Friday, June 22, 2012

"Best of the Black Pot" on Kindle!

I was checking on Amazon, and discovered exciting news! The Kindle version of "The Best of the Black Pot", the best Dutch oven cookbook evarrr, is now available! It's only $5.99, so it's significantly less than the print version, too! Check it out.

The only drawback is that I can't sign it, so you won't be able to re-sell it on eBay for millions of dollars and retire to the Cayman Islands.


But you will be able to carry your favorite Dutch oven Cookbook wherever you go!

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

...Tastes Like Chicken, Part II

In the previous post, I talked a bit about the thoughts and experiences that led me to want to be able to study, analyze, and, ultimately, talk about the flavors I am tasting in a dish.  I did a bit of research and reading as well.  A great book that I strongly recommend to anyone that wants to truly explore cooking is “Culinary Artistry” by  Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.  This book has described a lot about creativity in the world of food, on lots of levels.  Great book!

It turns out that scientists say that the human tongue can taste four things: Sweet, bitter, sour, and salty.  There is some debate over a fifth flavor, vaguely named “Umammi”.  It’s supposed to be a sort of savory flavor.

As I was reading, researching, and tasting, I thought I would add a few.  Not scientifically, so much, as practically. These are things that I sense are elements of dishes I eat.  I’m not sure why, but drawing on the analogies I made in the last post, I think I’d like to call these “Tones”.

Here they are, with some descriptions:

Mark’s Flavor Tones


This is the obvious first thing to me, since I tend to eat a lot of sweets.  I probably shouldn’t, or at least, I should make the sweets I eat more healthy, but that’s a discussion for another day.  This one is at the top of my list because it’s one everyone will recognize.  Here are some examples of sweet things:

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Spices that go with sweet, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger (These might not be sweet themselves, but they tend to bring out the sweet tones in a dish).


As I was starting to learn to cook, the term “savory” often confused me.  I learned to describe it as “things that were not bitter, sour, or sweet”!  In most cases, this flavor comes from meats, although many meats also bring some sweet or other tones to the song as well.  As I’ve been formulating this system, I’m learning that the tones work together, and are not always in isolation.

  • Meats
  • Salts
  • Spices that go with meats, like paprika, pepper, garlic


Things that are “tangy” or “sour” usually contain acids.  These tones can really liven up a dish!  Some ingredients that carry these tones could be:

  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus, especially lemons, though oranges have sweet tones, and grapefruit have bitter tones as well.
  • Vinegar


The funny thing about bitter tones is that we don’t like them.  In theory, we developed the ability to taste bitter as a defence mechanism to steer us away from eating poisons and other harmful things.  So, why would we intentionally cook with these tones?  When you combine them with other tones, they add depth and the whole becomes delicious!

  • Some herbs, like parsley
  • Some spices, like nutmeg, or cardamom
  • medicines

Spicy (hot) piquance, picante

There are some foods that, evolutionarily speaking, surprise me.  Take, for example, an habanero chili pepper.  At some point, some prehistoric ancestor of ours took a bite of it.  Heat like that would have lit his tongue on fire.  It would have felt like it was biting back!  So, what thought went through that neanderthal brain that made him want to take a second bite?  Or a third?  At what point in the epochs did we decide that this was a good thing?

I don’t know, but I’m glad we did!

  • Black pepper
  • Chili peppers
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger


There are very few foods that create the sensation of cool in your mouth, but it is such a distinct sensation that I think it deserves to be labeled as its own tone.  Plus, I love it!

  • Mint
  • Mentol
  • Wintergreen


This is one that I added to the list on my own, not at the suggestion of a book or science.  The undertone is like the canvas the painting is painted on, or the quiet background noise that the music plays over.  It’s the bread of a great sandwich.  It’s not a strong flavor, and it can be difficult to identify, but you would miss it if it wasn’t there.

  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Cooked beans

As I’ve started to think of the dishes I taste in terms of these flavor tones, I’ve found that even mundane eating sometimes becomes an exploration. When I’m paying attention, I start to notice things that were always there, but not identified, not in my awareness.  Food tastes more interesting!

My Dr Pepper, for example, has a strong sour tone, with just enough sweet to make it palatable.  There’s a hint of bitter there as well, and it fades off into a lingering salty/sour.

I don’t know if me blathering on about this is helping, but it has been fascinating to me, and thanks for letting me share it.  Now back to the recipes!

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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

...Tastes Like Chicken, Part I

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to get a little heady for a few posts.  I hope it's ultimately helpful to you as well.

Last night I was out at a restaurant with my wife, and she smiled her knowing smile, and pointed out the irony in the dish I had ordered.  It had both broccoli and asparagus, both vegetables I hated as a kid.  Not just disliked, either, but violently rejected.  And now, here, I had ordered a plate with both of them combined, and I was happily eating them.

I’ve been doing a lot of thought and study about flavors lately.  For a long time, I’ve wondered what makes me like some things and not others.  And why the things I can’t stand are things that others love. Why did I hate some things as a kid and like them now?

My study started as I was writing the spices and flavorings chapter of “Black Pot Beginners”.  In it, I suggested mixing individual spices with butter and spreading it on a neutral-tasting bread, to be able to learn what each spice really tastes like.  The results often surprised my palate, and opened my eyes.

So, I started thinking about the flavors I was tasting, and I started formulating, in my own mind, a way to analyze and discuss flavors a bit better, mostly as a way to clarify them in my head, and to understand a dish better.

