Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Politics of Food - Part II


First a Racist, then a Sexist

I’m a basically religious guy.

I know this might surprise you, but in spite of that, I don’t agree with everything that other religious people say.

Recently, I’ve been participating in a discussion of the roles of women in Christian churches.  Some say that young women should be trained and raised up to be wives, mothers, and homemakers.  Others say that they should pursue careers and seek fulfillment beyond the home.  Some say that husbands and wives can balance their home, family, and career roles.

...And somehow food gets caught in the middle.  “Girls should be taught to cook and clean and care for her husband and children!”  “I’m not going to sit at home baking pies and breads!” “Make me dinner!” “Make it yourself!”

Which to me is sad.  Because I think of food and cooking as an enjoyable part of my life, not a symbol of my oppression or of my enlightenment.  I LIKE to cook.  My son LIKES to cook.  My wife is a great cook.   My sister is an excellent chef, and she married another one.  She and he have both taught me much of what I know about food.  My mother was a great cook, and a devout feminist. Now, as her health fails, my father cooks for her daily.

Why should baking a pie represent anything more or less than having a great time making something delicious?  Baking bread is cathartic and wonderful.  Why is that symbolic of oppression?

C’mon.  It’s just food, people...

Next, we're back to recipes.  I promise.  Really.

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

The Politics of Food - Part I



 There have been a couple of circumstances lately where people have gotten into personal and political troubles, with food in the middle of it. I feel a need to share my thoughts about them both.

 The first is, of course, the fury over the Food Network not renewing Paula Deen’s contract, over alleged racist comments.  In addition, some of her sponsors are also now dropping Paula like a hot baked potato.

 Let me get some things out of the way, first:  It’s a free country.  Paula Deen can say whatever she wants, for whatever reason she has, and the Food Network can hire or fire whoever they want, for whatever reason they have.  Neither impacts my life in any direct way.  I’m not writing about whether or not they’re allowed to do either one.  Whether or not they SHOULD do what they’ve done is also an interesting question, but not one that I am going to deal with.  Each decision will have consequences.

 In fact, I suspect that Paula Deen’s TV demise has much less to do with outrage over racism, and more to do with the trends and directions of the Food Network.  For quite a long time, they’ve been moving away from traditional cooking instruction shows, and more toward competitions and restaurant reality shows.  That Paula Deen happened to come across in a bad light simply gave them a good excuse to cut her off.

 And if that isn’t enough, there’s this, just in: Nabisco’s new watermelon Oreos are “racist”.  That is, of course, if you didn’t already make all kinds of race-related jokes and metaphors out of the original chocolate and cream flavor.

 One thing that came up in my mind, however, was a part of the bigger food culture picture. Racism, in all it’s forms, occurs when two cultures meet, and one or both is unaccepting of the other.  America has a longstanding tradition of welcoming people of different heritages.  That’s why we’ve been called the melting pot.  We’ve historically had lots of problems with that, too, as worlds and cultures clashed.  It seems, however, that in the culinary world, we like getting along.  American food culture is a delicious blend of many many cultures.

 I’d like to think of us more as a stew pot.  A good stew is made of lots of ingredients.  As it cooks, each gives its own flavor to the whole, while receiving flavors from around it, and retaining its own tastes and characteristics.  There is a homogenous overall taste, but the individuality of each ingredient also shines through.

 We need to develop that stew mentality.  Each culture can retain and celebrate their own uniqueness, while all becoming American.

 Don’t you wish it were all that easy?

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dutch Oven Boneless Buffalo Chicken

Check out my Dutch oven cookbooks!
This one is the last installment in my series on breaded chicken strips and sauces. It's been a lot of fun thinking of new configurations for an old standby.

I’m a big fan of hot sauce, and I’ve always wanted to be able to make it from scratch.  I had done some studying a long time ago, and I read about having to store it and let it ferment for months and months.  That wasn’t going to happen.  Most of the other recipes for wing sauce I found were all based on Frank’s.

