Friday, December 28, 2012

Dutch Oven Cheesecake With a Twist

I wasn’t sure what dessert I wanted to make for our Christmas dinner, until my wife suggested that I do a Cheesecake.  I’ve only done one cheesecake before, and it turned out passable, but not amazing.  It was a chocolate chip pumpkin cheesecake.

I figured that since I’ve been learning so much about how to do cakes and baking that I’d really like to simplify, and just do a good basic cheesecake, without a lot of frills.  Then, I could make a couple of different toppings and it would still taste fancy.

As I was doing some research, I found that some of the cheesecakes were done in a water bath in the oven.  This was something I’d never heard of before.  The basic idea was to put a springform pan, wrapped in aluminum foil to prevent leaking, into a pan full of water, and to put that into the oven.  Right away, I was intrigued, but also skeptical.  Does it make that much difference?  What’s it’s purpose?

A few more Googles turned up some answers.  The best reason for doing it is even heat distribution around the (relatively delicate) batter.  Some said that the steam around the cake also helps prevent cracking on the top.

Well, a Dutch oven often suffers from uneven heat, so I thought I’d give it a try.  But how?  The solution was to do the cake in my 10” shallow dutch oven, and lower it into a heated water bath in my 14” deep oven.

The results were much, much better than last time.  There were a lot of other things I did differently as well, so I’m not certain that was entirely because of the water bath.  But, in the end, it was one of the lightest, fluffiest, creamiest cheesecakes I’ve ever eaten.

Basic Dutch Oven Cheesecake in a Water Bath

10” shallow Dutch oven
14” deep Dutch oven

25-28 coals below
16-18 coals above

8” Dutch oven

10 coals below

1 1/2 cup Graham cracker crumbs
1/4 lb (1 stick) Melted butter
1/4 cup Sugar
Liberal shakes of Ground dried mint (optional, but it really helped the flavor!)

4x 8 oz packages Cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 cup Heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 Cups frozen fruit (Strawberries)
1/2 Cup Sugar
Shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg
Water as needed

It started out with me taking the ingredients out of the fridge so that they could come more up to room temperature.  Then, as usual, I started getting a lot of coals ready.  It took a lot on the ovens, and it was a fairly long cooking time, so I had to have a side fire handy as well, to keep replenishing the coals.

Before making any of the ingredients, I set the 10” inside the 14”, and filled it with water until it came a bit up the side of the 10”.  That was a lot of water.  It will take quite a while to get all that water heated up.  I took the 10” out, and put the 14” on and under the coals, with the lid on.  I wanted the water oven to be as preheated as possible, maybe even simmering.

Then, I made the crust.  I actually didn’t have any graham crackers, so I ended up using honey-flavored oat breakfast cereal O’s.  It still tasted fine.  I mixed in the melted butter, the sugar, and the mint and pressed it into place at the bottom of the Dutch oven.  There had been some debate as to whether you were supposed to mold it up the sides or not.  Since I was going to be serving it straight from the Dutch, I didn’t fuss with it, and just made it level.

Then, I got a big mixing bowl, and started creaming the cream cheese and the sugar together.  I have this potato masher with kinda small holes, and it worked just perfectly for smooshing them together. I did it a lot, trying to make it so that I incorporated a lot of air into the mix.  It’s not as easy to do cream cheese as it is to do butter, so it was a tough job.

Then, I added the eggs, one at a time, smooshing and creaming each one into the mix as I went.  After that, I added the other ingredients and mixed and smooshed more and more.  I’ve got a pretty stiff whisk, too, which I used to finish it up.

By this time, the water was bubbly hot, so I poured the batter into the 10” Dutch oven, shook it a bit to settle it in, and put it into the 14”.  I kept the lid of the 10” off, but, obviously, closed up the lid of the 14”.  I replenished the coals, and went on cooking other things for the dinner.

I kept a close eye on it.  I didn’t lift the lid much, probably only about every half hour or so.  Part of the problem was my inexperience.  I wasn’t really sure what a “done cheesecake” was supposed to look like.  I ended up cooking it just under an hour and a half.  I don’t know if it needed to be cooked less or not.  It had puffed pretty high up in the 10” at that point.  It was still kinda jiggly, though.  It even cracked a little on the top because it had swelled up so much.  I guess the steam doesn’t help it that much...

I pulled it out and set it aside to cool.  Another thing that my research told me was to let it cool slowly.  It settled back down in the Dutch oven as it did.  Finally, when it was cool, I put it outside with the lid on to chill.

In my 8” Dutch oven, with about 10 coals underneath, I mixed the topping ingredients.  I just let that come up to temperature and simmer to reduce into a syrup.  I let that cool.  My dear wife also made a chocolate drizzle.

It was delicious and rich.  I recommend cutting the slices kind of thin!

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sort-of Salvadorean Turkey in the Dutch Oven

I was looking for a different, unique way to do a turkey this last Thanksgiving.  I’d done a lot of variations in the past, and some of them I’d done over and over.  I just wanted to try something new.

I have a really good friend across the street who introduced me to his family tradition, the Salvadorean Turkey. I was really intrigued, so I also looked out on the web.  It turns out that there are lots of different ways of doing it, but they all have some consistent similarities, too.  They all involve some kind of mustard sauce, and some kind of tomato sauce.  Many of them are like a braise in the overall mixed sauce, others make the mustard in a baste, then have the tomato in a braise.  A version I was kind of attracted to had the mustard sauce basted and browned on the skin, and the tomatoes and fresh chopped veggies around the bird.  After the turkey is done, the veggies are pureed and served in lieu of gravy.

That was the version I did!

A note on authenticity:  Whenever there’s a dish that’s this traditional with this many variations, you’re sure to upset someone when you do it.  I don’t know that what I ended up doing is a “Real Salvadorean Turkey”, and someone’s Salvadorean grandmother will surely be upset by it.  Oh, well.  It tasted GREAT, and I thank the Salvadoreans for their recipes, or at least their inspiration!

Another note: Apparently, a large part of the tradition is making sandwiches using the leftover turkey and sauce in the days that follow the celebration.  Sounds like a great plan to me!

Dutch Oven Salvadorean Turkey Dinner

14” Deep Dutch oven
16 coals below
16 coals above

1 12-14 lb Turkey hen, thawed

1 lb brown sugar
1 lb table salt

1/2 cup mustard
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup honey
a bit of thickener, like guar gum, or just flour

3-4 large Potatoes
6-8 Roma Tomatoes
1-2 Green Peppers
2-3 stalks of celery
1-2 Medium Onions
4-5 cloves Garlic, sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped Green olives

Roasted Pumpkin seeds or unflavored sunflower seeds in the husk
liberal shakes of parsley, basil, oregano
A little chili powder
Salt and Pepper

The dish begins the day before the cooking.  The turkey had already been thawing for a day or two in the refrigerator.  That allowed it to thaw some, but there was still a lot of ice inside.

I prepared a brine bath by cleaning out a large drink cooler.  A flat food cooler that you take camping will also work, as long as it’s watertight.  I scrubbed it out with dish soap and rinsed it in hot, hot water.  Then I put about a half gallon of hot water in the bottom and mixed in the salt and sugar.  That’s a lot of each one, I know.  When that was mostly dissolved, I added enough cool water to bring it up to about half way full.  I opened up the turkey package, and let it drain a bit, and then use a fork or knife to poke some holes in the skin all around.  Then I put the whole bird into the brine bath.  I added more water until the turkey was covered.  I closed up the lid, nice and tight.

