Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deconstructed Jambalaya Ham in a Dutch Oven

My father-in-law bought us a ham for Christmas dinner, and I was contemplating how to make it.  I’ve got a lot of ham recipes already, and I was tempted to just do one of those again.  But, I also thought about doing it differently.

To get some ideas, I browsed the web.  As I was doing a search, I saw a recipe for a jambalaya with ham chunks in it.  I looked it over, and thought I could deconstruct it.

“Deconstruction” is an interesting process that has gotten a lot of attention in the food world in the last few years.  The idea is that you begin with an idea for a well-known dish, then in your mind you separate out the ingredients one from another.  Then, you create a new dish, using those same ingredients in new and recombined ways.

In this case, the thought was to roast the ham with all the herbs and seasonings flavoring it.  Then, to combine all of the veggie ingredients around the ham, and to use the veggies and liquids as a baste to flavor the ham roast.

I was a bit nervous to do it.  My father-in-law is a very traditional eater, and I wasn’t sure how he’d go for it, and my wife was even less convinced when I explained what I’d be doing.  I decided to go ahead with it anyway.

Deconstructed Jambalaya Ham

14” Dutch oven

18 coals below
18 coals above

  • 1 8 lb ham, thawed
  • Liberal shakes of:
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • basil
  • bay leaves
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne (not as much, to taste)

  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 3 sweet peppers
  • 4 med tomatoes, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

I started out with the thawed ham (which was a spiral cut, pre-cooked).  I cut it out of the package and put it into the 14” Dutch oven without letting it drain, to keep as much of the liquid as possible.  I mixed all of the seasonings in a bowl and mixed them up, then rubbed them all over the ham.  I put that onto the coals.

I waited only about a half hour to begin chopping up and prepping the veggies.  When they were all ready, I tossed them in around the ham.

I made sure that I had plenty of fresh coals ready to keep coming in from time to time from the side fire.

When the veggies had been in for a half hour or so, I began scooping the cooking veggies and liquids up and spooning it over the ham about every twenty minutes or so.  I also started thinking about a side dish.  I had the bread sculpture from the other day, and some salad, but I wanted a bit more variety.  I thought about doing some roasted seasoned potatoes.

Simple Dutch Oven Roasted Potatoes

10” Dutch oven

10 coals below
10-12 coals above

  • 4 large Potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • paprika

I chopping up the potatoes, thin.  I poured the olive oil on them in the 10” Dutch oven, and added the seasonings.  I stirred it up well, and put it on the coals.

From then on, it was easy.  I just monitored the coals, and the temperature of the ham, and got it on the table when it was done.  The roast cooked for a total of about 2 ½ hours.

The verdict?  I loved it, my wife loved it, and even my father-in-law asked to take some home!


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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Decorative Dutch Oven Breads

When I was a little kid, one of our erstwhile Christmas traditions was to do bread sculptures.  Mom would make up a basic variant on a french bread dough, and after it had risen, we would shape it into Santa faces, or Christmas trees, or lots of other options.  Sometimes, mom would make up a big batch of dough and we’d make 6 or 7 fairly big Santas, and then we’d deliver them to some special friends.

I mentioned that memory to my mom in a phone call a few weeks ago.  We laughed and reminisced about it, and then I asked her for the recipe, which she rattled off from memory.  I jotted it down.

I really wanted to try something like that in my Dutch ovens this year.  I started to think about how to make it work in the circular shape of the oven.  I decided on some other designs, a sun and a moon shape.

Here’s how it happened:

Decorative Dutch Oven Bread

2x 12” Dutch Ovens
14-15 coals below (each)
18-22 coals above (each)

  • 2 Tbsp Yeast
  • 3 Cup water (110 degrees)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ Tbsp salt
  • 8 Cups fresh bread flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp oil
  • Egg to glaze

I started out by increasing the amounts in the original recipe by half.  I figured that doubling the recipe would be too much, and that the basic recipe wouldn’t be enough.  I wanted to do two Dutch ovens’ worth, so I adjusted it by 150%.  That gets the measurements listed above.

I mixed the water, the yeast and the sugar first, and let that sit for about 10 minutes, while I gathered the other ingredients.  As always, I reduced the amount of flour (only 8 cups) in the starting mix, and added more in the kneading.  I also sifted the flour.  Sometimes I do that, and other times, not, by my whim.  I sometimes think that it aerates the flour and makes it a little fluffier.  I heard a TV chef say that one day.  I dunno for sure.

I mixed the liquid and the powders, and stirred it all up.  I turned it out onto the floured tabletop, and kneaded, sprinkling on more flour.  Once it made a nice windowpane, I tucked it into a ball, oiled the bowl and put it in.  I also sprayed oil on the dough ball, and then covered it with a towel, to rise.

Once it had risen, I turned the big dough ball out onto my floured tabletop, with two Dutch ovens, sprayed with oil, next to it.  Mise en Plase...  Now, at this point, I should have gone out and lit up the coals.  If you try this, that’s how you should do it, I think.  I did it later in the process, and I think the dough over-rose.  It didn’t spring quite like I had thought it would.

I cut the dough into  quarters.  My plan was to spread a layer of dough all around the bottom, almost like a pizza crust (but without the rim).  That would be my “canvas”.  Then I would build the image on top of that.  I started with the sun.  I made a round circle in the middle for the face, then rolled the flares like clay snakes in between my hands.  Another few snakes made the eyebrows, the nose, and the smile.  A couple of balls, with a deep poke in the center with a finger, made the eyes.

Then, the moon.  I shaped a crescent, and then did an eyebrow, nose, lips and an eye the same way.  I also added a couple of stars to the left of the crescent.

At this point, I would have gone out and poured a lot of coals out on the two lids, to preheat.  While that’s preheating, I’d leave the art in the Dutch ovens to rise.  Also, set more fresh coals in the fire to start.

Once they’d risen a little bit more, and the lids got good and hot, I beat up a couple of eggs and spread them all over the sculptures.  I was pretty liberal, so it would help the thinner bits stay on.  Then, I put the Dutch ovens on and under the coals.  I marked the time, and went inside to rest.

It wasn’t freezing today, but it wasn’t exactly warm, either.  So, after about 15 minutes, I rotated the Dutch ovens, and added some coals.  I only added a couple on the bottom, and much more on top.  I lifted the ovens and tapped the ash off the coals.  I did the same with those on top.  I also inserted a short-stemmed thermometer.

Another 15-20 minutes and it was done!  I pulled them off and put them on cooling racks.

I was really excited with the results!  The sun turned out better than the moon (which I’m eating as I type this).


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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The History of the Dutch Oven

It's been exciting to see the progress that the publishing company has been making toward the release of the book.  I've learned a lot about how that works, and I can see why it takes so long!  My first book, to be titled, "The Best of the Black Pot" will be coming out in March!

I've been working hard on the second book, tentatively titled, "Learning to Cook in the Black Pot".  Here's an article (interesting, I hope) that I've excerpted from that manuscript.  Just a taste of things to come!

