Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guest Blogger: A Dutch Oven Cookoff - By Andy J

My good friend Andy sent me this report (at my request) on his participation in the Salt Lake City Weekly Dutch Oven Cookoff. Enjoy the reading, and the recipe!

2009 City Weekly Dutch Oven Cook Off

I'd like to thank Mark for the privilege of being able to post my experiences on the Black Pot!

Let me begin by saying that I am somewhere between a novice and an intermediate Dutch Oven chef. Yes, I at least consider myself a chef. I suppose an introduction would be a good start- I'm Andy Johnson, born and raised near the Salt Lake, UT area, and I've never traveled farther east than Denver, south as Tijuana, north as Seattle, and west as Orange County. No, I'm not sheltered, I just haven't been to see the world yet. With this said, you can probably guess that I like life in the West. Something about the clean mountain air, crystal clear water and blue skies keeps me here. So Dutch Oven cooking came natural to me, as I can use it from my patio to the mountain top.

I entered the City Weekly Dutch Oven cookoff, mostly to try my luck at competing, and a part of me really wanted to win. Every participant walked away with a Skookie pan, graciously donated by Camp Chef. I can't wait to use my new Skookie pans! The competition had no entry fee, and only required a deposit to hold your place in the contest (fully refunded).

At the glorious hour of 5:30 AM we set off to the babysitters and then the contest. I've got to give a big shout-out to my sister in law for watching our son at such an early hour. At the venue, we drove in on the park and set up and then had to move the vehicle by 7:30. The venue was the farmer's market at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City. After a quick meeting with the judges, we start cooking. I was doing Mushrooms Belaggio, which were the same recipe (with a few tweaks) that I did at Mark's Birthday DOG Here is the recipe:

Mushrooms Belaggio
Andrew & Melissa Johnson

  • 6 pounds white mushrooms (stems removed)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 pound Asiago cheese
  • 1 pound Mozzarella cheese
  • 1-2 bunches green onions (chopped)
  • 1 jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1/2 pound bacon (cooked and crumbled)
  • olive oil
  • dash parsley
  • dash sage
  • dash dried garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dash basil

12" deep Dutch Oven
12 below
18 above or 325 degrees

Remove mushroom stems. Mix 1/2 of the following: bread crumbs, Asiago, Mozzarella, green onions, bacon and all the spices. Stuff mushrooms with mixture and place crown down in the Dutch Oven in layers, adding a small layer of bread crumb mixture in between each layer. Bake for 45 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Add Alfredo sauce and cook until simmering.

Add remaining ingredients in following order: bread crumbs, bacon, cheeses. Add more coals (about double) to the top of the oven to bake cheese into a crust. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Serves 6-8 May be used as hors d'oeuvres, a main dish over pasta, or in french bread as sandwiches.

After my pot passed the rancid test... it wasn't rancid, I decided not to light the coals until about 8:45 because the competition was 4 hours long, and I didn't want to overcook my mushrooms. by 9:00 - 9:15 the coals didn't seem to light, and I was beginning to worry. I fanned them with a small cutting board and by 9:20 they were hot enough to spread. The contest required that the fires be off the ground, and I didn't have anything fancy to put the coals on, so we used old pizza pans and some bricks to get the coals elevated. Meanwhile we did our prep work and got the mushrooms layered in the oven.

Once the dish was on the heat, it was a matter of waiting for them to cook. I took the opportunity to mingle with some other contestants and learn from them. Next to us on one side were two friends that were cooking stuffed deep dish pizza, using 14" camp chef deluxe lids inside a 16" dutch oven. They required a lot of coals to get their pizzas done, but they tasted SO good! Two sisters on the other side of us were doing a pork loin roast, and had brought out a stripped down gas barbecue that they used for a dutch oven table. Further down, a father and his daughter used a steel bucket as a method to keep the coals off the ground and were cooking some really good chili. Another contestant was there with his aged mother cooking the best ribs I have ever tasted. The thing I like best about Dutch Oven cooking is that it brings all walks of life together for a common thread.

At 11:00, one hour to judging, the mushrooms were done and I added the sauce for 20 minutes, and then added the bread crumb mixture and cheeses to form the crust. The trick to winning (I've been told) is to make the dish look pretty. So my plan was to create a ring of garnish on the side with fresh parsley, and take dried parsey and make the sponsors' logos in the middle. To do this, we cut a stencil out of posterboard with an Exacto knife and laid it on top of the crust, dusting crushed dried parsley flakes over the top. The City Weekly logo turned out well, and the Camp Chef logo was a little fuzzy with all the intricate cuts that had to be made. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the finished product, because I was so nervous getting it pretty that I didn't even think to take a photo.

