Flaming Tower of Food

Published online: Jul 24, 2020 Articles Gregg Losinski
Viewed 1027 time(s)

Every place has its own local cuisine. New Orleans has its Cajun cooking, Chicago has its deep-dish pizza, Salt Lake green jello. Idaho Falls to me is best represented by our Dutch oven cooking. Others may do it, but I like to think that we do it best because it exemplifies our pioneer heritage and willingness to experiment.

For those who are somehow not familiar with Dutch oven cooking, it is best explained by saying that it is the manliest of all cooking options. What is more manly than a hefty cast-iron pot made to be covered in charcoal and specifically not to be cleaned with soap and water? Grilling is great for your typical Joe, but Dutchoven cooking is only for those brave souls able to channel their inner mountain man. You can cook anything in a Dutch oven. Just gather up whatever you have a taste for, cut it up and throw it in a cast-iron pot and cover it in red hot charcoals and let nature do the rest.

Dutch ovens make everything taste better. They give food an outdoor rustic, “I just drove a covered wagon across the  Oregon Trail” taste. While the contents can be healthful, a tradition of many Dutch oven chefs is to rely on shredded cheese and cream of mushroom soup to give every dish that mega-calorie comfort food boost.

The real secret to Dutch oven cooking is seasoning the oven. You never wash out a Dutch oven! You wipe or scrape it clean, then apply oil and heat to add the microscopic remnants of the last meal to the oven's patina. Just like our lives are a sum of our experiences, a Dutch oven is the culmination of everything that was ever cooked in it. I had a friend whose prized possession was an original Dutch oven used by his grandfather when he came west on a wagon train. That Dutch was the Stradivarius of Dutch ovens. Its patina was thick and rich and added a special flavor to anything cooked in it. One year for his birthday, his wife wanted to do something really special for him.  She washed and scrubbed and made that dutch oven look almost new again. Thanks to many hours of counseling they are still married.

Dutch oven cooking is unique because you are able to cook an entire seven-course meal in one flaming stack of food! Some people get really worked up about using a specific number of charcoal briquettes per oven. The holy formula is three more on top and three less underneath of whatever the oven’s diameter is in inches. We call those people “briquette Nazis.” I once went on a work trip where the boss counted out the exact number of briquettes we should have needed to cook our meals, but due to cooler than average ambient temperatures, dinner was not ready until midnight. My philosophy is to use all the briquettes you need to get the meal cooked safely and as soon as you can. Dutch oven cooking will never be considered fast food. If someone says a Dutch oven dinner will be ready at 6 p.m., you can be fashionably late at 7 and still be in time for the hors d’oeuvres!

You can cook just about anything in a Dutch oven!  This includes appetizers, rolls, soups, stews, main courses, side dishes and all kinds of desserts. You can even make ice cream in a Dutch oven if you swap ice for the charcoal!  Dutch ovens are even great for making breakfast casseroles as long as you plan that you need to wake up before the sun rises to make sure the coals are ready in time. 

So next time you want to try something different, just coat that Dutch oven with a healthy layer of butter, pile on the ingredients, cover in red hot charcoals, and let that flaming tower of food do its Idaho Falls epicurean magic!

Read more of Idaho Falls Magazine's July issue here. 

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