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Cookbook review: 'Cast Iron Gourmet' heats up mealtime

By Emily Christensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 23 2013 3:15 p.m. MDT

"CAST IRON GOURMET," by Matt Pelton, Cedar Fort, $18.99, 151 pages (nf)

Utah's Matt Pelton took one special item with him on his Mormon mission to Boston: a 10-inch Dutch oven. He recently took top honors at the recent International Dutch Oven Society's World Championships and with two previous cookbooks under his belt, Pelton latest's cookbook is "The Cast Iron Gourmet." With gorgeous pictures that make the reader's mouth water and unique coal patterns for cooking perfection, this 151-page cookbook teaches more than just recipes and ensures the success of the reader.

Chapters include information about buying a Dutch oven and tools needed. There are also chapters on how to season it, how to clean it and how to store it. Cooking techniques specific to Dutch oven cooking provide great tips, while real recipes of breakfast, breads, soups, stews, chilis, main courses, side dishes and desserts prepare the reader to start tasting.

Pelton's initial chapters on the choosing of and caring for the Dutch oven itself are essential. He provides excellent information critical to this kind of cooking, including tips for helping and problem-solving when things go wrong. He gives ideas on how to re-season the Dutch oven, as well as how to clean it and protect it from rust. He also provides answers for how to do different kinds of cooking in the Dutch oven, including stewing, baking, roasting and broiling.

Every page with a recipe gives the kind of cooking it is and directions for coal placement: whether to put the coals underneath or on top or both, and how to spread them out. These are excellent tips that prevent burning, uneven cooking or unfinished meals.

Each recipe includes a description of the food, ingredients needed and two sets of directions — one for camp cooking outdoors, and one for at-home cooking indoors. The recipes are not difficult, but they are in paragraph form and often have several steps to them, requiring good focus and attention to the instructions. This raises the complexity of the recipes but without raising difficulty.

The dishes and desserts in this cookbook are delicious and hearty, whether for a family meal at home or on a weekend trip outdoors. The recipes are a challenge to the inexperienced Dutch oven chef, but not too difficult to be followed with success. The extra tips about coal placement are one of the best features of this cookbook, along with original recipes — many of them surprising and tasty ideas as possibilities for Dutch oven cooking.

Emily Christensen, Ph.D., lives with her husband in Oklahoma. Her Ph.D. is in marriage and family therapy, and she is pursuing a second degree in Hebrew and Jewish studies. Her blog is www.housewifeclass.com and her email is housewifeclass@gmail.com.

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