Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Newest Dutch Oven Challenge

A few weeks ago, I posted up a new Dutch Oven challenge for Andy, and anyone else that wanted to join in.  The ingredients for this one were:

  • Meat: Beef
  • Veggie/fruit: Leeks/scallions/green onions
  • Spice: Cinnamon

So, last weekend, I undertook the challenge.  The process confused me, and in many ways, until I actually did it, I wasn't sure what I was going to do.  In my mind, I was going to make the beef and the onions, and then do a dairy-based sauce with nutmeg and cinnamon.  My main confusion was in how to handle the roux for the sauce.  In the end, the process I chose worked, but I might do it differently if I ever do this one again.

By the way, if any of you out there can come up with a good name for this dish, let me know, 'cause I'm stumped.  For now, it's...

That One Dish that Mark Made for the Dutch Oven Challenge

12" Dutch Oven

A lot of coals under (for the first steps)
10 coals below
16 coals above (for the final steps)

  • 2-3 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 tbsp flour

  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 3 scallions/green onions, chopped
  • salt

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • pepper

  • 2 large potatoes, quartered and sliced
  • 1 sweet pepper, diced

  • ~2 cups milk
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • more flour, if necessary, to thicken

I started out by making the roux out of equal parts of oil and flour in the open dutch oven, on bottom heat only.  For some reason, my coals were very slow lighting that day, and so it took quite a while to make even the blondest of a blonde roux.  It was also pretty runny. 

Once that had cooked a bit, and browned just a little, I added the second set of ingredients, to sautee.  I wasn't sure how well it would sautee with the roux still in the pot, but Alton did it once, and it seemed to work, so I guess it was OK.  This was a large part of my aforementioned confusion.

Once the onions were translucent, I added the ground beef and let that brown.

When the beef was pretty much cooked through, and all stirred up, I added the potatoes and sweet peppers.  At this point, I covered the dutch oven and set up the coals for baking/roasting, with top and bottom heat, as listed above.  I let the potatoes cook a bit, stirring things up occasionally.

When I could see that the potatoes were starting to cook, but not done (maybe just a bit firmer than "al dente"), I poured in the milk.  I didn't measure it, but rather just guestimated.  I poured it in until it came up to "halfway" covering the meat and potatoes.  In other words, there was enough milk that I could see it rising as I poured, but the level of the milk was nowhere near the top of the food.  I stirred in the nutmeg and the cinnamon, and let that cook and simmer some more, covered, until the potatoes were done.

I did add just a little more flour for a bit of thickening, but it didn't need much.  In retrospect, I'd probably do more roux at the beginning.

I Served it up on two slices of the artisan bread I'd made the day before, following this Dutch Oven bread recipe.  The tangy bread and the meat made a magnificent combination.

The taste was delicious, and my son pronounced it "Amazing".  I'd say this challenge was a success.  Any other takers?!


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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: A Performance for LDS Youth!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Come to the WCCO at the Sportsman's Expo!

This weekend is a big one in the Dutch Oven world.  At the Utah Outdoorsman Expo each spring, the International Dutch Oven Society (IDOS) hosts its World Championship Cook Off.  Teams from all over come to compete.  Come on out and see some incredible cheffery!

In addition, just north of the cooking area (if they set up like they have in years past), there's the IDOS booth, with membership information and a demo area.  They'll be staging classes all weekend long.

Yours truly will be doing a class on the basics of knife use on Thursday, right after they announce the day's finalists for the cookoff.  I'm excited to be doing it.  I'll be showing how to shop for a good chef's knife without breaking the bank, how to keep it sharp, and how to wield it on some chicken and veggies for a nice, easy chicken soup.  Come see how to swing a sword!

For info on location and discount tickets, etc... here's the announcement on the IDOS website.  Anyone interested in dutch oven cookery should be haunting that site anyway!


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

Dutch Oven Pork Roast with Pineapple and Apricot

Picture the sharp dressed waiter saying:

"It's a delectable blend of classic and contemporary, of sweet and savory.  A pork roast, smothered in rich sauce of sweet pineapple and tart apricot and kissed with ginger and mustard, served on a bed of creamy pototoes..."

"Oooh!  I'll have that!"

"An excellent choice, madam..."

Really, this dish did turn out excellent, even extravagant, but it was truly simple. 

Pineapple and Apricot Pork Roast

12" dutch oven
12 coals below
14 coals above

  • 1 2-3lb pork roast, thawed
  • 1 15oz can Pineapple chunks, with juice
  • 1 18oz bottle apricot preserves, or pineapple/apricot preserves
  • 1 handful dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (preferably cider)
  • 1 tsp powdered mustard or mustard seed
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • Salt
  • Pepper

I started the coals and got the dutch oven ready, next to my cutting board.  The roast went in the middle.  Everything else just got added in on top and around.  It's really that easy.

No, really...

I put it out on the coals, and about every half hour or so, I'd scoop up some sauce and pour it over the meat.  I roasted it until it was about 160 inside, and brought it in and let it rest a bit.  While that was happening, I made up some mashed potatoes.  I even made some celery fan garnish, just for show.

Fancy meal, no fuss.


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

Herb & Bacon Cornish Hen Halves in the Dutch Oven

This one was pretty cool, and very easy.  A nice, one-pot, one-step meal.  I didn't get any pictures of it.  It just turned out nice.

Usually, when we buy cornish hens, they're whole, but this time we found some that were split in half, down the spine. That made it easy to layer like this.

12" deep dutch oven
12-14 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 4 medium potatoes, halved and sliced
  • 2 medium onions, sliced

  • ~2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper

  • 4 halves of cornish hens (one per person), thawed
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon

I started off by creating the bottom layer (I did all this while the coals were heating up).  I cut the potatoes into large chunks, and the onions into quarters and spread them over the bottom of the dutch oven.  That would serve to elevate the hen halves above the drippings.

