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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tips for a crispier meatloaf

I've been experimenting over the past year, to figure out the ingredients for the perfect meatloaf.

I like my meatloaf crispy, and here's some things I've found by trial and error:

1. Use the leanest ground beef available. 93% if you can get it.

2. Cook the chopped onions in a skillet before mixing in, to remove some moisture.

3. Use one egg instead of two.

4. Use ketchup instead of tomato soup, tomato sauce, or V8.

5. Use packaged bread crumbs, or cracker crumbs, instead of bread.*

*Plain or Italian bread crumbs, up to you. Some people use oats.

6. Use dried minced garlic instead of fresh.

7. Use cast iron. If you don't have a cast iron loaf pan, a skillet will do.

8. Bake at 400 degrees instead of 350.

Now how about my recipe?

Mix lean ground beef, cooked chopped onions, ketchup, bread crumbs, worcestershire sauce, dried minced garlic. Cilantro optional.

Add onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Top with bread crumbs. Bake.

I am on a brief hiatus


I will be posting very infrequently over the next month, if at all.

That's because I'm moving to Amarillo, Texas at the moment.

So, I've been doing a lot of cleaning and packing, and very little cooking.

But not to worry. I will resume my cast iron cooking, and posting, once I'm settled in my new home!

I'm very excited about this impending fresh start, with a new life in a new place.

Please stay tuned!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Can you cook a turkey in a 9 quart dutch oven?

This is the Lodge 9 quart dutch oven.

I wondered if I could cook a turkey in this pot; After all, it's not exactly small.

But then I noticed that it wasn't tall either; It's the same height as the 5 and 7 quart pots.

I'm sure a 10 pound turkey would fit, but the 12 pound was cheaper, so I decided to make it fit.

I had to remove the breastbone, which isn't as easy as the cooking forums claim, but not hard either.

Unfortunately my kitchen shears weren't sharp enough, so I had to use my cleaver.

Bone shears are now on my shopping list!

Another first for me was injectable marinades.

I made my own with melted butter, garlic powder, onion powder, sage*, seasoned salt, black pepper, and better than bouillon chicken base.

*sage, or poultry seasoning.

I started out injecting, but then ended up scooping it up with my fingers and rubbing it all over.

Then I stuck a half stick of butter in the cavity and put the turkey in the pot, breast side up*.

*I intend to try "breast side down" next time, but so far I've always done breast side up.

Be sure to have the Lodge trivet on the bottom of the pot.

Another thing I did differently was, I put the neck in with the turkey to roast. Before, I boiled the neck to use in dressing or gravy. Roasting sure made a difference in taste!

I roasted in the oven at 325, checking periodically until the pop up timer indicated it was done.

I did not add any liquid to the pot*, and I didn't need to add any. The turkey made its own juice.

*I saw on a video where the guy poured cooking oil into his covered dutch oven for turkey.

The idea was for the covered pot to act like an "oven bag", in which the turkey bastes itself.

It worked; This turkey was very juicy.

If you want crispier skin, you can remove the lid during the last 1/2 hour of roasting.

Since the top was partly touching the lid, there were a couple of brown spots on top, but very little.

A consumer reported using the 9 quart dutch oven to cook up chicken parts to make her own dog food, claiming the 7 quart was too small.

Another consumer roasted two chickens in it.

The lid for this pot fits the 13 inch skillet.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

cooking over coals - beef and gravy

This recipe introduced a new challenge for me: bringing liquid to a boil, over coals.

According to the coal chart, a 12 inch camp oven uses 24 coals: 16 on top, and 8 on bottom.

This assumes that you are cooking at 350; you need more coals for higher heat.

I assumed that 24 coals would be enough for boiling, but it was not.

You need 32 coals to bring to a boil, in a 12 inch camp oven, evenly distributed on top and bottom.

Because these coals will be bunched closer together, they lose heat much faster.

So as soon as you set up coals for boiling, you need to start a 2nd batch of coals for simmering.