Now, usually, I’m doing this at Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it’s going to be really cool out in the garage.  The bird is also usually still thawing, so it’s going to keep the water really cool, too.  So, between the cool and salt, I don’t worry too much about germs.  Sometimes, however, just to be sure, I’ll add some ice on top.  It won’t really impact the thawing, but it will help keep it cold enough to retard the germ growth, and keep it out of the danger zone (above 40 degrees fahrenheit).

The next day, cooking day, Thanksgiving Day, I got my 14” dutch oven ready.  I don’t use it as often, so I gave it a good wiping, and then coated it with a quick spray of oil.  Not much.  I lit up some coals and let them start to get white.  I pulled the turkey out of the drink cooler, drained off the brine, and put it into the dutch oven, breast up. I got out some paper towels and patted the skin surface dry.  There’s still a lot of moisture in the meat, and that will end up in the braising sauces.

Once the coals were getting hot, I put the Dutch oven onto the coals, as written above, letting it start to roast.  I also inserted a meat thermometer.  Also, make sure that you have extra coals burning in a stack or in your chimney, so that you can start fresh ones.  This will be a long, slow cook.

I mixed up the baste ingredients.  It’s pretty simple, and you can adjust it to your taste.  I wanted it to be a thick glaze, almost a paste.  Once it was mixed, I opened up the Dutch oven and slathered it over all of the top and side surfaces of the turkey.  I only used about a third of the mix at the time.  The rest I reserved for future bastes.

Then, I let it cook for about an hour.  I kept refreshing the coals, trying to keep it at a steady medium to medium-low heat.

After about an hour and a half (almost half-way through the total cook time), I started preparing the veggies, dicing and chopping as needed.  The potatoes, I skinned and cubed.  These went in first, around the base of the turkey.  The other vegetables got scattered around the sides.  More baste went on top of the turkey.

During the last half of the cooking, I rebasted the turkey about every half hour to 45 minutes.  It started to form a really great crust.  In the last half hour or so, I put my 8” Dutch oven on about 10-12 coals, and tossed in the pumpkin or sunflower seeds, with a little olive oil).  I put the lid on, and let them roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I like to get them quite brown, even a bit black, to get some smoky flavor!

When the turkey is done (at least 170 degrees, preferably 180), there is still much to do!

I brought the Dutch oven in from the coals, and using meat forks, lifted it out onto a plate.  I tented it with aluminum foil so as to preserve the heat and let it rest before carving and serving.

The next part is a bit tricky.  I scooped out the veggies and potatoes with a slotted spoon, letting them drain as I lifted them out.  I separated the potatoes from the veggies as best I could.  If there are some bits of veggie mixed in with the potatoes, and vice versa, that’s fine.  The potatoes I put into a collander to drain.

The veggies went into a blender with the herbs and other seasonings.  I tossed in some of the roasted seeds, just a few to start, and gave it a spin.  As I was pureeing the veggies into a sauce, I adjusted the thickness by adding more roasted seeds.  If you’re careful, it’s pretty easy to do.  If you go too far with the thickness, you can add more turkey juice from the bottom of the dutch oven.  Come to think of it, a little milk or half-and-half would really make it taste rich.  But that might cool it too much...

The potatoes then went into a bowl for mashing.  I added some salt and pepper to pick it up a bit. Again, if they’re too dry, you can add some of the turkey juice to make it a bit more fluid.

Finally, I carved the turkey and served it up!  The idea is that the diner will have a slice of turkey, with some potatoes on the side, with the tomato and veggie sauce drizzled over it.  It’s a delicious and flavorful combination, and since the bird, the potatoes and the veggies were all cooked together, there is a nice consistent sharing of flavors between all three!

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dutch Oven Spice Cake

Last week was my son’s 15th birthday, and, of course, a prime opportunity for me to show off my newly-found cake baking skills.  I know that he’s not as fond of chocolate cakes.  I don’t know what his problem is, but I love him and accept him anyway.  So, I asked him what he wanted.  His answer was pretty quick: a spice cake.

That was cool with me, ‘cause I loves me my spices!

I looked all over for a good recipe, and I found many.  Many required buttermilk.  That’s fine, but I didn’t have any.  This one contains elements of several that I found, and used vinegar for the acid to react with the soda.

This time, I didn’t make my own frosting.  Shame on me...

Dutch Oven Spice Cake (this recipe makes enough for a 2-layer cake)

2x 10” Dutch ovens

8-9 coals below
12-14 coals above

2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

4 eggs

1 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar

A few hours before you start take everything out of the fridge to warm up.  It will work much, much better if it’s all at ambient temperature instead of cold.

OK, well, not EVERYTHING.  Just everything you’ll need for the cake.  Sheesh...

I started out by sifting and mixing all of the dry ingredients in the first set together.  You can whisk it together, or however you like.  I use a flour sifter.  That also helps to aerate the flour as well as blend the ingredients. I set that aside in a bowl.

After that, I went outside and lit up the coals I would need.  I knew I’d need a lot of coals, because I was going to be baking two ovens at once.  I also should have taken measures to make sure that my metal Dutch oven table was level.  More on that in a minute.

The next step is to cream the butter and the sugar.  I used a metal slotted spoon.  A couple of days after this, by the way, I bought a potato masher.  I’m going to try that next time I make a cake.  I already used it on my pumpkin pie filling, but that’s another story for another day...

So, I smoosh the butter and the sugar together.  Not only is this much easier if the butter is warm, soft, and smooshy, but it also accepts the air a bit better, which is really the whole point of this. It takes a long time to whip it up into a froth with only a slotted spoon.  If you want to, you can use a tabletop blender or a hand beater or whatever thing ya got.  Of course, if you’re out in the woods, you won’t have anywhere to plug that in, so you’re back to the slotted spoon or the potato masher.  I worked at it for a good 15 minutes or more.

Then I prepared the Dutch ovens.  I took the lids out to the coals and poured a bunch of hot, white coals on each one, and set them aside on the Dutch oven table to preheat.  I cut a disc of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each oven, and held it in place by spraying oil on the bottom first.  I did all this preparation because once I start mixing the wet ingredients in, I don’t want to stop.

I added the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture, one at a time, and beat it all together with the slotted spoon until each one was well-blended.  Then, I added in a third of the dry ingredients, and blended (with a stiff wire whisk, this time), then about half of the milk (I also added the vinegar at this point), and blended some more.  I added another third of the powders, then the last half of the milk.  At each stage, I’m pausing to whisk it all in well.  A few good final whisks, and it was finally a beautiful, creamy, fluffy batter.  The spices made it smell amazing, too.  It’s tough not to just eat it like this.  Fortunately, as the chef, I get to lick the mixing spoon!

I poured it into each Dutch oven, a spoonful or two at a time, to make sure it’s even.  I immediately took it out and set the coals in their proper order (as listed above).  By the way, here’s an interesting note.  One of my 10” Dutch ovens is a deep oven, and the other is shallow.  I’ve learned that I need to put a couple of extra coals on top of the deep one.

I leave that to bake.  After about 10-15 minutes, I turn the oven and the lid, so as to prevent hot spots.  BE VERY CAREFUL doing this!  If you jar your oven, you could make the cake collapse.  I know.  I’ve done it.

