Photos by MJ Klein
One of the great things about Dutch oven cooking is the fact that anywhere you can build a fire is anywhere you can cook a delicious meal. I carried my 12″ Dutch oven down to Kaoshiung over the holiday because I knew there would be an afternoon where I would want to relax and cook. This is the story about what I cooked.
I started out by cutting up onions. I also had baby carrots and small white potatoes so I didn’t need to cut those items up. The only other things that I had which needed to be cut up were some mild bell peppers (shown later). This type of cut shown here is one that I learned from a Chinese master chef back when I was being trained for restaurant work.
This is a shot of Hui-ling (along with Hui-chen) helping me with the garlic for the dish.
I started out by building a fire on the ground outside Hui-chen’s parents home. I made it on the stonework as I didn’t want to sterilize any natural ground area with fire. Later this area was swept clean and left no traces, as opposed to some of the junk you see in this photo. There were remnants of fireworks just about everywhere as people were setting them off for Chinese New Year.
I had purchased a package of US beef rib meat, with the bones removed. Here you can see 2 things: 1: another small fire to the left which was used to make top coals and also to act as a replacement bottom fire as the first one burned down, and 2: the meat in the pot, which I was browning.
This is a closeup of the browning meat. The black specs are a normal part of Dutch oven cooking as sometimes the cooked-on black coating rubs off a little. That does nothing detrimental to the food.
The package of meat turned out to be two pieces so I separated them along the sides while I browned the onions in all that beef goodness. The aroma of the onions browning in the beef juice was awesome.
I added the carrots and the mild bell peppers to the pot next.
Next, the white potatoes went into the pot. For this dish I decided not to use basil or rosemary but to instead just feature more of the natural flavors of the food items themselves, rather than adding spices. I did season the dish with oyster sauce (not shown) right after I took this photo.
Here you see I’ve moved the pot onto the other fire. I’ve added fresh coals to the old fire to get them burning. By the time the fresh coals are glowing it will be time to move the pot back to the other fire. Cooking over the coals tends to choke them down so it’s not practical to cook on a single fire, at least not using this kind of charcoal. Real wood fires tend to burn a bit hotter and longer.
This is an overview shot of the area where I was cooking. In the far distance is a factory on the canal (which leads to the wharf area) and then a small children’s park that was recently built. Notice the light pole to the right.
Eventually the light came on with approaching darkness. In this shot I’ve moved the pot back to the fire on the right and added some coals to the left fire. All together the cooking time was just under 2 hours. Take a close look at the lid on this pot. I had added quite a bit of water to the pot (for braising) and I wanted to boil some of it off, so I moved the lid slightly off center to allow steam to escape.
There was a wall right next to where I was cooking and there was a sort of shelf on the wall. On this occasion I was drinking Suntory Special Reserve whisky (15 years old) and Pelligrino Italian sparkling water.
It’s a lonely business sometimes, this Dutch oven cooking, but someone must do it.
The dish turned out just perfect. The beef was fork-tender, and the vegetables had a lightly grilled flavor from the top coals browning them. I made a nice beef gravy with the liquid that was left in the pot and I poured that gravy over everything on my plate, I’m telling you! I’m not one to brag about my own cooking but this dish was a 9/10.
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