This recipe is from "Let's cook dutch", and it's basic beef and gravy.

Use any cut of roast, cut in serving sized slices.

Put the meat in the pot and add beef stock. Cover and bring to a boil, with 32 coals.

While doing this, prepare a 2nd batch of coals; The 1st batch will not stay hot enough to finish the dish.

After it's boiling, reduce heat by arranging the coals so there are 8 on bottom and 16 on top.

When the second batch of coals is ready, replace the first ones, one by one.

Leave it to simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

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

Uncover, and temporarily remove pot from heat*. Add Wondra flour to the liquid to thicken into gravy.

*You don't necessarily have to remove it, but the gravy will be lumpy if you don't.

Return pot to heat, cover, and let simmer another 30 mins to 1 hour.

Since this was the first time I wasn't using self lighting charcoal*, I tackled another challenge.

*Self lighting charcoal is not recommended for camp oven cooking because it cools off faster.

Before you light regular charcoal, you have to soak for 5 minutes in lighter fluid, or it won't stay lit.

Serve the beef and gravy over rice.

No, I didn't cook the rice in a camp oven. Maybe someday.

Quick and easy french onion soup

French onion soup is best cooked in cast iron.

Today I cooked a quick and easy version, since I had Campbell's french onion soup already.

Finally, a use for my 1 quart pot! (I like a lot of french onion soup).

Put the can of soup in a small cast iron pot, along with a slice of french bread or artesian bread*.

*Plain sliced bread will work, but better quality bread is, well, better.

Top with provolone or mozzarella cheese; I also like to add parmesan cheese.

Into the oven at 400, OR place under the broiler*, until the cheese is melted.

*Don't forget to move the top rack to its highest setting before using the broiler.

I haven't made french onion soup from scratch yet.

To make the base from scratch, slice some onions, then heat butter in a cast iron skillet to foaming.

Add onions* and cook until they caramelize.

*Some recipes call for adding sugar and flour to the onions.

While you're cooking the onions, have some beef stock simmering on medium heat.

Add the caramelized onions to the stock and continue simmering.

Then when it's done, proceed with adding bread and cheese and finishing in the oven.

You can find some tips here and here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Lodge 10 inch deep camp oven

This is the Lodge 10 inch deep camp oven. It's 5 quarts, model L10DCO3.

It's not in any Lodge catalog, even though it's in production. It's only sold in a select few places.

I saw them at a Bass Pro Shop in Destin, Florida, but not at one in Alabama.

Sportsman's Warehouse reportedly sells them in their stores, but not via their online website.

I found a website that carries them, as of 11/10/2010.

You can also order them from the Lodge outlet store in Commerce, GA at 706-335-4875.

A consumer reported that he called Lodge to ask about this product, and got the runaround.

Apparently it's due to "contractual agreements with Japan", whatever that means.

I researched and found that the Japanese International Dutch Oven Society specifically requested these camp ovens, and paid for the setup and retooling.

In other words, they were made specifically to be sold in Japan.

I'm not sure I want one enough to justify trying to get one, but it appears to be quite handy.

fourth recipe created by me: Chicken stock fish

This recipe doesn't seem like it would be good, but the fish turned out very moist.

One night, I had some chicken stock and celery to use up, and some fish in the freezer.

So I laid the fish out in a cast iron skillet, along with the cut up celery, and poured over the chicken stock. Into the oven at 350.

One day I might come up with a better name than Chicken Stock Fish, but that's exactly what it was.

This is similar to the skillet poached salmon, except that's made on the stove with white wine.

REAL chicken fried steak!

Don't you hate ordering chicken fried steak at a restaurant, and it's those awful frozen patties?

That doesn't happen at my house.

Mix all purpose flour with seasoned salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder.

Take cube steak, soak in an egg/milk mixture (or buttermilk), then dredge in the flour mixture.

Heat crisco or butter in a cast iron skillet to sizzling. Pan fry the breaded cube steak.