After 25-30 minutes, test the center of the cake with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, I leave it in for a couple minutes longer, then take it off the coals.  Once they were both done, I brought them inside, and let them cool in the dutch ovens, but with the lids off.  When they’re cool, I run a knife around the perimeter of the cake to loosen it (if it’s not already - usually cooling pulls it away from the sides), and then invert it onto a small plate or a cardboard disc.

Finally, I just stacked and frosted them!  They were delicious!  Happy Birthday to him!

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dutch oven Carne Asada

I’ve always loved the taste of carne asada, and I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.  When I finally decided to do it, I kept thinking of more and more things to add to the meal.  In the end, I did quite an elaborate Mexican-inspired meal, but the carne asada was just a part of it all.  It was interesting juggling the various pots to make all of the elements of the meal, as well as timing them all to be done right.  Today, I’ll just post the recipe for the Carne.

Dutch oven Carne Asada

12” Dutch oven

25+ coals below

The Meat

2-3 lbs very thin sliced beef steaks
juice of three limes
4-6 cloves garlic

The Salsa

3-4 tomatoes
3 medium onions
2 green peppers
1-2 jalapenos
juice of 2 limes
olive oil
fresh cilantro


flour or corn tortillas
sour  cream

I started in the morning, putting all of the first set of ingredients into a zip-top bag and shaking, to evenly coat the steaks with the marinade.  I put that into the fridge and went to church.

Later that afternoon, I lit up some coals, and while they were heating up, I prepared the veggies in the salsa.  I cut the tomatoes and the onions into wedges, like in sixths or eighths.  The peppers I simply sliced into long sticks, like a big julienne.

I put a lot (about 25+) of fresh coals under my 12”, and drizzled some olive oil in the bottom to heat up.  Once that was heated, I started with the veggies.  I started with just the tomatoes, because everything has different cooking times.  I put the wedges in, skin down.  Immediately, it started sizzling.  I didn’t stir it.  The idea is to get a good sear going on and carmelize it.  Originally, I put the lid on, with a spacer to allow for moisture to escape, but I don’t think I’ll do that next time.  It’s OK to soften up the tomato flesh a bit, too.

Once the tomatoes are all seared, I pulled them out and set them aside, and let the heat build back up.  Then, I did the same thing with the peppers, onions and jalapenos.  The onions, I laid on their sides, instead of the back of the wedge.

Once they’re all seared and cooked (but not sauteed), I put them all on my chopping block and just went at them with my chef’s knife, using a mince cut to chop them into coarse chunks.  The tomatoes, of course, sort of fell apart, and provided a lot of liquid to the party.  When they were all cut up, I tipped them all into a bowl, and added the lime juice, the cilantro, and the seasonings.

This ended up with a really delicious charred/smoky sort of flavor.  The onions got a bit sweet, too, and it just had a richness that I hadn’t found in normal pico de gallo.  It was delicious!

Then, I got some fresh coals under the Dutch oven again and got it heated up.  I wanted it good and hot, so I used new coals, not the half-burned ones that were left.  I spread out two pieces of the meat and let it sear and sizzle.  Only a few minutes on each side, so that it’s still got a thin sliver of pink in the middle.  When each one was done, I brought them in.  I cut them into long, thin slices and we served them up with the salsa in tortillas, with guac and sour cream.  I also made rice and refried beans (from scratch) for side dishes.  All in all, it was a delicious Mexican meal!

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dutch Oven Chicken Noodle Soup with Handmade Noodles

This weekend, a number of factors played into what I ended up making for our Sunday dinner.  First, my father-in-law was coming over, so I wanted it to be something very yummy.  Second, it’s getting colder, so it would need to be something warm and comforting.  I also was thinking about my upcoming book, “Around the World...”  I was thinking about the handmade pasta recipes, and how hard it is to describe the process.  I thought it would be cool to make a video of the mixing and rolling.

Chicken Noodle Soup!  That would be a perfect dish to satisfy all three requirements!  I hadn’t made noodles by hand in a long time, so I thought it would be fun to do that again.

The Noodles

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 Tbsp parsley, basil, or oregano (or a combination).
6 eggs

The process was just like I did back in the day:  The recipe was a little different, but not much.  I used just eggs instead of eggs and water this time.  Here’s the video.  It makes more sense when you watch it than it does when you just read about it.

The Soup

12” Dutch Oven

20+ coals below

3-4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4-6 cups water (to fill the dutch oven about half-way)

The pasta from step 1

3-4 Carrots
1-2 Medium onions
3-4 stalks celery
1-2 sweet peppers
Juice of 1 lemon

I started by lighting up some coals, and getting those under the Dutch oven (with the lid on) with the chicken and the water.  I just let that boil until the chicken was essentially cooked all the way through.  I wasn’t too concerned, because it would cook more in the soup.  While that was happening, I was chopping up the veggies.

Once it was done, I pulled the chicken breasts out, and refreshed the coals underneath.  I put the lid back on and let the broth come up to a good, energetic boil.  I added in the pasta, and replaced the lid.  After a few minutes, I stirred it gently.  I didn’t want it to cook too much, too quickly.

Then, I added in all the veggies.  I cut the meat into chunks and added that back in.  I added in the flavorings and seasonings, and just let it simmer with the lid on until the veggies were soft.

It was a delicious soup!  A big hit with the family and the father-in-law.  Because there was big chunks of veggies, meat, and lots of noodles, it was a very hearty and filling dish.  The residual flour on the noodles and the starch of the noodles themselves helped to thicken the broth, too.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beef and Brussels in the Dutch Oven

One thing I’ve enjoyed a lot lately in my cooking is to challenge myself to take an ingredient or a dish that I hated as a kid and see if I can do it well enough to say, “I like it!”  This week, it’s brussels sprouts!

Like all the others (asparagus, broccoli, etc...) I didn’t dive in without some research. I got a lot of ideas.  This would be a momentous occasion.  I didn’t want it to just have it be a simple side dish.  I thought about various meats that would help make it a main dish, and In the end, I thought that the bitter tones of the sprouts would go best paired up with beef.  Many of the recipes I checked out included bacon as well, and I liked that combination.  So, I stuck with that as well.  Portobello mushrooms are very beefy, too, so that was an obvious one, too.

There was a lot of various ways of cooking them, too.  Most of my friends and my research warned against overcooking them.  In the end, I decided to do it like a stir fry.

Beef and Brussels in the Dutch Oven

12” Dutch oven
24-28 coals underneath

1/2 lb bacon, chopped

1 lb fresh brussels sprouts
1 lb of beef, in steak or cubed/sliced as stir fry
1 medium onion
1 green pepper
1 large portobello mushroom
2-3 cloves garlic

Gorgonzola cheese

This was actually a pretty easy one to do.  I started by lighting up the coals.  When they were hot, I put about 22 underneath the Dutch oven, and put the bacon pieces into it.

While that was cooking, I prepared the meat and the veggies.  I sliced the meat up first, and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and paprika.  I let that sit while I sliced, chopped and minced everything else.  Finally, it all went into the same bowl, with a few shakes.

I let that bacon cook pretty crisp, then pulled it out.  I amped up the coals and let the drippings get really, really hot. I tossed in the meat and veggies.  I gave it a stir right away, and then would alternate stirring with letting the beef and the veggies sear.  I cooked it all until the meat was medium and the veggies were just a little soft.  Then, I pulled it off the coals.

