A Cry for Help
About a week ago, I got this kindof panicked email. It was from a lady who'd been volunteered to dutch oven some breakfast for her husband and friends. With her permission, I'm including it, and the ensuing conversation, here:
If you have the time and energy to help me, I would really appreciate it. . .
First, let me say, that I feel so lucky to have found your blog today. I bookmarked it and will be reading it more often.
Second, I am a NOVICE. Please notice the capital letters. I am soooo inexperienced. So far in a Dutch oven, I have made 3 apple crisps (turned out good), 3 cakes (pretty good), seven layer dinner twice (the first time okay – the second time with improvements RAVE reviews) and chicken and rice (never again with rice, I thought it was never going to cook). My cooking experience is with the Girl Scouts, so if I make a mistake, there are always hot dogs and smores.
(Note from Mark: OK, maybe a novice, but from the bits here, not a bare-bones beginner...)
But, my HUSBAND (you know – the guy I originally bought the Dutch oven for) has GRACIOUSLY volunteered me to cook BREAKFAST in the Dutch oven at tailgating on Saturday morning – for our FRIENDS. (Can you say – dog house?)
SOO, I need a no-fail recipe. I looked at breakfast pizzas, but I’m scared the crescent rolls and eggs won’t cook. Can you help?
It was pretty easy for me to reply. I immediately thought of the Mountain Man Breakfast. It's easy and quite impressive. It's one of those dutch oven traditions, like doing the dump cake cobblers. Everybody's done one at some point.
Ah, your story sounds soooo familiar! It took me a while to figure out how to do rice. The most common problem is not enough liquid for the rice to absorb. If the whole thing is too dry, the rice will never cook.
There really is no such thing as a "no-fail" recipe. There are ones that are difficult to pull off, and ones that are easy to pull off, but I have learned from sad experience that even the simplest ones can fail. I must hang my head in shame and admit that even the simple dump cobblers have kicked my sorry butt from time to time.
As far as breakfast goes, I usually don't do breakfasts. I'm not usually up early enough! :-) However, there are a few cool things you can do. One relatively easy one is called "mountain man breakfast". I've done it a time or two and it's only failed me once (and I know why, and I won't do that again...)
You start by putting some coals (15-20) under your dutch oven and browning some breakfast meat (sausage, bacon, or some combination of that). You could even cook the meat on your home stove the night before. Then, slice or dice some potatoes. Frozen hash browns (shredded or cubed) works well for this, too. The one time I messed this recipe up, I shredded the potatoes too early in the process, and they got all brown, and when they cooked they were an ugly black. Yuck. Cut the potatoes right before you cook them.
You can dice some onions and green peppers, too, if you like. Mushrooms are good, too.
In the bottom of your dutch oven, create layers. Start with the potatoes on the bottom, then the meats, then the veggies. Season it with salt, pepper, and anything else you like. (Note from Mark: One time that I did this, I also cooked some fresh spinach and added that as a layer, to give it a "quiche-ish" taste)
Finally, whip together 6-8 eggs and some milk. Pour that over the whole mixture. It will soak through all the layers.
Put it on some coals (if you've got a 12" oven, put 8-10 coals underneath and 16-18 above (depending on how cold and windy it is outside), and bake it for about 30-45 minutes, or until you can poke a fork in it and have it come out clean. Then, take it off the coals and sprinkle the top with shredded cheddar. Put the lid back on and let the residual heat melt the cheese.
Serve it up!
BTW, I'm also glad you found my blog. If you don't mind, I'd like to put your letter up and respond to it on the blog with a more detailed recipe of this. Would that be OK?
...and I hope the husband gets out of the doghouse soon. Be forgiving. It won't be the last mistake he'll ever make... :-)
I don’t mind if you use this at all. I can send some photos, too, if you would like. I will use this recipe as my husband loves potatoes and we aren’t big egg fans – another reason why I was thinking “Breakfast, really???”. So this will be perfect as it seems the eggs are just sort of binders?? It will be like a breakfast bowl? Add some salsa and we are rockin’ (I hope.)
Thanks, I’ll be in touch to let you know how it goes!
And a few days later, I got this update:
You will be happy to know that my husband is out of the dog house. If not for him, we would have all been eating frozen mountain man’s breakfast.
