by Jack Spaulding
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were invited to a gourmet outing in Jennings County where we witnessed some of the finest cast iron culinary concoctions we have seen!
Our friends Bill and Paula Beville asked if Chris and I could get away on a Friday night for dinner. Having sampled Paula’s cooking and the Beville hospitality, there was no hesitation accepting the invitation.
Bill added other old friends —Steve and Becky Delph and Steve and Donna Reinholt — also would be attending. It was going to be a Dutch oven pizza fest with the trio of conservation officers and their wives each turning out one or more of their favorites.
We got there early, and I watched Bill prepare his favorite “Chicago deep dish.”
Bill put a layer of pizza dough on top of a parchment liner in the bottom of his Dutch oven. He carefully worked the dough to have a slightly thicker rim around the edge which would later swell up and encase the cheese, toppings and sauce. Hands full of Mozzarella and Cheddar were layered in with a full can of tomato sauce, a can of sliced black olives, a can of sliced mushrooms and a handful of sliced pepperoni.
Setting the lid in place, Bill hung the Dutch oven on his cooking stand over hot coals and shoveled a layer of hot coals onto the lid. Looking at me, Bill said, “About 35 minutes, and we’ll take a look.”
Steve Reinholt then pulled in and began preparing his meat lover’s pizza.
Steve uses what looked to be a 14-inch pizza pan on a trivet set inside the Dutch oven. He opted for the charcoal briquette method where a number of briquettes are put underneath the Dutch oven while a certain number are put on top of the oven. I asked if there was a formula, and there is … “Twice as many white hot coals as the diameter of the Dutch oven with two-thirds of the coals on the bottom and the remaining third on the top for baking.”
A third oven was going down with a thin crust pineapple pizza, and Steve Delph was prepping one of his famous desserts, Pineapple Dump Cake.
Steve Delph carefully lined the bottom and side of his Dutch oven with aluminum foil. He then dumped in the contents of one angel food cake mix. Popping the top on a can of crushed pineapple,
Steve poured in the entire contents, juice and all. Mixing it together in the oven, Steve looked at me and said, “There you go … ready for the coals.”
Using the same recipe for baking with briquettes, Steve set the oven in alongside of Reinholt’s and said, “About 35 minutes.”
Needless to say, multiple piping-hot, Dutch oven pizzas bearing a slight tinge of wood smoke hit the spot. Followed up by decadent chocolate and peanut butter coated brownies from Paula’s oven and a Dutch oven rendition of Crescent roll wrapped, sugar and cinnamon, caramel sauce and butter topped apple dumplings by Donna Reinholt, we were stuffed!
Bill Beville confided he considered himself to be the junior of the three — as both Reinholt and Delph taught Dutch oven cooking at numerous DNR-sponsored events including the highly popular “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” program.
On their annual hunting forays out to Western states, Delph and Reinholt use their Dutch ovens at every meal, fixing hearty meals needed for hunting the mountainous terrain.
One year, Reinholt tagged his elk early in the trip and stayed back at camp to rest up and cook. Delph had been hunting the adjoining mountain and was returning from camp late in the evening.
Delph said, “I was still about 2,500 feet below camp when I got a whiff of Reinholt’s elk stew drifting down the mountain. I was starved to death, and I believe it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten!”
After tasting Dutch oven gourmet pizza, I will attest, there’s a lot to be said for Dutch oven cooking!
Jack Spaulding is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224; or email email@example.com.