I served it all served up with some sprinkles of the gorgonzola on top, alongside some roasted potato chunks I’d done in a 10”.  Wow.  It was all delicious!  Another childhood terror conquered!

Next?  Probably squash...

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dutch Oven Cornbread Cake

I had a great big Dutch oven weekend!  It started with a demo at the Sportsman's Warehouse here in Midvale, UT.  Those folks are great!  I arrived and they had tables and canopies all set up for me in front of the store.  It was a brisk day, but not really cold.  There were a couple of spots where it drizzled, but we had good traffic all day.

I cooked chili and pulled BBQ chicken with my own flavorful sauce.  I got a lot of compliments as well.  I sold and signed a bunch of books, too.  I didn't keep count, because the actual sales happened inside.  At the end, my body was tired and sore, but my spirits were high.  It was really a lot of fun.

Then, the next day, some old family friends invited us over to a "family chili cookoff".  Of course, I obliged, and made some more.

I also made some cornbread.  My favorite way of making cornbread in the past was to do up a cornbread mix, then a yellow cake mix, and finally to stir the two together.  I thought there would be a way to make both of those from scratch, and I did some research and came up with this recipe.  It ended up to be more like a cake with a bit of corn flavor, but it was nice and moist and not so crumbly as typical cornbread is.  As I prepare this recipe for the blog, I've added a bit of cornmeal to it.

Dutch Oven Cornbread Cake

10" Dutch oven

9-10 coals below
18-20 coals above

1/4 cup softened butter (the softer the better)
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs

1 cup cornmeal
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
light shakes of cinnamon and nutmeg

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp honey
1 3/4 cups whole milk

I started by lighting up the coals.  Once these are white-edged, a lot of them will go on the Dutch oven lid, to preheat it.

The first step is to cream the butter and sugar together.  I used the back of a big serving spoon to whip the two together and to incorporate as much air as possible.  Do this for several minutes, until it's nice and fluffy.

Then I added in the eggs, one at a time, beating and blending as I went.

By this time, my arm was quite tired, and I took a break.  I mixed the dry ingredients together into one bowl, and the remaining wet ingredients as well, into another bowl.  After all this, I went out and put the coals on the lid, as I mentioned before.

Then, I added half of the dry ingredients, and continued mixing, then half of the wet, and mixed some more.  While still mixing, I added the remainder of each.  At that point it turned into a nice batter, which I finished up with a wire whisk, to break apart the dry clumps.

I cut out a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom, even though I wasn't sure that I'd need it.  I planned on serving cut squares directly from the Dutch, so I wouldn't need to flip it out like a cake.  Still, I went with it.  I sprayed the sides of the Dutch oven with oil as well.

I poured in the batter, then took it out and set it under the heated lid.  I counted out the proper coals above and below and set it to bake.  I rotated the Dutch oven after about fifteen minutes, and after about 35 minutes, it was done!  I brought it in and let it cool.

It was delicious and it served up well next to everyone's chili.

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Video: Baking the Cake

Hello, folks!

While I was baking that yummy yellow layer cake last week, I had my good son help me shoot a video of it. I'm kinda new to the video world, but I think we've got some fun footage here!

So, check it out!  Share it!  I would really appreciate it if all of you good kind folks that read my ramblings here would give it a spin and post it up to your facebook pages, or tweet it.  That would help me get some good Google and search reaction to it!

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Simple Dutch Oven Yellow Layer Cake

A few weeks ago, I went out and did something I haven’t done in a very, very long time.

I bought a brand new Dutch oven.

I haven’t done this in a very, very long time mostly because I haven’t really had a need to buy a new one.  I’ve seen quite a few that I’ve liked a lot, and that I’ve wanted to buy, but I never really NEEDED them.  There are those, true, that would argue that you don’t actually have to NEED, nor to even USE all of the cast iron you acquire.  But, for me, to spend the money, I have to need it.  And the need and the money never came together at the right moment.

Until last week.

I’ve been wanting to get good at cakes, see, and I really think that cakes do better in 10” Dutch ovens.  You can do one in a 12”, but the recipes are usually designed for a 9” circle, which will make just the right amount for a 10” oven.  So, if you do it in a 12” oven, it will be thinner, and bake out faster, and end up a bit drier.  Just plain not as good.

Well, that’s all well and good.  I have a wonderful 10” dutch oven.  Why buy another one?  Well, if I want to do a layer cake (which is mostly what I like), then I’ll want to bake them both at the same time.  Otherwise, I’ll have to end up mixing the batter twice, and baking it twice, and it will be twice the work and twice the time.  Not acceptable.

So, I needed a second 10” Dutch oven.

Fortunately, IDOS has been running a promotion with a 25-year commemorative edition 10” Deep Dutch oven.  It really looks sweet.  Plus, since I’m very involved in IDOS, I really wanted one!  You can see it, by the way, and get it here:

So, I bought it and brought it home.  Excited, I found a chocolate cake recipe, and tried it.


I was not impressed.  My family thought it was pretty good, but I thought it was dry, which seemed to be a common problem with my cakes.  I mean, it wasn’t an EPIC FAIL, but it just didn’t make me go “Wow!  That’s good!”

Part of the problem was that it was a kind of tricky recipe, and I wasn’t sure of the process, and it just didn’t come out very well.  So, yesterday, I tried again.  I picked a simpler recipe, I added a little extra butter to it, and baked it up.  It was GREAT!  I’m very excited by it.

Keep in mind, as you’re doing this recipe that it was doubled so as to bake two cakes for layers.  If you’re only doing one layer, halve it back down.

2x 10” Dutch ovens

10 coals below
18 coals above

The Batter

3 cups white sugar
1 cup + 2-3 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
6 eggs

4 cups cake flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

The Frosting

8 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. cocoa
3 c. confectioners' sugar + extra, if needed
4 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla

I have learned, by the way, that process is as important, if not moreso, as are the ingredients.  First, I gathered the ingredients, particularly the milk, eggs, and butter, and set them out on my counter, to come up to the ambient temperature.  After letting those sit for a few hours, I got the party started by putting the coals on to burn and get all good and white and glow-y.

I have to preface this description of the process by saying that I debated in my own mind how to work the ingredients.  In the Dutch oven world, particularly in IDOS-sanctioned, WCCO qualifying cookoffs, it’s against the rules to use any electrical equipment.  That’s right, no blenders, no mixers, nuthin’.  Use your arms or go home.

My wife razzes me about this.  While I was making this cake, for example, I was working the butter and the sugar, and she leaned over and whispered, “You know we have a mixer, don’t you?”

So, I decided to learn how to do it without electricity to make it compliant with the cookoff rules.  Even though I might not ever win a cookoff with it, someone out there reading this might.  In the meantime, if you want to use something you plug into a wall, or something that has batteries, I’m not going to stop you, or turn you in to the cast iron police.  Go for it.

Once everything was easily at room temperature (I even partially melted the butter), I mixed the butter and the sugar together.  Using the back of a slotted spoon, I began “creaming” them together.  By that, I mean that I quickly worked the spoon, mashing the sugar and the butter together.  I did this for a long time, at least 3-4 minutes.  After a bit, it got a bit frothy, and became quite easy to work.  The idea was to infuse it with air bubbles.  Then, one at a time, I added the eggs, creaming and working the batter more between each one.

