Sunday, April 20, 2008
As I mentioned when I first created this blog, it all got started when my dear wife bought me a Lodge 12" regular dutch oven for Father's Day. I've been cooking in it ever since. I've also added five more to my collection since then.
I'm kinda curious, folks, where you're from. In the year I've been doing this, I've gotten some good contact from folks that read here, but I'm curious where everyone is reading. Post a comment and just check in and say what city or state or region you live in.
Mark Goes Public
I’ve not had many opportunities to cook for the public. This really was only my second time. The first was last year’s Eagle Mountain Pony Express Days cookoff. This wasn’t a cookoff (at lest not where I was) so we weren’t competing, it wasn’t a Dutch Oven Gathering (called a DOG by those that do them), it was really more of a demo, but on a bigger scale, with lots of cooks and booths.
When I arrived, I really had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, I was sharing a booth with Ranes, who was the organizer of the TOD part of the event. So, he knew what was going on. I was scheduled to cook a breakfast dish and a lunch dish, so I got there pretty early, and got set up and cooking right away.
Mark Becomes Official
Pretty soon, someone came by and let me know that in order to comply with health codes, I needed to wear either a hat or a hair net. I had seen some hats for sale at the IDOS main booth, so I jumped and ran over there. I’ve been intending to join IDOS for a long time, but their website doesn’t take credit cards or paypal, and I never had the cash in hand at any of the moments that I had the opportunity to sign up.
So, I signed up and bought a hat. I also got this years membership pin, which I proudly displayed on the hat. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that in my hurry to pin it on and get back to cooking, I had pinned it in upside down. Oh well.
The doors opened to the public at about , and people started coming through. I had been cooking my dutch oven biscuits and gravy, and just about the time that real visitor traffic hit, at about or so, it was all ready. The biscuits didn’t turn out as well as last week’s. I’d pulled a different recipe, and it just didn’t turn out as well. I could tell it wasn’t going to be the same, because the dough was heavier to begin with. But the gravy turned out great. I chopped the biscuits into sixths and put them into little tiny sample cups and poured some gravy on each one.
A lot of people liked them. I hope so, because I never got to taste it! All of a sudden I realized that it was all gone! I did hear lots of compliments, so that was a good sign.
Mark Sells Out
The folks at Rhodes Bread were part sponsors of the event, and in addition to doing a class over in the lesson/demo building, they also donated a ton of cinnamon rolls and other doughs for us to cook up and serve. So, since that was a part of the booth where Ranes and I were, I chipped in on that, especially after the biscuits and gravy were done.
Now, I’m a “make it from scratch” kinda guy, generally speaking. Last Halloween, for example, I decided I was going to make pumpkin pie, so I made it from pumpkins. Still, I gotta say, these frozen rolls turned out really nice. They take a while to thaw, and then to rise, but they cook up well. In this setting, especially, where you gotta make a lot for the people coming through, it worked out great.
Once we’d started cooking, one of the vendors came over and asked us to demonstrate his product. It’s an aluminum foil dutch oven liner. It looks basically like those disposable roasting pans that you can get in your grocery, but it’s shaped to fit into a standard 12” dutch oven.
At first I was skeptical. And, in some ways, still am. But Ranes and I agreed to help him out. So, we started cooking in them. In some ways, they were very convenient. The biggest benefit I noticed came the next time some of the Rhodes Rolls were done. Normally, when you’re done cooking bread, you have to grab a couple of gloves or hot pads, heft up this huge, heavy, and hot dutch oven, and flip it over onto a table to shake out the rolls. With the liner, you just lift it up, and turn it over. It was much easier.
Cleanup, of course, is much easier. I don’t have much problem with that, though. My ovens have a pretty good patina on them, so I really don’t have a tough time cleaning them up. A few scrapes, a few rinses, coat them again, and I’m good to go.
