Long-Time Scouter and Dutch Oven Enthusiast Profiled in Tribune

Great Falls chef heats up cast-iron cuisine, Great Falls Tribune
August 10, 2011



“Cast-iron chef Bob Dowdy pulls an oven full of pulled pork from the heat during a recent cooking demonstration. TRIBUNE PHOTO/RYAN HALL

It only took a year under the Big Sky to get Bob Dowdy fired up about cooking outdoors. He moved here 13 years ago and bought his first Dutch oven one year later, after being served a Dutch oven lunch at a scoutmaster’s training session.

Since then his hobby has grown. He and his “Montana girl” wife Carolyn now cook as a team, “Cowboy Bob’s Grub.”

For more than a decade, he’s been collecting ovens (32 and counting), perfecting recipes and traveling around the region to demonstrate the art of Dutch-oven baking. This summer alone the Dowdys will put on a dozen or so Dutch-oven feasts for groups large and small.

“Two of the dinners are for 75 and one is for 40,” Dowdy said. In his spare time, the Malmstrom Air Force Base technical librarian will teach classes for the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ Becoming an Outdoor Woman program, cook at gatherings such as the C.M. Russell Museum’s Saddles & Spurs and judge at Dutch-oven cook-offs, including the Daly Days Cook Off in Hamilton.

The dog days of summer have a unique meaning for Dutch oven fans. On Sept. 3, cooks will flock to Odd Fellow park from noon to 8 p.m. for a potluck Dutch Oven Gathering (DOG). “At the DOG we will do some demos and hope to teach a class,” Dowdy said.

So what does Cowboy Bob have in those ovens?

Dowdy said he usually prepares four pots for a group dinner. “Brisket, beans, beer bread and dessert,” Dowdy said.

While Dowdy’s deft touch with the ovens makes it look easy, there is a bit of math and a bit of magic involved with successful Dutch-oven baking.

Hot charcoal is placed underneath and on top of the oven. The temperature is regulated by the number of hot coals.

Here’s the math part. To get the right cooking temperature, take the size of the Dutch oven in inches and add three coals to put on top. Subtract three from the oven’s size to put underneath. A 12-inch Dutch oven would get 15 coals on top and nine underneath to maintain a heat of 325° to 350°.

Here’s the magic part. Dowdy’s recipe for beer bread.

Heat oven to 375°. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl, adding jalapeno and cheese. Mix. Add one beer and mix until just combined. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead quickly to form a ball. Place bread on baking sheet or in 12-inch Dutch oven. Confidently, slit an X on top with serrated or sharp knife. Brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

“Now is the time for that extra beer,” Dowdy said. “Drink up.”

Still sound intimidating? Dowdy had advice for the novice.

“The easiest recipe to start with is barbecued chicken and peach cobbler,” Dowdy said. “For the chicken, just add chicken and bottled barbecue sauce to the pot and cook for about one hour.

“For the peach cobbler you will need 2 (30-ounce) cans of peaches drained, 1 yellow cake mix and a can of Sprite. Put peaches in a 12-inch Dutch oven. Pour cake mix over the peaches, pour soda over cake mix. Stir to mix completely. Bake 45 minutes to an hour using nine briquettes on the bottom and 15 on top. Serve with ice cream.”

The chef concluded, “Good eats are not just for the home kitchen, take a black pot camping today.”