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.


  1. I love these mushrooms. I am happy that this is not some secret family recipe and you'll share it.

  2. Mark,

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    Once again thank you for being an ambassador of cast iron cookware.




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