When you’re doing breads, and you’re basically heating the air around the bread, the liners work really well. In the afternoon, I did Masaman Curry, and I tried the liner for that as well. It took a little longer to sautee the onions, and to heat up the curry pasted to activate the flavors. I think that’s because there was no direct contact between the pot and the food, but there was a layer of air and another layer of aluminum.
Also, I’d gotten an email a couple of weeks ago from a company making bacon flavored salts, and they offered to send me some if I’d review them here in the Black Pot. They arrived the night before, so I took them with. I can’t say that I gave them a fair trial, though, because I only used them in the Biscuits and Gravy for the morning. The gravy had lots of sausage in it, so that would have affected the flavor, too. Plus, like I said, I never got to try anything I cooked, so I couldn’t tell you how it tasted! But I will try them in something I cook up and let you know. I did use it when I made some eggs for dinner at home, but that wasn’t in a dutch oven. Still, it tasted good!
So, for lunch, I did the Dutch Oven Masaman Curry. That had a lot of people wondering. Many who walked by had never heard of it, nor had ever tried anything like it. Still, they seemed intrigued and said they’d stop by again when it was ready.
Well, when the time came, and I was ready to declare it done, I looked up and saw a line of visitors waiting for their sample. I swear the line was three booths long. I was floored! And the other booths at the time were in between dishes, and all the people in the line were looking ahead at me.
Wow! I suddenly panicked! I started filling up the little cups as fast as I could. First the rice, then the curry. First the rice, then the curry… Finally, just about the time that the crowd started to fizzle, it was all gone. I mean gone. A completely full 12” shallow dutch oven was empty.
At that point, I was exhausted. I started cleaning up my station, because I knew that Ranes had promised that space to someone who was going to come in and cook an afternoon dish. I did help Ranes with a couple more batches of
I know this post is a long way to scroll down, but thanks for following!
Here are some pictures of the event:
I didn't get the names of these two guys, but they were participating in the youth cookoff. Initially, Brendon was going to attend with me, and maybe even participate, but then we found out that you have to be at least 12 to do the cookoff. And then, he wanted to go to a friend's house for a sleepover the night before.
Anyway, I think these guys did a barbecue sparerib dish in their dutch ovens. It looked really good, but I don't know how the judging turned out. If anyone that went to the event visits the Black Pot here, and knows who won, please post a comment!
This lady was serving up some barbecue sausages, and her friend had made stuffed mushrooms. I've been thinking about doing that as the appetizer for my mother's day dinner, so I watch her with interest. This picture also gives a bit of an idea of the crowds that were attending.
There aren't too many pictures of me here at the Black Pot. There's a couple of reasons for that. One, as a dumpy 45 year old who's losing his hair and his mind, I don't really consider my dashing good looks as a major selling point for the blog, here. On a more practical level, since I'm the one with the camera, and I'm the one cooking, it's not always easy to get a picture of the chef.
The guy in black, behind me, by the way, is Ranes. A really nice guy, even if he is stressed!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
These are folks that are just starting out in the obsess--I mean--"hobby", and are posting their efforts, their learning and their recipes. They're tackling some pretty challenging stuff, too. So, here at the Black Pot, I'm throwing them some link love!
First is: Ruthaluna's postings of pots, pans and petals. Then there's the Moss Pot. So, I wanna welcome these folks to my blogroll and my RSS reader! Keep on cookin!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Well, today was definitely NOT one of those days.
It was truly the first day of spring. I know the calendar says that a couple of weeks ago was the first day of spring, but this weekend was truly the first spring-like weather we’ve had for more than five or ten minutes. Beautiful temperatures, sunny skies, light breezes… It was a perfect day to dutch oven.
Frankly, it was a perfect day to do just about anything outdoors.
For several weeks, now, I’ve been planning this tomato soup. I’d read what looked like a really good recipe, and I’d thought of some things that, in my mind’s tastes, would really enhance it. It was to be made from scratch, as I tend to like doing. And by “scratch”, I mean “from tomatoes, not from a can". I’ve been excited to try it. In fact, I’d pretty much decided that if I could pull it off, I would make it one of the first courses of my big Mother’s Day dinner, to come in a few weeks.