The History of the Dutch Oven

Much of what has been written about Dutch oven history is apocryphal, or at least legendary.  By that, I mean that many writers quote and cite each other as they go through the timeline.  I’m not going to be any different, honestly.  The important thing is not so much the dates, but to get an overall picture of the Dutch oven’s place in history, and to feel some connection to that as you cook. 

Well, really, when you think about it, you could cook just fine it the oven and never know that it even existed before a month ago, right?  But the more that you learn about its background and its life, the more it makes sense.  I find myself reading something and saying, “Oh!  THAT’s why they did it that way!”


After the stone age, people started hammering copper into shapes, and then, discovered that it could be blended with tin to make a whole new age, made out of bronze.  Pretty soon, they were heating and hammering iron out of the rocks and in the 11th century BC, they learned how to make things with wrought iron, and crude steels.

Then, in 513 BC, the Chinese discovered how to make a furnace hot enough to actually melt the iron down, and casting iron began.  Clever of those guys.  The Europeans didn’t figure that until about the 11th century AFTER Christ.  They may be slow, but they get there.

Cast iron pots and cauldrons were used to cook after that, and were even mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays (Like being used by the witches in MacBeth).

Late 1600’s

By this time, the Dutch had a pretty sweet system of making molds out of sand, and were putting out some good pots, pans, and other cast iron things.  These were, of course, being exported all over, particularly in England.  This is one of the theories behind why they are called “Dutch ovens” today.

Another theory is that the Dutch traveling traders spread the pots far and wide, and so people referred to them as “Dutch ovens”.


In 1704, an Englishman named went to The Netherlands to study their casting techniques.  He brought those skills back to England, worked on them some more, and got an English patent.  He began producing the cookware and distributing them in England and also in the colonies in America.  In Ireland, as well as other places, they were made with small points hanging from the underside of the lid.  As meats roasted, the steam would gather and drip down these points, giving the pot the name “bastible”.

In America, their practicality and versatility caught on very quickly.  They were perfect for hearth cooking, which is where almost all cheffery happened in homes.  They could roast meats, boil soups, and be used to bake breads and cakes.

Adjustments and improvements came in America, too, including the legs and lip around the lid to keep the ashes out of the food.  Paul Revere is credited with coming up with the idea for the lip, but I have never seen any mention of any real evidence of that fact.  It makes a good story, though.

Another theory about the name came from the fact that the ovens had been also brought over with Dutch immigrants who had settled in Pennsylvania.

In these days, cast iron cookware were considered to be very valuable, and, since they were also very durable, would be passed down from generation to generation.  George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, specified in her will how her “iron kitchen furniture” would be divided after her death.


In the early 1800’s, the United States was growing, and it was here that the Dutch oven truly became an American icon.  Lewis and Clark took Dutch ovens on their famous expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase. 

As the Pioneers moved west, in the Mormon migration as well, Dutch ovens crossed the plains with them.  On my mother’s side, there were several of these undefeatable souls who walked pushing handcarts all the way from Winter Quarters, on the east of Nebraska, to the Salt Lake valley, cooking their nightly meals in their Dutch ovens, fueled by burning dried buffalo manure.

I’ve read accounts where the wives would mix the bread dough in the morning, and put it in the Dutch ovens, and then in the carts, and by evening it would have risen and be ready to bake.

In the later 1800s, Dutch ovens were also vital parts of the the chuck wagons on the famous cattle drives of the west.


In the 1900’s, as the technology and affordability of indoor stoves and ranges increased, Dutch ovens fell out of use.  Cast iron was still popular, particularly the skillets.  Dutch ovens lost their legs, and became more of the range-top and roaster pots as they are popular now.

Still, Dutch ovens remained popular among campers, hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

In 1985 the International Dutch Oven Society was formed, in Utah, “...with the goals to preserve and promote the skills and art of Dutch Oven cooking. From it's humble beginnings in the Rocky Mountains, IDOS has grown to its current status as the largest and most productive group of black pot enthusiasts in the world.”

2000 +

Dutch ovening as a hobby continues to grow.  A few adjustments to the traditional designs have been coming on in the last few years, even since the 1990s, including the “Ultimate Dutch Oven”, currently manufactured by Camp Chef, which features a hollow cone in the center of the oven to allow hot air to enter, convection style. Many Camp Chef ovens also include a small hole in the lip of the lid for the insertion of thermometers or thermometer leads.  Maca makes big, deep dutch ovens, many shaped in ovals to better accommodate large turkeys.

...And on a personal note, it was in 2007 that I first began blogging about my Dutch oven cooking experiences!

I find it interesting to reflect on the changes.  Now, we have glass-top ranges, microwave ovens, convection ovens, stoves that clean themselves, automatic timers, table top grills, panini makers, and a million other modern ways to cook.  A Dutch oven is delicious, nutritious, and wonderful.  But it’s not always the quickest or the easiest way to cook.  I cook in Dutch ovens because it’s my hobby and because it’s fun.  We have contests and parties that celebrate Dutch oven cooking.  In the back of my head, though, I keep the haunting thought: my ancestors used it to feed their families on a daily basis.

Over the years, the Dutch oven has developed into the thing that it is for very practical reasons: it worked.


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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making Gread Dutch Oven Sourdough, Part II

In the last posting, I covered the first two steps, the start, and the barm.  Now, we’re ready to move ahead to the sponge, and, finally, the dough!

Step 3: The Sponge (AKA: The Firm Starter)

At this point, I doubled the recipe, so I could make two loaves.  That way, I would have some to enjoy, and some to give away, if I wanted.  I’m going to post it straight, here, and you can double it if you want to.

⅔ cup barm
1 cup bread flour
about ¼ cup warm water, maybe more, enough to make a basic dough texture.

I mixed these ingredients together, stirring until all of the flour was combined in, and it was forming a ball.  I didn’t knead it, but I did end up mixing it with my hands a bit to add some more moisture and make sure it was incorporated.  I covered it in plastic wrap and put it aside, letting it ferment for a few more hours, until bedtime.  At that point, I put it in the fridge for a long, slow, cool, overnight rise.

Step 4: The Dough

On Sunday, I took the sponge out of the fridge pretty early in the day, and set it aside to come up to closer to room temperature.  I dumped it out onto my floured countertop and, using my bread cutter/scraper, cut it into about 10-12 pretty equally-sized chunks.  While those were still warming up, I got these other ingredients together into the bowl (remember that I was still doubling everything for two loaves, but this recipe is undoubled):

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 ¾ cups water (warm/hot to the touch, like a good shower temperature)
  • The chunks of the sponge

I mixed all of these things together and dumped it all out onto the tabletop and began kneading.  As always, I added flour as I went, to make it the right consistency (not too sticky, not too stiff and dry).  After only about 15 minutes, it passed the windowpane test, and I kneaded a few more minutes just to be sure.  I oil-sprayed the bowl and set the ball to rise.

A few hours later, it had doubled in bulk (or so), and I pulled it out and shaped it into two boules (remember I had doubled it).

