a pastry blender to cut it into the powders.

Then I went to add the wet ingredients into the bowl. I added the honey and the molasses, then mixed up the colorings, and added them to the yeast mix. I poured that into the bowl and started stirring it all up.

I floured the table and kneaded for about 6-10 minutes, adding flour to the table as I went. Finally, that went back in the bowl (sprayed with oil spray) and then coated with more oil spray and covered to raise.

Then I turned my attention to the light bread. This one was pretty straightforward. Once again, I activated the yeast. One bit of advice, when you get the water hot, and then add the honey, it will pull down the temperature, so make it a bit hotter than usual.

Then I mixed in all the ingredients of the second set, saving the flour for last. If you do that, you can add it more gradually, and you can adjust it more to the texture instead of just rigidly measuring. I kneaded it up the same way, adding flour to the table as needed. That went back in the bowl the same way.

Then I cleaned off the kitchen counter and went skateboarding in the front street with Brendon. I managed to do that without killing myself. Pretty cool, huh?

After about an hour and a half, it was risen enough, so I refloured the counter and punched the dough down. I cut each loaf in half. The dark dough wasn’t as pliable, but it was still workable. After oil spraying two 12” dutch ovens, I started working on the dough.

I decided to try two different ways of wrapping the two doughs. The first one I did was to simply roll (press) the two colors into two sheets of dough about the same size and dimensions. Then I layered the dark one on top of the light one, and rolled it up, and set it in one of the dutch ovens.

The other pair I stretched out into two long snakes of dough, and twisted them together, like a peppermint stick. That got curled into a ring in the other dutch oven. I put on the lids and set them aside (outside) to proof (rise again). Soon after that, I got the coals started. I had to light a lot, since that count is about 26 for each oven. As soon the coals were ready, I checked the bread and it was nicely re-risen and ready to be baked. I brushed some beaten egg over the top, to give them a nice brown glaze, and put them on the coals.

They baked about an hour or so, until the internal temperature was between 190 and 200. They both turned out great, and tasted wonderful. Especially with the lasagna my dear wife made for dinner tonight after church. I think I like the look of the rolled up bread better, so if I do it again, I’ll do it that way. Pretty satisfying! I kinda feel like I’m getting the hang of this bread thing a bit.


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