These two Utahns know their way around a Dutch oven

Story by Valerie Phillips
Mon, Mar 25, 2013
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Matt Pelton, of Provo, and Doug Martin, of Draper, have made Dutch oven history twice.

Last year, they were the first to win the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championship Cook-Off on their first try.

This year, they were the first team to ever win two years in a row.

In an interview last week, Pelton credited the duo’s success to hard work.

“We practiced every time we had the opportunity. When we were not practicing, we were talking about our ideas and planning them. It all boils down to work, work and more work. Nobody was going to want this win more than we did, and we were willing to do what it took to accomplish our goal.”

In the competition, each team cooks three dishes: a main dish, bread and dessert, all with burning charcoal as the only heat source.

Their main dish, called Into the Wild, featured quail, beef filet, mashed potatoes and a wild mushroom ragout. Their bread entry, Pain De Campagne, was leavened with a homemade starter; and dessert was a show-stopping four-layer Tropical Dream Cake, with alternating coconut and raspberry layers in a checkerboard pattern.

To get a berth in the March 16 championship, held at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, most of the contestants had to win an IDOS-sanctioned cook-off in their region, and then compete in the semifinals on Thursday and Friday. As last year’s champions, Pelton and Marton already had an automatic spot. But until this year, no returning champions had been able to reclaim the title.

It was clear the team wasn’t afraid to push the envelope. Many cooks might shy away from cooking quail in a competition.

“I happen to love quail,” said Pelton. “I knew that we were going to be judged by professional chefs who would appreciate the great deal of prowess and difficulty in preparing quail. Also, in all the years I have been around the world championships, I have never seen anyone cook quail before, so I thought it would be something out of the ordinary.”

Pelton said the cake was one he “dreamed of” last year after winning the World Championship. He told Martin about it, and Martin spent six months developing it. The idea was to wow the judges with its looks and taste.

“We received all perfect scores from all of the judges, so I believe we accomplished what we set out to do,” Pelton said.

Pelton encourages timid cooks not to be afraid to try Dutch ovens. “It’s not rocket science! Dutch ovens are so cool because they are so forgiving.”

Pelton has authored three books on Dutch oven cooking: His most recent, “The Cast Iron Gourmet” (Cedar Fort, $18.99) was released three weeks ago.

Unlike most Dutch oven cookbooks, it shows the charcoal patterns for every recipe.

“All the recipes in the book were (tested) by my 13-year-old daughter and timed from start to finish, so you can factor that into your plans before you decide what to cook.”

Those interested in learning more about Dutch oven cooking can attend the IDOS Spring Convention on May 11 at the Davis County Fairgrounds in Farmington, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The convention features cooking demonstrations, seminars and samplings.

This is the prize-winning main dish by Matt Pelton and Doug Martin:

Into the Wild

For the potatoes:

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes washed and cubed

4 tablespoons real butter

2 tablespoons fresh horseradish, micro-planed

3 tablespoons cream

Salt and pepper to taste

For the quail:

4 farm-raised quail, cut in half

1 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon ginger

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Canola oil for frying

For the filet:

Canola oil for searing

4 beef tenderloin filets, cut 2 inches thick (if you can get elk or bison, it is preferred to beef)

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup real butter

2 garlic cloves

1 sprig fresh thyme

For the ragout:

3 pounds mixed wild mushroom varieties, such as morels, shiitake, chanterelles, blue foots, red lobster and crimini

1 shallot, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup ruby dessert port wine

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

4-ounce packet demi-glace

1 cup beef broth

Begin by boiling the potatoes in a 10-inch Dutch oven. When the potatoes are tender, strain the water, add the remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher.

Mix the ingredients for the quail and place them in a bowl on the side. Roast the quail in a 12-inch Dutch oven with 12 coals on top and bottom. Remove the quail when they have a temperature of 140 degrees. Heat up a little canola oil in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Fry the quail, bone side up, until the skin is brown and crispy and the temperature is at least 165 degrees. Place them on a cooling rack to relax.

For the filet: Heat some oil in the bottom of a 10 inch Dutch oven until it starts to smoke. Sear the filets well on all sides. Place them on a rack to cool and season liberally with the salt and pepper. Place the filets in a 10-inch Dutch oven and roast them with 10 coals on top and bottom until the internal temperature is at 135 degrees. Melt the real butter in the bottom of a Dutch oven and add the garlic and the thyme. Place the filets in the butter mixture and slowly cook until they reach 145 degrees internally.

For the ragout: Chop the mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Fry the shallots until they are starting to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until they are glossy. De-glaze the pan with the port wine and balsamic vinegar. Add the demi-glace and the broth.

Cover and cook for 20 minutes in a 12-inch Dutch oven with 16 coals on the bottom.

To serve: Mound the potatoes and create a crater in the middle. Fill the crater with the ragout and place the filet on top of the ragout. Serve the quail on the side of the potatoes with a mix of fresh green vegetables such as asparagus and broccolini.

Valerie Phillips blogs at


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