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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Camp Oven Chicken 'n Potatoes

OK, I don't want to brag, but....

these were the most delicious potatoes my family has ever eaten....

and it's all thanks to our Lodge 12" camp oven we received from family for our 22nd wedding anniversary!

12" Lodge Camp Oven sitting on our propane grill on a tin foil-covered heavy-duty cookie sheet.  The propane's not on, though!  The charcoal chimney starter on the right will provide hot coals.

Welding gloves and Reynold's wrap

Camp Oven Chicken 'n Potatoes 

metal tongs (one for charcoal and a second for turning the chicken)
newspaper and cardboard (egg carton, paper bag, cereal boxes, etc.)
lighter or matches
Welding gloves (no kidding - very important!)
hammer with a claw to raise the heavy, hot lid of the camp oven
3 rocks in a triangle to set the camp oven lid on when you check the food every 15 minutes
heavy duty cookie sheet covered with double thickness of tin foil
colander for draining the potatoes
bowl for the potatoes
soup can (reserved) for pouring in excess hot oil
natural bristle brush for cleaning
Crisco and paper towels (to rub onto clean, dry oven and lid; also known as:  'seasoning')
NEVER use soap of any kind or any cleanser on cast iron.

1.  start 30 charcoals in the charcoal chimney
(you will start another batch after 45 minutes to 'refresh' your heat)

2.  while this heats up (15 minutes for the edges to turn gray), get your ingredients together


four pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken, thawed
salt and pepper to taste (or Lawry's seasoning)
vegetable oil or Crisco
1/2 one chopped onion, medium
3 large or 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4" slices
(soak in salted, room temperature water)
one can of Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1/2 can of water (save the can for another use later)
two plates - one for chicken and one for the potatoes and onions

Once ingredients have been gathered, take them out to the site where you plan to use your camp oven.  This time, I used the propane grill in our backyard (but did not use propane heat).
If you are camping, you can use a fire pit or grill at your campsite, but check with a ranger if fires are allowed; be responsible with your matches and putting out coals when cooking is complete.  Pouring water over them until they stop smoking works well.
(By the way, s'mores over charcoal tastes awful...ask us how we know '-/ 

Time to get started!

Place your cookie sheet covered in tin foil over the grill or ground.  With your welding gloves on, pick up the charcoal chimney starter by the handle and dump your thirty lit coals onto the cookie sheet.  Move the charcoals (gray on the corners is perfect) into a round shape and set the bottom only of the camp oven on top.  There are three short legs at the bottom of your camp oven (unlike a Dutch oven for home use) which keep the food above the coals instead of directly on top.  Add vegetable oil or Crisco to the camp oven (about 3/8's of an inch) and allow to shimmer, but not smoke.  I add a small piece of onion to test if the oil is hot enough.

Once the oil is ready, use a tongs to place the four pounds of bone-in chicken into the bottom.  Cover with tin foil and the lid.  
Caution:  This is all extremely hot and can burn you, your dog or cat, your kids, or anyone who comes too close.  The lid and handle all conduct and retain heat, so it is advisable to wear a heavy canvas or leather apron, full-length jeans and boots or closed-toe shoes.  Some camp cooks even rope themselves off for safety's sake, especially when they have many dishes cooking at once.
Austrailian camp oven dinner for 200 people!

After 15 minutes, you will remove the lid wearing your gloves and using the back of a hammer or a lid lifter designed for this purpose (these are great once the coals are on top because it completely stabilizes the lid; whereas the back of a hammer allows the lid to swing and possibly get ash or coals into your food!) and set the lid down onto three rocks set into a triangle, a tin pie plate or onto a lid stand.

With the lid now safely removed, remove the tin foil cover and turn the chicken over.  If you notice that you have a 'hot spot' or a 'cool spot', adjust the coals beneath with gloves and a metal tongs.  You can also pick the camp oven up with your gloves on and carefully give it a 1/4 turn.

Place the tin foil and the lid back carefully back on the camp oven.  You can now sit and read a book for 20 minutes or so or watch the kids play, read a good book; i.e. Dutch Oven Cooking for Dummies.  I learned a lot from reading this book and hope you will, too!  When cooking in a camp oven, it is a very good idea to always stay with your meal.  Bring along an iced drink or two, your cell phone and a good book!  (If you do forget something, a cell phone can be very helpful.)