Once that was well-blended, I turned my attention to the next set of ingredients.  I sifted them all together into a separate mixing bowl. Sifting not only works out chunks, it blends the ingredients well, and aerates the flour.  More trapped air!  I also added the vanilla to the milk and stirred that up.

Now, I had three sets of ingredients, and it was almost time to blend them all together.  First, however, I prepared the dutch ovens.  I took the lids out to the cooking area, and shook out a lot of coals onto each one, so that each lid could pre-heat. Then, I sprayed the inside of the Dutch ovens with oil, and dusted on some flour, concentrating on the sides of the oven.  For the bottoms, I cut two 10” circles of parchment and placed them in.  The oil helped to hold them in place.  I’ve tried to remove cakes without the parchment and it’s very difficult, even with the pan oiled and floured.

I added half of the flour mix and half of the milk to the butter/egg blend, and started mixing it up with a hand-crank mixer.  After that was well-blended and aerated, I added the remainder and mixed that well, too.  I mixed it for a total of 3-4 minutes.  It wore me out.  In the process, I also tried a whisk and even the slotted spoon.  I’m not sure which I liked the best, but I think it was the cranker.  It made it the smoothest.

Finally, it was ready and I poured it, 50-50 into each Dutch oven.  I arranged the coals, and put the hot lids on the cakes.  I marked the time.

Then, I rested!  I think that during the mixing phase, I worked off enough calories to eat the entire cake!  After 15 minutes or so, I turned the Dutch oven, and turned the lid.  I was very careful while moving it not to jar or jolt it, in case it would fall.  The last time I baked, I wasn’t so careful, and had a sunken middle.

After 25 minutes baking, I started checking for done-ness.  I did the toothpick trick, sticking it in and pulling it out dry, but one of the cakes passed the test, but was obviously not done (it was still jiggly in the middle).  So, you have to be careful and observant as well.  I ended up having them be on for around 35-45 minutes.  One of my 10” Dutch ovens is a deep one, and it took about 5-10 minutes longer to cook.

As each one was done, I brought it inside, and took off the lid.  I let it cool completely, in the Dutch oven, before I attempted the removal.

In the meantime, I mixed up the frosting and put it in the fridge.  I also cut a 10” circle out of a corrugated cardboard box.

When the cake was cool, I put the disc of cardboard on top of the cake, and flipped the Dutch oven over.  The parchment let the cake drop right out with no issues at all.  I peeled off the parchment and put my cake plate, inverted on top of it.  Finally, I flipped that over and there was my first layer.  Voila!

I trimmed the first layer to be more flat, and spread the frosting over the top of that layer.  I extracted the second layer the same way, but I used my hand instead of the plate to invert the cake gently onto position on the first layer  Once that was in place, I frosted the top and the sides, and put it in the fridge until serving time.

When it was all done, it was moist and delicious!  Definitely a hit!

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

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dutch Oven Potjie Kos

This Dutch oven recipe is included in my Dutch oven cookbook, "Around the World in a Dutch Oven"

In Southern Africa, there’s a cooking tradition that utilizes cast iron pots with rounded bellies and three cast legs to raise it up over the burning fire.  They’re called Potjie pots (pronounced, for some strange reason, as “POY-kee”).  The tradition has deep roots in South African history.  They first learned to cook in cast iron from the arabs to the north.  In the colonial era, the Dutch settled South Africa and brought their own brands of cast iron (the Dutch oven) with them.

The travellers that would cross the South African wilderness would carry these pots with them, cooking up the wild game they would hunt and the tubers and other vegetables they would gather along the way.

In modern day, the tradition of cooking in the pots continues, but it has evolved into an entire style, named “Potjie Kos”.  It literally translates to “potjie food” or “food from the pot”.  This really isn’t a dish so much as an approach to cooking.  It’s a big social event.  A host will plan a party, and invite friends over to socialize and celebrate while the food slowly cooks (which can take up to four or even more hours, in some cases).

The style I chose to emulate is a basic meat stew.  It’s created in three layers, and it’s not stirred until it’s completed and served. I downloaded a pdf recipe book full of variations, and I soon realized that there were some common threads.  One, you start with meats as your bottom layer.  These are usually braised for a very long time, to get them soft and tender.  Then the next layer is made of veggies that are slower cooking.  Finally, the top layer are the veggies that cook the most quickly.  After reading some recipes, I could see which veggies to use in each layer.  I also got ideas for spices.

In the end, I came up with my recipe, which was delicious.  Not stirring was an interesting twist.  It truly kept the flavors more distinct.

South African Potjie Kos

12” Deep Dutch oven

24+ coals underneath during browning
approx 10-12 coals underneath during simmering

The meat

1/2 lb bacon
2-3 lbs game meat (I got an elk roast)
1 Cup flour
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp pepper

The sauce

1 14 oz can beef stock
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

Slower-cooking veggies

1 14 oz can beef stock
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 small sweet pumpkin
4 large carrots
olive oil
chili powder

Shorter-cooking veggies

More beef stock, if necessary from the second can
4 stalks celery
1 large onion
4-5 cloves garlic
2-3 sweet peppers, of varying colors
olive oil

I began by heating up some coals and putting a lot of them under my 12” deep dutch oven.  I cut the half-pound of bacon into small squares and put them on to sizzle.  I let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they were very crisp.

While that was cooking, I cubed the roast into chunks a little under an inch across.  I mixed the flour and seasonings, and tossed the meat chunks with them in a plastic baggie.  I pulled the meat out and shook off the excess powder.

Once the bacon was all fried up, I refreshed the coals a bit, and tossed in the roast chunks.  They started sizzling immediately.  I did stir them, but only occasionally.  I let them sear as much as I could before moving the pieces around.  Soon, they had the look of being browned all around, and seared on a few sides. I let them cook, probably, a total of about 20 minutes or so.  The smell was incredible!  There was also a lot of crusty fond building up on the bottom of the Dutch oven.  That would come in handy in a bit.

I didn’t let the meat get done all the way through, but once it was mostly browned, I poured in a can of beef stock, and added in the balsamic vinegar.  The tomato paste could be added in now as well, but I did it much later, as it was an afterthought.  I stirred it all up with a wooden spoon, and scraped up as much of the fond as I could.  I put the lid on it and let it come up to a boil.

The next part was both tricky and easy.  It was easy because all I had to do was adjust the coals and keep it to a simmer for the next two hours.  It was tricky because all I had to do was adjust the coals and keep it to a simmer for the next two hours.  It wasn’t hard or difficult work, but you had to watch the burning coals, the coals underneath, and occasionally stir and check if it’s simmering, boiling, or stagnant.  For two hours.

By the way, the flour coating, in addition to helping to brown and season the meat, was also thickening the broth!

After an hour and a half, I peeled and chopped the sweet potatoes, the carrots, and cored, seeded, and cubed up the pumpkin.  Pumpkin is very common in African cuisine, I’m told.  I coated them with a light dousing of olive oil, and tossed them with the spices I mentioned.  Go easy on the chili powder.  It’s there to give it some zing, not to make it a hot dish.  Still, it’s your dish, so do it as you like!

After one final stir of the meat, I poured on a layer of the combined veggies and evened it out.  From that point on, until serving, I didn’t stir the pot.  I poured in about another quarter can of beef stock, around the edge so as to not rinse the seasonings off the veggies.

