When the Association of Food Journalists came to Utah for its annual conference, we organized a day of Dutch oven cooking. It’s something that’s uniquely Utah, although there’s lots of cast-iron cookery in other parts of the country. The International Dutch Oven Society is headquartered in Utah, and so is CampChef, a company known for Dutch ovens and other outdoor cookware.
And, Utah’s state pot is a Dutch oven. (As Dutch oven cook Colleen Sloan told the group, “It’s the only legal pot in Utah!”
The skies were blue, and the sun was
shining at Park City’s downtown park.
The group donned cowboy hats and bandanas to capture some Old West ambience.
I’ve known some of the AFJ members for many years — we see each other at various conferences or events. I was eager to let them experience some of the personality and passion of Utah cast-iron cooks.
Colleen Sloan presented historic background on Dutch ovens (such as their coming across the Louisiana Territory with explorers Lewis & Clark). And she showed off her museum-worthy collection of cast-iron.
Bruce Tracy, author of “Dutch Oven Baking,” showed the group how to do his award-winning Cheese Onion Rolls. When he found out he had forgotten melted butter to dip his dough in, a couple of the food writers stepped up and showed him how to use nonstick cooking spray to do the job.
“I’m not used to having people in the audience who know as much about cooking as I do,” he joked. (No kidding. Some of the culinary experts in AFJ have probably forgotten more than most people will ever know about cooking!)
Matt Pelton, the reigning IDOS World Champion (and author of “Cast Iron Gourmet,” did a class on searing meats, and impressed folks with his perfectly cooked pork loin.
Then the group was able to meet and mingle with cooks who showed off some of their competition dishes, such as Angie Conlin’s poppyseed cake, Brian & Lisa Blodgett’s luscious cheesecakes and Bill & DeeAnn Johnson’s flaky pies. Debbie Hair, author of “Dutch Oven Breakfasts” made apple pancakes, and Ross Conlin showed how to turn garden produce into an impressive Impossible Zucchini Pie.
Then we had a Dutch oven lunch, catered by IDOS members. We requested a simpler menu than the show-stopping competition dishes, because I wanted to show that even basic dishes such as braised chicken can taste so much better when cooked in a Dutch oven. And we wanted to give the AFJ folks a taste of Funeral Potatoes, which are a Utah institution. Also I was thinking of the writers run Dutch oven recipes in their newspapers, and they would want recipes that their readers could tackle for their first time using a Dutch oven. As a food editor at both the Deseret News and Standard-Examiner, I know that most championship recipes are pretty long and complicated, and require a lot of print space.
To be honest, the lunch wasn’t as good as it could have been, due to missing ingredients and other issues.
But, overall, the great things about the day overshadowed the not-so-great, and I think it was a fun introduction to Dutch oven cooking.
A big thanks to Steve McGrath of Camp Chef, who helped behind the scenes to make it a great day.
As cowboy Roy Rogers would say, “Happy trail to you all, until we meet again.”