Once the chicken has cooked for approximately 45 minutes (wind, rain, snow, and humidity will all effect how short or long it will take), then remove the chicken to a clean plate.  Drain the potatoes and add them and the chopped onion to the pot, being careful not to splash yourself with oil.  Cover and cook for another 20 minutes.  It's a good idea to check every 15-20 minutes if you're a beginner like me :-)  The pros can tell by the smell!
(Reminder:  At the 45 minute mark, make another batch of coals in the charcoal starter.)

After the potatoes are soft, then carefully drain off excess oil into the reserved soup can.  (Always use your gloves!)  Remove the potatoes and onions to a plate and add the chicken back into the pot.  You can fry this more to warm it up if you like or if it needs more cooking.  Add the potatoes and onions back to the camp oven and then pour the one can of creamed chicken soup mixed with 1/2 cup water on top.  This moisture is important for the next step - baking!

To bake, remove six coals and ashes from underneath the camp oven with your gloves and tongs.  After placing the tin foil and flanged lid onto the camp oven, then add the removed bottom coals to the top.  At the forty-five minute mark you made another batch of coals.  Add these to the flanged lid top in a checkerboard or circular pattern.  It's important to line a ring of coals just inside the flanged lid, then fill in the others over the remaining top.  This helps with even cooking.  You can keep moving the lid 1/4 turn and the oven 1/4 turn the other direction every 20 minutes when you check on the food, too.

About 30 minutes after you put all the ingredients into the camp oven, dinner should be ready!

You can ring the triangle like the cowboys and watch the family come running :-)

I used my Pampered Chef pizza stone to set on my table so I could safely move my camp oven to the table.  I think you could use a heavy trivet, too.

This cast-iron trivet from Lodge is also useful to use inside your camp oven when roasting a beef or pork roast or an entire chicken.

Dig in and enjoy your meal!

Cleaning up your cast-iron is best done with warm to hot water and scrubbing with a soft, natural bristle brush, drying thoroughly with paper towels (never using the dishwasher), and re-seasoning each time with Crisco and a paper towel.

If you use acidic foods in a brand new pre-seasoned camp oven or cast-iron skillet, it can strip the 'seasoning' off your cast-iron and cause you to re-season it.  Here's how to re-season your cast-iron and keep it running smoothly!  

You can purchase pre-seasoned or regular cast-iron.  I highly recommend the convenience of pre-seasoned cast-iron, which is why I purchase American-made Lodge cast-iron cookware only.

I would like to thank LaMar K. of Riverwood RV in Mandan, North Dakota for sharing his wonderful camp oven recipes with me and getting me started in this fun, 'new' adventure.
(This started in the 1600s!)

Go USA!  
The summer games in London have been really fun to watch!
Hope you've been enjoying them, too :-)

Best wishes,
Mary Ann 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

De-"light"-ful Potato Buns

De-"light"-ful Potato Buns
adapted from 'Cook's Illustrated', Aug. 2012

1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces; boil, drain (save 5 Tblspn potato water) and mash for one full, packed cup of mashed potatoes; mix the mashed potatoes with 2 Tblspn room temperature butter and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, place the 5 Tblspn potato water (allow to cool to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit), one Tblspn granulated sugar, and 2 teaspoons of rapid-rise yeast.  Cover with a paper plate or whatever is handy and allow to 'proof'.  (Videos on how to proof yeast.)

Whisk two room temperature Large eggs with 1 teaspoon of water and one teapsoon of salt until frothy.

Place 2 1/4 cups bread flour (I use Better for Bread flour for the best results) over the proofed yeast mixture in the large mixing bowl, add in the potato mixture and the egg mixture.  Add one tablespoon of milk if the mixture is too dry.  Mix with dough hook for five minutes, allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes, then shape into one dozen buns, cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes (but 10 minutes works if you're in a hurry like I was this evening).  Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake in the center rack of the oven for approximately 15-18 minutes.  Watch carefully or they tend to over-brown, but they won't rise nicely without the higher temperature. 

Remove from the oven, place on a plate and watch your entire family smile and ask for seconds and thirds!  
If they're really crazy about these buns, they might like the several variations available online at www.CooksIllustrated.com/aug12 likeParmesan cheese and cracked black pepper and more!

Please share your experience with this recipe here with us - did you create any new versions or did you use a different potato or other ingredient and get great results?  Thanks for sharing!