You can make just about anything in an outdoor Dutch oven that you can make in an oven in the house. Yesterday I roasted a whole chicken from Falling Sky Farm with rosemary, garlic, and lemons in a 12-quart Dutch oven in the back yard. The process is so simple that I hesitate to post it, but I know some readers would like to do more Dutch oven cooking, so here goes.
Make a brine of 1 cup salt, 1 cup vinegar, and 1 cup sugar, heated and dissolved in water, with enough additional water and/or ice to completely cover your chicken. Drop in several crushed juniper berries and twigs of rosemary. Be sure to use a non-reactive pot–no cast iron, aluminum, or plastic for this stage. Brine the bird at least 24 hours.
Remove the bird from the brine and discard the brine mixture, rosemary, etc. Stuff the bird with more fresh rosemary, 2-4 cloves of sliced garlic, and about half a lemon. Season the bird’s skin with a little more salt and pepper. Now you’re ready to roast!
Start charcoal, preferably using a chimney with the bottom loaded with newspaper to avoid having to use lighter fluid. (Ick!) Get the coals hot. Put the chicken in a lightly greased outdoor Dutch oven, either by itself or with potatoes as we did. Add the lid. Put the Dutch oven on top of about 8-12 coals. Add more coals to the top. Rotate the whole oven *and* the lid every 15 minutes or so. Your chicken will roast in an hour to an hour and a half, depending on size. You may need to add coals as you go, so do keep an eye on whether you’ll need to fire up some more.
Our 5-pound chicken roasted for an hour and a half, and it was definitely over the minimum safe temperature of 165-170 degrees F. It was also incredible juicy, with super rosemary and garlic flavor, all thanks to roasting in the Dutch oven. And our house stayed sooooo nice and cool! I wish I had a food stylist on staff to make it clear how gorgeous this bird was, but I’ll trust that you’ll give the recipe a try and decide for yourself.
Oh–do you see that juice in the bottom? It’s the incredibly flavorful base for gravy. Let everything cool a few minutes; then remove the bird and veggies to rest. Whisk a little potato flour or whole-wheat pastry flour into the juices. Heat to boiling with a little sherry and let thicken. Serve on the side. Do be careful–this mixture includes the brine and may already be a little salty for some folks.
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