Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Eve Dinner in the Dutch Ovens, Part I

Betty Crocker Christmas CookbookLast week, on the 24th, I made a big dutch oven Christmas dinner.  I cooked most of the morning, and served it up as sort of an early dinner/late lunch at about 3:00.  It was a lot of fun.  I didn't quite pull it all together as I would have liked, but it was still delicious.

I made a ham, what I called "Wassail Ham", Au Gratin Potatoes, and a Sandwich Loaf.  Actually, the bread did come together exactly as I wanted it to, but I'll talk about that later.

So that I don't have to write the equivalent of the Encyclopedia Galactica here in a single blog post, I'm going to break the dinner up into three separate recipe posts.  First, the potatoes, then the ham, and finally, the bread.  There's plenty of interesting stuff that happened on all three.

OK, so here we go!

Dutch Oven Au Gratin Potatoes

12" Dutch oven

15-20 coals below during phase 1
12 coals each above and below during phase 2

  • 1 lb bacon
  • flour to make a roux

  • 1-2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 4-5 medium potatoes, quartered and sliced
  • 1 pint of cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt
  • pepper

  • 1-2 handfuls grated cheddar cheese
  • fresh parsley

  • a little more cheese

I had actually done Au Gratins a time or two before, using different recipes and processes, but the last time (which was also the most successful) didn't get written up here in the Black Pot, for some reason.  Anyway, here it is.  As an overview of the steps, the first is to crispy fry some bacon pieces, then to use the resulting grease to make a roux.  Then you sautee some onions and veggies, and finally add the potatoes and the dairy.

Here are the details:

First, I took a package of bacon and cut it into 1 inch squares.  I got that in a dutch oven over some hot coals and set it frying.  It took a while, because I wanted them to be nicely crisp.  Crisper, even, than I like it for breakfast.

Once that was done, I pulled out the bacon, and also a little bit of the grease.  Then I started adding flour, a tablespoon at a time, to the remaining grease in the pot to make a roux.  I added it slowly, because I was looking for a particular consistency.  I wanted it to be just a little softer than cookie dough.  I think I used about a half cup.  I stirred that to cook it a bit, but not too much.  I still wanted a lighter roux.  When that was ready, I pulled it out.  That was, of course, way more roux than I would need for the dish, but that's OK.  It's nice to have extra when you need it.  It keeps in the fridge for quite a while.

Then, I reheated that extra bit of reserved grease, and threw in the onions and the garlic to sautee.  If I'd thought of it that day, I might have added celery and some green bell peppers.  Maybe some mushrooms, too.

Once those were nice and brown, I added in the bacon, the potatoes (which I had been slicing up while everything else was preparing), then the cream.  I added the milk because I was out of cream and still felt like it needed more liquid.  If you have enough half and half, just use that.  Then, the salt and pepper.  I was pretty liberal with those, too.

I let all that cook for a bit, until the potatoes just started to get soft (sort of an "al dente" feel).  Then, I opened it up and started adding roux, about a tablespoon at a time.  I stirred it in, and then continued stirring for a few moments while I watched the consistency change.  If you just start dropping it in, you'll probably add too much and it will get too thick.  I kept adding it until it felt like a sauce, a thick gravy, instead of a milky liquid.

Once the potatoes felt pretty much done, I added the cheese and the parsley.  Stir it all in, and it will get nice and gooey.  The roux will keep the cheese melty instead of all clumpy and coagulated (when that happens, they say it "breaks").  The final step is to add a layer of cheese to the top and let it melt.  At that point, in fact, you could take it off the coals altogether and let the residual heat in the dutch oven melt the cheese.  Serve it up!

Stay tuned for part II: The Wassail Ham!

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: A New Song: "Alleluia"!, How to Optimize Your Website,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mark's Black Pot Goulash

When you're looking for something to cook with some ground beef or some stew meat, and you're not sure what, you really can't go wrong with Goulash.  It's easy and tasty.  In this case, I happened to have a pound of stew meat wrapped up and frozen, and I thought I'd use it.  I just did a few 'net searches to get an idea of what to put in, and this is what I came up with.
Mark's Dutch Oven Goulash
101 Things to Do with a Dutch Oven (101 Things to Do with A...)
12" Dutch Oven
15-20 coals below

  • oil
  • 2 med onions
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt

  • 1 lb stew beef (or ground beef)

  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 2 small cans tomato sauce
  • oregano
  • basil
  • salt 
  • pepper

  • 1 lb bag of egg noodles

More optional ingredients to consider in the third step:

  • Paprika (the stronger stuff)
  • Crushed red peppers
  • A bit of milk or cream (like a quarter or half cup)

I just started off with a lot of coals underneath my 12" dutch oven, with a little oil in the bottom (maybe a tablespoon's worth, or a capful).  While that was getting good and hot, I sliced up the onions, the celery, and minced the garlic.  Once the dutch oven was hot, I dropped the first set of ingredients in, and sauteed them.

