From The Book – Jambalaya The Really, Really Old-Fashioned Way

Mar 31, 2011 by

Dutch ovens have been around since, well, the Cro-Magnon times. I realize that is rather odd, considering there were no “Dutch” people during that prehistoric period.

I can only assume some Neanderthal was the head cook, and everyone called him “Dutch” for some unknown reason. They just made the name up, which I guess is rather obvious because, again, there were no “Dutch” people at the time.

Anyway, Dutch ovens are usually made of cast-iron and weigh about the same as a Volkswagen Beetle.  If you’re still wondering what it is, it’s that black pot-looking thing you got from your grandmother who got it from her grandmother. It’s currently sitting in your garage because you have no idea what to do with it, and every time you go in said garage, you slam your toe against it.

The Dutch oven is basically a portable (depending on how strong you are) oven, made famous by Festus and other cowboy cooks on TV shows. They’d cook everything in it to feed the cowpokes, who were fine with that until they discovered the hot sauce came from New York City. Then they’d shoot the cook.

Dutch ovens are pretty popular with the Boy Scouts, which is kind of funny because no Boy Scout can actually lift one. So it’s up to the dads to bring the ovens to the camp fire, usually on the back of an ATV. We’re not breaking our backs just to teach kids old-school cooking.

Since the three Sons of Thunder are all in various Cub and Boy scout packs/troops, yours truly decided to learn Dutch oven cooking. I had the flu and was delirious when I ordered a couple.

Let’s just move on to the recipe, shall we?   

There is a science to all this, which I’ll get to in a minute. There’s also some “extras” you can use to help, well, keep you from burning your skin off. Been there, done that. It really, really hurts.

Tools:

A 16-inch Dutch oven. A 12-inch, deep version, will do, but I strongly suggest the 16-inch. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, that’s okay. Just measure the diameter of the one your grandmother left you.

Two other points – first you need one that has legs on the bottom. A flat-bottomed Dutch oven will not work. Second, you want one where the lid is flanged, that’s to keep the charcoal, which I’ll get to, from going into your food.

A lifter. This is a medieval torture-looking device. Also very similar in appearance to what the ancient Egyptians used to yank out the brains of the pharaohs before mummification. It’s used to “lift” – hence the name – the lid up. You can also use a pair of really long pliers. You do not want to try to lift a hot Dutch oven lid. Trust me on this.

Long fire-retardant gloves. I say retardant because when you go to the big Hardware Store That Has Everything, you will see fire-proof gloves. They lie. Such items do not exist. But these gloves will give you an extra five seconds before your hand melts.

Charcoal.  Just your basic Kingsford ones will do. Don’t use chunks or natural or whatever because, I hate to say this, there is math involved. Also, don’t use hickory-flavored or apple-cinnamon or whatever because well, you just don’t do that with a Dutch oven.

Long Tongs. For placing the charcoal, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Ingredients:

This is enough to feed a Boy Scout troop and even some dads. Or rather, it’s enough to feed the dads and we might share some with the boys if we’re feeling generous.

4 pounds of uncooked medium shrimp, tail and shell removed.

3 pounds of uncooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces.

2 pounds of smoked Polish Kielbasa sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces. The kind that’s already cooked.

4 cups of rice

2 cans (10 1/2 ounce) Onion-Mushroom soup. You can also use French Onion or whatever you like.

4 cans (use the soup can to measure) of water

2 (8 ounce) cans of tomato sauce

3 sticks of butter, cut into chunks

2 bunches of green onions/scallions

2 cans (10 ounce) of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes. I favor the ones with cilantro added.

1 (32 ounce) box of chicken broth. Use about half of it starting off, it you need to add more liquid, then use the remainder.

1 small jar of minced garlic

Several strong dashes of your favorite hot sauce

Salt and pepper as desired

Cooking:

Spray your Dutch oven with a little vegetable oil and then throw all of the above ingredients into the Dutch oven.

Stir it all really well so it’s all mixed together. Seriously, that’s it.

But please note I said everything under “ingredients,” not under “tools.” In other words, do not mix in the charcoal or the gloves or …

You get the point.

Next, start your charcoal. You want 39 briquettes. Yes, 39 – I told you earlier there was a science to all this. You see, the Dutch oven experts have various charts and graphs to determine the number of coals needed to get a Dutch oven to a specific oven temperature.

And for once, I am actually serious. Please note the 39 briquettes are for a 16-inch stove to hit 350 degrees. Do not use 39 briquettes for a 12-inch oven. A 12-inch uses 25 briquettes for the same temperature. Again, it’s that science thing. You can check the internet and find the various cooking charts.

Once your charcoal has a nice red glow to it, the math kicks in. The rule of thumb is one-third on the bottom, two-thirds on top. Or, put 13 briquettes under the oven in a circle pattern; and 26 briquettes on top of the lid in a checkerboard pattern. Oh, and make sure the lid is on the oven.

Okay, so about every 20 minutes or so you have to do the rotation dance. Basically, turn the oven one-quarter turn clockwise, and turn the lid one-quarter turn counterclockwise. Use that lifter thing I was talking about to rotate the lid. What you’re doing is just moving the oven around over the coals to even out the heat.

After 45 minutes or so, lift the lid up. Again, use that lifter thing or some pliers. Trust me. Stir everything real well and put the lid back on. If you want a little more liquid in your jambalaya, add the remaining chicken stock and/or more water.

About this time I fire up another 20-25 briquettes. After about an hour of cooking I will add those – again, one-third on bottom, two-thirds on top. That’s just to keep the oven at a constant temperature because the original coals are dying.

The recipe, at least for me, takes about an hour and thirty minutes to an hour and forty-five minutes. The rice should be soft and the shrimp pink. Do not try an eat a shrimp if it’s not pink. Again, just trust me.

Enjoy.

2 Comments

  1. BlowDry

    That was some good jambalaya. Maybe we’ll have a campout where the only thing the Scouts can use is a Dutch oven. They sure loved the leftovers!

    • Glad you liked it. I like the idea of Dutch oven-only cooking. We could also give them a pass and say they can cook with other pots – over an open fire – and “boiling water” doesn’t count

      cheers