Tag Archives: cooking

Partial Success

curry and corn bread
We had a partially successful meal tonight. I switched charcoal brands today. (I wrote about “no more cheap charcoal” earlier.)


I prepared a main dish, bread, and dessert.

  • Japanese curry with pork on rice.
  • Jalapeño cheese corn bread.
  • 12″ sugar cookie.


The curry came out excellent. I cheated on the rice and used my Zōjirushi. I have had no successful dutch oven rice yet and chickened out.
The bread was a little overcooked. I should have checked it when I switched the bottom coals to the top (after 20 minutes), rather than waiting until after the full 30 minutes. This dutch oven has been sticking a little. It looks like time to re-treat the dutch oven.
Failure. I was flying by the seat of my pants here. I had too much top heat and not enough bottom heat. The top was cooked to perfection but the bottom was essentially uncooked.

12 Oct 2008: Dutch Oven Cooking Experiment


Dutch Oven Stand

Verdict: Great tool. I would like a couple more.
Where It Worked Well:

  • Keeping coals off of wood deck.
  • Place to put coals for bottom heat. Stable.

What I Would Tweak In Its Design:

  • I would prefer slightly larger, perhaps 2-3″ per side.

Wire Trivet

Verdict: Great tool. I would like a couple more.
Where It Worked Well:

  • Raising pot off coals.
  • Protecting surfaces from hot pot.
  • Holder for inverted lid.

Where It Worked Poorly:

  • Too tall to work as in-pan trivet.

Wisk Broom

Verdict: Necessary, but fair tool.
Where It Worked Well:

  • Removing bulk of ash.

Where It Worked Poorly:

  • Removing last layer of fine ash. Blowing with breath removed enough. Try compressed air.

Other Equipment Notes

  • I prefer the leg-bearing and flanged D.O.s to the unflanged pot. Buy an additional 10″ D.O.
  • I would like a 10″ deep skillet with skillet lid, like the 12″ we have. I’m suspicious about ash in the food.
  • I would like an additional 12″ D.O. so I can make a full batch of potato rolls.
  • I wonder whether I could get frying temperatures with a smaller chimney.
  • Compressed air can seemed to remove all the dust and ash.


Corn Bread

Verdict: Very good. Slightly burned on bottom.
What Worked: Adding a couple of bricks to raise temperature.
Tweaks to Try:

  1. A couple fewer bricks, or remove bottom heat earlier.
  2. Take out of D.O. and let cool on rack. If you let it cool in the D.O. condensation makes the bottom soggy after a while.
  • M. made corn bread in her 10″ D.O. She did everything except place the initial set of coals on the D.O.
  • I counted out 10±3 bricks, added 2 bricks to raise temperature from 325° to 350°, and added 2 more bricks because it was slightly cold.
  • We used ⅔ timing.

Peach Cobbler

Verdict: Failure. Burned on top. The rest was overcooked.
What Worked: Draining peaches.
Tweaks to Try: Watch the clock.

  • Used the 10″ pot without the flange or legs.
  • Raised the pot on the trivet so it was not sitting directly on the coals
  • Lost track of time. Looks like the peach goo on the bottom protected it from burning.
  • Cobbler flipped upside down just fine. Some peach goo stuck to the bottom.

Potato Rolls

Verdict: Slightly overcooked, visually perfect.
What Worked: Letting rolls raise in warm oven.
Tweaks to Try: If they’re just starting to turn golden, they should be done.

  • Prepared dough, placed one batch in the 12″ D.O. and the other in the 12″ deep frying pan with the frying pan lid for the final raising.
  • My intention was to cook the D.O. outside, and the pan in the oven so we’d have at least one good set of rolls if I ruined the D.O. batch.
  • I put the D.O. in the warm oven. The pan I put in my office.
  • The D.O. rolls rose perfectly. The office was apparently not warm enough for the yeast, and didn’t rise properly.
  • Dinner was pending, so I threw the D.O. in the oven and let L. care for it.
  • Repeated last time’s mistake. After 10 minutes the rolls were done, but not not all of them golden. Put them in for another 5 minutes. They were golden, but a bit overcooked.
  • The rolls were stuck to the bottom of the pan and a little brittle on the bottom because they were slightly overcooked. Could not flip them out.
  • Put the pan in the warm oven to let the other rolls finish rising. Will cook later tonight.

Spaghetti Sauce

Verdict: Perfect given limited ingredients.
What Worked:

  1. Putting pan directly on coals.
  2. I went easy on the home-grown basil. It’s much more potent than the store-bought basil.

Tweaks to Try: Use pan with lid.

  • Cooked in 10″ cast iron frying pan.
  • Chimney is only good for low heat. It is no good for frying temperatures.
  • Cooked directly on coals for higher temperatures.
  • Do not cook next to downwind D.O. I’m suspicious that some ash may have been blown into sauce, but nobody could tell whether it was true.

Cooking Up Self-Respect

Some people have wondered whether it’s appropriate to teach “girl” skills like cooking, cleaning, and sewing to boys. To me, this is not about politically correct notions that men and women are completely interchangeable with the exception of some “plumbing”. It’s about survival skills and self-respect.

I’m not pleased with the low number of kids entering their years of majority not being able to fend for themselves on a basic level. Yes, diets of cold cereal and microwave pizza are expensive and unhealthy — that’s a given — but on a deeper level I see it as a manifestation of an uneducated human. Acquiring food, clothing, and shelter are foundational skills for a person to be able to lay claim to some degree of independence. Take away the luxuries of modern convenient living, and they’d grow desperate.

Some have argued that modern conveniences make these skills obsolete, but what are the results of not knowing one’s way around the kitchen? Reliance on pre-packaged foods. Not knowing how to clean or do laundry? Living in filth and chaos. How, then, is this progress of the human over the previous millennia? Our ancestors would be dumbfounded at our collective ignorance.

The good news is that these skills can be acquired with a little effort. Cooking is the trickiest, but with a few basic principles one can become competent, even pretty good. The key is to find the inner strength to fail through one’s ignorance. Mastering new skills opens up new worlds of understanding and self-respect. This self-education process, when made a habit, allows one to grow out of dependence into an adult mentally.

I feel grateful and fortunate that my mother taught me to cook, clean, and sew. Cleaning can be a grind, and sewing is something one does in an emergency — but I can do it just as willingly as I can shoot a gun, paint a building, paddle a canoe, program a computer, or chop wood. It didn’t throw me into “gender confusion”.

I can’t force my children to learn, or obtain wisdom, but they’ve been eagerly soaking up these skills by associating with my wife and me. When they’re adults we’ll see how much sticks. 🙂

Update 2008-12-08: Fixed typos.

Experiment: Potato Rolls

The kitchen is all chemistry. After observing my wife make potato rolls a few times, I noted that there some steps that I would do differently. That got me thinking, which turned to curiosity. Once it hits the curiosity stage, I’m quite prone to doing something to satisfy my questioning brain.

So, for the first time since I was a teen, I tried my hand at making a yeast bread. There were enough variables that I didn’t want to try baking them with charcoal, so I opted for using dutch ovens in the kitchen oven.

The results were quite satisfactory, and didn’t survive the next 24 hours. 🙂

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