FARMINGTON — Bring your lawn chairs and coonskin hats for an open campfire cookout at the Farmington Museum.
Donna Thatcher, an educator at the Riverside Nature Center, will hold a workshop demonstration on outdoors Dutch oven baking today.
Thatcher will offer hands-on experience, recipes and tips on how to prepare an easy, four-course meal in a cast iron pot.
She will also show how to season a Dutch oven, restore one that has rust and prepare a charcoal fire.
"There are four types of dishes you can bake in a Dutch oven," she said. "If you can do those, you can make anything."
With three ovens nested in a glowing bed of charcoal, Thatcher will prepare a four-course meal of vegetable-topped pizza, zucchini squash au gratin, biscuits and gingerbread-applesauce cobbler.
Unlike their conventional kitchen cousins, Dutch ovens used in the outdoors have three legs to provide room for charcoal underneath and a special rimmed lid for piling coals on top.
To ensure even distribution of heat, twice as many coals on top are recommended, Thatcher said.
"A metal worker, not only a silversmith, Paul Revere was the first to add a rim on the oven lid," Thatcher said. "Although it may have been Mrs. Revere who come up with the idea."
Baking outdoors over coals in a Dutch oven requires less time than an indoor oven, she said.
Thatcher will emphasize the ease and variety baking under the sun or stars can afford, using practical ingredients that don't require extensive refrigeration.
Thatcher will have help tending the fire by Raydel Hall, docent for the Nature Center.
"The demonstration is a lot of fun, camping in the middle of town," Hall joked. "The biscuits are incredibly popular, not because of the ingredients so much as where you're making them and all the sights and sounds and smells an outdoors setting has."
Thatcher, Hall and others host a "Real Night at the Museum" every third Saturday in September at the Farmington Museum. The free annual event features Dutch oven baking, leather stamping, pioneer games, live music, Navajo weaving and flintknapping, or stone tool-making.
"Last year, we made a few people more than 22 dozen biscuits," Thatcher said. "Paired with freshly made butter, they went quickly."
Today, Thatcher hopes to show how to make practical but delicious dishes, and she will share her recipes and take questions about cooking outdoors.
"I do it (Dutch oven baking) partly because it is a different kind of camp cooking," she said. "In our conditions (in the Four Corners) where fires are so limited at area campgrounds, you can use a Dutch oven on any provided grill or cooking station and make everything from stews and roasts to cakes and cornbread."
While she's not against roasting hot dogs and grilling hamburgers, Thatcher feels too many people rely on the tried-and-true when more surprising options can be had with only a bag of charcoal and Dutch oven in tow.
"One fun thing, especially with kids along, is to bake brownies while you sit around and watch the fire die down for the night," Thatcher said. "While you enjoy the fire, in 10 minutes you've got a fun dessert simply by taking advantage of the coals you've already got."
Thatcher also offers Dutch oven demonstrations by appointment for scout troops or large groups. To schedule a demonstration, call 505-599-1422.
James Fenton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt