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Dutch comfort

In 25 years of Dutch-oven cooking, Ron Clanton has prepared meals as simple as stew and cobbler for campers to turducken for more than 100 Thanksgiving diners.

"You can cook anything you can think of outdoors at camp," says Clanton, founder of Rogue Dutch Oven Cookers, a chapter of the International Dutch Oven Society.

Many campfire cooks are comfortable with Dutch-oven biscuits and cornbread, but Clanton prepares a variety of yeast breads at Dutch-oven competitions with winning results. At the request of club members, Clanton and other Dutch-oven experts plan to share their secrets and free samples during a weekend demonstration Aug. 11 at Eagle Point's Butte Creek Mill.

"Talk about old-fashioned comfort food," says Mill co-owner Bob Russell, an enthusiastic sponsor of the Cookers' activities.

"Half of 'em are chefs by trade ... and they're so generous with their knowledge."

Clanton, 70, says he trained at a Los Angeles culinary school before spending decades managing graphic-design companies. He gravitated to Dutch-oven cooking while living in Utah, the headquarters of IDOS and moved to the Rogue Valley eight years ago. He heads food service at a local retirement community when he's not trying out recipes over open coals.

"If you're baking, you have to use charcoal (on) top and bottom," he says.

Charcoal constitutes the most common question at Dutch-oven demonstrations, says Clanton. To determine the number of charcoal pieces needed for cooking, verify the Dutch oven's diameter, usually stamped on the lid.

Subtract four from that number to determine the amount of charcoal to place under the oven. Add four to the Dutch-oven diameter to derive the quantity of charcoal to place on top. Using this equation, a 12-inch Dutch oven requires eight pieces of charcoal underneath and 16 on top to bake at 350 F. Because the bottom of bread or biscuits browns more quickly, simply move the Dutch oven off the bed of charcoal when the bread's top just begins to brown and continue cooking with top heat only.

This method and numerous other step-by-step guides — with recipes and photos — are detailed on Clanton's blog, http://roguedutchovencookers.blogspot.com. Created three years ago, the blog covers such Dutch-oven classics as "cowboy beans" and pineapple upside-down cake while showing the vessel's sophisticated side with baked-egg ramekins with ham, Brie and chives. Clanton's own creative and whimsical approach to cooking is evident in recipes for tomato upside-down cornbread and stuffed "crown roast" of frankfurters.

Try these bread recipes from his blog, as well as several simple strategies for using Dutch ovens in the great outdoors.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.

Dutch oven dinner rolls cool near Butte Creek Mill in Eagle Point. - Julia Moore