Finally, I morphed a bunch of ones that I saw into this one.  It was a great sauce.  The amounts are estimates.  Really, I just added these things and kept tasting to get it to the point where I liked it.  The core ingredients were the butter, the tomato sauce, the heat, and the vinegar.

Dutch Oven Buffalo Chicken

12” Dutch oven

20+ coals below for frying

10 coals below for baking
30+ coals above

8” Dutch oven

12+ coals below

The Sauce

1/2 stick (4 Tbsp) butter
1/2 onion, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
~1 Tbsp cayenne
~2-3 Tbsp vinegar, to taste

1 4 oz can mild green chilis, minced
Chili powder or more cayenne to taste

The Chicken:

2 lbs boneless & skinless chicken breast tenders
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika

The procedure for this dish was similar to the other two (the sesame cashew chicken Dutch oven recipe and the chocolate chicken Dutch oven recipe ), in some ways, and in one big way, different.  I still fried dredged chicken breast pieces, then made a sauce.  Finally I coated them with sauce and baked that on, serving it all up with just a little more sauce and side dishes.

In this case, however, since I wanted to give the sauce plenty of time to simmer, I started with it.

I lit up some coals, and once they got white, put 10-12 of them under my 8” Dutch oven.  I put in the butter to melt.  Then I diced and finely minced the onion and the garlic.  By that time the Dutch oven was hot, and the butter melted.  I tossed in the onion bits and garlic, with a little salt, and let them sweat.

Once those were translucent, I added in the additional butter, let it melt, and then added the tomato sauce, the cayenne, and the vinegar.  These four ingredients (well, and salt) are really the core of the whole dish.  I let it simmer a while, then started tasting it.  I added a little more of the cayenne or the vinegar to balance the overall flavor.

Finally, I minced and added the green chilis, and the salt and pepper, and just let it simmer. I used a whisk to briskly stir it up and break up the chunks as much as possible.

In between simmerings and tastings, I was also preparing the chicken.  This was done just like the other dishes.  I first got about 20-24 lit coals under a 12” Dutch oven, with about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom.

I mixed up the flour and spices.  I sliced the well-thawed chicken breasts (skinless, boneless) into 3-4 short strips each, and dredged each chicken piece well in the flour mix.  Then, I began frying those pieces in the heated 12” Dutch oven.  I had to do it in several batches, because I had more chicken pieces than I could fit into the bottom of the Dutch oven.  I cooked each piece about 10 minutes a side.  I had to pay close attention to the heat under both Dutch ovens, so that the chicken would brown nicely, and the sauce would keep up an easy simmer.

When all of the chicken was done, I put it all in the 12” Dutch oven and drizzled about half the sauce on top. I stirred all that great chicken and sauce up, so I could see that each piece was well coated, but not soaked.  I put about 10 coals under that Dutch oven, and put a 12” circular grill on top of it.  Then I put on the lid with upwards of 30 coals on it.  The grill makes a space under the lid, so that moisture can escape.  The extra coals on top are needed to make up for the heat that escapes as well.  This creates a dry-baking environment, and the sauce cooks on to the chicken in sort of a glaze. There are lots of things you can do to create the gap in the lid.  The grill is just one convenient way for me.

I didn’t need to bake it long, because everything is actually cooked at that point.  I used that extra time to steam a few corn cobs in another 12” dutch oven as a side dish.

When I served it up, I included some celery strips, and some blue cheese or ranch dressing as an additional sauce to balance out the heat of the sauce. I was very pleased with the results.  It was delicious!  Unfortunately, the acidic sauce also ate the patina off patches of the bottom of my 8” Dutch oven, so now I have to reseason it!

It was worth it!

Here are more great Dutch Oven Chicken recipes!

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dutch Oven Brownies

The other day, when I was working up the chocolate chicken recipe, I thought to make it a whole chocolate day, and decided to make a great dessert, too.  My first thought was a chocolate cake, but I decided to make brownies instead.  I looked up a good recipe, tweaked it a little and here it is!

I’ve recently been discovering just how much I like molasses as a flavoring.  It sweetens, but it also adds a depth and richness.  I don’t know how else to say that.  I really like it.

