Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dutch Oven Chicken Recipes, Part II

Dutch Oven Chicken Soup, with Rice

OK, it's been a while, but here I am finally posting this recipe. This is what Steve, my friend, cooked at the Taste of Dutch a weekend or two ago. It was really delicious. The way he did it was a "dump meal", so this also qualifies as a great "Basic Dutching" recipe. It's very simple.

Dutch Oven Chicken Soup, with Rice

12" Dutch Oven
15-20 coals below

  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 c. cubed chicken, cooked
  • 1 can tomatoes with liquid
  • ¼ c. rice 1
  • Tbsp. salt
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ¼ tsp. Basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp. Pepper
  • 8 c. water

Put it all in the pot. Put it on the coals and bring it to boil. This will take a while, and it will be easier covered. Then, you'll pull off some coals, just enough to keep it simmering for 45 min. With all those veggies, and 8 cups of water, you could serve a lot of people with this dutch oven chicken soup.

Now, this is the recipe that he brought with him. It really tasted great. Here's a few suggestions for variations:

  • Add a sliced up jalapeno. With this much stuff in the soup, one pepper will give it some zing without burning. To keep it tame, seed and core the jalapeno before you slice it.
  • Lemon juice would give it a delicious Mediterranean flavor! If I were to do this, I'd give it as much as 1/4 to 1/2 cup, given the amount of water in this recipe.
  • And, I, myself, would probably up the amount of chicken, just 'cause I like more and more chicken in my chicken soup.

Thanks, Steve, for coming along and for having a great time with us!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chef's Knives - Tools of the Trade

For about the last three months, now, I've been thinking just how cool it would be to have a really decent set of chef's knives. The ones that we've had stuck in our drawers for years and years have served relatively well, but I couldn't help but wonder if a really good knife would be easier to wield.

I started doing some research. I talked with my sister and brother-in-law, chefs whose opinions I trusted. I read articles. I checked out YouTube videos. I took home brochures from cooking stores. I did some serious research. But still I wasn't sure. Would a good chef's knife really make a difference? Would it be worth the money? Some chef's knives are seriously expensive!

One thing I learned is to not bother asking the help at cooking stores what knives to buy. Either they don't have a clue, so they assume the most expensive one is the best, or they have a vested interest in selling you the most expensive one.

My biggest problem was that, as a completely self-taught beginner, I had absolutely no idea how to tell if a chef's knife was truly better or not. The ones I'd been using were the only ones I knew. At the stores, they'd sometimes let me heft them, but you couldn't really cut anything with them and see. How's a guy to tell? Especially if he's really a rank beginner with next to no real experience?

Well, from all that research and gathering of information, I gleaned several points, which I'll include here:

  • The Knuckle Test--If you hold the knife in your hand, and you put the edge of the blade on the cutting block, as if you're cutting something, the base of the blade needs to be deep enough that you're not knocking your knuckles on the board.
  • The Triangle Test--The shape of a "cross section" of the blade should be a triangle. By that, I mean that from the back edge of the blade to the cutting edge should be smooth. It shouldn't have a bevel making it sharp.
  • The Stiffness Test--The blade should be pretty stiff, and shouldn't bend much, if at all.
  • The Balance Test--If you hold the blade horizontally, and balance it on your finger, the balance point should be just at about the place where the handle meets the blade, maybe even a bit into the blade.

But keep in mind that I have no formal training, and I have no idea what I'm really talking about.

As I went out shopping to find the chef's knife that matched these criteria, I had to add some additional parameters, like the Budget Test. It couldn't cost more than $40. That's partly because I still think paying $400 for a knife is a bit absurd* (especially at my skill level), and partly because our family budget really can't stretch any farther than that, anyway.

Anyway, in the end, after shopping and looking and hoping for three months, I found a knife in, of all places, IKEA. It fit all of the criteria listed above, and in addition, it looked nice. And, it was only $20 for an 8" french chef's knife. With a little negotiating with the lady of the house, I thought that I might actually be able to pick up a Santuko knife as well!

Well, I got some good spiffs from my work today, and with her blessing, I went shopping. I came home with a 6" Santuko, an 8" chef's knife, and a wood cutting board. All the way home, I was getting more and more excited, and more and more nervous. What if they're lousy knives? What if they're dull? What if...? What if...? I finally decided that even at twenty bucks apiece, they were still going to be better than what I'd been using so far.