Here's a hint, by the way, about onions.  Don't store them outside, or, like I did, in your garage in the winter.  They partly froze, and so they didn't sautee and carmelize very well.  They still tasted OK, just not as good as they would've if I'd known.  But now you know!

Once the onions were as done as they were gonna get, I moved them aside, and put the meat in to brown.

Step three was to add almost everything else (except the noodles).  At that point, it was all pretty runny, more like a soup.  I was a bit nervous, actually.  I considered adding some kind of flour or other thickener, but decided to wait and see what would happen after the noodles cooked.  That turned out to be a wise choice.  By the time the noodles were "al dente", they had absorbed much of the liquid and it was a nice, thick goulash.  The family loved it!

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: Optimizing an eCommerce Website, Mark's LDS Rock Music Downloads,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dutch Oven Questions From a Newbie

I got an email yesterday from Jill, and it had a whole bunch of really good beginner questions in it.  I thought that there are probably a lot of people out there with the same questions, so I thought I'd answer them all here.  That way, not only do a lot more people get to read my answers, but we can invite everyone else to join in and chip in their ideas as well, and we all learn.

Here's her letter:

"So, I am planning on learning to dutch oven. I just bought one for my husband a couple months ago, but need to still get a couple accessories like tongs, lid lifter, gloves, briquettes, etc. I found your blog today and am excited to try some of your recipes & get started, but I do have a few questions:

"Thanks, Jill"

I'm sorry, Jill, but I hope you don't mind a little good-natured ribbing here...  This is the second time I've gotten an email from a lady who bought the dutch oven "for her husband", and ended up doing the cooking anyway.  What's the problem here, guys?  Give the ladies a break.  This is the perfect way for us men to cook!  It involves meat, fire, metal, and knives.  What else do you want!?

Sorry, that's just me being silly.

On with her questions!

  • Which briquettes do you like best?

In general, you can cook with anything hot.  You can chop up a tree, burn the logs, and cook with the coals.  But I've had problems in the past with some "bargain brand" coals that don't burn evenly, or burn to fast, or light too slow.  I like the basic Kingsfords (not matchlight) the best.  That's sort of the general recommendation among most experienced dutch oveners that I know, and my own experience has proven that as well.

Some meals, like potatoes, chilis, or stews can handle variations in cooking temperature midway through, but other things, like breads and desserts are trickier. 

  • I assume you buy them (briquettes) in bulk, so where do you get them and how do you store them?

I get mine in bags that are about 20 lbs, in two-bag bundles at Home Depot.  I do that mainly because there's an HD on the way home from work, I have a HD card, and I can charge them if I don't have the cash.  Don't get the fancy mesquite or hickory smoking briquettes, because the smoke won't get through the cast iron to the food anyway.

Cooking once a week, sometimes a couple of pots at a time, I'll go through the two bags in about a month. I store mine in a plastic box outside my home, right by where I cook.  That way they're handy and dry, even when it's rainy.  The problem with that is that when it's rainy, the air is wet, and they do get a bit harder to light.

  • Do you use a lighter basket or chimney when lighting the briquettes?

Yes, I do.  I also use lighter fluid.  I've tried and tried to make them light with just wadded up newspaper and I've given up.  I need the sauce to make the fire.  I like the chimney because the coals tend to light more evenly, and I can shake the chimney and mix the lit ones with the unlit ones well. 

When I dump them to start cooking, too, I always leave a few lit coals in the chimney to start up fresh coals so I can keep cooking the dishes that need longer cook times.

  • You said you learned that you needed to get them off the bricks... so what kind of surface do you put the dutch ovens on now?

I have these short little foot-high metal tables.  They work great.  Another thing I've often seen are the Camp Tables like you can see in this (affiliate) link.  Those are cool because they have wind screens and you don't have to bend over so much to cook on them.