Now, this is where I did things a bit differently than I did before.  I had some cloth from an old shirt, which I sprayed with oil and dusted with flour.  I draped that cloth over a bowl and set the dough boule into the middle of the cloth.  I folded the cloth over the top of the dough and set it aside to proof.  I did this with my other boule, too.  You’ll see why in a bit.

After that had been rising for a few hours, I began preparing the Dutch ovens.  I lit up a lot of coals, and let them get nice and white on the edges.  I oiled the Dutch ovens and set them up with about 14-16 coals underneath them each, and 26-30 coals on top.  That’s right, I wanted these things to be HOT.

About a half hour later, when I could see that the ovens were good and hot, and the bread was nicely proofed in the bowls, it was all ready.  I brought the bread out to the ovens, set the Dutch oven lid aside, and upended the bowl, dropping the bread into the Dutch oven.  Quickly, I pulled off the cloth, and made some fast slices in the top (which was the bottom a few minutes ago), and closed up the lid.  Then I did the same thing for the other boule.

See, the whole “cloth in the bowl” thing made for easy transfer of the proofed bread to the fully pre-heated dutch oven.  I didn’t have to mess with parchment, and there was no lag time heating up the base of the Dutch oven or the air inside.

After about 15 minutes, I rotated the lid and the dutch oven, and replenished some of the coals, top and bottom.  I was very careful on the bottom coals.  I added some, but I’m always cautious in how many I add.  In this case, I put on four, one on each “side”.  Too many bottom coals can make for a heavy bottom crust.  I also lifted the lid and set the thermometer.  I have these short-stemmed meat thermometers that I really like.  It was hard to find them, but I’m glad I did.

In about another 15 to 20 minutes, I checked again, and they were done, to 200 degrees.  The top crusts didn’t brown very much, so I wasn’t sure if they were done, but the thermometers said so, so I brought them in.  I dropped them out of the Dutch ovens and onto cooling racks.  The thermometers came out pretty clean, so that was a good sign.  I just let them cool for a couple of hours while I cooked the split pea soup with the ham bone from Thanksgiving.

The bread, when I finally cut into it, was soft and delicious.  The crusts were soft, the bread was chewy and tasty, and done all the way through, it was perfect.  Like I said before, it was easily the best sourdough bread I’ve ever made.

So, here are the things that I learned:

First of all, a long, drawn-out process of multiple steps of fermentation helps all of the rich, complex flavors develop.  It really is worth it to take your time and not rush this process.  Look at the ingredients!   There’s nothin’ there!  No egg, no sugar, no oils, no herbs!  It’s just you, the wheat, and the germs!  Yet, if you let nature take its sweet time, you’ll get some seriously delicious bread.

Second, preheating the entire dutch oven made a big difference in the baking.  The cloth-covered bowl made this easy and practical.

This was definitely a major breakthrough in my bread-baking learning!


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

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Great Dutch Oven Sourdough

...And What I Learned Making It.

Up until last weekend, I thought I had a pretty good handle on breadmaking.  I thought, in particular, I understood sourdough breads.  Sadly, I was fooling myself.

Happily, I discovered this not by the tearful results of a colossal failure, which is usually my learning style, but by the delicious tangy taste of success.  A pair, in fact, of successful sourdough loaves that continue to tantalize me, even days later.

I can calmly say that these were the best sourdough loaves I have baked.


See, I’ve done sourdough breads before, but none of them had that strong tang I was looking for.  There were some wonderful loaves, and some who said, “I don’t really like sourdough, but I love this bread!”  Of course, that wasn’t really what I wanted to hear.  I wanted to be able to taste it and have it zing! in my mouth.

This one gave me the zing!

The success was not at all in the recipe, either, but in the process, and that is what I learned.

I began by, once again, studying “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”, by Peter Reinhart.  This is truly an amazing book.  I would strongly recommend it for anyone who is wanting to learn how to bake bread, even if you’re going to bake it in a Dutch Oven, instead of a conventional, or even a commercial oven, as the book describes.

There were a lot of stages, and even though a lot of time was spent in each stage (about a week and a half, total), and even though I didn’t really fully understand the need for each stage, I did each one faithfully, from start to barm to sponge to dough.  I learned that it was the long ferment times in each stage that gave the bacteria time to develop the flavor.  The flavor, I’ve learned comes from both the natural yeast (which develops the bready flavors), and the other bacteria that grow and live in the bread (creating the acidy tang).  Long fermentation times (raises) allow both flavors to deepen to their fullest.

OK, so here we go:

Step 1: The Start - The Seed Culture

First, we catch the wild yeast.  I began by putting an amount (about a cup) of flour in a bowl (that’s not a reactive metal, plastic worked fine), along with an equal amount of relatively warm water.  I stirred it up, and adjusted the mix until it was pretty goopy, almost runny.  I set that aside, uncovered.  I set it in a very prominent and visible place in the kitchen, and alerted all in the house that it was NOT to be thrown away, no matter how gross it looked.

For the rest of the days until I caught the germs, every time I walked past it, I grabbed a fork and stirred it up.  This helped keep the crust that formed across the top mixed in.

Once a day, I fed the start.  By that, I mean that I scooped out about half the gunk that was the start and rinsed it down the drain.  Then I added another amount of flour and water, just like before, and stirred the whole thing up.  I did this for several days.  I kept seeing a few bubbles form, and I would think that it was getting germy, but it wasn’t very much.  I assumed that it was just the rising air bubbles that were formed when I stirred it up.

Finally, day after day, the perseverance paid off.  One morning, it was bubbly.  Not just a few bubbles, but frothy.  Just to give it extra time, I fed it the same as I had done each day before and gave it one more overnight.  I had caught my seed culture, and made my start.  That was on Friday.

Step 2: The Barm

The Barm is another step of fermentation.  I’m honestly not sure what the difference is or why this step exists, but I did it anyway.  I’m sure that the long fermentation times have a lot to do with it.

1 ½ cups bread flour
About 1 cup starter
About 1 cup warm water (enough to make it goopy and gooey)

I mixed these up in the morning on Saturday, and covered it with plastic wrap.  By afternoon it was expanded and bubbly.  I let it go a bit longer, into the evening, and I stirred it up again.  Finally, it was ready for the sponge stage.  If I’d had more days, I would have put it into the fridge, overnight, and made the sponge the next day.  But the next day was Sunday, and that was the day I’d planned to bake it.  So, after much internal debate, I had to shorten it.

Stay tuned, the next step is coming right up!


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 24, 2011

Apple Orange Ham - My Dutch Oven Challenge Entry

I actually tried to make a dish for my Apples to Oranges Dutch Oven Challenge about three weeks ago or so, but it didn’t turn out very well.  It wasn’t BAD, but it wasn’t what I wanted, and it certainly wasn’t as cool as some of the other entries.  I did a pan-fried ham steak with an attempt at an orange/apple glaze.  In the end it was good, but not great.

Well, for our big family Thanksgiving dinner this week (today, actually), I was asked to do a ham.  An idea started forming, so I gave it a shot.  It turned out to be really, really yummy.  It did have several steps to the process, but it was overall pretty easy.  The spices played pretty nicely together.  I did stick with pretty much the sweet end of the spice spectrum, though.  I didn't get to crossover-crazy with the savories.