Make gravy by melting 2 tbsp butter, whisk in 2 tbsp flour, add 1 cup beef stock and 1 cup milk*.

*Or if you want white gravy, add 2 cups milk.

Add more flour if you want thick gravy.

Add black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt.

Add "better than bouillon" beef base if you want.

That is real chicken fried steak!

You can do the same with chicken breasts; Then it becomes "chicken fried chicken."

My first beignets

I've wanted to make donuts since 1993.

Tonight I made beignets. They technically aren't donuts, but close enough.

Actually, they're a french donut, a New Orleans treat enjoyed with coffee.

They're similar to sopapillas, except served with powdered sugar instead of honey or cinnamon.

You need beignet mix and powdered sugar. You can purchase beignet mix here.

Mix 2 cups of beignet mix and 7 oz water in a bowl until it becomes dough.

Flour a cutting board, put some dough on the board, put flour on top, and roll it out.

Cut it in squares with a pizza cutter.

Heat cooking oil in a cast iron pot to 370 degrees. Drop the squares in the oil and fry.

Be sure not to leave them in too long. When they're puffed up and golden brown, they're ready.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on them. Or honey, if you want sopapillas.

You can find more info here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

sizzling steak

I usually cook steak on the outdoor grill, but tonight I got to use my grill pan.

I prepared it with Worcestershire sauce*, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper**.

*Sometimes I use liquid steak marinade, but lately I've come to prefer Worcestershire sauce.

**Steak is also good with just garlic salt and nothing else.

In a previous post I grilled a steak completely frozen, but normally I do it partially frozen.

The more red the meat is, the better.

Be sure to let the pan get hot, just as you would an outdoor grill.

Heat up a cast iron griddle or serving platter in the oven while grilling.

When the steak is grilled, take the griddle out of the oven, and put the steak on it.

Watch it sizzle!

The cast iron goose pot

This is an enameled cast iron goose pot. It's 15 1/2 quarts, and 19 1/2 inches wide.

Be sure you measure your oven before you get this. It costs $500.

It's called a goose pot because it can cook a whole goose. Or turkey, or pork shoulder, or three chickens, or a huge batch of soup or stew.

Because it's enameled, it can't be used outdoors, and it's too large to be used on an electric stove. Possibly on a gas stove with a large burner.

A consumer reports that it's great for canning.

There are no regular cast iron goose pots that I know of, and the largest pot that Lodge makes is 9 quarts (or a 12 quart camp oven).

I'm not sure if you can fit a goose in the 9 quart pot. I intend to try fitting a 12 pound turkey in it soon.

Bayou classic makes larger pots, but their quality cast iron is not great.

Two rare Lodge pieces I found

These are two rare Lodge pieces I recently found, that I decided to combine into one article.

Neither of them are in the 2000 Lodge catalog, so they were from the 90's or earlier.

One is a 9 inch round grill pan. I can see why it was discontinued; There's only enough room for one burger, maybe two if they're small, or one steak.

By comparison, the 10 inch square grill pan fits two big burgers, or three smaller ones, or 2 steaks.

The other is an 11 inch "new style" shallow griddle. Also known as a tortilla griddle.

This is not to be confused with the 10 1/2 inch Lodge griddle commonly sold today.

Lodge still sells a 9 inch shallow griddle. I guess they figured it's better sized for serving tortillas.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Can vienna rolls be made in a cornstick pan?

This is a vienna bread pan. It's meant for making vienna rolls.

Vienna rolls resemble crescent rolls; They can be shaped into crescents, but usually they're shaped like torpedoes.

Vienna bread pans are no longer made and can be expensive.

A flat pan is not recommended; rounded molds allow for better air circulation.

So I wondered if vienna rolls can be made in a cornstick pan?

Possibly, if the molds are a similar size. Yes, I'm a nerd, and I got measurements.

The above pan is 12 1/2 inches long, and 6 1/2 inches wide. It has 6 molds.