10” Dutch oven

9-10 coals below
18-22 coals above


Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan

4 large eggs

2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp molasses

8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 16 oz bag chocolate chips

I started by lighting up a lot of coals.  While that was catching, I broke the eggs into a bowl and began whisking.  I beat them for a good 15 minutes or so, until they were smooth, creamy and getting a bit fluffy, a light yellow.  I was surprised just how thick and airy the brownies ended up (airy for brownies, that is). I added in the sugar and molasses, and whisked it all together.

I got out the 10” shallow Dutch oven and put about 24 or so coals on the lid to preheat.  Then, I buttered the base of the Dutch oven pretty heavily, and dusted it with flour as well.  I was planning on cutting and serving the brownies directly from the Dutch, so I didn’t put any parchment down.  Had I been planning on extracting it as a disc, like a cake, I would have cut a parchment circle and put it down.

While the lid was heating, I added all of the remaining ingredients into the bowl and whisked and stirred some more.  I worked it until it was smooth, which didn’t really take long.   I held back some of the chocolate chips for later.

I poured the batter into the Dutch oven, and took it out to the coals and put the lid on.  Then, I adjusted the coals to the numbers shown above, and marked the time.  After 15-20 minutes, I rotated the oven a quarter turn, and the lid as well, to prevent burns from hot spots.  After another 15-20 minutes, I turned it again, and lifted the lid to check on the progress.   I checked it with a toothpick in the center. Almost done!

After about another 10 minutes, the toothpick came out clean, and I pulled it off the coals.  I brought it in and let it cool, uncovered.  It’s tough, but I encourage you to resist the urge to eat it too quickly.  Let it cool, at least until it’s just barely warm.  While it’s still hot, scatter the remaining chocolate chips over the top and let the residual heat melt them.  Another alternative topping is to sprinkle it with powdered sugar through a sifter.

We loved them! Especially after eating the chocolate chicken.  A week or so later, my son cooked this up (increased for 2 12” Dutch ovens) at his scout campout, and won his troop the Golden Spatula!

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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dutch Oven Chocolate Chicken


Chocolate what?

No. Stinking. Freaking. Way.  What are you thinking?  Chocolate chi--  What?

See, it all started when my wife was preparing a lesson for church on Sunday about God’s love.  She found this funny quote that says, “Chocolate is proof that God loves us all!”  While we talked about ways to work that into the lesson (involving a handout with Hershey’s Kisses), I got an idea in my head for a day of cooking with chocolate.

I did some research, and I found a great brownie recipe (which will follow another day), but I wondered what to do for the main dish.  I thought about a mole of some kind, and I started looking for recipes.  I found, instead, a recipe for a chocolate-based barbecue sauce.  Immediately, I thought of the cashew chicken I had done in the previous post.  I would do a dredged, crispy fried chicken, and then dry-bake on the sauce!

Though many of the processes are the same as that last dish, there are a few differences, so I’ll write it out again.

Dutch Oven Chocolate Chicken

12” Dutch oven

20+ coals below for frying

10 coals below for baking
30+ coals above

8” Dutch oven

12+ coals below

2 lbs boneless & skinless chicken breast tenders
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp paprika

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 1.5 oz. chocolate bar, broken into chunks
1 8ox can tomato sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp molasses
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp coffee grounds or powdered coffee substitute, like Pero
2 tbsp  Dijon mustard
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

First of all, make sure that the chicken is fully thawed before you even start.

I started out, as I usually do, by firing up some coals.  Once I had a few that were getting a bit white, I spread about 20 or more out on the table and put the 12” Dutch oven on it to preheat, with a few tbsp of olive oil in the bottom.

While the coals and the Dutch oven were getting ready, I prepared the chicken.  I mixed the flour and spices in a bowl first of all.  I was working with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so I sliced them into 1” strips and dredged them into the flour mix.  I set them aside on a plate.