Apple Orange Ham

14” Dutch Oven

14-16 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 1 Spiral-sliced, pre-cooked ham, thawed
  • 2 Apples, sliced
  • Cloves, whole or ground

  • 1 large can Mandarin oranges with syrup
  • 1/2 can orange juice concentrate
  • 1 apple, minced
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Fennell
  • 1 ½ cup Brown sugar
  • Minced fresh mint

I started out by lighting up some coals.  I got one of my big 14” deep dutch ovens out and oiled it inside and out.  I put that on a lot of coals, with some on the lid as well, to preheat, and to set some of the seasoning on the patina.

While the Dutch oven was heating up, I cut up the apples.  I sliced them very thin.  I didn’t have any whole cloves, so I just sprinkled some ground cloves onto the apple slices and stirred them up really well.

The ham had been thawing in the fridge for almost a week.  I cut open the bag and drained it, then put the ham on a plate on the counter, lying on its side.   I inserted the apple slices into the spiral slices of the ham.  If I had been using whole cloves, I would have inserted them as well.  I kinda staggered them from layer to layer.  That kept it from bulging out too much.  I did that on both sides, then put it in the dutch oven to cook.

I cooked it for about two hours.  After about an hour, I made the glaze.  I basically just mixed the ingredients.  It wasn’t as thick as I wanted it to be, but it still worked.

I did try something new.  The nutmeg was whole, and freshly grated, and the fennel was ground in my mortar and pestle.  The smell of the nutmeg as I was grating it was in-cred-ible.

So, I just basted about ¾ of the sauce/glaze onto the top of the ham in the last 45 minutes or so of the roasting and let it settle in.  About 15 minutes before taking it off the coals, I put the last of the sauce on.

When it was all done, it tasted delicious.  I could taste all of the flavors intermingling.  I also made a loaf of spice bread, and added some dried cranberries.  that was really delicious, too, and both dishes were a hit with the family.


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

Friday, November 18, 2011

How's this for exciting!?

Here's the cover-to-be of my first Dutch oven cookbook, to be titled: "The Best of the Black Pot"!

Seeing this is making it start to feel real!


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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marks Own Dutch Oven Calzone

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to cook today, until yesterday.  I was running some errands for Jodi, and was at a grocery store.  I saw some pre-made, bake-them-yourself calzones, and they looked really appetizing, even in their uncooked state.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to try a pizza with a crust on the bottom and on the top, and so, for today, I thought I’d do it with the calzones.  It ended up being a pretty involved two-day affair, because I decided I wanted to try an overnight rise on the crust.

I also did the preheating of the dutch oven on the sauce.  I found it did wonders for the patina (which was getting a bit thin on that oven), even just in one use.  I’m becoming more and more convinced.  Of course, when I baked the calzones, I had to assemble them in the 12”, so I couldn’t pre-heat it.  But with breads, you’re baking drier ingredients, so it’s going to strengthen your patina, anyway.

The Crust

  • 1 ½ c. warm water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 4 c.  bread Flour

The Filling/Sauce

10” Dutch oven
15-18 coals below

  • ½ lb mild italian sausage
  • ¼ lb bacon, cut into short strips
  • 1 link of pepperoni, quartered and chopped
  • 1 full Tablespoon flour

  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded, cored, chopped

  • 6-7 roma tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup or so water

The Calzones

12” Dutch oven
10-12 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • A beaten egg
  • About 2 cups shredded mozarella

  • Freshly grated parmesan and/or myzithra chesses
  • Fresh chopped italian parsley

Like I said, it all started last night.  I have read a lot about how the longer overnight rises are better for pizza, and I thought I’d try it that way.  Spoiler alert: I’m definitely sold on that, now.

I proofed the yeast in water that was hot, but not scalding, to the touch.  I say it’s “shower” hot.  That’s right around 110-115 degrees, and it’s great for waking up yeast.  While that’s getting foamy and frothy, I added the other ingredients to a bowl.  The last bit was to add the yeast/water mix.

I stirred it all up, and found that it was just the right hydration, this time.  I started kneading it on the countertop, and I found I didn’t need to add any more flour in the process.  I say, “this time”, because different flours and different humidities can mean that the flour will absorb more or less water.  You just never know.

I set it in a greased bowl, covered with cellophane, in the fridge.   I knew I wasn’t going to use it until today, and I wanted it to have a long, slow, flavor-developing rise overnight in the fridge.

Then I went and played cards with some friends.

Today, after church, I pulled the bread dough out of the fridge and set it aside in the kitchen, to come up to room temperature.  I also lit up some coals, and put the lightly oiled 10” dutch oven on some coals to season and heat up.  Once it was smoking a little bit, I put in the sausage, the bacon, and the pepperoni pieces.  I used link pepperoni and cut it into small chunks, but you could use sliced pepperoni. I’d still probably cut the slices in half or into wedges.  The sausage cooked, the bacon crisped, and the pepperoni browned.

Once the meat is all done, pull it out, but leave the drippings.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir while it cooks into a roux.  Pull it out as best you can, and then toss in the first set of veggies to sweat and sautee.  Keep the oven hot all along the way with fresh coals, if you need to.

Finally, add the tomatoes and the water, then bring the meat and the roux back in as well.  Let it boil, at first, then simmer, covered.  Give the tomatoes time to dissolve as much as possible.  Maybe as much as an hour.  It should be nice and “sauce” thick.  If it’s still to runny at that point, let it cook a bit longer with the lid off.

Taste it all along the way.  I’ll bet that with all of the sausages and bacon, it won’t need much salt, if any, and probably not many other seasonings.  Some lemon juice might have been great, in retrospect.

Once the sauce was done simmering, I poured it out of the Dutch oven, into a bowl right away, so that the tomatoes wouldn’t eat away at the patina.

I dumped the bread out onto my floured countertop, and cut it into halves.  In retrospect, I’d suggest quartering it.  Each piece should be stretched out wide and thin.  I put a generous amount of sauce over one half of the dough circle.  I piled it on, but left at least a half inch or so to the edge of the dough.  I put a generous amount of shredded mozarella on top of the mound of filling. I brushed some freshly beaten egg onto that edge of the dough, as a sealer.  I folded the dough over, and began pinching and curling the dough halves together.  Finally, I gently lifted the finished calzone into the oiled 12” Dutch oven.

I did that for the other calzone (or the other three, if you take my earlier advice).  Hopefully, there should be a good amount of sauce left over.  Then, I brushed all the calzones with the beaten egg, giving a good coating.  I let that dutch oven sit, to let the dough continue rising a bit.

In the meantime, I’d been starting up some additional coals, and I put those on the 12” lid to heat it up.  After the lid was really good and hot, and the dough had proofed just a little bit, I set a ring of coals below the Dutch oven, and set the lid with the coals on top.

