MURRAY — It could have been a fire department's nightmare, turning 140 ninth-graders loose with thousands of burning coals.

But last Friday, the experience yielded culinary creations such as jambalaya, stuffed pork chops, churros and pineapple upside down cake, all cooked outdoors in Dutch ovens.

It was Riverview Junior High's 18th annual Dutch Oven Cook-off, and the school's front lawn was lined with students stewing, roasting and baking dishes in their black pots. One team after another presented them to be judged, and then they were free to sell their meals to fellow students during the lunch hour.

"Just the experience that the kids get in doing this is so great. Most grown men have never done what these kids are doing," said Russ Oliver, owner of Granite Bakery. He's been involved since the first cook-off, and five of his own kids have competed. He loaned out 12 of his own Dutch ovens to students who wanted to compete.

Some kids learned how to follow a recipe; others learned to improvise. One team presented what was supposed to be chocolate cake, explaining, "This was a total experiment because we forgot the eggs." Instead, they stirred in some Mountain Dew and called it pudding.

Every cooking competition has some drama, and in this case, it was the blustery wind. It was the likely reason why a high number of cakes and rolls were burned on the bottom.

"The wind blows those briquets, and they burn faster and hotter," said Janet Wayman, the technology, life and careers teacher who chairs the event each year. She is also a past world champion of the International Dutch Oven Society's annual cook-off.

First place winners were Andrew Nadauld and Heather Prows, who made Jambalaya, Creamed Corn, and Bread Pudding. Second place went to Riley Buckner and Stetson Seitz, who did Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, and Sticky Buns. Riley Grandinetti and Brad Matson took third place with Memphis-Style BBQ Pork Ribs, Country-Style Cheese Potatoes and a Caramel-Candy Apple Cobbler.

Elliot Paulsen and Ryan DeKorver won the "Total Dutch" award, given for the number of dishes as well as technique, for their Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Double Cheese Potatoes, Rodney's BBQ Beans 'n' Bacon, and Black Forrest Ribbon Cake.

Haley Blue and Lina Gomez won for best dessert, with their Pina Colada Cake, and the best costume award went to Danny Verkic and Eric Renz for their Superman outfits.

Copies of the cookbook, with all the recipes, are sold at the River View Junior High offices for $7.50. Cookbooks from past years are also being sold for $1 each.

CREAMED CORN

3 1-pound bags frozen corn

3 sticks butter

3 cups water

1 quart heavy cream

6 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning (Gatordust brand preferred)

Combine corn, butter and water into a 12-inch Dutch oven. Cook over coals until the corn is hot. Combine heavy cream, cornstarch and spices together in a bowl and whisk until the cornstarch is well-blended. Add to corn mixture, stirring well. Cover pot and cook 3-4 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir often. — Andrew Nadauld and Heather Prows


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com