  • I assume that you bring the dutch ovens inside to serve from, do you just put them on a trivet?

Yes again.  And it needs to be a pretty big trivet, if you've got a 12" or a 14" dutch oven.  Sometimes I'll just set a towel underneath.  The leg tips don't burn, but they can scratch a table surface.  They've often still got charcoal ash dust on them, too, which makes a bit of a mess.

I must say that I love serving directly from the dutch oven.  To me, it just looks better.  That's just me...

  • What is a tripod for?

A tripod, like this one (affiliate link), is designed to hold the dutch oven above an open fire.  I've never used one, but I've seen it used, mainly for things that need bottom heat, like chilis, soups, stews.  Someone that's actually used one for other dishes can chime in and explain how it really works.

So, thanks for the questions!  I hope these are the answers you're looking for, and if not, I hope that some other good readers will chime in with their own experiences to help add to the collective knowledge.

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: How not to do Social Networking, I get to sing in Relief Society

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dutch Oven Chicken and Apple Curry-osity

I think I've found a new favorite recipe website.  This week, I had this funny idea of taking some chicken we had and some apples we had and doing something with them together.  It just seemed odd enough to be fun.

But, I had no recipe, so I thought I'd look one up.  I'd heard good things about allrecipes.com, so I went there and tried their ingredient search function.  I put in "chicken" and "apple" and came up with a whole bunch of recipes.  It was a lot of fun to sort through them all. 

In the end, what I did was a hybrid of two of the more interesting ones, that had other available ingredients.

I'm not sure what to call it, though.  Is it a curry?  Is it a casserole?  I dunno. 

Dutch Oven Chicken and Apple Curry-osity

12" Dutch Oven

Total of about 30 coals, because of the weather.  Probably 22-24 in the summer.

  • 1 Med onion, chopped or diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 lbs Chicken breast, cubed

  • 1 Med to large apple, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Cup Apple Juice Concentrate (or about a half a can)
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 Cup milk
  • 1 Cup rice

I started with a little oil on the bottom of the dutch oven, and heated it up over a bunch of coals ("a bunch" is an accurate scientific unit of measurement, larger than "a few" but smaller than "a pile").  I let that heat a bit so I could start sauteeing.  And that's what I did next, with the first ingredient set.  Actually, I added the chicken in last, after the onions and the garlic had had a chance to cook some.

Once everything was getting nicely browned, I just started adding in all of the other ingredients.  Because the chicken broth was put in as a frozen block, I let it melt before I added the rice.  The stock, by the way, was homemade from our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.  If you'll let me digress even further, I recently read a great posting by my friend over at Mormon Foodie on making a good stock.

Also, once the main set of ingredients was in the dutch oven, I set an even number of coals top and bottom.  It ended up being about a total of 30 coals, 'cause it was seriously cold out.  Outdoor cooking in the winter is odd that way, ya know?  I just cooked it until it tasted good and the rice was done.

Anyway, my family loved it, and my son had seconds.  That's a good confirmation.

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: Google's personalized SERPs

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dutch Oven on the 'Net - Rolls

A nice demonstration of how to make some delicious rolls in a dutch oven.  I wish they'd shown how many coals they used, or how they regulated the heat.  Still, the results look great! I would've also liked to see a spot or two during the rise, just to see how they keep it warm. Maybe the outside temp is warm enough in the summer in Alaska...

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dutch Oven Turkey

We did one of our Thanksgiving celebrations early this year.  My father came into town from Indiana, and since that doesn't happen very often, we decided to invite over my sister and her husband and call it a holiday.

The turkey I did was unique for two reasons.  One, I brined it the night before.  I've never done that before with a turkey, and I was really pleased with the results.  Two, it was a pretty large bird, and I cooked it in our 14" deep dutch oven.  I was initially skeptical that I would be able to do it.  Previously, I'd only done a 16 lb turkey in it, and I thought that was the maximum. 

The turkey did fit, but in order to be able to fit the lid on, I had to do CPR on the turkey and crunch it up a little.  That also meant I didn't stuff it.  That also meant that I didn't do any veggies around the turkey like I usually do.