I watched, and maintained the heat with fresh coals, as needed.  I took the bread temperature by sticking the thermometer down in between the calzones, where the crusts grew together.  Taking the temperature of the filling was kinda pointless, as it was all completely cooked already.  I let it get overly done, because I wasn’t sure how it would react to the filling.  That turned out to be a good thing.  It was done perfectly.

Serving was easy.  I cut the two calzones apart, and cut each one in half (that’s why I thought it would be better to make four of them instead of two larger ones).  I served one half, with more sauce drizzled over the top, and with a garnish of chopped parsley, and the grated cheeses.

It was big, filling, and an incredible taste!


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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just When You Think You’ve Got it Figured Out...

I’ve been Dutch Ovening for a while, now.  I’ve gotten into my ways, my style, my groove.  It’s been working, pretty much, for a few years.

But the other day, I read a Dutch oven beginners book that suggested a way of doing things that shook me up, off my comfy chair, and made me rethink some things about managing the patina, the black coating, of my Dutch ovens.  It’s making me re-assess and rethink my whole processes, which will, in turn, change everything I’ve done to date.

...If it works.

Let me back up and explain...

The Patina

What makes cast iron such a great cooking tool is that thin black coating of carbonized oil that’s all over it.  It does so many wonderful things.  It coats and protects the raw iron, so that it doesn’t rust on contact with air and water.  It becomes a non-stick cooking surface to make cleanup smoother and easier.  It makes for better transfer of heat to the food.  It’s really amazing just how great this is.

It has to be maintained, though, and by continuous use and care, it can build up over time to be even better at the jobs it’s made for.

How I Did it Before

So, for all of my Dutch ovening life, I’ve done what I first read in the little pamphlet that lodge included with my first oven.  I seasoned it first, then after each use, I scraped out the food with plastic, rinsed it with hot water and scrubbed it with a plastic brush, then dried it off.  Finally, I’d recoat it with a very thin film of oil and put it away.

Then, when I got it out again the next week, I’d do the same thing.  Cook, scrub, rinse, coat, repeat.

Over the years, I’ve heard many different methods for cleaning and storing Dutch ovens, and many different opinions about those methods.  Most folks were pretty convinced that their method was the right way.  I was, too, but not really.  Sometimes, the patina on my ovens didn’t get better.  Sometimes, if I didn’t use a particular oven for a really long time, it would get a little smelly.

Pre-Heating the Ovens

So, this book suggested that the process shift.  First, light up the coals.  Then, after selecting which Dutch oven to use, coat it, inside and out, with a thin layer of oil.  Put the coals on it and under it and give it 15-20 minutes of preheating.  Let it bake on the layer of oil to help build up the patina, and heat up the cooking surface, ready for the food.

Then add the food and get cooking.

When you’re all done, you’ll still scrape and rinse, but you won’t need to coat it.

This has several advantages.  One, it will reduce cooking time, since the oven is already hot. That’s not that much of an advantage, because it increases the heatup time, so it all evens out.  Still, I can be chopping veggies while the oven heats.

Two, it will build up the patina.

Three, it will sterilize the oven before cooking in it.

Why I’m Not Sure

OK, so I’m going to try this.  I’ve done it once already, and I wasn’t displeased with the results.  I’ll have to do it over time to really be convinced.  Like I said, it will completely mess with my way of doing things.

For some dishes, like those that need assembly or preparation directly in the dutch oven first, that’s not going to work.  You can’t be assembling a pie, or letting bread proof in a super-hot dutch oven.  There are some dishes that you want to build up the heat gradually, rather than dump all of the items into a heated pan.  But for the most part, I’m thinking I like the idea.

I will definitely keep you informed and up-to-date as I discover more.


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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Heavy Cookin'

These last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of heavy cooking.  By “heavy cooking” I mean, “a lot of dishes being prepared and cooked all at once, that need to all turn out really really well”.  High-pressure stuff.

Two weeks ago, some good folks from Cedar Fort came out to take some pictures for the cover of the first book.  I had to prepare some wonderful dishes for them to take pictures of, dishes drawn directly from the recipes in the first book.

The night before, I toasted up a sweet pumpkin and made some puree.  That morning, I started the day out mixing and kneading the dough for some butter rolls. Then, I did a couple of chicken roasts, side-by-side in my 14”-er, using the basic herbal poultry recipe and the spicy paste turkey rub. While that was cooking, I made the pumpkin pie and got that on to bake.  Brendon came to my aid and made his world-renowned Dutch oven baked ziti, and my old standard chicken and potatoes rounded out the collection.

They were wonderful folks, and after quite a while of primping and photographing the food, we all sat down and feasted.

A few days later, I got to see a preliminary layout of the cover, and I’m very excited.  Since it’s not a final, they won’t let me post it here, yet, but as soon as they do, it’ll be on the blog!

Then, this last weekend, our family went up to Bear Lake to spend some time with other families with children with special medical needs.  The group we went up with is called Hope Kids, and they sponsor family activities, mostly donated. Once a year, at the very end of the season, they get a bunch of cabins at the Bear Lake KOA campground for a weekend.  It’s amazing fun.  Even Brendon had a blast being able to connect with other siblings of special needs kids in a completely non-contrived way.

Well, I brought up my two 14” deep dutch ovens, at the request of the organizer.  Those were added to a larger collection of Dutch ovens in various sizes,  and Brendon and I helped them cook up Mountain Man Breakfast for the entire gathering.  We had them all stacked as many as three high, cooking along.

After resting a while, I cooked up the Nouveau Mexican Cafe pulled pork with beans and rice and we had a few of the neighboring families over for a bit more feasting.

When it was all done, I collapsed into a heap.  I slept really, really well that night.

Next Sunday, I’m going to do my Apples and Oranges challenge dish, and NOTHING ELSE!  Just a simple dish and call it good.

I mean, it feels good to cook all that food for all those people, and it feels really good to hear them enjoying it and telling me how great it tastes.  And after it’s all done, it’s time to simplify...


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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin soup in the Dutch ovens, part 2

Monday night I came home from work, excited to make the soup!  Even with a few interruptions, the dish went off as planned.  I was especially excited because I had never before made, nor even tasted a pumpkin soup.  I had a few ideas for alterations to the dishes I had read on the ‘net, but I wasn’t sure how they’d come off.

In the process, I learned a lot.  I would definitely do things a bit differently next time.  In fact, I’m debating in my mind how to write it up.  Should I write it like I did, which turned out delicious and wonderful; or should I write it like I would, which would be delicious and wonderful and have an even better texture and consistency?  Maybe...


Pumpkin soup in the Dutch oven

12” Dutch oven (for the soup)
20-24 coals below

10” Dutch oven (for the seeds)
15-20 coals below

12” deep Dutch oven (for the pumpkin bowls)
12-15 coals below
12-15 coals above

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper

  • 1-2 sweet pumpkins

I started by lighting up a lot of coals.  This one took a while to do, so I went through quite a few over time.  At one point, I had three Dutch ovens going at once.