I’d also thought I’d do a sourdough bread to go with it, but my start didn’t have enough germs in it, I guess, so it never really rose much. I had to throw it away. I still wanted to do a bread, though, so I thought that I’d try some biscuits again. I’ve never really had much success with biscuits (or any baking powder/soda based leavened bread). I really needed to master it.
Well, it all came together. A beautiful day, some magnificent biscuits, and possibly the best soup I’ve ever tasted. And, I decided that since it ended up being so incredibly different from the original recipe, I’d claim it as my own!
Man, what a day!
Mark’s Dutch Oven Tomato Soup
12” Dutch Oven, with lots of coals underneath to keep the soup boiling, then simmering. Somewhere around 20+.
- 2 Med Onions, chopped
- 2 Tbsp minced Garlic
- 2 Tbsp oil/butter
- 6-7 med tomatoes, peeled, chopped
- 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 Sprigs chopped celery
- 5-6 green onions, chopped (include some greens)
- 1 jalapeno, chopped
- 2 crumbled bay leaves
- Liberal shakes (at start and occasionally in the cooking)
- Coarse ground Pepper
- Dried parsley
- Any other herb or spice you like
- 1-3 Tbsp flour
I started out by firing up a whole bunch of coals. Lots of them. I put the 12” over some 18-20 coals, and put in the first set of ingredients. I just let the onions and garlic cook to transparency.
Then, once they were getting done, I added all the second set of ingredients. I seasoned it at that point, and then again later on. It took quite a while for it to start boiling. I had to keep the lid on, although I didn’t actually put any coals on the lid. I just kept it cooking and simmering while I made the biscuits.
The total cook time was somewhere around 2 ½ to 3 hours. After about an hour and a half or so, I could see that the tomatoes had pretty much dissolved. Some of the other veggies were looking pretty frail, too. I got a wire whisk and kinda beat it through the mixture to blend it better and chop up any bigger veggie chunks. If I’d had one of those hand blenders I would’ve used that. You know, the ones with the cranks that spin a couple of blades around…
After that, I let it simmer a while with the lid off. I had thought to cook it down, some, but it’s not easy to get enough coals under it to keep it boiling much without the lid on.
With about a half hour to go or so, I added the flour. I actually added it with a fork, so I could just tap it and sprinkle it into the soup. Then I’d grab the whisk and blend it in. That just thickened it up a bit. Not too much.
Dutch Oven Biscuits
12” dutch oven
11 coals below
20 coals above
- 4 cups flour
- 2 Tbsp baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ cup shortening
- 2 cups milk
- More shortening
I started by just combining all of the dry ingredients, then added the shortening into that. With a pastry cutter, I mixed it all up, then added the milk.
When that was a nice, hefty dough, I pulled it out of the bowl and onto my floured countertop. I rolled it out, the folded it over. I kept doing that five or six times. Roll it out, fold it over. Sometimes I would flour in between folds.
While I was doing all that, I’d put on some more coals. A lot of them, in fact. I was shooting for 400 degrees. Once the coal were white, I put the number shown above and below, with some more shortening in the oven. I checked to see when it would finally melt and coat the bottom of the oven.
With the biscuits rolled out, I cut them into circles with a small drinking cup, and then folded up and re-rolled the dough. Finally, I had cut all I could out of the dough, and I carried the dough rounds out to the dutch ovens. The biscuit oven was now pre-heated.
I had decided to try a trick I’d read about. I set one of the biscuit dough rounds into the dutch oven, into the melted shortening. Then, I turned it over and set it in place. That coated what was now the top of the biscuit, and supposedly that would make for better browning. I did the same with all the dough discs, and then I set the dutch oven lid with the coals back on the biscuits.
I cooked the biscuits for about a half hour, turning every five to ten minutes. That pre-heating the oven thing was just the trick. The biscuits were light, fluffy and raised up. That’s the first time I’ve done biscuits that worked that well.