The Brine

  • 1lb salt
  • 1lb brown sugar
  • lots of water

The night before, I made up this mix.  I started with some hot tap water (maybe a couple of quarts) and dissolved the salt and sugar.  I let that cool.  I put the thawed turkey into a big storage tub that I had cleaned really well, and poured cold water around it, ending with the salt/sugar water.  I also put in some ice, though that wasn't probably necessary.  I put that whole thing, with the lid on, in my garage.  It was supposed to be down in the 30's all night, so I was reasonably assured of its safety.

The next day, About 4-5 hours before dinner time, I started up some coals.  I mixed up an herbal rub, kinda like what I did that first year (see below), and basted that over the top of the bird.  I usually stick it all over with a knife to make holes in the skin for the baste to seep through. 

Then I put it on the coals, and roasted it for a very long time.  In roasting, I try to maintain an equal amount of heat from the bottom and the top.  The rest of the time was spent cooking the other dishes and maintaining the heat.

I like the extra zing that the the brining gave the turkey meat.  It really added to it.  It was a bit subtle, but it made a difference on my palate...

So, here's a reference list to the other times I've done a dutch oven turkey.  There are quite a few variations in the seasonings and the approach.  You tell me if you use any of them this Thanksgiving or Christmas, and let me know how it goes!

And here's some informative articles

And don't forget to make some stock and soup after its all done!

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: The Armor of God - Mormon Games, Making Money From a Blog,

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dutch Oven Baked Ziti (Penne)

A few weeks ago, as we were preparing for the dutch oven gathering, Brendon and I began searching for dishes to cook.  He and I had been watching America's Test Kitchen, and they had a recipe for a baked ziti pasta dish that you made in one skillet. 

Welllllll, then, we can do it in a dutch oven, right?  That was Brendon's choice. So, we figured out how to turn it into a dutch oven recipe of the highest caliber!

If you've watched the video in yesterday's entry, you saw Brendon working on it, and you saw the results. 

We made it again yesterday, but we did it in the regular oven, indoors.  So, this time, I'm going to give you a combination of the two recipes.  The changes we did for the indoor version, with the instructions for doing it as a dutch oven recipe.  The description is sort of a combination of what Brendon did both days.  I served primarily in an advisory role.  Really.

Dutch Oven Baked Ziti

12" dutch oven

15-20 coals below, then
8-10 coals below, and 18-22 above

  • 1 Tsp oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper  (We actually went more toward the 1 tsp...)
  • 1 lb ground meat (we used turkey)

  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 Cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb ziti pasta (we actually cheated and used penne)
  • juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 pint carton cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • liberal doses of basil, oregano, parsley
  • liberal dose of black pepper
  • 1 medium package of shredded mozarella

  • Feta, crumbled, for serving

First of all, Brendon got some coals going, and then chopped up the garlic and the onion.  While that was happening, the oil was getting hot in the dutch oven.  When he dropped in the onions and garlic, we could hear the sizzle, and smell the aroma!  The red peppers went in, too.  Those got sauteed.  When done, we added the meat to brown.

Once the meat had browned, Brendon opened up the can of tomatoes, and poured them in (you can see him doing that at the start of the video).  He added the other ingredients.  It looks like it will be really runny with all that water, but that and the tomato juice cooks the pasta.  And honestly, we wanted to be authentic and use ziti pasta, but the penne was just sitting there.  And I'll always pick up a penne...

Ok, sorry about that...

He closed the lid, and still using bottom heat, cooked the pasta for about 20 minutes, until it was "al dente".  It was yummy to taste test, too.  Just like it said on the show, cooking the pasta in the sauce does two things:  One, it infuses the pasta with the tomato and onion/garlic flavors, and Two, the starch from the pasta thickens the sauce just a little.  It's got this symbiotic thing goin' on...

Once the pasta was cooked, we pulled it off the coals.  Brendon added the ingredients of the third set, and stirred it, and then smothered it in mozarella.  At that point, we put it back on a ring of coals.  It wasn't that cold out, so we kept the bottom coals pretty few.  Remember that the ingredients are already cooked.  We want the cream to come up to temperature, and the herbs to spread the flavor, but mostly we want the mozarella to melt and brown.  So, that's why we went so heavy on top coals.

That baked for about another 20 minutes or so, just to get a good bronze goin' on the cheese.  Then he pulled it off, let it cool a bit, and served it with crumbled feta.  Yum, yum, yum...

...And I've gotta say, I'm proud of the little man for trying such a challenging dutch oven recipe and pulling it off so well. 

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

Brendon Covers the DOG!

