GOING DUTCH

Get in touch with the past with a historical, slower, simpler cooking method.

WRITTEN BY SANDRA MACIAS
PHOTOS BY KEVIN KARL

AOur area is rich in cook-offs, as we all know. Didn't we just eat our fill of ribs at the most recent one? Well, loosen your belts, partner. Another cook-off is coming: this one among Dutch oven enthusiasts.

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Before the batteris poured in, cake toppings areplaced in thebottom of the Dutch oven basefor this clever, upside down recipe
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With all of the ingredients added, the recessed lid is put on the base, and hot coals are added on top to help induce the oven effect
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After 20 minutes,the lid and coals are removed to reveal the baked cake. The only trick now is to flip the base over and release the cake in one piece
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The finished cake is removed from the base, evenly cooked, intact, and delicious
The debuting Nevada State Dutch Oven Championship will be held Sept. 15 at Sportsman's Warehouse in Reno. It's the first Reno cook-off of its kind and the first for its organizer, the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group. Renoite Crystal Parrish organized the group in 2009.

"I started the group with the idea that this would force me to practice cooking with my Dutch oven," she says. "The first year we had 20 members. Now we have 116 — though not all engage. We have about 15 to 20 active members."

Meetings include instruction and practice in cooking with the three-legged cast-iron pots. Once a year the group enjoys a "cast-iron chef competition," a spin-off of Food Network's Iron Chef.

Originating in the Netherlands in the late 17th century, the Dutch oven has traveled an amazing journey to the New World with the colonists, to the West with the pioneers, settlers, and explorers, and to the 21st century with a new generation.

Young Enthusiasts

NSDOG's youngest members are sisters Mariah Cathey, 10, and Michaela Cathey, 13. Their mom, Kelly Cathey took them to her first NSDOG meeting. Before Kelly knew it, Mariah took over her mom's Dutch oven. Soon, Michaela followed with her own pot.

"I thought it was boring at the first training course," Michaela says. "But when we got to hands-on cooking, I fell in love with it."

Mariah won a group competition for her sopapilla cheesecake. Made with cinnamon crescent rolls and cream cheese filling, it cooks for 20 minutes, Mariah says authoritatively.

Interesting Twists

Sopapilla cheesecake? Not your typical pioneer grub. A quick survey of what folks make in their Dutch oven reveals dishes such as corn casserole, pineapple upside down cake, hoisin beef stir-fry, lemon chicken, and "cow dog quiche," an original from member John Collier, a veteran Dutch oven cook.

"Anything you can cook at home in an oven, you can do in a Dutch oven," says Dennis Golden, a lifelong Dutch oven enthusiast.

The trick to controlling the heat in Dutch ovens, which come in different sizes and depths, is the number of briquettes you use. Beginners rely on recipes, which include the number of briquettes needed, and formulas, which equate the number of briquettes to a specific degree. Still, it takes some trial and error — and, yes, some burnt or undercooked disasters, Golden says.

"People usually are intimated by the process," Golden says, "but cooking in a Dutch oven is really easy. You just have to start doing it."

Learn the Ropes

One way to jump into the pool is to take a class.

The Dutch Diva, Terry Bell, whose class at Nothing To It this past summer was full, also offers classes at her Verdi ranch. She is the cook for the Reno Rodeo Cattle Drive — where her Dutch oven breads are famous — and other trail rides and hunting excursions.

Bell's romance with the Dutch oven began 30 years ago. Her affinity with it is simple.

"It's about the experience of slower, simpler cooking," she says, "and getting in touch with your past — to the time of our ancestors when the cast-iron pot was a daily necessity and one of the most prized family possessions."

Reno food writer Sandra Macias is an urban home cook whose only expertise in campfire cooking is s'mores. But the spirited enthusiasm for Dutch oven cooking from the wonderful folks she interviewed for this story was contagious. She just might have to do more investigating.

RESOURCES

Nevada State Dutch Oven Championship

8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15
Sportsman's Warehouse, 3306 Kietzke Lane, Reno
Participants must be members of the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group; membership is free
To join or for details, visit www.Meetup.com/Northern-Sierra-Dutch-Oven-Group

Dutch oven cooking classes

Terry Bell: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For future classes at Nothing To It, call 775-284-2665 or visit www.Nothingtoit.com

RECIPES

Parker's Beef Stew

(courtesy of Terry Bell, serves 8 generously)

2½ pounds good-quality chuck beef, cut into 1½-inch cubes
1 (750 ml) bottle good red wine
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed
3 bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1½-inch chunks
½ pound white mushrooms, cut in half, stems discarded
1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 large branch fresh rosemary
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen or fresh peas

Place the beef in a bowl with red wine, garlic, and bay leaves. Place in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.

The next day: Start your charcoal.

Combine flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Lift beef out of marinade with slotted spoon and discard bay leaves and garlic, saving marinade. In batches, dredge cubes of beef in flour mixture and then shake off excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large pot and brown half beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Place beef in greased 12-inch Dutch oven and continue to brown remaining beef, adding oil as necessary. Place all beef in Dutch oven. Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil in large pot and add onions, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place all vegetables in Dutch oven over beef. Add 2½ cups of reserved marinade to empty pot and cook over high heat to deglaze bottom of pan, scraping up all brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Pour sauce over meat and bake for 1½ to 2 hours, using about 14 pieces of charcoal on bottom and 14 pieces of charcoal on top, until meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once or twice during cooking. Before serving, stir in frozen peas, and season to taste. Serve hot.

Peach-Cranberry Cobbler with Corn Bread Biscuits

(courtesy of Terry Bell, serves 8 generously)

2 cups thinly sliced fresh peaches
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
2/3 cup orange juice
½ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour, divided
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter
2 eggs
6 tablespoons milk

Generously grease a 12-inch Dutch oven and start charcoal.

Combine peaches, cranberries, raspberries, and orange juice in a large bowl. Combine brown sugar, 4 tablespoons flour, and allspice in separate bowl; stir into peach mixture. Pour into prepared Dutch oven.

Combine remaining flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk egg and milk in a small bowl. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture with fork just until moistened. Spoon evenly over peach mixture.

Bake using about 12 coals on bottom and 12 to 14 coals on top for about 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of topping comes out clean.

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