At high noon we put the completed dish on the Judges' table to be torn apart. I didn't get a report card, but the judges seem to like it when they tasted it. While the judges' scores were tallied we returned to our booths and cleaned up while the public sampled the remaining dishes.

Let me say a few words about the public: You never know what you're going to get. I commented on a guy's shirt that had Native American pictograms silkscreened on it, and he commented that there was evidence in Native American art for alien landings. Another woman was talking to me at the end of the show and mentioned that she had started cooking in (insert strange sounding French word here) pots, and asked my advice on oils... she wondered about mineral oils and mentioned that that oil was good on wood....? At the end of the show, City Weekly passed out some Camp Chef pot scrapers, and this lady asked if she could have one of mine. Obviously I said no, and I think she was a little hurt, but she didn't wake up at 5:30 and spend all day in a hot booth. Nope, this pan scraper is my badge of honor.

The judges' results were in, and in third place; Dutch Oven potatoes. Second: Southwest Salmon with Shrimp and Scallops. First....Pork Wellington. So we didn't win, but I had just planned on having a fun time, and that's exactly what happened. Plus, I got to go home with a Skookie set!

I learned so much just by competing. If you want to learn more about dutch oven, try the recipes in this blog until you feel comfortable cooking your own creations, and then find a small cook off near you and enter. You won't be sorry.

Andy Johnson
Check out Andy's music website!

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

An Amazing Dutch Oven Roast Beef Recipe

I've learned a couple of things about roast beef recipes, since the last few that I've done. Today's turned out really yummy because of it.

Like with a lot of the bread recipes I've done, I know that a lot of you reading this will already know these two tips. That's OK. There'll still be two or three out there that don't, right? There was a point where I didn't know them, either...

The first trick was to brown the meat on all sides first. The second is figuring out when to pull it off.

Anyway. This one isn't so much of a recipe as it is a process. But I'll still write it up as a recipe.
A Delicious Dutch Oven Roast Beef Recipe

12" Dutch Oven (or whatever fits your roast)

12-14 coals below
12-14 coals above

  • A roast (get it as big as you want to feed your family a fit into the pot)
  • Your favorite seasonings (I used Mrs Dash)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • A little olive oil
  • Bacon (optional)

  • Chopped potatoes
  • Chopped celery
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped carrots (I actually forgot to add these this time)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • More salt and pepper for the veggies
  • Any additional seasonings, veggies, flavorings you like.

The first step was to get some coals lit, and get the oven on with some of the olive oil, preheating (about 20+ coals underneath). The roast had been thawing all afternoon, so I sprinkled all sides pretty generously with the Mrs Dash, and rubbed it all in. By then, the oil was hot, so I dropped in the roast, and was immediately rewarded by hearing the meat sizzle in the dutch oven. Mmmmm...

A few minutes later, I turned it over, and did the other side. The first side was nicely browned, and the Mrs Dash was crusted into the meat. Mmmmm...

This particular roast was thick, but pretty flat, so browning the sides would have been tricky. I settled for just the top and the bottom.

At that point, I pulled some of the coals out from the bottom and put them on top, and closed up the dutch oven with the lid. Now, sometimes when I do a roast, at this point, I'll layer the roast with strips of bacon across the top. I came inside and started chopping up all the veggies. Those got packed into the oven around the roast.

From then on, I simply kept good heat on it. I kept it on the low side of the temperature curve, rather than the hot side. The idea is to simply cook it slower, longer, and let it get really juicy.

About an hour in, I stuck it with a thermometer. From then on, I just lifted the lid every 20 minutes or so and checked it. I kept replenishing the coals from my side chimney (no small task to keep up with, seeing as how it was a pretty brisk breeze the whole time). Soon it was at 140°, or just a little higher. According to the thermometer gauge, it's rare. I pulled it off the heat at that point, but kept the lid on.

As we were setting the table, I let the meat rest, and come up to full temperature. I was shooting for 150°, which is a sort of medium done-ness.

Then, I just carved it up and served the veggies on the side. I loved it. Jodi wanted a gravy, so I did make one, but I, honestly didn't try it, because the meat was plenty juicy and tender. As dutch oven recipes go, this one is not difficult and really amazing!

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: "Today and Yesterday" Click to listen!, Epiphany in the Temple,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Healthy Dutch Oven Recipes - Part III

As many of you know, I've been doing a lot of breads in my outdoor cooking over the last while. I've been trying to learn how to do them, and do them right. It's been a bit of a challenge, and I've had a lot of flops, a lot of near misses, along with my successes.