Then, I went back to napping-- I mean, managing the heat under the pot!  Yeah...  That’s it...

After a bit, I chopped up the last veggies, and minced the garlic.  I doused them with oil, too, and tossed them with their seasonings.  About 45 minutes to an hour after I had put in the first batch of veggies, I added the last layer, along with about another quarter can of additional beef broth.

After a final round of cooking, about another 45 minutes to an hour, I pronounced it done and brought it inside.  It smelled heavenly!  And after all these hours, I finally let myself stir up the food!

I served it up with some slices of the bread that I also baked today.  It was delicious and very filling!  The flavors really were more distinct.  I think not stirring the layers was a great idea.  I also wasn’t sure how I’d like the sweet potatoes and the pumpkin, but they were also delicious, and added some sweet tones to an otherwise savory dish.  The balsamic also brought some sweet along with the sour.  The meat was moist, tender, and fell apart.  It didn’t have any of the gamey bitter tones that so frequently come with elk or venison.

A delicious success!

For recipes for Dutch oven camping, or using camping Dutch ovens!

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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Announcements, Announcements, Announcements!

Today, I have two very exciting bits of news:

1 - My next book, the second in the “Black Pot Series”, titled “Black Pot for Beginners” is now available for pre-release orders at!  This one is not just a compilation of recipes and stories, however.  It’s a step-by-step, lesson-by-lesson guide to learning how to cook in a Dutch oven.  It’s very clear, detailed, and in-depth.  If you were to start at step one, and cook through to step 9, you’d get to the end as a quite accomplished Dutch oven chef!  Here are the chapters:

Lesson 1 - Instant Success - Your first surefire Dutch oven dish: Chicken and Potatoes
Lesson 2 - the Dutch Oven and the Gear - Learn about your equipment, and make a peach cobbler
Lesson 3 - Basic Cheffery - Make a delicious chilli and learn to use your knife along the way!
Lesson 4 - More Soups, Stews, and Cuts - Sauteing, browning, and simmering, along with more knife cuts
Lesson 5 - Heat and Meat - Managing the heat over a long roasting time can be challenging.  This lesson makes it simple
Lesson 6 - Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings - How to make your dishes leap off the plate!
Lesson 7 - Flour, Soda, and Heat, Part 1 - Quick bread and biscuits, with baking soda!
Lesson 8 - Flour, Soda, and Heat, Part 2 - Cakes and desserts
Lesson 9 - Putting it all Together - Planning and cooking a whole meal

It’s a great book, and anyone who wants to learn how to cook in a Dutch oven, even as an absolute beginner, can learn from it.

2 - This saturday, I’ll be demoing some recipes from the first book at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Midvale, UT.  It’s at 165 W. 7200 S. Midvale, UT

View Larger Map

I’ll be there from 11:00 in the morning through about 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon.  I’ll be cooking up some chili and some other as of yet undecided dishes.    If you live in the Salt Lake Metro area, come on out and I’ll be happy to sign your books!  It’s really important to me to have a good turnout, so if it’s at all possible, come out and taste some great food!

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mark’s Dutch Oven Rolled Steak Roast

This was an experiment I tried a few weeks ago.  I’d seen things like it in pictures, magazines, and I’d seen something pre-prepared in my grocer’s meat section.  I’d thought about how to do it myself, and wasn’t quite sure if I could pull it off.

The idea is to get some very thin steaks, and to roll some delicious veggie things inside it, almost like a beef sushi.  Except, of course, that you cook it.  And that the green stuff is on the inside.  OK, it’s really nothing like a sushi.  Fine.

I think it ended up quite tasty, and quite elegant as well.

12” shallow Dutch oven
10-12 coals below
12-14 coals above

2 lbs of steak, cut to ¼ inch thickness or less.

Fresh baby spinach
Provolone Cheese

5-6 Potatoes, cubed
2 onions, quartered

I started out by lighting up a bunch of coals and letting them start to get white.

While that was going on, I seasoned both sides of the steaks by shaking on the herbs and spices you see listed.  I don’t list amounts because I just went with what I grabbed first, and estimated what might be good.  You may end up with totally different spices when you go to your cabinet.  Balance them with a bit of care, however.  Be gentle with the cayenne, for example.  You want it to have some kick, but not burn.  Once the meat was seasoned, I set it aside for a while.

In the meantime, I minced up the garlic and cut the stems off the baby spinach.  I also snapped the ends off the asparagus and cut up the potatoes and onions.

After about this time, the coals were ready.  I spread some oil around the inside, then put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the bottom.  I set this on and under the coals to preheat.  This will also set some of the oil and help to build up your patina.

Then, to rolling the meat.

I laid out the strips of meat side-by-side, so the edges were overlapping a little bit, with the seasoned face down.  I scattered the minced garlic over the upside, and then laid out the spinach leaves in a pattern to cover, about 2-3 leaves thick.  On top of that, I spread a layer of thinly sliced provolone.  Finally, across the bottom, I took the asparagus sprigs and laid them, alternating.  By that, I mean that I wanted to get the heads of the stalks in different places along the meat, so that when I sliced it, I would get it evenly distributed.  Does that make any sense?

Finally, I rolled it all up, pretty tightly.

I tied it up with some string.  It’s tricky to describe how I tied it.  I slid the string underneath at one end and tied a knot.  Then I slid more string, starting from the other end, until it was a few inches from the first knot.  I looped it under itself, and tightened it.  I kept repeating that, until the entire roll was secure.  I drizzled on a little more olive oil.

Cooking it was a little tricky.  I poured the potatoes and onions into the now-heated Dutch oven and spread them out.  I tossed over a little bit of salt and pepper, just for good measure.  I laid the steak roll over the potatoes, and stuck in a short-stemmed thermometer before closing off the lid.

You have to be careful how long you cook it, and since the steak is thin, and the thermometer is essentially sticking into the veggies, it’s a good gauge, but not fully accurate to the steak’s done-ness.  It’s really easy to overcook the steak.  Still, I cooked it to 145, and it turned out pretty good.  It gets there pretty quick, in a preheated Dutch oven, so watch it closely.

When it’s done, pull it off the coals, but let it rest while you set the table.  Then, slice it into medallions or sushi slices or whatever you want to call them, and serve them on their side with the potatoes and onions, and whatever other side dishes you have also made.  It’s really quite an elegant presentation!

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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dutch Oven Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

I’ve been cooking a lot of fancy things lately, trying to get more fodder for my third book, which will be all about international dishes and things that are more complex and tricky.  That’s been fun and challenging, but it has left me kind of creatively drained.

A little while ago, I decided to revisit a traditional Dutch oven basic: barbecued chicken.  In its simplest form, all you have to do is put some chicken parts in a dutch oven and pour in some barbecue sauce on top of them.  Then ya roast it up, and serve it!  No fuss, and a delicious meal.  If you have some hamburger buns, you can pull the chicken apart and stir it all back into the sauce, then have it as sandwiches.

If you wanted, you could do all that from scratch.  Well, I wanted, and this is how I did it:

Dutch Oven Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

The Buns

12” Shallow Dutch oven
12-14 coals below
24-26 coals above

½ Cup of 110° water
2 tablespoon active dry yeast
¾ Cup of 110° milk
¼ cup sugar
3 Tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
4-5 cups fresh bread flour (if the flour is old, add 1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten)
1 egg

1 egg
Sesame seeds
poppy seeds

Mark’s Meat Rub

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

The Chicken

12” Shallow Dutch oven
10-12 coals below
12-14 coals above

1-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken
2 medium onions, quartered
3-4 medium potatoes in ¾” cubes

The Sauce

1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
Brown sugar
Some kind of hot spice (Cayenne Pepper or Chili powder)

I’m going to describe the steps for the buns and the chicken and sauce separately.

