Friday, May 13, 2005

Cookoff Plans for Next Weekend

I've been debating with myself as to the dishes that I'm going to cook at next week's Dutch oven cookoff in Red Bluff, California. Normally I'd have mailed the application a few weeks ago. But for some reason, this one stumped me.

For the dessert dish, I settled on baking the cinnamon apple coffee cake. With a layer of sweetened Granny Smith apples in the center, this'll make the perfect Dutch oven dessert for the cookoff. I though I'd bake a basic Dutch oven bread for the yeast-risen bread dish.

The main dish stumped me until early last week. Then I saw two recipes on Words to Eat By, both for braised brisket (one beef, the other buffalo). These recipes hit the spot because I always looked forward to pot roast days as a young Navy cook. Debbie posted inviting photographs that said, "That's the dish for me."

Instead of braising a brisket, I thought of cooking a nice piece of chuck roast in a large camp oven for the cookoff. I'd modify one of her recipes -- a sweet buffalo brisket with dried cherries and crimini mushrooms and a savory brisket with red wine and sun-dried tomatoes.

Of the two, I favored the savory recipe. Though I like sweet sauces on meat, I feel that savory wine-based sauce compliments the beef much better that the dried cherries. Personally, I reserve fruit-based sauces for pork and poultry.

I braised a 2-1/2-pound chuck roast last Monday following Debbie's savory recipe with few modifications. I enjoyed the sauce with its nice herbal quality.

But I saw one problem for the cookoff. After the roast was fork tender, I emptied the broth and vegetables into a blender and pureed everything into a smooth sauce. This is fine for the kitchen.

If you read the rules for the Red Bluff cookoff, you'll remember the phrase, "The use of battery or electric appliances is not allowed." This is common in outdoor cookoffs. The idea is that you're supposed to be using more primitive cooking methods, including reliance on cast iron Dutch ovens.

I could use a food mill. But I really don't need another cooking tool in my chuckbox at this point. So, after some debate, I've switched to a lasagna, something I initially considered over a month ago.

More tomorrow ...

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