My most recent attempt was a whole wheat bread loaf based on my mom's old recipe (as provided by my dear sister). So, this is a family thing in addition to a healthy and personal learning thing. It's all so complex... :-)

I actually tried this for the first time last week, but was really disappointed in the results. So, I tried again today, and was much more pleased, but I think it still needs some tweaking. I'll talk about that as I go.

Mark's Family Whole Wheat Bread in the Dutch Oven

12" Dutch Oven

12 coals below
20 coals above (I'm not sure this is enough - see below)

The basic flour mix:

  • 3 Cups white bread flour
  • 6 Cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup vital gluten flour
  • 3 Tbsp dough enhancer (optional)

The wet mix:

  • 2 cups scalded milk
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 Cup oil

The first thing I did was to make the flour mix. It's pretty simple, just add the ingredients and stir it up. You won't need this much, but it's cool to have extra for next time. Also, as an aside, I used whole wheat flour that was ground for us by Jodi's stepdad. He'd found an old electric grinder, fixed it up, and made this huge bucket of flour for us. So, this really is a big family thing!

Then, I made the wet mix in a different bowl. I scalded the milk (that messes up the enzymes that would otherwise kill the yeast). You can also use powdered milk instead of scalding it. I added the honey, let it dissolve, and waited until it cooled to about the temperature of a good hot bath. I added the yeast, stirred it to dissolve it, and let it bubble.

When it had bubbled up really well, I added the eggs and the oil, and whisked that all together.

Then, in the same bowl, I started adding the flour mix. The last time I'd done this, I went too fast and it ended up too dry. It's not easy to add moisture while you're kneading. It's much easier to add the flour slowly and sneak up on it.

I added the flour in the bowl for the first few cups, stirring as I went with a wooden spoon. Once it got to the point where it was pulling from the sides, but still quite messy, I dumped it onto a generously floured table and started kneading, slowly adding more flour as needed.

Kneading whole wheat dough is a workout. I seriously kneaded for a full half-hour before I got a good windowpane stretch going on. I think in future batches, I might add even more gluten flour in the mix.

Finally, it was done kneading and I set it aside to rise. It rose VERY well, At that point, I punched it down and rolled it into two boule loaves. Next time, I'm going to try a single boule with this same recipe.

As soon as I'd set the two shaped loaves aside to proof, I started the coals to pre-heat the ovens. This is another area that I'm not fully confident in. I put on the coals listed above, and according to the Lodge heat table, that should have given me 400-450 degrees inside the ovens. But I put an oven thermometer in one of the dutch ovens and it topped out at 350 after about 30-40 minutes of preheating. I left it on a little longer, but it didn't go any higher. So, either my thermometer is calibrated wrong, or the coals count in the Lodge chart is off. I have a hard time believing the chart is that far off, though. That's like a hundred degrees. I don't know.

At any rate, I put the loaves in, each in one dutch oven, and replenished the coals. I baked them to 200 degrees internal temperature.

Maybe it's that whole heat issue, but they just didn't spring much. Not like the white breads do. Maybe that's just the nature of whole wheat bread. I don't know about that either.

When they came out and had cooled, they weren't that much bigger than they were when they went in. The crumb was much softer, and less dense than my last attempt, so I was really pleased with that. The crust was pretty hard, though. My family, and our guests tonight loved it, and ate between us a full loaf.

So, I felt like it was successful enough, and thought I'd write up my experience here. Still, I'm not feeling very confident in it yet. Doing bread in outdoor cooking isn't easy, that's for sure.

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Outdoor Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Healthy Dutch Oven Recipes - Part II

Continuing on with my efforts to make healthy recipes, this last wednesday, I made a white chili. It was very interesting to look at. Instead of the dark meat, and the deep brown broth, it was very light. A unique twist.

The combination of the leaner meat, the fresh vegetables, and not using anything canned, pre-prepared, or with preservatives, make this a very healthy alternative.

Dutch Oven White Chili

12" dutch oven
16-20 coals below

  • 1 lb dry black eyed peas

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 4-6 cups water
  • 2 sweet peppers, one green, one red, diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 jalapeňo, diced
  • 4-5 green onion, diced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste (in keeping with the white chili theme, I used white pepper)
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste (you could even sprinkle the zest when you're serving)

  • 1/2 cup corn masa

I actually started out on Tuesday night, by pouring all of the peas (they're beans, really) into a bowl with a lot of water. The water will be absorbed by the beans, so make sure you cover the beans, and the double that amount.