I started out by activating the yeast in the water.  I set that aside to get all foamy, while I gathered the rest of the ingredients.  I always use bread yeast when making yeast breads, but if it gets more than a couple of months old, I always add a little bit of vital wheat gluten powder.  Otherwise, it will never get decent gluten development, and won’t rise well.

I added all of the dry ingredients together (using just 4 cups of flour), then poured in the wet, and mixed it all to a dough ball.  I turned that out onto my floured tabletop and began kneading.  I kept adding more flour as I needed (kneaded?) to make it the right texture and not so sticky.  Finally, after about 10 minutes or so, it passed the windowpane test (  I oiled a bowl and set it aside to raise.

After raising, I lit up some coals.  I punched punched down the dough and cut it into 8 equal parts.  These I shaped into dough balls.  I flattened them under my palm on the table top.  All of these went into the oiled Dutch oven.  I took the Dutch oven lid out and poured a lot of burning coals on top of it, to preheat.

After about 20-25 minutes, the dough balls were rising again, and the lid was hot.  I whipped up an egg and coated the top of each bun using a basting brush, then sprinkled on the other toppings.  Then I put on the lid and adjusted the coals above and below.  I baked them for about 30-35 minutes, or until the internal temperature hit about 180-200.

When they were done, I pulled them out and put them on a cooling rack.

Then, on to the Chicken!

First, I made sure that the chicken was thawed, rinsed off, and patted dry.  Then, I coated all of the pieces with the meat rub.  I actually had quite a bit left over in a spice jar, from another time I used it.  It’s one of my own spice blends, and I actually use it quite a bit.

I cubed up the potatoes and quartered the onions and laid them in the bottom of another 12” Dutch oven.  I laid the chicken parts above those, and set it on the coals to roast.

I decided to add the sauce after the fact, and let the spice rub flavor the chicken first.  I mixed the sauce while the meat was cooking.  I did it pretty much in the order listed above.  I didn’t put in amounts, because when I make BBQ sauce, I make it more by taste.  I started with the two cans of tomato paste and sauce, and from there just added each ingredient, tasting along the way.  I wanted to get a good balance of all of the ingredients.

When the chicken was cooked to 170 degrees, internally, I pulled it off the coals.  I put the chicken in a bowl and let them cool a bit, but not too much.  Just to the point of being cool enough to handle without intense burning pain.  Using a couple of forks, I shredded the chicken.

I also pulled the potatoes and onions out of the dutch oven, and separated out the onions as much as I could.  I chopped the onions using the mincing knife technique, but still leaving pretty big chunks, and added those back into the chicken.  Then, I poured in the sauce and stirred it all together.  I didn’t use up all of the sauce, just enough to give the chicken a good coating.

The potatoes, you could serve up as you please.  They would be tasty as they were, but I actually made a potato salad out of them.

The whole meal was delicious and very “homey”!

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chicago-Style Pizza in the Dutch Oven

On our recent trip back to Indiana, we stopped over for a night with our friend in Chicago, and she treated us to a Chicago-style pizza dinner.  It’s bigger and heftier than most pizzas, with a sauced-up crust on top as well as on the bottom.  Oh, it was sooooo good and so filling.  I loved it, and I knew instantly that I had to try doing it in the Dutch oven.  It took me awhile to get around to it, but here it is.

I got a book while there called “The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook.  I followed the crust recipe very closely, but the toppings and things I experimented with a bit, based on some of the ideas in the book.  I doubled the crust recipe and made two different pies, each with unique fillings.  I liked both of the ones I did.

It was drizzly and rainy, so I had to rig a little shelter for my ovens.  I was also concerned with the cooking time, because the pizza was so much thicker than pizzas I’d cooked before.  Between all of that, I ended up cooking it too long  The bottom crust was singed, and the top was overly brown as well.  It had a bit of a burned taste.  It wasn’t charred black, but it was overdone. When I do it again, I’ll cook it less, and that will be reflected in the instructions below.

Chicago-Style Pizza in the Dutch Oven

12” Dutch oven

10-12 coals below
18-22 coals above

The Crust

3 tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp active dry Yeast
1 ¼ Cups warm Water
3-4 Cups bread Flour
3 tsp Salt
(Optional) ½ Tbsp vital wheat Gluten or 3 Tbsp Dough Enhancer
4 Tbsp Olive Oil

The Fillings

4 oz shredded mozarella
(The remaining fillings are optional, but the more, the merrier)
½ lb mild or medium italian sausage
cubed Ham
Pepperoni slices
Onions, diced
Green Peppers, diced
Roma Tomatoes, diced
Baby Spinach leaves, julienned
Black Olives, chopped
Fresh Mushrooms
Whatever else you like

The Sauce

1 can Tomato Paste
1 can Tomato Sauce
2 fresh Roma Tomatoes, diced
3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
Liberal Shakes of
4 oz shredded mozarella

The adventure began that morning, early, before church when I made the bread dough.  I did the process essentially like every other bread dough I’ve done.  I mixed the sugar, the yeast, and the water.  I did that a little more carefully this time, however, because I wanted to keep it at about 110-115 degrees F.  So, I poured in the hot/warm water a bit at a time and monitored the temperature as the sugar dissolved, adding hotter water to keep it “in the zone”.  It rewarded me by foaming up quite nicely.

I sifted the dry ingredients together, starting with just the three cups of flour.  The rest I would add during kneading.  The bread flour I’ve got is getting a bit old, so I added the vital gluten powder.  It helped it in the kneading.

Then, I mixed in the wet ingredients and kneaded it on the table top adding flour onto it as needed to make it not so sticky (yet still soft).

The last cookoff I judged, I got to visit with one of the other judges (who I had actually met at the World Championship). He’s a baker by trade, and he had some good advice.  He said when doing a windowpane (, don’t stretch it out paper thin, but just enough to let light through.  If you knead until it doesn’t break, paper thin, he said, it’s overkneaded and it won’t poof up.  Reinhart says it’s tough to overknead when you’re doing it by hand.  I tried it anyway, and kneaded only until it would stretch out translucent.

I set it aside to rise, but since I was going to be doing church stuff for a long time, I set it in the fridge.

When I came home, I pulled the dough out of the fridge first.  It had risen up very nicely.  I guess he was right!  I punched it down and cut it into halves, which I formed into small boules.  I set these aside to both proof and to come up to room temperature.

Then, I started up the coals and as soon as they were ready, I put the dutch ovens (remember, I did two), on about 20+ coals each.  I put the sausage in and browned it, separating it into small chunks as I went.  While I was doing that, I was also chopping up the onions, peppers, and other fillings.

I also got some more coals started, and put about 20 or so hot coals on each lid to begin pre-heating.

Once the sausage was browned, I scooped it out.  I added a little bit of garlic powder, salt, and olive oil to the Dutch oven and spread that around the bottom.  That and the sausage flavoring would give the crust a great taste!  I stretched out the dough, pretty evenly, and spread it over the bottom of the Dutch oven.  I tried to press it up the sides as much as possible, but it didn’t really respond.  I took a fork and poked holes in the crust about every inch or so.  I’m still not sure why the instructions said to do that.

