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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cooking over coals - "flank steak" and onion sauce

This was my second experience with using coals. This time I actually cooked, not just reheated.

My camera phone doesn't have a flash, so it's dark. On the right is an el cheapo portable charcoal grill for lighting the coals, and on the left is the lid stand.

This recipe is from the cookbook "Let's Cook Dutch", flank steak with onion sauce.

Flank steak was over $8 a pound, so I got chuck roast instead.

This recipe did not specify a temperature, which would have helped determine the amount of coals to use. I took a wild guess, and went with 350.

According to the coal chart, for a 10 inch camp oven, that's 14 on top, 6 on bottom.

I hit another snag with using a chain to secure coals: One of the chain links caught under the lid, and I had to creatively maneuver to get it loose.

Not easy, with hot coals* on the lid. I will be getting a real camp oven soon.

*Looks can be deceiving; Grey ash covered coals don't LOOK hot, but they ARE.

Since the first step was to brown the meat, I had to increase the number of coals on bottom at first, to get the pot hot enough.

I put about 11 coals under the pot, poured in some vegetable oil*, and let it heat up.

*Next time I'll melt down some butter.

Prepare the chuck roast (or flank steak) by trimming the fat and adding salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.

Add the chuck roast and brown on all sides. Cover, transfer coals to the top until only six are left on bottom, and put the rest of the coals on top.

So to recap, about the coals: For a 350 degree temperature using a 10 inch oven, you need 14 coals on top, 6 on bottom. But some extra coals go on the bottom at first, in order to brown the meat; Those coals are transferred to the top once the meat is browned, and the pot is covered.

While the meat is covered, mix a can of cream of onion soup with 1 cup of milk. Pour over the meat. Add a can of new potatoes, drained.

Let it cook. Every 15 minutes, rotate the pot 1/4 turn clockwise, and the lid 1/4 turn counterclockwise.

The recipe doesn't specify how long to cook, but check for doneness every half hour.

Right now the sauce is refrigerating until it forms a fat cap, which I will remove, and then reheat. If I were camping, I wouldn't have that option.

This recipe can just as easily be done on the stove, in the oven, or even a crock pot.

That's basically what a camp oven is-- a slow cooker that uses coals instead of electricity.

Since it was warm and not windy, I didn't need to make another batch of coals. But if it was cold or windy, I would have burned some extra coals, to replace as needed.

If I were to make this dish again, I would use butter instead of oil, and cook down chopped onions and minced garlic before browning the meat.

I would also use fresh potatoes; You could cook them along with the meat, or boil separately.

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