Monday, September 29, 2008

Guest Blogger!

I got to be a guest blogger over at Cooking-Outdoors.com! Come check it out!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

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 Snopes.com

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!

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