The instructions said to “Parbake” the crust, or, in other words, to bake it a bit before you add the fillings and bake it for real.  At the time I wasn’t sure why you would do that, but later I realized that there is going to be a lot of food on the crust.  It will be thick and heavy.  In order for that bottom crust to stand up, it needs to have some poof and structure first.

So, after the crust was spread, I put the heated lid on and put about 8 coals below and 18 coals above.  I let that bake for only a few minutes.  I would recommend checking it after about 10-12.  The crust should be a bit firm, but not browned.  While that was baking, I made the sauce.  The sauce was easy, I just mixed everything (except the Mozarella) and blended it to taste in a bowl.

Then, I brought the Dutch ovens back in and put the fillings of choice in each one.  I started with a layer of the mozarella and then just added everything else.  In each one, I did cubed ham, pepperoni, and the sausage I’d cooked.  I actually quartered the pepperoni slices, too, to make them more like chunks.  In one, then, I added onions and peppers, and in the other I put the spinach and the tomatoes.  I kept the fillings away from the edge of the crust.

Then, I stretched out the remaining dough balls and laid them on top.  I reached under and pinched the two crusts together, all around the circle.  I pressed on the top to kind of spread it back out to the edge of the Dutch oven, and spread the sauce on the top.  Finally, I layered on more mozarella.

Once these Dutch ovens were ready, I put them on and under the coals and let them bake, turning them from time to time.  This is where I went wrong.  I wasn’t sure, because of the thickness of the whole pie, how to tell when it was done.  I stuck in a thermometer, but the interior fillings heat at a different rate.  The side crust baked readily, but the top still looked soft when I poked it through the sauce.  I just wasn’t sure, so I left it on, probably for about a total of almost an hour.

It was too much.  Next time, I’ll do it this way:  I’ll bake it for about 15 minutes, without the sauce on.  Then, I’ll check it.  If it’s getting done and progressing nicely, I’ll add the sauce and the cheese, and bake it for another 15-20 minutes.  At that point, I’ll bet it’ll be done and ready.

In the end, it tasted great.  It was a bit overdone, and that affected the flavor, but it was still good.  I think that once I get the baking timing down, It will be amazing!

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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dutch Oven Deconstructed Hamburger Salad

This Dutch oven recipe is included in my Dutch oven cookbook, "Around the World in a Dutch Oven"

Wow.  I’ve been sooo busy.  I just realized that it’s been two and a half weeks since I first posed this challenge: to deconstruct the basic, traditional American hamburger.

I need to start paying more attention to myself when I make these challenges.  I struggled with this one as well.  How to use all of those basic ingredients, and make it fresh and new.  Here they are:

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

I bounced a number of ideas around in my head, and struggled with all of them.  On the way, I realized that there is one type of dish that is significantly underrepresented here at the Black Pot: The salad.

There’s a reason for that.  You usually don’t cook salads, and Dutch ovens are a pot for cooking things in.  I suppose you could throw some lettuce and sliced/chopped veggies into a Dutch oven, toss it with some dressing and serve it as is!

Still, you can cook some elements of a salad.  That’s one reason I love big chef’s salads.  With meat, veggies and seasonings, they can be a whole meal themselves.  So, that’s why I decided to try this one that way.  The hamburger salad!

The lettuce goes from simple topping, then, to the basis of the dish.  The meat, on the other hand, becomes the topping!  What about the bun?  I turned that into croutons!  The sauces of the hamburger (ketchup, mustard, mayo) combined with other spices to make a dressing for both the meat and the rest of the salad.

Dutch Oven Deconstructed Hamburger Salad

Meat and sauce

12” Dutch Oven
22 coals below

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt
  • pepper

  • ½  cup Ketchup
  • ~3 Tbsp Mustard
  • ~2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp dill relish
  • cayenne
  • salt
  • pepper


12” Dutch Oven

10-12 coals below
14-16 coals above

  • 4-6 hamburger buns
  • 1 stick butter
  • Seasoning Salt
  • pepper

The Salad

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce (or other greens)
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • Grated cheddar cheese

Of all the elements for this dish, I was the least confident in the croutons, so I started with those.  I lit up some coals and, when they got white, I put them under one of the 12” Dutch ovens.  I put in the butter to melt, while slicing up the buns.  I did them in long, narrow strips, almost looking like french fries.  I think that next time, I’ll just cube them, so they look a little more like traditional croutons.  They’ll be easier to stir and handle.

Once the butter had melted, I shook in a liberal amount of the seasoning salt, maybe a teaspoon’s worth or so.  I added the pepper the same way, maybe a little less.  I tossed in the sliced bread and just stirred it thoroughly to coat each piece in butter and seasoning.

I actually had fewer coals on as I started, but I could soon see that it needed to be hotter to get the toasty brown I wanted.  So, I upped the numbers, as they’re written above.  I just kept the lid on and stirred them frequently to keep them browning, but not burning.

I got some more coals under another 12” Dutch oven, and diced the onions and minced the garlic.  I poured in some olive oil to heat up, then tossed in the garlic and onions with a little salt.  They started sizzling immediately, and I let them saute.

When they were getting a bit brown, I put in the meat to brown as well.

While that was cooking, I mixed up the sauce.  I started with the ketchup, and that was really the only one that I measured.  The rest I just mixed in and tasted as I went.  I was simply striving for a balance of flavors.

I stirred it up, then poured it in with the meat.  I stirred that, and let it cook for a little, but not much.  I wanted it to be a part of the meat, but not to evaporate or reduce.

Finally, the meat was done, the croutons were nicely roasted and brown, and it was time to assemble the salad

I started by shredding the lettuce and dicing the tomatoes.  I used the lettuce as the base of the dish, then added tomatoes on top.  I spooned some meat liberally over the base, and sprinkled some croutons on top of that.  Finally, I topped it by grating some cheddar on top.

My whole family pronounced this one a success!  I was pleased, too, not only because I enjoyed the taste, but that it was a new take on the burger (for me, anyway), and yet it still maintained a lot of the original burger taste. It had some salty and sour tones, and some sweet from the ketchup in the sauce.  The lettuce, of course, had a hint of bitter tone, and its texture made it feel like a salad.

Here are more cast iron dutch oven recipes, and Dutch oven cooking.

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

Dutch Oven TV Spots, and other events!

This week has been a fun and busy Dutch oven week!

Last Tuesday, I had a remarkable opportunity!  I was able to do a cooking demo live on TV!  As a part of Channel 2's noontime news show, I got to show how to make Chicken Wrapped Bacon!  Here's a link to the video of the event!

It was lots of fun to do.  I was pretty nervous.  I have done TV interviews before, but never when I was cooking.  Still, I think it came off ok! You be the judge.

Then, on the weekend, I got to go to the West Jordan Stampede and help the Storm Mountain Chapter of IDOS do demos for the passers-by.  I did Chicken and Potatoes, and Pizza, both from the book.  I also got to judge the cookoff, doing the breads.  My friend Andy from was there, also, judging for his first time.  Then, later that evening, his wonderful wife gave birth to his wonderful baby!  Congrats to Andy!

Then, today, I made my version of the Deconstructed Hamburger.  It turned out great, and I'll include that recipe as a separate posting.

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

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.


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