That led me to two analogies:

One: As I studied music, lo, these many years ago, I learned that notes are combined to form chords, and that each chord functions in different ways to move the overall song forward.  There are names for the functions of the chords: Tonic, Dominant, Sub-dominant, Leading-tone, etc...  This allows musicians to use a common language when talking about the music.

Two:  In the world of perfumes, the scents that combine to form a perfume are also referred to as “notes”.  They come out to the senses gradually.  “Top Notes”, for example, are the first things you smell when you put on the perfume.  It’s also what you smell in the store. They can dissipate very quickly.  “Mid Notes” come out soon after, and transition into the “Base Notes”.  These come on after about a half hour, and linger for the rest of the evening, giving the lasting impression of the perfume.

It occurred to me that these analogies can also apply to the culinary arts as well.  The flavors blend like chords, and have function in the dish.  They can also, in some dishes, come on in layers, and even create lasting impressions, even after the dish is eaten.

As I started to think about this, I started thinking about the food I was eating.  I started to notice flavors, and notice the way those flavors combined.  I started eating differently.  Or, I should say, I started enjoying it differently as I ate. I started to formulate the words and thoughts to describe the things I was tasting.  Those formulations started to coalesce into a more coherent system.  So, in Part II of this topic, I’ll show you the system I’m discovering to help me to describe the recipes I’ll be writing about in the future.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Deconstructing the Hamburger!

OK, it’s time for our next deconstruction challenge, to see if anyone is up to the task.  A few weeks ago, we did the beloved PBJ.  This week, we’ll tackle another traditional american dish:  The hamburger!

So, how do you do this?  How do you tear it apart?  How do you put it back together?  What could you possibly do with this that hasn't already been done a million times before?

Well, first of all, let’s look at the basic ingredients of a traditional hamburger:

  • Ground beef
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Cheddar (or plastic) cheese
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • lettuce
  • Mayonnaise
  • And, of course, the bun

Now, imagine that you were on an episode of “Chopped” or “Iron Chef” and you were just given a basket full of those ingredients and told to cook something with them.  What would you do?  I suppose that not all of these are required, and you might think of even more to add to the mix.

What will your deconstructed burger taste like?  Look like?  Your time begins...


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

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Salmon Dietary Challenge

I had a very interesting Dutch oven cooking challenge this last week. My family and I have been traveling cross-country to visit my parents in Indiana. My folks are getting a bit "on in years" and we came out to visit and help out.


Mom, especially, has been quite thrilled by the book, and so, Jodi encouraged me to bring a Dutch oven out with us so I could cook for them one night. We all decided it would be great to do it in celebration of my dad's birthday. The tricky part is, both Mom and Dad have some quite specialized dietary needs. Mom gets sores in her mouth, so she can't eat things that are too acidic, or even too salty. Neither of them can have foods that are too fatty, and Dad can't have too much sodium (the salt thing again).

For his birthday, Dad chose salmon.


So, here are my parameters:

  • 1 - a salmon dish, with small portions.
  • 2 - Little or no salt
  • 3 - for Mom, little or no acidic flavors
  • 4 - Little oil or fats.
  • 5 - Still have it be flavorful and visually appealing.
  • 6 - Do it all in only one Dutch oven

That all added up to quite a challenge. I tackled the challenge and came through nicely.  I baked a loaf of swirled bread. Then I roasted some potato chunks and finally cooked the salmon pieces atop the potatoes. The fish was served topped with a salad of fresh sweet peppers and other veggies.

As I cooked it, however, and as I thought about it afterward, I thought of how I could have made it even more flavorful and robust, and have stayed better in the parameters. Here's that plan:


Dietary Challenge Dutch Oven Salmon

12" shallow Dutch oven

15-18 coals below

  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3-4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 sweet peppers, different colors
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 stalks celery
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter

22-24 coals below

  • 4-5 portions salmon
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Liberal shakes of thyme, sage, cilantro
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper

10-12 coals below
16-18 coals above

  • 6-8 small red potatoes 
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of pepper 
  • Dash of paprika
  • 1 Tbsp butter

The first step is to light up the coals and get the Dutch oven ready to sauté the veggies.  Get the dutch oven really hot. While that is heating up and readying, dice up the veggies and mince the garlic.  My idea is to sweeten the onions and tame and enrich the flavors of the veggies by sautéing them in butter.  Start with the onions and the garlic.  Once they're translucent, add the peppers. Finally, add the celery and tomatoes. Once the veggies are done (and I'd go until there is some carmelization on the onions), pull them out of the Dutch oven and set them aside.


While the veggies are cooking, season the salmon with the flavorings, and quarter the potatoes (I leave the skin on). 

Then, refresh the coals, and get the Dutch oven really hot again, still using just bottom heat. Really turn up the heat. Melt the butter on the bottom of the Dutch oven, then put the salmon filets on. It should sizzle and sear instantly. After a minute or two, turn them over and let the other side sear. Let each side get a good brown going on.  Since you won't have a lot of salt to carry the flavor, you'll use the sear and the herbs instead.

When the salmon is nicely brown, but not necessarily cooked all the way through, pull it off. Melt the last of the butter and toss in the potatoes, with their seasonings. Stir it all up, to evenly coat everything. Adjust the coals for a 350 degree bake, and set the oven on the heat.

After about ten minutes, the potatoes will be starting to cook through, but not done yet. Layer the salmon pieces on top of them, and the sautéed veggies on top of the salmon. Bake it for another 10-15 minutes.

And there you'll have it! A delicious, flavorful meal, with relatively little fat and sodium, and little acidic flavors, all cooked in a single Dutch oven.


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


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