After getting my kids in bed, I settled into the kitchen to give it a try. I got out some carrots, because I knew that it would be a good test. Carrots are stiff and kinda harder to cut sometimes. I peeled three or four and set them on the chopping block. I pulled one toward me and got it in position to cut. I positioned my left hand like I'd seen in the YouTube videos, and like I'd been practicing over the last few months. I took a deep breath, lifted the blade, and cut the carrot.

It felt like I was cutting air. It was the most amazing feeling. I made one cut and stood there, dumbfounded. I just stared at the knife and at the carrot. It was sooooo coool. I got my left hand back on the carrot and started chopping, making the circular up and down motions with my right. I could hear the clacking of the blade on the wood, but I wasn't feeling resistance. It was smooth and quick, and I was in heaven!

Then I tried it on potatoes! And on tomatoes! And onions! And chicken! I sliced, I diced, I minced, and I tried everything I knew how to do. I ended up making a chicken soup out of everything that fell prey to my new sword. ...A darn good chicken soup, too, if I do say so myself...

I am now convinced. A decent chef's knife DOES make a big difference.

*My father has a fountain pen he paid $400 for. Now THAT's absurd.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dutch Oven Chicken Recipes, Part I

Dutch Oven Fried Chicken, Wrapped in Bacon

In an effort to start establishing some "pillar content" here at the black pot, I'm embarking on a series of series. Each one will be three to four entries long, and I might even mix them up a bit.

There are three basic types of typical meat dishes, and I'll be cooking and publishing some good ones of each kind: Chicken recipes, beef recipes, and pork and ham recipes. When all that's done, I might just add in some seafood recipes.

Sorry, vegans. I'm a carnivore.

The first one is a very delicious and very, very simple one, too, so it also falls in the "basic dutching" category.

Jodi and I were attending a local expo, and there were some cooking demonstrations going on. I, of course, was enthralled. Jodi, not so much. But she sat there and endured it, and when the chef was all done and she tried what he'd been cooking, she was enthralled, too. We exchanged glances, and it was clear to both of us what I'd be cooking for sunday dinner!

Dutch Oven Fried Chicken, Wrapped in Bacon

12" Dutch Oven
18-22 coals underneath, no coals on top, lid off.

1-1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (about one piece per serving)
1 lb thick-sliced, peppered bacon (you can use thin, unpeppered, if you must)
Juice of 2-3 lemons

You'll also need some wooden skewers

This one was so simple it was almost embarrassing. But it is soo, sooo good.

I used boneless, frozen chicken Breasts. The chef at the expo used chicken Tenderloins. If I'd had any, I probably would have, too, because they're already the size and shape you need. As it was, I had to use breasts.

I thawed them, and once they were thawed, I lit up the coals. I came in and sliced the chicken into thirds in such a way as to have them be shaped in long, thick strips.

Then, I picked up a skewer, and a strip of bacon, and poked through one end of the bacon strip. Then I skewered through the chicken piece, so the skewer ran through the length of the chicken and came out the other end. I wrapped the bacon tightly around the chicken to about half way, when the strip ran out. Then, I stuck another piece of bacon on the skewer on the other end, and wound it tightly back to the middle. I shaped it a bit with my hand, and it sayed pretty well.

Finally, I broke off the skewer so that there wasn't much wood on either end of the chicken. Just enough to hold the bacon in place. I put that into my dutch oven. I repeated that process until I ran out of either chicken strips or bacon strips. In this case, I had one strip of chicken left over, and no room left in the dutch oven.

By then, my coals were hot, so I poured a bunch of them out of my chimney and onto my little dutch oven table. I put the dutch oven on top, and soon they started frying.

This is really so simple, because really, I was using the dutch oven as if it were a skillet.

Before long, it was crackling and sizzling. Bit by bit, I turned them with a short set of tongs (don't use, please, the same tongs you use for the coals!). If I were to do this again, I'd let them cook pretty well on each side before turning them, because that would help the bacon to stay in place. As it was, I was impatient, and some of the pieces unraveled a bit.

After they'd been cooking on a couple of sides, I got out the lemons. Actually, this time, I had a bottle of lemon juice, but if I'd had them, I'd have used fresh lemons. Nonetheless, I splattered some juice over the chicken pieces. That, of course, set up new waves of sizzling, and a lucious new wave of smells, to mix with the bacon, the chicken, and the pepper. Finally, after 20 to 30 minutes, it was done, and I brought it in.