Here's the video that Brendon and I made of the Dutch Oven Gathering (DOG) this weekend! He did most of the videography and the narration, and I edited it.

His Baked Ziti was one of the biggest hits of the event! There was a lot of other great food there, too, including the BBQ ribs, and the Jambalalya! I'll have our recipes posted up over the next few days. In the meantime, enjoy the video!

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Friendship" Fish Soup in a Dutch Oven

I have some good friends across the street.  They're a young couple, and he's a techie and a graphic designer.  He's been working on a website that looks really great called absoluteblastcaps.com, and he's been asking me for some SEO help and advice.

Now, sometime last summer (or it might have been last spring), he went fishing and gave me some of the fish he'd caught.  He also made me some fish soup.  Man, it was delicious!  It was a mess to eat, though, because the fish was just cut up into chunks.  It was gutted and scaled, but not filleted.  So, you're eating the broth and the veggies with a spoon, an you're pulling the fish meat off the bones with your fingers, and it's a mess.  Really, if you eat this stuff, you'll want to be with good friends, because it's a mess.  Did I mention that?

So, because of that, and since it's his recipe and method, and since he gave me the fish, and since I invited him and his wife over to sample it tonight, I'm calling it "Friendship Fish Soup".

"Friendship" Fish Soup in a Dutch Oven

12" Dutch Oven
20-24 coals below

  • 4-6 cups water
  • 2-3 medium fish
  • 4-5 medium onions, sliced
  • 4-5 stalks celery, sliced
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 small-medium zuchinni, quartered and sliced
  • 4-5 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1-2 green peppers, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, cored, seeded, and sliced
  • Bay leaves
  • Basil
  • ~1/4 cup lemon juice, to taste
  • ~1 Tbsp Salt, to taste
  • Pepper to taste

This is really an easy dutch oven recipe to make.  You slice up the veggies, you cut up the fish, you put it on the coals and you cook it.

Like I said, earlier, he gave me the fish last spring, so I gutted, scaled, cleaned them and then froze them.  I just got them out in the early afternoon and let them thaw.  I cut off the tails, and then cut the fish into 4 2-inch chunks.  I put that in the dutch oven, bones, skin and all.  I put in all the other ingredients, and put it on the coals, covered with the lid. 

Really, you can do this with whatever veggies you've got on hand.  I went really heavy on the onions, because I like a soup that's got some good veggie substance to it.  Potatoes would have been another good one to add.  Noodles or rice would have also worked.  I like keeping the broth pretty clear, though, because you're gonna be sticking your fingers in it...

Every fifteen minutes or so, I'd check it and taste the broth.  Add salt, pepper, and the seasonings you like as you would.  I think I'd have added a bit more jalapeno, or only cored half the jalapeno I added, so there would've been a bit more heat.

I thought about going with some poultry stock to start with, instead of water, but I finally figured that we'd be making a great fish and veggie stock, so I just used water.

I really liked it.  My wife wasn't as enthused by it, and didn't like the idea of picking fish bones out of her soup, so she only had the veggies.  Still, we had a great time visiting with our friends, and I really like the recipe.  Every once in a while, I make something that I like, even though hardly anyone else will. 

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: LDS Music Connecting, Mormons and Digg.com,5 Years of SOHOMan

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dutch Oven Apple French Toast Dessert

So, last time, when I posted that I wanted to try out your dutch oven recipes, I got one from Reid Rust.  I've been a bit slow trying it out, but I did it tonight, and it was great!  Here's what Reid sent me:


I really enjoy your blog.  Thanks much!

Here’s a recipe for you. 

I kind of invented this one by combining cobbler and French toast recipes.  I call this one Apple French Toast Casserole.  It makes a great sweet breakfast or dessert.

2 large cans (or 3 regular) apple pie filling.
1 stick butter  (Squeeze Parkay makes this real easy while camping.)
1 cup brown sugar
2 granny smith apples diced.
1 loaf thickly sliced French bread.  Sourdough works well, too.
1 pint whipping cream
8 eggs
2 tbl spoons vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

The night before….
Lay out French bread to dry.  This helps with absorbing the custard the next day.
Combine beaten eggs, whipping cream, vanilla, and cinnamon and let rest in refrigerator overnight so the custard mixture can age and set up. 


Lay out slices French bread in a baking pan and pour egg custard mixture over the bread.  Turn the bread slices to insure they are completely coated.  If you give it time, the bread will absorb all of the egg custard.  This is what you want.

