#32- The Dutch Oven

I think when I first learned of a Dutch Oven, as a child, it was purely “urban slang.” My only thought was that… because we are Dutch and my older brother really had a knack for bad gas, I was often just a victim of The Dutch Oven.

It wasn’t until I entered college, the food movement was taking place, and William-Sonoma was nearby where I worked (which meant my pointless wandering during lunch breaks was sometimes at William-Sonoma) did I learn that there was infact a Kitchen cookware called The Dutch Oven.  It seemed fancy, with it’s $300 price tag. For $300, I figured the thing had better produce gold with whatever crap I threw in and served up a few hours later. It was enticing, sure, but I never took the bait. Not even with our wedding registry.

But then a year ago, one was given to us.  Not really as a gift, though still in the box. And not the $300 Le Croissant one (as I liked to call it).  But still a Dutch Oven all the same.  It looked really nice sitting in my cupboard for as long as it did. I will confess: Once I put it on my bucket list for 2014 (to use it- #32) I made a go at Au Gratin potatoes early in January.

Which led to my very first lesson when dealing with The Dutch Oven:  Even though I pulled out the Au Gratin Potatoes looking mouthwateringly FABULOUS, because I left the lid on for another 30 minutes while I continued to prep the rest of dinner, the potatoes also continued to cook.  Heat trapped inside, the potatoes turned an icky over-steamed brown and mostly lost their appeal at that point.  I would call it “successful” like my bucket list demanded.  Defeated, my Dutch Oven retreated back to the cupboard for another 4 months.

Until this week, when I felt refreshed and hungry for some French Onion Soup.

Dannah Nielsen French Onion Soup

French Onion Superbness

I followed the advice of some random cookbook, simmering it for several hours before scooping it into individual bowls, adding some toasted baguettes and gruyere cheese and throwing it back into the broiler to give it that nice toasty and melted crisp top layer.  Just as good as any 5 star restaurant, if you ask my family & neighbors!

But really, the Dutch Oven, in my foodie-ignorance, seem like nothing more than a glorified crockpot. And considering that since the soup I have also made the innards of homemade lasagna using the Dutch Oven and STILL can’t scrap off all the leftovers from the inside… I’m not convince I will regularly use this cookware.  Unless it’s for soup. Easier to clean. For now, #32 is checked off my list!

#42 Wood Duck Could Duck Wood

When I put #42 on my list, I specifically remember it was a result of looking at a photo of me the same age as Natalie, feeding ducks at a pond. I remember as a kid whenever we made a trip to the library (which was often) half the fun was the library, half the fun was feeding the ducks that lived in the pond at the library.  My mom was gracious enough to let me take whatever bread was left of the loaf we had at the moment to feed the ducks.

I really had no set plans on the horizon, or even an idea of where to find some ducks to feed. But about 2 weeks ago my Dad called to tell me he had won some sort of Duck Tagging Waterfowl Tour from a benefit dinner he had attended, and wanted to know if it seemed like something Natalie & I would be interested in. Honestly, it didn’t seem that appealing at the moment… but then again, it didn’t seem like the worst thing I could get roped into either. “Sure,” I said somewhat feigning my enthusiasm, “Natalie would love that!”

 

And truth be told, she did.  And I did!  So glad we made this trip.  It was a private “tour” of a property out in Granite Bay that is home to many Wood Ducks, Owls, Fish, Otters, Squirrels and all those other woodland critters that people drive on past without giving much thought to.  We saw ducks and owls sitting on their eggs, got lessons on the reasons for tagging (banding?) wildlife and both Natalie & her cousin Deani got to go fishing in the pond there. It was probably one of the better ways to spend a weekend morning, really.  A very pleasant experience- better than simply taking stale bread out to a manmade pond in the middle of the city. Thank you California Waterfowl Association… and thanks to my Dad for passing along the opportunity!