The next day, when it was time to cook, I started browning the turkey over 20 or so coals in a 12" shallow dutch oven. I added a little bit of olive oil at the bottom, because I knew that the turkey was much leaner than ground beef and it would help it to not stick so much.

At the same time, I heated up my 10" dutch oven, with a little olive oil, and sliced up the onion and minced the garlic. I put those on to sautee.

Pretty soon, the turkey was done, and the onions were translucent and even a bit browned themselves. I poured the onion/garlic mix into the turkey. Then, I added everything in the third set of ingredients. I drained the beans and added them. In retrospect, I would have held back some of the green onions and the fresh cilantro. Maybe as much as half of each. I would have saved that to sprinkle on top of the chili when it was served. That would have looked and tasted great.

The jalapeňo I chopped whole, with the veins and the seeds. I did it half at a time, and added it continually until I got the heat I wanted. I added some, cooked for a while, tasted, and then added more. At this point, I probably only put in about 3/4 of the jalapeňo. To me, that was perfect. It was hot, but not overpowering. You do it to your taste.

The whole thing cooked about an hour and a half, with about 16-20 coals consistently on the bottom. I didn't put any coals on top. I simply added enough to keep it simmering. I only lifted the lid occasionally to stir, check the doneness of the beans, and check for the jalapeňos.

The final step was in the last half hour of cooking. I added the corn masa to thicken. This time I didn't add so much as I have in the past. I wanted a thick soup, kind of like a stew, not a paste (which I do like sometimes). I recommend that you do the masa the same way you do the jalapeňos. Add some masa, stir it up. Let it cook for a bit, then check to see how thick it is. If it needs more, then add it, etc...

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Healthy Dutch Oven Recipes - Part I

My wife and I had quite the wake-up call at the doctor's office the other day. She's been diagnosed diabetic for a long time, but her sugars were way out of control. We decided it's time that we both lose weight.

I know that a long time ago, I said I don't cook in the dutch oven to be healthy. I also know that sometimes, I'm still going to cook things that aren't. But during the week, and many of the dutch oven sundays, from now on, we're eating healthier.

So, I went out and bought a diabetic cookbook, called "Prevention Diabetes Diet Cookbook: Discover the New Fiber-Full Eating Plan for Weight Loss". The basic premise of the book is that to eat healthier, you first want to focus on "whole foods". That means any food that doesn't have a lot of processing or ingredients. Between that and watching your carbohydrate/sugar intake and fats, too, you'll lose weight. My dear wife has already lost 5 lbs in the first week and a half.

In the menu plan for the first week, there was this plan for lime marinated chicken. There were no special ingredients at all in the list. All whole foods! All low fat, and it looked great! So, I tried it!

Dutch Oven Lime Marinated Chicken with Salsa Fresca

12"Dutch Oven

8-9 coals below
16-17 coals above

The Chicken

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • Liberal shakes of salt and pepper

The Salsa

  • 3 Medium tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 Medium onion
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped into the greens
  • 1/2 Cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and cored
  • Liberal shakes of salt and pepper

In one bowl, I started by mixing all of the ingredients in the first set, except the chicken. I took two tsp of the mixture and set it aside in another bowl. I stirred it all up and poured it into a ziplock baggie. I added the chicken and shook it all up and set it aside to marinade. Since it was still frozen, I used that as an opportunity to thaw it, instead of marinating it in the fridge.

In retrospect, I might have cut the chicken into strips about an inch wide, kinda like stir-fry size. I don't know that it makes that much difference...

Once it was thawed and marinated, I put the chicken into a 12" dutch oven. I actually put a fold-out steamer basket in it, because I wanted the chicken juices to drain off, leaving the marinade as a sort of glaze. Since the moisture was still trapped inside the dutch oven, the chicken didn't dry out.

I put the chicken on the coals. It only took 20 minutes or so to cook. In the meantime, I made the salsa.

Which was really easy. I just chopped up all the ingredients, some minced pretty fine, like the cilantro and the garlic. I put them into the bowl with the reserved marinade and stirred it all up. I don't remember if I put in more lime juice or not.

When the chicken was done, I served it up with the salsa on top, and with some seasoned cucumbers. The combination of the hot chicken and the cool salsa, with the lime flavor in both sure made it taste GREAT! My kids just kept ranting on and on about it, and Jodi liked it, too. Brendon couldn't believe it was healthy and tasted so good!

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: The AD/HD Quiz, Social Book of Mormon?, I invoke Godwin's Law


Related Posts with Thumbnails