Sunday, November 14, 2010

Step 1: go to liquor store.

“Claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy”
-Samual Johnson

After much discussion Clark and I felt we had come up with the perfect plan. It would make our kids happy. It would make our wives happy. It would make us happy. Sure, we didn't run the plan past our wives or kids, but it was such a beautiful (albeit somewhat complicated) plan that there seemed no need to share it in advance with the females involved. We figured they would think the plan was as awesome and jump at the chance to be part of it.

The plan, as created by Clark and I, was to go over to Clark's house Sunday afternoon and cook a meal using our Dutch ovens. We'd make whole wheat bread, venison stew, and dump cobbler. Sure, neither of us had much experience with cooking these things in this manner, but people have been cooking bread for thousands of years and deer meat even longer. How hard could it be?


Stupid, stupid adventurer(s).

I decided late last night to fill Misseswether in on her part of the plan: simply making some bread in a Dutch oven. Okay, whole wheat bread. Um, needing six cups of whole wheat flour. You'd make the flour using the manual-powered grain mill we bought...why are you looking at me like that?

The discussion went downhill from there. Apparently making bread is a very complicated activity and failure of a loaf could quite possibly end all life on least according to Misseswether. Sometimes she overreacts to stuff.

Okay, so I put Clark in charge of making the bread. They also have a grain mill so the whole wheat goodness would remain. I'd take care of the rest. By then Misseswether had calmed down (some) and asked for a task so as not to feel bored and useless.

Misseswether breaking sticks for kindling. After that she cut up the onions and pepper for the stew.

Clark building the fire for the coals on which we planned to cook.

I suppose you are wondering where the brandy comes in. I should give you the actual name of the venison stew I planned on making. It was called "40 Proof Dutch Oven Deer". Done correctly, one uses an entire bottle of brandy during the cooking of the stew. One cup goes into the stew, the rest goes into the cooks, friends of cooks, families of cook and friends, and eventually anyone who wanders into hailing range of the cook...

It's a very good recipe. Perfect for this plan.

Browning the venison.

Of course, the one thing I needed from the store for this recipe were two cans of condensed onion soup. And of course the were out so I had to improvise onion soup, How hard could that be, just some onion and some soup...

Turns out there is such a thing as "too much onion" in a meal. Also here's an important tip: drain as much liquid as you can off the meat, otherwise you be boiling the meat rather than browning it. It's very hard to pour out excess liquid from a big, heavy, hot Dutch oven.

Eventually I moved the Dutch oven off the coals and onto Clark's grill to really blast it with heat.

Success...and more brandy!

Meanwhile Clark was having difficulties with the bread recipe. Actually, he and the rest of us didn't know that at the time. He had decided to warm up the yeast/milk/sugar solution some before adding it to the flour. Unfortunately it go to hot and the yeast died. This meant the bread would not rise.

Whole wheat bread dough in a Dutch oven.

When it failed to rise we began discussing what we could do. Fear of the failed loaf killing all life on Earth weighed heavily on Clark and I, but we decided to press on into unknown country and cook the bread anyway.

We were quickly running out of time, daylight, and family patience with our cooking adventure. Clark went back inside and cooked up chicken nuggets for the kids and then quickly whipped up a chocolate pudding pie to replace the cobbler.


The stew had bubbled down to an actual stewy-looking dish, so I declared it was time to eat. The bread ended up looking like cornbread rather than an airy loaf of wheat bread. Cutting the loaf required a much larger knife than normal. It was...dense. Very dense. One might even say "bricklike". The Clarks liked it though because it reminded them of the heavy Polish breads of their native home. I ate one wedge of the "bread". Yeah, thank God I'm an American. Hooray for Wonder bread!

That thing under the big knife? That's the "bread".

Of course in spite of assorted food issues, it was a wonderful evening. The kids played, the adults chatted and laughed. It ended late, but also way too soon.

My clothes still smell of woodsmoke. :-)

Adventure! Excitement! $12 Bottle Of Brandy!!


Lone Star Chris said...

jealous. envious.
I could have contributed so much to this adventure. Just ask Valkrie... I'm excellent at screwing up the cooking.

clarktx said...

In my defense, the recipe asked for the milk to be "warmed to lukewarm".

Christina Rodriguez said...

At least you didn't scorch the bread. From the pics it looks nice!