I put the standard 12” oven over some coals, and started melting the butter.  I diced up the onions and minced the garlic.  I also cut the chicken (which was already pulled from the birds I roasted up last week) into smaller bits.  By the way, if you have more or less chicken, it’s fine.  In fact, it would be a great soup without it.  I put it in because I thought it would add a little more substance and texture to the dish.

I also put the 10” on some coals, with some oil in the bottom, to heat up.

Once the Dutch ovens were heated up, I tossed the onions and the garlic into the 12” and the pumpkin seeds into the 10”.  Both got stirred up. I added the seasoning salt to the seeds.  I also put the lid on the seeds, to trap the heat.  I stirred both the seeds and the onions frequently.

After the onions were getting translucent, I added the chicken.  I let that sizzle for a little bit, then added the spices.  I would recommend that you add the spices light at this stage, and then boost them as the overall soup is simmering if you want it to be hotter.  It’s easy to add heat.  It’s impossible to take it out.  As it turned out, I really liked the level of heat I got in this pass.

Somewhere around here, the pumpkin seeds were turning nice and brown and crispy.  I took them off the coals, but left them in the Dutch oven.  There’s a point when cooking pumpkin seeds where they’re just a little too brown and they’re almost burnt.  They start to smoke just a little bit. I love that flavor!

I snapped off the stems of the two remaining pumpkins and sliced them open across the “equator”.  I scooped out all the guts and scraped out the stringy bits and put them in the 12” deep Dutch oven with a bit of water in the bottom.  I had to kind of snuggle them in there.  I put that on the coals and let them roast/steam/cook.

Now, here’s where I would do things differently next time, to get a better consistency.  I would get a big mixing bowl and dump in the pumpkin puree.  Then, I would pour in the milk and I would stir it up.  Then, I would add 2 cups of the chicken broth, and, while stirring, keep on adding more broth until it was just a bit runnier than I wanted the final soup to be.  Once I got to the consistency I was looking for, I’d add that to the Dutch oven.  I’d let it get back up to temperature, and then adjust the coals to get a consistent simmer going on, uncovered.

At that point, the busy work ends and the relaxing part begins.  All you have to do is stir and taste the soup, check the pumpkins, and keep the coals fresh and hot.  The pumpkins will probably take 45 minutes to an hour to cook.  As the soup simmers along, you can adjust the consistency as you like.  Add more broth if it’s too thick.  Add the corn masa/broth mix if it’s too runny.  Add more cayenne if it’s too weak, or more salt to bring out all the other flavors.

When the pumpkins are done, and the soup is satisfactory, then you get to assemble them and serve them.  This was the most fun part of all, because after all of that two-day work, it all comes together here.

I put a cooked pumpkin bowl in a regular bowl and filled it up with soup.  Then, I added a small spoonful of sour cream right in the middle.  I sprinkled the roasted pumpkin seeds all around, and finished it off with a sprinkle of parsley.

Then, we all sat down to eat.  The soup itself was tasty and spicy.  Occasionally, I’d get a bite with a seed, and the smokey-roasted flavor would set of a whole new taste.  It also added a crunchy texture to an otherwise completely soft dish.  I would scrape a bit of the “bowl” into some bites of the soup, too, for added pumpkin goodness.

A 5-star meal if ever there was one!


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,

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Soup in the Dutch Ovens, part 1

The Pumpkin Puree

In the minds of most Americans, it seems, pumpkins and autumn are inseparable.  You carve Jack-O’-Lanterns for your porches on Halloween, and you make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  A quick glance at Wikipedia (which is always accurate, of course) revealed to me that the fruit is much more international. They cook it in China, in Europe, and even in Africa.

Here in America, we buy tons and tons of them, mostly in two forms:  The bigger carving pumpkins used for the aforementioned Jack-O’-Lanterns, and pureed in cans.  Unfortunately, the carved pumpkins end up rotting in the garbage or smashed on the street.  I’m amazed at how much food value is just chucked away each year.

Still, this posting isn’t about crusading, it’s about cooking.

Lately, I’ve been more and more fascinated by the culinary possibilities of the pumpkin.  I’ve done some cool cooking with them in the past.  I do my own pumpkin pie, of course.  I did some of it last week, for the cover of the book.  I also love to do the Dinner in a Pumpkin!

The thing I’m loving more and more about the pumpkin is that it’s so adaptable to being the basis for both savory and sweet dishes.  And, even, dishes that combine both elements.

Then, I saw some recipes floating around the ‘net for a savory, spicy pumpkin soup.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try it.  And, of course, I had to make it my own.  So, I looked around the ‘net for some other variations to get some ideas.  I’m very excited to do it.

To talk about making dinners out of pumpkins, you have to understand the difference between certain varieties of pumpkin.  The larger pumpkins are made primarily for carving and decorating.  They don’t taste bad.  I’ve used them in the savory dinner-in-a-pumpkin dish.  The smaller ones, however, are much better eatin’ pun’kins.  They’re often called “pie”, “sugar”, or “sweet” pumpkins, and that gives you a good idea of why you’d want to cook with them.  In addition to being tastier, they’re also less stringy.

...and they’re cheaper, ‘cuz they’re smaller and weigh less.

Also, as Linus taught us many years ago, always select your pumpkins, sweet or otherwise, from the most sincere of pumpkin patches.

When I make pumpkin puree, I like to do it as a sort of combination of roasting and steaming.  Tonight, I took one sweet pumpkin, that was kind of on the large side, and quartered it.  That made it pretty easy to scrape out the guts and seeds (which you’ll keep for later, right?).  Those sections, I halved, lengthwise, yet again, and finally, halved them crosswise.  I ended up with a bunch of pumpkin triangles, about 3 inches on a side.  I put these in a dutch oven, with about a half cup of water poured in.  I put this on some coals, about 12-15 below, and the same amount above.  I just let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  When you can stick a fork in them and feel little or no resistance, they’re done.

Then, I pulled the wedges off the coals, and brought them inside.  I separated the cooked flesh from the skin and put it in my blender.  Yes, my electric blender.  I’ve tried, for the sake of Dutch oven authenticity, to do this with a hand blender, and with a potato masher.  These all still resulted in a stringy mush.  If you want a decent puree, ya gotta plug it in and fire it up.

In all the times I’ve done this, I’ve always scooped out all of the pumpkins and then run the blender.  I think it would be much easier to scoop a few pieces, puree them, then do a few more.  Sometimes it’s tough to get the stuff on top to get down to the blades.

The resulting puree went into a zip-top baggie and into the fridge, awaiting the soup, tomorrow!

Also, you might notice that this time I didn’t sprinkle on the brown sugar, like I usually do with the pumpkin pie preparations.  Since this is going to be a more savory soup, I thought I’d just cook the pumpkins alone.

I separated the seeds from the goop with my fingers and put them into a colander, where I rinsed and separated even more.  Finally, they were free of orange attachments, and no longer slimy, and I spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry.  These will figure heavily in our final product tomorrow!


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

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sweet and Savory Pork Chops

I’m kind on this kick lately.  I’m thinking a lot about how I love the combination of fruits and meats.  The mix of sweet and savory really fires me up.  it’s what got me thinking and helped me to come up with the latest challenge (in the last post).

