I burned the bottom of my Dutch oven making chili the other night. I’m only human; it happens. At least that’s what I told myself as I frantically Googled how to clean off burned meat from the bottom of the ceramic dish.
Baking soda is my new best friend.
I spent the next week boiling water with baking soda in the Dutch oven, then creating a paste with the same ingredients to coat the bottom of the pot overnight. I went through every box of baking soda I had in the house, then bought more. It took time and elbow grease, but I’m happy to report that it worked. My Dutch oven looks almost as good as it did the day I received it.
My husband gave it to me for Christmas. I was not aware of how much it cost when I put it on my wish list, but as my dad always says, “You get what you pay for.” He spent the money to purchase something that would last for years, and I’m happy to say it recently surpassed its seventh Christmas, kitchen mishaps and all.
I’ll admit there were moments as I picked baking soda from beneath my fingernails that I questioned if the cleaning was worth it. It would be so much easier to buy a new Dutch oven instead. But then I remembered my goal for this column in 2019 — to clean out my kitchen to decide which cooking items stay and which go. Nowhere in that declaration did I say it was OK to buy new things to replace the old.
Stupid rule. Yes, it’s my rule, but it’s still stupid.
Obviously given all my work to save my Dutch oven, I’m going to keep it. That being said, I can use it a lot more than I have.
Determined to get my money’s worth from all the baking soda, I researched Dutch oven recipes and came up with an entire menu using just that pot that made my family happy — especially when this time I didn’t burn the chili.
To be honest, after juggling my timetable to make sure I had everything ready with only one Dutch oven wasn’t easy.
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I can see myself purchasing a second one in a smaller size, but I’ll wait until after my yearlong kitchen cleaning experiment. Those are the rules, after all.
CARAMEL APPLE CINNAMON DUMP CAKE
2 21-ounce cans apple pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, cut into thin slices
2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 of a 14-ounce jar of caramel ice cream topping
Lightly oil or spray a 12-inch Dutch oven.
In large bowl, combine apple pie filling with cinnamon. Pour into prepared oven. Drizzle caramel topping in a checkerboard fashion over pie filling, first up and down, then side to side. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over caramel layer. Dot cake mix with slices of butter, ensuring that most areas are evenly covered. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
Allow cake to sit for 20 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream and top with more caramel if desired.
BEEF CHILI WITH BLACK BEANS
Makes 6 servings
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 serrano chilies, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tablespoons pure ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked sweet paprika or regular sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juice
1 cup dry red wine
2 15-ounce cans of black beans, drained
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Sea salt and cracked pepper
Grated sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro leaves, and sliced scallions for topping
In a 5 1/2- to 7-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion and serrano chilies and saute until the garlic and onions are tender and golden, about 4 minutes.
Add the beef and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up any larger pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin and chipotle chilies.
Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and the chili has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.
Add the black beans and chocolate, stirring until the chocolate melts. Cover the pot and continue cooking over low heat until the flavors are blended and the beans are heated through, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place toppings in individual bowls. Ladle chili into serving bowls and serve right away, passing the toppings at the table.
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Source: “Cooking in Cast Iron: Inspired Recipes for Dutch Ovens, Frying Pans, Grill Pans, Roasters, and More” by Valerie Aikman-Smith (Walden Owen; Sept. 4, 2012)