In the dutch oven place ½ stick butter  diced across the bottom.  No need to melt, just spread it out.
Empty the cans of apply pie filling into the bottom of the dutch oven. 
Sprinkle ½ cup of the brown sugar over the apple pie filling.
Now begin layering the well soaked bread.  Between each layer spread a little of the diced apples, a sprinkling of brown sugar and a little diced butter.  Finish up the last layer with the remaining diced apple, butter, and brown sugar.  If there is any custard mixture left, you can pour it over the top for extra goodness.

Baked with 12 coals on the bottom and 12 coals on the top for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes check to insure the egg custard (French toast) has set.   If additional cooking time is needed, reduce the number of coal on the lid to keep the top from burning.

Serve as is or with maple syrup or ice cream.
Reid Rust


Now, I did it pretty much just as Reid explained it, here.  I often like to tweak up recipes, and make them "my own".  This dutch oven recipe didn't need much tweaking.  I didn't let the bread or the egg mixture sit overnight, though.  I set it all up in the morning and cooked it at about 5:00 PM.  It still turned out great. 

By the way, even though it was a tasty dessert, I'm definintely NOT filing this one in the "Healthy Recipes" category!  Lots of sugar, here...  Lots of calories.  Still, it was yummmmy...

Thanks, Reid!

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: 7 Years of LDS Pop Culture, A Home Business Twitter Primer, Some Old LDS Music Songs

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dutch Oven Mountain Man Breakfast

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:

It began:

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.

I replied:

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... :-)


She replied:

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.

Thanks again!


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...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dinner in a Pumpkin in a Dutch Oven

This dish is traditional for us this time of year. Typically, when there's a Halloween party for our group of parents of special needs kids, or a church party, my wife will make this meal. It's really cool, because the presentation is so seasonal.

The basic idea is that you hollow out the pumpkin, and fill it with a hamburger, rice, veggie, and sauce mix, then bake the whole thing. When you serve it up, the pumpkin itself becomes the serving bowl. You spoon out the meal mix, and as you do, you scrape in some of the baked pumpkin. The flavors all blend. It's delicious!

And I'm NOT a big fan of gourds and squash!

Dinner in a Pumpkin in a Dutch Oven

12" Dutch oven (browning and sauteeing)
8" Dutch oven (rice)
14" Deep dutch oven (baking the meal)

22 coals above, 12 coals below (maybe a few more because it was a bit cold and windy)

  • 1 Cup rice
  • 2 Cups water

  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Medium onions, chopped or sliced
  • 3-4 Stalks celery, chopped
  • 2-3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb Ground beef
  • 1 Can cream of something soup
  • salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley

  • 1 pumpkin, smaller and kinda flat
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

I started out by heating up some coals. I got the rice and water cooking in the small 8", and started sauteeing the onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic in the 12". When I cook rice, I just watch it until steam starts venting, then take it off about ten minutes after that. It usually works. When you're sauteeing veggies, you want the oven to be pretty hot, enough that the oil in the bottom looks "shimmery" and the veggies simmer the moment they hit the pan.

Once the veggies were looking a bit carmelized, I added the ground beef and browned it.

While that was cooking, I prepared the pumpkin. I have to say it was a challenge to pick the right pumpkin. I had to get out my tape measure and measure the inside of the 14" dutch oven, and then measure all of the pumpkins at the store. I must've looked pretty funny walking around measuring each pumpkin. I felt a little like Linus from Peanuts, making sure that his pumpkin patch was sincere enough for the Great Pumpkin.

I found one that was kinda flat when laid on its side, and yet I realized that there was still no way it would fit into the oven. It was still to high. So, I just decided to cut it into a bowl shape and move on.

What I did was to place the pumpkin in the dutch oven, and, using a knife, mark the "lid level" all the way around the pumpkin. Then I too it out and cut the top off using that knife mark as a guide. Finally, I hollowed out the seeds, and scraped off the fibrous parts.

Then, I got out the chili powder, and the cinnamon and sprinkled those around the inside. I tried to get all up the sides as well. I spread the the brown sugar around as well, and rubbed it all in.

Then, I brought all the other dutch ovens in and mixed their contents together with the can of soup and the seasonings. This glop I poured into the pumpkin and placed it into the 14" deep dutch oven. The lid fit nicely!