So, tonight’s meal was a big success. The biscuits were finally fluffy, and the soup was all *wow* and zesty. Yummmm…
And, as I was cooking it, I realized that with only a couple of ingredient changes, it could have been a completely vegetarian meal. If I’d used veggie stock instead of chicken stock, or even just water, and if I’d used something besides milk in the biscuits.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
General Conference Cinnamon Rolls
12” dutch oven
8-9 coals below 16-17 above
- 1 Tbsp dry yeast
- ½ Cup warm water
- ½ Cup warm milk
- 1/3 Cup sugar
- 1/3 Cup shortening
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 3-4 Cups flour
- 2 Tbsp softened butter
- ¼ Cup Sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Small handful of brown sugar
- A few shakes of ground ginger
So, I got up really early and started this off. I let the yeast activate and foam up in the water. I added all the other ingredients (except the flour) and mixed all that up. Then, I started adding in the flour, a cup or two at a time. I don’t remember exactly how many it took for me this time.
Then, I started kneading it on the table. I added shakes of flour onto the table as I go along. I’ve been learning that in the past I’ve not been kneading it enough. This time, as with the last time I made a yeast bread, I kneaded it until I felt it loosen up. It takes a while, maybe 8-10 minutes. Then I set it aside to raise.
It raised slowly, and took about an hour and a half to double. Once it had doubled, I put it back on the floured tabletop and rolled it out flat, into a square (or as close to it as I could get). I spread the butter over the surface, and then sprinkled it with the mix of cinnamon and sugar (we actually had some already mixed).
Then I rolled it up, and sliced it into one inch lengths. These I set into an oiled 12” shallow dutch oven. Once all those rolls were in the oven, I set it aside to raise. That took about another 40 minutes. Even with that, it didn’t really raise like I’d expected it to. I sprinkled the brown sugar over the tops of the raised rolls, and then shook some ground ginger on top of that. Not much, though.
I put that on the coals, and let it bake for about 40 minutes. When it was all done, they were delicious!
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
This weekend was Conference Weekend. For those of you who aren’t Mormon, what that means is that we have our semi-annual General Conference. Instead of going to church like normal, we Mo’s plop in front of our TV’s, turn on our radios, or log into streaming media websites to listen to 5 two-hour sessions of spiritual instruction (spread over two days) from the big leaders of the church in downtown Salt Lake City.
It’s funny how that practice impacts family traditions among church members all over the world. Since we don’t go to church, we don’t have to get all dressed up nice, we don’t have to get the kids ready, we just turn on the TV or whatever and listen.
When I was a kid, my mom always baked something yummy while we were listening to the Prophet speak, usually it was cinnamon rolls or something like that. So, this year, I decided to follow that tradition, and I made some on Saturday morning.
For Sunday, initially, I had thought of trying out a recipe for tomato soup that I was going to do for the big Mother’s Day feast, as well as some bread or rolls. But then, we started inviting friends over. Some people’s dietary choices got in the way of some of my ideas, and I had to change my recipes. Pretty soon, I was doing Braided Bread with an Orange Glaze, An interesting fried version of Chicken Cordon Bleu with veggies and rice, and a knockoff recipe for Chili’s Paradise Pie.
How I went from a relatively simple soup with some bread to three more complicated recipes is something that I’m still trying to sort out in my mind. The argument in my head sounds a lot like, “What were you thinkin’?”
So, after doing some housecleaning until about noon, I started cooking. Soon, I had learned why the big-league cookoffs are done in teams of two. I was running back and forth like a madman. Note to Self: When preparing multiple dishes of a big meal, plan in advance! I can’t count how many times I stood in the middle of the kitchen wondering what I should do next! Once it was all done, the food was served, and it all tasted great. But, I hadn’t done the sauce for the chicken, nor for the paradise pie, either.
Anyway, I’m typing this up at work, so I don’t have time to put up any of the recipes. I think I’ll get to those over the course of the week, before I cook again this weekend. It will be simple then. And sunny, too, if the weather forecasts hold up…