I did this dish a while ago, and I enjoyed not only cooking it, but coming up with the ingredients and the process.  In the end, it was kind of a rethink of my berried chicken idea (inspired by Toni of dutchovenmadness).

I got a lot of raves from my family on this one.

Dutch Oven Sweet and Savory Pork Chops

12” dutch oven
12 coals underneath
12 coals on top

8” or 10” Dutch oven
10-12 coals underneath

  • 6-8 Pork Chops (I used boneless)

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • chili powder (not as much)
  • garlic powder (a little extra)

  • 1-2 lbs bacon

  • 4 medium to large potatoes

The Sauce

  • 2 Peaches, sliced thin
  • 2 handfuls Grapes, chopped (I used white grapes)
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Juice of ½ Lemon
  • Lemon Zest

The first thing I did was to thaw the meat.  I actually had it in the fridge for several days, so that wasn’t a problem.  I took them out and patted them dry.  Then I mix up the spices.  You can use any spice rub that you like.  I just started with equal amounts of the salt, pepper, and the paprika, then added the chili powder and the garlic powder.

A note:  I don’t really like garlic salt.  I find that I can’t really count on the balance between the garlic and the salt, so if I want more of one, I end up with too much of the other.  Usually, that means that I want more garlic and have too much salt.  I’m jus’ sayin’...

I mixed up the spices in a zip-top baggie, shook it up, and added the meat.  I shook those up and then pulled them out and shook off the excess.  These, I let sit for a while in the fridge.

While my coals were heating up, I chopped up the potatoes.  I quartered them, and the sliced them kinda thin. These went into the bottom of the Dutch oven.

I pulled out the seasoned pork chops, and wrapped each one tightly in two strips of bacon.  Then, I laid that on top of the potatoes.  With all of the pork chops wrapped and in place, I took the Dutch oven out and got it on the coals.

Then, I turned my attention to the sauce.  I sliced up the peaches and chopped up the grapes and put those in the smaller dutch oven.  I added some water, and then the sugar and the seasonings.  That went out on the coals, too.  At first, I covered it with the lid, so it would heat up to a boil faster.  Then I removed the lid so it would start to simmer and reduce.

About half-way through, I realized that I had mismanaged my coals, and I was going to burn out.  I hurriedly lit up some more, but the coals were almost completely burned out before the new ones were ready.  Still, I managed to get some fresh coals on and keep it cooking in time.  It’s frustrating when I catch myself not paying attention!

As it was ending, I took some of the extra coals, and heated up another small dutch oven.  I threw in a can of corn and a can of green beans, to make it a complete meal.

The end result was absolutely delicious.  The potatoes were both soft and crisp, and seasoned slightly from the drippings of the bacon and pork chops.  The chops themselves were amazing.  I served them, still wrapped, with the fruit sauce on top.


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

Apples and Oranges: A Dutch Oven Challenge

“You can’t compare apples to oranges!”  So the saying goes.

Well, in this dutch oven challenge, we won’t compare.  Instead, we will combine.

I got to thinking about these two fruits, and how much I love the luscious flavors of each one.  I started thinking how much I love to combine savory meats and sweet flavors together onto the same dish.  So, here’s the challenge, open to any dutch oven chef:

Prepare a dish using the following ingredients:

  • Apples (in any form)
  • Oranges (in any form)
  • Any meat (some kind of meat must be included)
  • Mint (in any form)
  • Other ingredients, spices, and seasonings as you see fit.

The dish should be as original as possible.  Go to the ‘net for ideas, if you wish, but try and make it your own.

When completed, publish your finished dish (preferably with pictures) here in the IDOS forums, or at your own blog or website.  Then come back here and put in a comment with a link!

Let’s see what we can come up with!


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,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dutch Oven Crayfish Boil

Recently, we had one of the most amazing, fun, and delicious family experiences in a long time.  We went Crawdad catching, and then had a Cajun crayfish boil and feast.

Let me interject here, that I don’t really know what to call them:  Crawdads?  Crawfish?  Crayfish?  Mud bugs? Lil’ Lobster Mini-me’s?  I think Crayfish sounds more “dignified” and “crawdad” sounds more bayou.  My kids liked the sound of “crawdad” better, so that’s what we ended up calling them.

Then I faced another difficult problem. Not only did I not know what to call them, I also didn't know how to cook them!  I surfed all over the ‘net looking for advice and recipes.  There was plenty.  Too much, in fact.  Too much contradiction, to be exact.  Everyone said that their way of doing it was the only way of doing it.

Normally, when I encounter that, I just brush it all off as folklore, and do a kind of hybrid of everyone’s recipes.  But the contradictory information was more of the type that scared me.  If you do it this way, then your crawdads will die, and you don’t EVER eat crawdads that died before you killed them!  Don’t do this, don’t do that!  It was all quite frustrating and confusing.

In the end, it all worked out.

Dutch Oven Cajun Crawdad Boil

2x 14” Deep Dutch ovens

A whopping LOT of coals underneath each one.

  • A whole lot (15-20 lbs) live crayfish
  • 1 carton salt
  • A lot of water
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp coriander
  • 1 ½ Tbsp cloves
  • 1 ½ Tbsp allspice
  • ¼ lb kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 6 bay leaves, crushed
  • A lot more water
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 2 heads garlic, broken apart, not peeled
  • 3 jalapenos, sliced
  • 3 lbs potatoes, in 1” sections
  • 8 ears corn, broken in half
  • 1 lb sausage (andouille, or smoked), cut into ½” pieces

I won’t go into the catching, here.  That will go for another time.  In this place, we’ll just talk about the cooking.

I started with the crawdads.  The first thing I did was to “purge” them.  The idea is to make them sick so they purge out their guts before you try to eat them.  I filled up the cooler where I had them stored with water, and shook in about a half of one of those cylindrical cardboard cartons of salt.  Right away, the crawdads reacted, swimming and thrashing around in the water.

I drained it, and then repeated the process.  At the time, I was nervous about killing them, but it turns out that you have to try REALLY HARD to kill them.  Like, dropping them in seasoned, boiling water.  Salt may freak them out, but it doesn’t kill them.  Yet.

Then, I filled it up again, and drained it again, without salt.  I repeated that clean rinsing process again.  Next time, I’m going to do that many, many more times, to clean them more thoroughly.

While, I was doing the “salt, rinse, repeat” thing, I also got out the Dutch ovens, and started up the coals.  Once the coals were basically hot, I put the dutch ovens on and filled them about ¾ of the way with water.  I put the lids on, because water boils better in Dutch ovens with the lids on.  I also knew that it was going to take a long time to boil that much water.

I mixed up the spices, and began cutting the veggies while I waited for the water to boil.  The spices I split into half, and put half in each dutch oven.  I put one head of garlic (broken up) into each pot, and I put two sliced onions in one of the pots.  I suppose i could have done the whole thing with just one Dutch oven, but one of our friends that we had invited over is allergic to onions.  So, my thought was to make one pot without onions, and one with.  The recipe listed above says 4 onions, though, 2 in each pot.  You do it how you want to.