I put that oven out on the coals for almost two hours. I kept sticking the pumpkin rind with thin bamboo skewers, and when I felt little resistance, I knew it was soft and ready to serve.

My kids kept saying that they wouldn't eat the pumpkin, but they both did. A good way to get kids to eat squash, right? It was a real treat, and it's fun to see the food coming right out of the dutch oven.

The next time I do this, I'm going to try it with the dutch oven upside down. That is, I'll put the lid on the bottom, on a lid stand over the coals, and put the body of the dutch oven on top, with coals around the legs. That way, when I serve, the lid will look like a tray, and it won't be hidden down in the oven...

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: Revelations, Mixing Martyrs,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Healthy Dutch Oven Recipes

For a long time, I've not been overly worried about healthy cooking. And even less so in the dutch oven. Many of the dutch oven recipes are all about rich meats and sugary desserts. I love that stuff.

But I'm realizing that I can't go on like that indefinitely, and that I need to cut some of that back. It's vital that my family be more concerned about our foods.

So, I'm starting to cook more healthy, both in and out of the dutch ovens. So, here are some of the recipes I've found of late that are healthy, tasty, and fun to cook!

Here are the recipes in the basic "Healthy Dutch Oven Cooking" series:

And here are some "back issues of the Black Pot" recipes that are also full of good health:

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: Personal Thoughts on LDS General Conference, Making Music With Family,

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 MarkHansenMusic.com 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 MarkHansenMusic.com 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 MarkHansenMusic.com 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 MarkHansenMusic.com 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 MarkHansenMusic.com and his MoBoy blog.

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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dutch Oven Artisan Bread - Italian Ciabatta

I decided to try one of those "artisan breads" so many people are talking about. I kinda wanted to keep pressing my skills and see how far it will stretch, ya know? After a bit of searching, I came to an Italian Ciabatta. I'm doing a pasta dinner for some out-of-town friends tomorrow night, and I wanted to find something that fit, but would also be impressive, too.

It's kind of interesting. It's a very wet dough and it's got a very long pre-ferment time. In fact, it was very tricky for me to figure out exactly when to set it up and when to start so that the times of activity (mixing, kneading, baking) and the times of inactivity (rising, proofing, etc...) would all co-incide with times that I'd be able to do them.

I haven't tasted the end result yet. It looks good, but the crumb is more dense than the pictures in the book I used (The Art Of Bread (Cooking Arts Collection)). The pictures show a lot of large bubble holes, and a strong crust, but I got a very light crust and kind of normal crumb.

Perhaps someone with more expertise in bread making can point out where I went wrong. Still, it smells great, and I think it will taste great tomorrow, too. Of course, I had to make some adjustments to the procedure to adapt to outdoor cooking in the dutch oven. I think this process needs more tweaking.

Dutch Oven Ciabatta Bread

12" Dutch Oven
19 coals above/10 coals below

The "Starter"

  • 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup water (at about 100ºF)
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp honey
  • 1 cup bread flour

The Dough

  • 1/2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 cup water (at about 100ºF)
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

I started early yesterday morning, very early, when I got up and made the "Starter". So many different books call this step so many different things. Some call it the pre-ferment. Others call it the start or the starter. I've heard it called the sponge. I don't know what to call it. But at any rate, I combined the water and the milk, then dissolved the yeast into that mixture, letting it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Then I added the honey. Finally, I stirred in the flour. It was pretty runny and sticky, for dough. I set this aside on my kitchen counter, covered by a cloth towel.

About 12 hours later, (according to the instructions in the recipe), I looked at it. In fact, I'd been checking on it along the way, except for the hours we were out swimming as a family. Fun stuff, bad sunburn, the usual.

It had foamed up and sank back down. I hope that was what it was supposed to do.

At that point, it was time to make the dough. I added the yeast and the water to activate and dissolve the yeast. I set it aside for 5-10 minutes, again, like I had done before. I added this and the olive oil to the starter bowl with the sunken glop that was the starter, and mixed that up. It wasn't easy to mix with a wooden spoon. But it got tougher...

Next I added two cups of flour and kept stirring. According to the instructions, it should remain very sticky and quite loose, not like a good, firm, kneadable dough. I could see that the stirring up time was the only kneading it was gonna get. It was very difficult, and tiring to the ol' wrist, to stir it all over and over for 6-7 minutes. I had to do it, though, so I did.