Here’s the backstory to the whole thing. . . Just so you don’t think I’m crazy. It was my turn to provide food for tailgating food for our alma mater’s football game and I had said I would make something in the Dutch oven. (I was thinking something I had made before that I knew I could make.) We both graduated from Middle Tennessee State University and are season ticket holders for football. Well, ESPNU decided to televise our game last Saturday against Ole Miss on the condition that we move our game from 4 pm to 11:30 am – which is no big deal, except, I don’t know how to make breakfast in the Dutch oven. (I’m not really confident in my Dutch oven cooking as my chicken and rice experience was a total bust, but I was going to try it – sans rice.) My husband piped right up for me and volunteered a warm breakfast prepared in the Dutch oven. UGGH! Luckily, when I googled Dutch oven recipes, up came your blog.
We woke up on Saturday to record breaking cold weather. We actually had to get the hats, gloves and coats out of the coat closet. We live in Tennessee and were not prepared for the cold front that had settled in the night before. We were, however, prepared for the breakfast – thanks to you. You scared me with your story of black potatoes and there was NO WAY I was going to risk that. I used a 1 ½ pound package of frozen O’Brien hashbrowns (with the peppers and onions already included) and had pre-cooked a pound of Sage sausage. I had already scrambled the 8 eggs and a couple teaspoons of water at the house too and I bought 2 cups of shredded cheese. I even lined the Dutch oven with foil and had sprayed it down with Pam before leaving the house.
(Note from Mark: Many dutch oveners don't use foil. If there's a good black coating on your dutch oven, the food doesn't stick much, and then you don't have to worry about getting bits of foil in your food.)
I had read almost every one of your blogs on Friday and took heed from the guest blogger who had mentioned not being able to cook directly on the ground at a recent competition. I don’t really know why that is a rule, but I figured it was for safety purposes, so I used a 16 inch stone paver to cook on in the parking lot.
(Note from Mark: There are two reasons why I don't cook directly on concrete or pavement. One is that it can get very hot and actually damage the concrete or pavement. Another is that a lot of your bottom heat is used up warming up the pavement, rather than heating up your food.)
It was freezing cold and windy and just as I was getting out of the car to start setting up the chairs and the table, it started to mist. Fabulous! I had decided that was should get some coals started and “preheat” the potatoes and sausage that had been in the refrigerator/cooler all night. That plan went “to pot” quickly because I could not for the life of me get my charcoal to start. Finally, my husband saved me. He must have seen the flashing SOS on my forehead because he stepped right in and said, “Let me take care of these coals and you can do something else.” Something else like stand over his back and pray with all my heart? Cuz, that’s exactly what I did. I looked around at my friends and they were saying, “It’s fine. We have time. There’s enough other food here. It’s okay.” I felt like a tailgating ZERO. But my dearest husband got the charcoal started and I was back to the original plan very soon.
I took the first 10 coals out and put them under the pot. I scattered the potatoes and the sausage and let them warm up while the rest of the coals heated. Then I added the 20 coals to the top and let just the potatoes and sausage cook for 10 minutes. Then I added the eggs and let them cook for 20 minutes. Then added the cheese and let it cook for about 5 more minutes. We served with salsa and Texas Pete. (I was going to do it again, I would add more meat – maybe a pound of bacon, too. You can’t ever go wrong with adding bacon.)
I cannot tell you how impressed people were when I opened that oven after 20 minutes and they saw all the steam billowing out of that pot. (I have to say, I felt relief.) My friends had watched me worrying over that chimney and pot for more than an hour. It turned out great – a bit stressful, but definitely tasty. The food was all gone in about 20 minutes. So I went from tailgating zero to HERO in 30 minutes (thanks to you). AND everyone was happy b/c the Dutch oven and the chimney (eventually) provided us all with a heat source. (Did I mention that it was COLD??? And Windy? And Wet?)
Everyone decided that I should definitely be in charge of cooking for tailgating this week. Ummm – not ready for that yet. It’s my turn to bring cookies and drinks for the kids – I’ll stick with that.
So how’s that for making a short story long?
Reader’s Digest version – It turned out great. It was a huge hit and now I owe you those 700 thank you’s! I don’t think I’ll be cooking stuffing in pumpkins anytime soon, but I will be cooking something. And I will be reading your blog. You were a huge help. (BTW – MTSU lost and I’m not even going to talk about the Tennessee Titans.)
I only snapped a couple of pics b/c of the misty rain but I will get them to you soon.
So, I was glad to hear that it worked out, and that I could help out in a small way. Congrats to you, Trese! And thanks for allowing us all to hear your story.
A Call for Your Recipes and Stories
So, folks, I'd love to hear some of your dutch oven stories, too. I'd like to start including more of that here in the Black Pot Blog, like the one about Andy and Melissa's cookoff experience. Send me your favorite recipes. I'd love to try them, and then share them here. Of course, I'll credit you, and even link back to your blog or site, if you have one...