As anyone who might happen upon these digitized thought balloons will quickly discover, they have either nothing, or maybe everything, to do with grilled cheese sandwiches; and most likely never touch on anything relating to cooking or the kitchen... except perhaps, the very first posting. And so, with your indulgence, may I present, the ramblings of a reforming philosopher...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wild Turkey Suprise!

International Dutch Oven Society
I lied about the cooking. I am a Dutch oven aficionado!
I don’t do it terribly well or profess any real mastery of it’s cosmically subtle nuances; but I do enjoy the vibrant miracles that result from my feeble efforts and marvel that such a pioneer process, so simple in concept and process, produces such incredibly tasty rewards.
Dutch ovens are those 5 to 15 dollar cast iron pots you quite often see under tables at garage sales, or hanging much more expensively in antique stores. You can also purchase them at outdoor recreational outlets or online. They are fairly heavy, will usually be of sufficient size to handle a small chicken or large roast, and traditionally have three cast iron legs protruding from their typically rusted underbellies. Covering the top is a matching cast iron lid sporting a decent one inch ridge rising upward from its rounded rim.
Lodge camp ovens
The one inch legs on the oven were originally designed to keep the pot sitting above the charcoaled nuggets set ablaze beneath it. The ridged top edge serves to contain more hot embers, permitting additional heat from above. The resulting top and bottom, slow roast effect of the iron clad combination, either performed in dug out ground-pits, on surfaced fire places, or even in conventional home electric ovens, is absolutely amazing.
However, the repeated hoisting and repositioning of several of these pre-microwave beasties during a cookout is not for the weak or faint-hearted. I have in my stronger days, cooked for upwards of 200 people during one countrified camping scenario or another, and by the end of the workout, have fully enjoyed the analgesic attributes of Robaxacet or some equally successful muscle relaxant. You see, it takes considerable effort shuffling the various sized pots about for two to three hours whilst ensuring adequate heat advantage for each of the internalized simmering delights. During pioneer times, women and men were frequent users of such heavy hardware, but with the advent of modern culinary capers it is easy to understand why these muscle builders have almost gone the way of the Dodo.
And yet, in hopes of forwarding promotion to revive this ancient and almost lost art, I must proselytize that one small pot is quite easily maneuvered. Comfortably, and with little more effort than that used for an electric slow cooker, a Dutch oven can help you relive the colonization history of our forbearers and provide a sumptuous and highly flavorful feast, while permitting you to skip completely the serious hardships of the pioneering experience.
My peculiar favorite recipe is “Wild Turkey Surprise”, a concocted title fearlessly gleaned from a Bugs Bunny cartoon of the late 1950’s. The merrymaking begins by sautéing approximately ½ lb of chopped bacon in a preheated, 350 degree pot (use a conventional oven if you have one) followed by a healthy portion of finely diced onion (1 cup at least). These two are baked in the Dutch oven itself until the ingredients are decently cooked. How long is up to you, but around 10-15 minutes is usually sufficient.
Then, previously secret-spiced, browned, and reasonably large, tennis ball sized meat rounds - made up of equal portions of finely ground hamburger, veal, and pork, each now center-stuffed with a large chunk of mozzarella cheese - are placed lovingly inside the Dutch oven and amply rolled about within the bacon and onion mixture. Just how many of the delectable orbs you create depends on the size of the pot, the number of Tasmanian Devils you are cooking for, and how desperately hungry you may be, once you are as hooked on the art form as I am.
The wonderfully aromatic, but certainly not calorie conscious concoction is then returned to the coals (or conventional oven) for browning, and then as long as it takes to permit the next bit of culinary magic to happen (approximately 30-40 mins.)
At this juncture, the Dutch oven is filled with your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe, stirred gently so as to fully engage all the ingredients, and then popped back on the coals to be simmered at a lower, on the bottom fringe of bubbling, temperature. The stirring should be repeated at 10-15 minute intervals, or whenever you remember.
After an hour or two of this steeping procedure, and appropriate taste testing, the meatballs and sauce may be amply served onto either prepared spaghetti noodles, or as my family used to prefer, garlicked, mozzarella cheese-toasted, hoagie halves (two each, naturally).
Warning: This meal should probably only be consumed on rare occasions, simply to prevent a coronary, or increased hardening of the arteries… but it is very, very tasty! The process is loads of fun and the mystery of how well it works is really quite captivating. The surprise, if you haven’t guessed it already, at least in this particular recipe, is that there isn’t any turkey at all. Nothing is wild, and by the last forkful, nobody even cares!
And so, until the next thought bubble decides to burst… here’s wishing you the best of everything the good world has to offer. – J.

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2014

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