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 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 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 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 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 and his MoBoy blog.
Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,


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