It was way, way delicous, and it was so simple. You can't go wrong with this one. I also made a potato salad out of bacon and blue cheese. The chef at the demo had also done this. It was great, and also simple, but I'll save that recipe for another day!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Taste of Dutch, 2009

(Written Sunday, the 19th)

It's finally spring, here in Utah. It's been a wet and cold month so far, with winter hanging on and blasting us from time to time. But today, I'm sitting on my back porch, watching the coals burn down under a pot of split pea soup with a meaty ham bone. Every once in a while, the breeze will hit me just right and waft the smell of ham, herbs, and veggies past me. It's gonna be good, here, in about an hour.

Yesterday, I had an amazing opportunity. I got to cook for the Taste of Dutch again at the Spring Convention of the IDOS. It was a lot of fun this year, just like it was last year, but this time there were some very special moments involved for me.

One was getting closer to a new friend. I've known this guy, Steve, for about a year or so. We'd bump into each other at church and talk dutch ovening a little bit. He's been really excited about it, but hasn't had a lot of experience so far. He and Brendon and I did a dutch oven demonstration for our ward's scout troop. He did the dump cake/cobbler, and Brendon and I did pizza.

So, about a week ago, we decided to go to the Taste of Dutch as a team. We spent a couple of days figuring out our menu. We would start by hybriding a traditional mountain man breakfast recipe with quiche-like ingredients, to make our own new recipe. Then, for the lunch crowd, he would make a Dutch Oven chicken soup, Brendon would make dutch oven pizza, and I would do some bread.

(Written on Wed, the 22nd)

So, we started Saturday morning very early. I'd been up late the night before getting all of our ingredients and equipment gathered. Steve arrived and we loaded up and piled in. After a short stop for a fillup (Donuts and Diet Coke*), we were on our way.

The Davis County Fairgrounds were easy enough to find, thanks to Google Maps, and setup was pretty quick. I could tell right away that it wasn't as big of an event as last year. There were fewer cooks. I heard later from Omar (the Chairman this year) that four teams had cancelled at the last minute. Many other traditional participants in the Taste of Dutch were involved in other ways, and unable to participate. Still, there were some good folks cooking and we joined in.

Setup went pretty quick, and we got started right away making our "Mountain Man Quiche" (recipe to come). All three of us joined in on that game. It went pretty well, and we had fun cooking and prepping together. I was honestly surprised how focused and involved Brendon was. When he cooks at home, it's easy for him to get distracted by friends, TV, the Wii...

The Taste of Dutch works like this: A lot of dutch oven cooks each occupy a booth around the perimeter of this big expo building on the fairgrounds. Then, people who are visiting wander around and watch the cooks prepare the food. Then, when it's ready, they get little sample cups of what each person is cooking. It was open to the public at about 9:00, but it didn't really get busy until about 10:00 or so.

Once we were serving up the quiche, Brendon decided to get started on his pizza (recipe here). I offered to help a couple of times, but he wouldn't have it. He wanted to do it completely on his own.

In the meantime, Steve started on his Chicken and Rice Soup, and I started on my Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread. I had started the sponge for the bread the night before, and it had risen well, but I was more than a little nervous that the bread and the pizza dough wouldn't rise right, since it was about 60-65 degrees out or so. Then I came up with the idea of putting the dough in the car, where it was quite warmer.

Brendon kept arguing with me. "The dough is ready!", he'd insist. "A little longer," I'd reply. "Who's the pizza chef, here?" Finally, he prevailed, and he brought in the dough.

We got it stretched in the dutch ovens, and put on the toppings. All morning, Brendon and I had been telling people to come back for the pizza, so they were pretty excited to try it. When it was finally done, and we started slicing it up, I tapped Brendon on the shoulder and pointed to our left. He looked up and saw a line, no lie, three full booths long waiting for his pizza. He felt ten feet tall. But at the moment, there was no time to gloat, because we had to get busy serving it up.

Before long, Steve's soup was ready, and it was delicious. He didn't have quite the line that Brendon had, but he still had no problems giving it away. Right after that, the sourdough came out, and it tasted great. It was a bit too crusty on the bottom, and I had forgotten my bread knife, so it was tricky to cut it up with a chef's knife, especially one that's not that great to begin with.

Steve had also gotten a bit of notoriety there for his homemade chimney. A lot of people came by to look just at it and talk to him about how he made it.