Then, I mixed all of the ingredients in the second set.  I played it pretty loose with the amounts.  Just shake some in the bowl and stir.  Taste it and see.  I made it a little runnier than a paste.

Make sure that the hens are thawed.  There were some that weren't, and when we were serving them, a few weren't completely done.  I was embarrassed, and we had to finish them in the microwave.  What a shame for a dutch oven cook.

Anyway, I covered a hen half in the herb baste, draped a piece of bacon over it and set it in the dutch oven.  I had to kind of overlap them a bit to fit them all in.  That went out onto the coals until they read 170 degrees.

See?  Simple.  But delicious.  Even the microwaved ones weren't too bad.

...And afterward, I made stock.  Yum!


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

Monday, March 8, 2010

No-Knead Dutch Oven Basic Bread

There are a couple of trends I've been noticing across the intarwebs worlds of breadmaking.  One of them is the "No-Knead" breads.  These breads seem to have these common characteristics.

  1. The dough is VERY wet and goopy, just on this side of a batter.
  2. They are made with a very long first fermenting, such as overnight or longer.
  3. The dough is handled very little, hence the name "No-knead"
  4. They are baked in a small, enclosed space, to trap moisture and enhance the crust.  (Hmmm... Sounds like a dutch oven...)
  5. The crumb structure is full of large holes.

I've been really intrigued with the idea, and have wanted to try it.  Matt, over at "One Off", made a loaf, and spelled out the directions so clearly that I thought I'd give it a try.  This particular recipe and procedure reminds me a lot of the French Bread I did a while back.  It, too, has a long ferment time (a preferment, in fact), and it also uses only the basic four ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast).

No-Knead Dutch Oven Basic Bread ("Pain Ordinaire" in french)

12" Dutch Oven

10-12 Coals below
19-23 Coals above
(use higher numbers in colder weather)

  • 6 Cups of Bread Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3 1/4 C Water

I started the day before, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, by mixing the ingredients.  You might notice that my ingredients are double that of Matt's.  He baked his in a terra cotta flower pot, and that's a little tighter quarters than a dutch oven.  I mixed the dry ingredients first, whisking them all together, then added the water.  Afterward, I adjusted the consistency by adding a bit of flour (if it needs, you could add water instead).  From what I've seen and read, you want it to be goopy, but not a batter.  It should still stick to the sides of the bowl.  It should have enough liquid to jiggle in the bowl, but not be runny.

I covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside on my kitchen countertop.

The next day, at about 11:00 or so in the morning, I saw that it had puffed up very nicely.  I put a lot of flour out on my countertop and, with a spatula, dumped the dough out onto it.  It immediately flattened out pretty nicely, but I dusted the top with some flour and spread it just a bit more.  I picked up both sides, right and left, and did a "letter fold".  By that, I mean that I brought one side two-thirds of the way over toward the other side, then folded the second side fully over that.  I dusted it with more flour, turned it, and did it again.  Then, I did it a third time, just because, I guess.

Finally, I put some parchment paper in a bowl.  I picked up the dough (with heavily floured hands) and wrapped it into a boule and set it in the bowl, on the parchment.  I set that aside for another rise.  The plan is to let it rise for a couple of hours.

After about an hour, I started some coals up.  My coals must've been a bit damp, because I had a tough time lighting them.  A half hour or so later, I had some lit, but not strongly, and not as many as I'd have liked.  Still, I put them under and on an empty, oiled dutch oven to preheat.  Meanwhile, I tried to get more coals lit and burning.  It just wasn't happening like I would have liked.

At some point I decided that the dutch oven was hot enough and I gently lowered the dough and the parchment into the dutch oven.  I folded the remaining parchment over and put on the lid.  By then, I had some more coals ready and I added them to heat it up some more.

It baked about an hour or so.  When it was done, it looked really great, smelled really great, and, after cooling, tasted really great.  There wasn't the big holes, though, in the crumb.  I've never been able to pull that off.  I suspect it's because the oven wasn't hot enough.  I'll try it again really soon, and see if I can make it work. 

It tasted really good the next day, too.  I don't know how well it will preserve over the week because it's already gone.  I guess that's a good sign, right?


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

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Second Dutch Oven Challenge

Last month, my pal Andy challenged me to a cookin' duel, cast iron chef style.  The rules were simple, We each chose three ingredients and the other person had to make a one-pot meal that included those ingredients.  It was a lot of fun, and generated a lot of interest.

So, I'm doing it again.  Here are the rules for this round.  Most of them are the same, but I'm going to change them up a little bit, however.

  • It doesn't have to be a one-pot dish.  As long as all of the ingredients end up on the same plate, I don't care how simple or complex the process is.
  • Once again, the players can add any other ingredients they choose, but the final dish must include all three preset ingredients.
  • The recipe must be your own original creation.  Search the web and the cookbooks for inspiration, but do your own thang.  Here and here are some good posts on making up recipes.
  • Rather than require Andy, or anyone else, to come back with a challenge for me, I'm going to also do these same three ingredients.
  • I'm going to open this one up to everyone that reads this blog.  Check out the list, and if you're in on the challenge, cook it up.  Then, email me with either your recipe (and pics, if you take any) or a link to where you wrote it up on your blog or website.

So, here are the new challenge ingredients

  • Meat: Beef (any cut or form of it you want)
  • Veggie/fruit: Leek, scallion, or green onion, etc...
  • Spice/flavoring: Cinnamon

I'm also going to post this to the IDOS forums, and see what excitement we can stir up there.


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

Mark's Other Blog Posts: A Singing Gig!, Thoughts About God


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