A 7 mold cornstick pan is 12 inches long, and 5 1/2 inches wide.

I conclude that it is possible, although they'll be smaller, and they'll have a slight corn design on the bottom. Who cares?

I intend to try it out with this recipe or this recipe.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Which grill pan has more cooking area?

Pictured above are two Lodge grill pans. One is round, and one is square.

The round grill pan is 11 1/4 inches* in diameter; The square grill pan is 10 1/2 inches.

*Lodge recently changed the size of its round grill pan to 10 1/4 inches, but this article refers to the 11 1/4 inch pan.

So, many would assume that the round grill pan has more cooking area, right?

WRONG! Yes, I'm a nerd, and I pulled out a calculator.

The area of a circle is 3.14 times the radius, squared.

The radius is half the diameter, 5.625 inches.

5.625 * 5.625 = 31.64; 31.64 * 3.14 = 99.35 square inches of cooking area.

The area of a square is length times width. 10.5 * 10.5 = 110.25 square inches of cooking area.

See, I had been considering getting a round grill pan and selling the square one, since I wanted more cooking area-- but actually, I'd have LESS cooking area.

I have since obtained a round grill pan, and found that, as burgers are round, three medium sized burgers can comfortably fit in this pan.

In the square grill pan, three burgers CAN fit, but it's a bit more crowded-- even though there's technically more cooking area.

It's because of the shape of the burgers, vs. the shape of the pan.

Now, is that clear as mud?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Australian Bedourie

This is a bedourie pot. They are not made from cast iron, but from carbon steel.

The design was based on the cast iron camp oven, however.

The workers at the Bedourie Cattle Station in Queensland, Australia, found that their camp ovens kept falling off the pack horses and breaking.

So they designed a lighter pot that was less likely to break, and called it a bedourie.

Another feature is that the lid fits down over the pot, to prevent ashes from getting into the food.

Just like a camp oven, the lid can be flipped and used as a frying pan.

Because it doesn't retain heat as long as cast iron, it can be packed up sooner after use, which can be an advantage if you have to pack up camp right after breakfast.

Whenever you try to make up for the negatives of cast iron, you also take away some positives.

Because it does not retain heat as long, the bedourie has to be partly buried in hot ashes in order to cook the same as a camp oven.

It also has to be watched more often than a cast iron camp oven; The food can burn more easily.

Here are some instructions I found on how to use a bedourie:

Dig a hole half as deep as the bedourie, and slightly wider.

Place a bed of coals in the hole and allow to burn for 5 to 10 minutes to preheat the ground.

Remove coals if you need to reduce heat, or replace coals if needed.

Place bedourie in the hole. Place a few coals around the bedourie and put coals on top.

To check your food, remove bedourie, take off the coals*, and remove the lid.

*You need to be wearing welding gloves when you do this.

Then put the bedourie back in the hole, and put the coals back in place.

You can purchase one here, but I don't know how much shipping is to the US.

The cast iron tawa

This is a cast iron tawa. It looks exactly like a griddle, because it is a griddle.

A tawa is used in Indian cooking. They range from 8 inches to 12 inches.

It's used to stir fry vegetables and make flatbreads, such as roti bread, and dosa, a rice pancake.

Here's some instructions for making dosa, and another link for roti bread.

I've never made either one, and don't plan to anytime soon.

But, you can certainly make them on a cast iron griddle, which is what a tawa is.

the Lodge 16 inch camp oven

If you're not a collector, this article will bore you. This is the Lodge 16 inch camp oven.

It had been discontinued in 2000, but was brought back in 2003 by popular demand.

Before it was discontinued, it was 14 quarts.

But by 2003, Lodge had moved all of their casting to a machine, called a Disamatic.

So a new pattern had to be made, that the machine could accommodate.

This pattern was for a 12 quart pot.

So, the 16 inch Lodge camp ovens made before 2000, had more volume than the later models.

That would also explain how the 17 inch skillet replaced the 20 inch skillet in 2002.