I kept the coals replenished, and as hot as could be.  Before long, the water was simmering, and then boiling.  Once the boil was going, I put in the potatoes, sausage, and corn.  As soon as I did that, of course, it stopped boiling.  I put the lids back on and let it come back up to a good stead boil.  I let it cook until the potatoes were soft enough to eat, and the corn looked bring yellow.

Finally came the moment we’d all been waiting for.  Using my food tongs (not my coal tongs), I started grabbing the crawdads and dropping them into the boiling pots.  I tried to keep them even between the two.  I don’t know that it mattered a whole lot, though.  They turned this rich red/brown almost immediately.  I put the lids back on and let them come back up to a boil for a little bit, mostly to give the spices time to infuse in the meat.  Finally, I used a strainer to scoop out the crawdads, and the corn, potatoes, and sausage.

Traditionally, you serve crawdads poured directly on to a newspaper-covered tabletop.  We actually used dishes.

After only a few, I got the hang of eating them.  I would grab the crawdad tightly between the tail and the shell, and twist the tail off.  I would pinch pretty hard, so as to not get so much of the guts in the body.  Then, I’d crack off the first one or two segments of shell on the tail.  Gripping the end of the tail between my thumb and forefinger, I squeezed while tugging the meat out with my teeth.  I never built up the courage to suck out the head, like some real cajuns do. There’s not much meat in the tail.  Fortunately, that’s why you cook up so many of them!

After every few crawdads, I’d pause and eat a few potatoes, onions, or corn cobs.  Oh, and the sausage.  Those were all delicious.  It was the first time I’d tasted corn that sweet and spicy!

Even though it all tasted delicious, at the end of it all, this was not so much a dish to cook, as it was a whole experience for the family to savor.  It was one that we’ll remember for a very long time!


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

"The Best From the Black Pot" is done!

It's been a long time since I've posted.  Forgive me.  I've been working really hard to get the first cookbook finished.  But it's now done, and turned in!  Woo Hoo!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled posts of recipes and stories!


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

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Big Dutch Oven Steak and Crab Feast

I wanted to do something really, amazingly, phenomenally over-the-top special for our anniversary this year.  It marked 24 years that she hasn’t kicked my sorry butt out on the curb.  That’s cause for celebrations.

I’d seen some videos on how to pan fry steak, and I was really interested in that.  I started to form an idea in my mind about doing the pan fry on steaks with a spice rub.  I figured I would steam some corn on cob, too.  Then, I started thinking, and I figured I could do some of those garlic sliced, sesame seed baked potatoes.  To top it all off, we had some crab’s legs in the freezer, so that would make it great, too!

My wife loves T-bone steaks, so I shopped around, looking for some good, thick, porterhouses.  I did find some, but they weren’t really as thick as I like.

The challenge for me was to cook it all in a limited time frame.  I would be coming home from work by about five, and I would want to have it done when it was still light out.  That only gave me a 2-3 hour window to cook an serve the whole meal.

In my planning, I started out by figuring out how the ovens would work.  I would do the corn and the crab together in the 12” deep dutch oven, and the potatoes and the steaks each in their own 12” shallow dutch oven.  When planning the time, I started from the end, and went through the steps of each dish in my mind, to see when I’d have to start each one.

Dutch Oven Pan-Fry T-Bone Steaks

12” dutch oven
26-30 coals below (pack ‘em in!)

  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp crushed coriander
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 2-3 T-bone steaks
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • A little olive oil

  • 1 Cup Cranberry/grape juice (100% juice) at room temperature
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour dissolved in water.

The Potatoes

12” Dutch oven

8-10 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 4-5 medium to large potatoes
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • sesame seeds

Steamed Crab and Corn on the Cob

12” deep dutch oven

~20 coals below

  • 3-4 cobs of corn, chucked, broken in half
  • 2-3 racks of crab’s legs
  • 3-4 cups Water
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Butter Dip/spread for the Crab/Corn

8” dutch oven

10-12 coals below

  • 2 cubes butter
  • extra spice rub

I started out with the thawed steaks.  Actually, I never froze them.  I brought them home a day or so before and put them straight into the fridge.  I mixed up the spices in a zip-top baggie, and then added each steak, one at a time.  I shook the spices all over the steak, and then shook off the excess when I pulled it out.  I did the same with the other two steaks.  By the way, this is the same spice mix that I used for my blackened salmon many years ago.

I set the steaks aside in the fridge, covered in plastic.  It would be about another hour before they’d be cooked.  That gave the flavorings plenty of time to set into the meat.

Then, I started on the potatoes.  Step one was to peel the garlic and slice it into thin slivers.  Then I took the potatoes, and I washed and rinsed them  I cut them almost all the way through in narrow strips, so that it could fan open a little bit.  Then, in every other slice or so, I inserted a sliver of garlic,  I alternated between the middle and the right and left sides, so that it would separate in different and unique ways.  Really, it’s tough to describe this process.  It’s better to look at the picture.  As each potato was sliced and garlic’ed, I put it in the dutch oven.

Once all the potatoes were prepped, I drizzled each one with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkled over them with kosher salt and sesame seeds.  It really makes for an impressive display.  I put that on the coals to bake.

Next to go was the corn and the crab.  I chucked, cleaned, and broke the cobs, and put them on one of those butterfly-ing steamers in the 12” deep dutch oven.  I added the crab on top.  I poured in enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer, and poured in the lemon juice.  I put the lid on, and put it on the coals.

The last step was the steaks.

I began by putting the 12” dutch oven, with just a little oil, on a lot of coals.  I wanted this thing to be seriously hot.  Have lots of coals on the side handy, too, because keeping it hot with the steaks on will also be a challenge.

After heating the dutch oven pan up for a while, I put the steaks on.  The aroma and the sizzle was almost unbearably good.  At first, I kept the lid off.  In retrospect, I would keep the lid on, however, because it took a long time to get the meat up to temperature.  After 6-7 minutes, I flipped the steaks over, and at that point, stuck in the thermometer.  Like I said, it took a while to get them up to even rare, so I ended up putting the lid on, without coals.

When it read just a little under 140, I pulled them off, and put them on a plate, tented under aluminum foil.  Always let meat rest before serving.  By the time we were dining, it came up to a nice medium done-ness.

In the meantime, I poured the cranberry juice into the same dutch oven that the steaks had been in.  While it sizzled, I used a wooden flipper to scrape up all the fond, the bits of cooked steak and carmelized stuff on the bottom.  I had pulled the juice from the fridge, so I think it took a little longer to boil and to start reducing.  I added the flour/water mix a little bit at a time to thicken it up.

While I was doing that, I put the butter and some of the remaining spice mix into the 8” dutch oven over coals to melt and blend.

Finally, it was all done.  We brought it all in, and served it up.  The pan sauce, of course, spread on the steak. It gave sweetness and tang, and blended well with the seasonings and the flavor of the meat. The seasoned butter was spread on the corn as well as used to dip the crab meat.  It was a major, four-star feast!


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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