Li­brary hosts Dutch oven demon­stra­tion

The Weekly Vista - - Community - KEITH BRYANT kbryant@nwadg.com

Char­coal smoke scented the air be­hind the li­brary as the bri­quettes gave heat for a hand­ful of baked dishes in cast iron Dutch ovens be­hind the li­brary on Wed­nes­day, May 9.

Rod­ney Bech­doldt, Cub­mas­ter for Neosho-based Cub Scout pack 34, put on a demon­stra­tion at the Bella Vista Pub­lic Li­brary and showed peo­ple how to use and care for Dutch ovens, as well as a hand­ful of recipes.

Bech­doldt said he’s been in­volved with Boy Scouts of Amer­ica for more than 30 years — in ad­di­tion to his youth in­volve­ment — mean­ing he’s done plenty of out­door cook­ing.

The Dutch oven, he said, func­tions sim­i­larly to any other oven and can bake any recipe one might bake at home.

“You can do any­thing out here you could do in a kitchen,” he said. “When the power’s out, th­ese things come in handy.”

The Dutch oven is es­sen­tially a cast iron pot, he said, but it has legs to help it sit over fuel, and a lip on the rim of its thick lid to pre­vent fuel on top from slip­ping off. The oven can be used with wood or char­coal, though char­coal is faster to light and eas­ier with which to man­age tem­per­a­tures, he said.

To reach a tem­per­a­ture of 350 de­grees, he said, one can sim­ply take the oven’s di­am­e­ter in inches and dou­ble that num­ber to know how many char­coal bri­quettes are needed. One third should be placed on the bot­tom, he ex­plained, while the rest go on top. Heat­ing pri­mar­ily from the top pre­vents the dish from burn­ing on the bot­tom, he said.

Bech­doldt made three dishes — a chicken-ba­con-ranch casse­role, a Philly cheeses­teak pasta dish and a sim­ple peach cob­bler — each in their own oven. He used a pan for each oven to sit in, putting char­coal in the bot­tom be­fore plac­ing the oven on top of it with ad­di­tional char­coal on the lid.

In ad­di­tion to a tool to lift and ma­neu­ver the ovens, he had a pair of weld­ing gloves that made it pos­si­ble to han­dle the cook­ware.

“It’ll burn, but it won’t burn as bad,” he said.

Bech­doldt said he prefers to fo­cus on sim­pler recipes, es­pe­cially while camp­ing. It’s eas­ier — and of­ten less ex­pen­sive — to cook one’s own meat and avoid par­tic­u­larly fancy eats, he said.

He spoke with at­ten­dees about cook­ing tech­niques and his work with the scouts while a few peo­ple kept a close eye on their watches, wait­ing for the food to be ready.

About 45 min­utes after heat was ap­plied to the chicken casse­role, Bech­doldt hefted it up onto a metal fold­ing ta­ble and cau­tioned guests from putting a hot oven on a plas­tic ta­ble — some­thing his troop learned the hard way — be­fore go­ing to re­trieve the beef dish.

The creamy chicken dish bub­bled un­der a layer of browned cheese and tor­tillas, while the beef stirred eas­ily, a gooey, cheesy mess with noo­dles, onions and pep­pers.

The cob­bler was dished up last, fea­tur­ing juicy peaches un­der a layer of soft cake.

“If you need an ex­er­cise pro­gram after this,” Bech­doldt told the group, “we can go back to Neosho. I’ve got some logs to split.”

One at­tendee, Lee Ryan, said the food was tasty. She wasn’t hun­gry, she said, but it was still a great meal.

More­over, she said, the cook­ing skills she learned may be use­ful some­time and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, this was some­thing Bella Vis­tans of all ages could ap­pre­ci­ate. The demon­stra­tion drew peo­ple of a wide range of ages, she said.

“It’s a great way to pull the com­mu­nity to­gether in dif­fer­ent age groups,” Ryan said.

Beth Morell, who sat near Ryan, said she en­joyed the food as well as the sto­ries about scouts.

Morell said she might not use th­ese ex­act tech­niques, but she ex­pects to have th­ese dishes again.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I don’t have a Dutch oven,” she said. “So I’ll be do­ing the recipes in my nor­mal oven.”

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Rod­ney Bech­doldt (left) moves coals onto a Dutch oven to heat it and cook the food in­side while demon­stra­tion at­ten­dees watch.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Lee Howard scoops up some of the chicken-ranch casse­role as other demon­stra­tion at­ten­dees wait to sam­ple the food Rod­ney Bech­doldt made in his Dutch ovens.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Rod­ney Bech­doldt pre­pares a sim­ple peach cob­bler in his Dutch oven.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

A freshly-cooked Philly cheeses­teak meal (left) sits in a Dutch oven next to a chicken-ranch casse­role.

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