When the Dutch oven and the oil was hot, I put in the chicken to fry.  I covered the bottom and still had only placed about half the chicken, so I did it in batches.  I cooked the chicken about ten minutes or so and then turned each piece over using tongs.  While the first batch was cooking I chopped up the onion and minced the garlic. When both sides were nice and crispy, and I could see that the insides were cooked through, I pulled them off, and put in the second batch.  Somewhere in here, I also added in some fresh coals to the fire to get hot and ready.

While the second batch was cooking, I put my 8” on the coals and melted the butter.  The onions and garlic went in with a little salt to sweat.  Once those were translucent, the remaining ingredients went in to simmer and melt.

When the second batch of chicken strips were done, I pulled it off the coals and added in the first batch, with the lid on, to keep warm with the residual cast iron heat.

When the sauce was looking nice and smooth, I tasted it and adjusted it.  I found my mix to be a little chocolate-heavy so I added in more mustard and vinegar.  You can adjust it how you like.  In the ingredients list above, I backed off on the cocoa a bit to compensate.  I poured about half of the sauce over the chicken in the Dutch open and stirred it up to coat it over all of the pieces.

Then, I set up the dry-bake.  I put the 12” Dutch oven on about 10-12 coals, and put a LOT of good, fresh coals on the lid.  Then I lifted the lid and put an old circular grill on the Dutch oven as a spacer for the lid.  You can see it in the picture.  I put the lid back on.  Now, there’s a thin space where moisture can escape.  In the past I’ve done that by hooking bent nails over the rim of the Dutch oven.  This time, I had this grill that worked very nice.  When you do that, however, you need to put a LOT more coals on top, as shown in the instructions, because the lid doesn’t trap the heat and moisture.  In this case, the chicken is already cooked, it’s just a matter of dry-baking the sauce on like a glaze.  I let it bake for about another fifteen minutes, stirring it once.

Finally, it was ready.  I served it with a side of steamed veggies, and did the brownies for dessert.  A chocolate day!

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

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dutch Oven Cashew Sesame Chicken

Lately, I’ve been doing these chicken dishes where you dredge some chicken breast strips in flour and spices, and then fry them.  Then you make some kind of sauce, and bake the sauce on like a glaze.

I think I’ll make it a series, here.  I didn’t really intend to do it, but it kinda worked out that way.   This one is a sort of asian-inspired one, with cashews, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame, and the next weekend was the chocolate barbecue sauce.  I think the next one I’m going to do will be a buffalo sauce.

Ah luvs me mah hotwings!

Dutch Oven Cashew Sesame Chicken

12” Dutch oven

20+ coals below for frying

10 coals below for baking
22 coals above

8” Dutch oven

12+ coals below

2 lbs boneless & skinless chicken breast tenders
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsps rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 tbsps ketchup

1/2 cup cashews
2-3 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups water

First, you’ll want to make sure that the chicken is all completely thawed.  Then, light up a bunch of coals.  When they start to get white, put a lot (about 20+) coals under a 12” Dutch oven.  Drizzle some olive oil (maybe a couple of tablespoons), and let that heat up.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  If you’re using chicken tenders, they’re already the right size and shape, pretty much.  If you’re using breasts, cut them into strips about an inch wide.  I Dredged the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and put them into the heated, oiled dutch oven.  I kind of snuggled the pieces in pretty close together.  I Let them fry for ten minutes or so on each side, until the chicken was cooked in the middle, and had a nice, crusty brown on each surface.

I had to do all the chicken in two batches, because I couldn't get them all in one Dutch oven.

While the second batch was frying, I came inside and mixed all of the other ingredients into a bowl.  You can adjust the amounts of everything by taste.
When the second batch of chicken was done, I added the first batch back in, and stirred in the sauce, making sure to coat all of the pieces well.  I put it on, and under, the coals to bake a little longer.  I added the cashews and the sesame seeds and stirred those in.  At this point, everything is cooked, but you just want it to be heated, and to have the flavors baked together.

While this was baking, I put the rice and water into the 8” and put that on some coals, with the lid on.  When I noticed steam venting, I let it cook for a bit longer, then pulled it off the coals, and let it sit for another 10 to 15 minutes to finish steaming.

When it was all done, we served the chicken on the rice, and it was delicious!

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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