Then we packed it up and came home. Actually, we met up with my wife and went to an afternoon easter party, and Steve went home. It was a pretty full, fun day. Brendon has decided that he wants to participate in the youth cookoff next year, too.

And at the end of it all, I got to take no pictures, and I only got to taste Steve's soup. Here's a link, however, to the IDOS page with some great pictures of the whole event.

See you next year!

*The Breakfast of Champions. It contains elements from all of the four fundamental food groups necessary for sustaining modern life: Chocolate, sugar, caffiene, and preservatives.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Fun Dutch Oven Demo!

Tonight, Brendon and I did a demo for our ward's Relief Society Enrichment Night. If you don't know what that is, then you're probably not Mormon and it doesn't really matter. Suffice it to say it's the women's organization of the church. And they asked me to come demonstrate Dutch Oven cooking. I did my old standby of chicken, onions, and potatoes.

I asked if Brendon could come along, and he did. So, we did a short 20 minute demo where we poured all the ingredients into a 12" deep dutch oven while we joked back and forth, and then while the ladies went to some other classes, we put it on the coals to cook. After the evening was done, they all came back and sampled.

I prepared a handout with the recipe and instructions, which I just thought I'd include here:

Dutch Oven Potatoes and Chicken

This is one of the most flexible meals you could ever cook. The ingredients can adjust to whatever you have on hand, and that can include the spices and flavorings. You can prepare it in stages or you can do it as a “dump meal”, where you just dump everything in the dutch oven and cook it. It's kinda like a good jazz tune. It comes out different every time I cook it.

Today, we're going herbal, and we're going to make it simple. The recipe here is made for about 4-6 people, and can be done in a standard 12” dutch Oven

Basic Meats and Veggies:

  • A few tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2-3 medium to large onions, sliced
  • 3-4 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3-4 potatoes, quartered and sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 2-3 sweet peppers, sliced
  • About a half pound of bacon, cooked crispy

Flavorings (herbal-style):

  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • Liberal shakes of:
    • Parsley
    • Rosemary
    • Oregano
  • A few shakes (about a teaspoon or so) balsamic vinegar.
  • And, of course, salt and pepper


Start by lighting about 25-30 coals. While those are getting glowing and hot, you can slice up your ingredients. Put everything into the dutch oven, and put on the lid. Make a ring of about 8-10 coals and set the dutch oven on top. Put about 16-18 coals on top. Leave a few coals aside. After about 10-15 minutes, put about ten or so fresh coals on those. They'll get lit, and by the time the coals on the dutch oven have burned down, they'll be ready to be replenished. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the chicken and the veggies are done.

Here are a few other suggestions for flavoring combinations:

Some Like it Hot

  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, sliced. If you don't like it really hot, you can seed and core them first, or use less
  • A few shakes of cayenne pepper, chili powder, or Louisiana-style hot sauce (tabasco)
  • A few shakes of paprika
  • About ½ of fresh chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1-2 limes
  • And, of course, salt and pepper

Or, just pour in your favorite salsa

Springtime Lemon

  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • And, of course, salt and pepper

Kick it Up a Notch

Some suggestions: Cook the bacon in the dutch oven over 15-20 coals, then remove most of the grease. Sauté the onions and garlic first in the bacon grease, until they're translucent and sweet. Then add the remaining ingredients, and cook as above.

After you take the dutch oven off the coals, but a few minutes before serving, coat the food with a layer of appropriate shredded cheese. Let the dutch oven's residual heat melt it. For the herbal flavorings, I'd choose a mozarella. For the hot version, cheddar or colby jack. With the lemon style, I'd crumble up a handful of feta onto the plate as it's being served.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

IDOS in the Spring!

Hey, it's that time of year again! Time for the Spring Convention of the International Dutch Oven Society. It'll be Friday, the 17th and Saturday, the 18th of April at the Davis County Fairgrounds. It's a great time! There are classes and demos, vendor booths, and a youth cookoff (is that for youths cooking, or youths being cooked...?).

By far, my favorite part last year was the "Taste of Dutch". This takes up a whole building on the fairgrounds, and it's amazing fun. Cooks set up in booths all around, and they cook all day. The public, who are interested in learning about Dutch Ovening, come out and sample the food being cooked! It's great food, because many of the cooks there are past cook-off champions!

Last year , I did biscuits and gravy in the morning, and masaman curry for lunch. It was way, way too much fun.

Here's a link to the detailed information on the IDOS website . Come on out and tell them that you're a fan of Mark's Black Pot!


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