I pulled it out for a moment, and sprayed the inside of the bowl with Pam spray, and then put it all back in. I set it aside with a towel over it, and let it rise for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

At about 2 to 2 1/2 hours rising time, I started some coals. I checked, of course, and it had risen a LOT! The recipe said to let it rise to triple it's original size, and it had certainly done that.

The next set of instructions were a little unclear in the book, and even less clear as to how to translate them into the dutch oven. The idea is to handle the dough as little as possible so as to not degass it. While I was contemplating that process, I got some lit coals out on the lid, pre-heating it. I essentially put all the coals listed above on the lid.

Finally, I made a decision. I sprayed the inside of the dutch oven, and then, as gently as I could, upended the bowl into the dutch oven. It did degas some. I'm not sure how else to do it. I let it proof in the dutch oven for another 20 minutes or so, while the lid got good and hot. Then, I sprinkled the dough with flour, primarily just as a topping, to pretty it up.

Then, I put it on the coals. I rotated it every 10-15 minutes, and replenished the coals. I did, however, let the coals die out a bit more this time than usual before replenishing, and I wonder if that's the reason for the lighter colored, softer crust...

Anyway, when the thermometer read done, I pulled it out and let it cool. Then, I sliced it open and put it away in the fridge for Monday night. We'll see how it goes!

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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: The Oquirrh Mountain Mormon Temple Dedication

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Dutch Oven Gathering that Almost Wasn't

This last Saturday was my birthday Dutch Oven Gathering. I almost canceled it, because I didn't have many respondents. But in the end, we did it anyway. Only my good friend Andy was able to make it for some great outdoor cooking. We did move it from the park to my house, and that was cool, except that Andy had a really hard time finding my house. Eagle Mountain is not the easiest city to navigate.

We both cooked up some good stuff. I made some bread, and this honey mustard salmon crusty thing, that I'll write up later this week, and Andy made what he calls "Mushrooms Bellagio". I was blown away by it. It was essentially a stuffed mushroom dish, but it was totally different from all the other variations I've ever seen, in indoor or outdoor cooking.

First of all, there wasn't any cream cheese in the stuffing, second, it was all topped and blended with a marinara sauce! That alone turned it from a simple appetizer to a main dish. In my mind, I'm thinking it would be really cool on top of a plate of hand- rolled fettuccine! The 'shrooms would replace meatballs in the sauce!

But anyway, her's Andy's recipe:

Dutch Oven Mushrooms Belaggio

12" Dutch Oven

20 Co
als Below
10 Co
als above

  • 6 pounds mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1 pound sausage
  • 1 pound Asiago cheese (get the real stuff)
  • 16 oz Marinara sauce
  • Dash Basil
  • Dash Thyme
  • Dash Oregano
  • Dash Garlic Salt

Light the coals, and as they heat combine the
precooked sausage, 1/2 the Asiago and all the spices. I mixed them in a ziplock bag to save on dishes. Stuff the sausage mixture into the mushrooms where the stems were. Layer them crown down in a 12" Deep Dutch Oven. Top each layer with the remaining Asiago, and pour any remaining sausage mix on the top. Cover with the lid and heat until the mushrooms are soft and the cheese is melted.

You may need to baste out some of the juices, and can save that as a mushroom gravy if desired. I found a large water syringe works well as a turkey baster if one can't be found... in fact, I'm going to nab the next one I find for my outdoor kitchen!
Add the marinara and cook until the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Andy Johnson

Thanks, Andy! He's a great iron chef. It was wonderful to sit with him and talk about music and things, while the food was cooking down. Go check out his songs at his facebook page.

Oh! And I almost forgot! He gave me a wonderful birthday present: The Magic Dutch Oven Spoon! It's a big, wide, wooden spoon, and he's etched the heat/coals chart into the back! So, whenever I'm out cooking, and I need a heat guide: I can consult the Magic Spoon! Ingenious!

Here's a shot of the Salmon. There'll be more on this one when I write it up in full recipe form on the blog. I cooked it a second time the next day for my parents and sister/bro-in-law. It's really good!
Mark: Master bread maker or psycho killer with a knife. You decide, and comment below.
Here's the magic spoon. Apparently, even though I aligned the picture correctly, it's not magic enough to display that way. I guess you just have to turn your head.

Still it's invention is sheer genius!

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


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