'Anything tastes better outside'

Bill Gohmann prepares a chicken and rice casserole in a Dutch oven during an outdoor cooking contest Saturday, Oct. 24, at Roush Lake.
Bill Gohmann prepares a chicken and rice casserole in a Dutch oven during an outdoor cooking contest Saturday, Oct. 24, at Roush Lake. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Oct. 29, 2009.

"Anything tastes better outside," says Cathy Gohmann.

She ought to know.

Gohmann, husband Bill Gohmann and son Tony Gohmann are the recently crowned outdoor cooking champions of the Upper Wabash Reservoirs.

With a couple of Dutch ovens and a pile of charcoal, they say, they can whip up a meal for any number of hungry boys.

"Anything you can cook in an oven, you can cook in a Dutch oven," Bill Gohmann says. "If you wanted to make bread, you can cook bread in it. When I was a Scout, we made pizza in a Dutch oven."

A Dutch oven, he explains, is a cast iron pot with a tight-fitting lid and small feet on the bottom to hold it up out of the coals.

The "rule of three," he says, is the key to regulating the cooking temperature.

"If you have a 12-inch Dutch oven, you put nine briquettes underneath it because 12 minus three is nine," he says. "And 12 plus three is 15, so you put 15 on top. That gets the oven to about 325 degrees. If you want to increase or decrease the temperature by 25 degrees, you add or subtract one briquette."

It's not an exact science, though. Cold, windy conditions outside could call for longer cooking times or more charcoal briquettes, he says.

Gohmann started his outdoor cooking adventure as a boy camping with his family. He introduced his wife to the outdoor life, and the couple honed their skills with Boy Scout Troop 429 of Wabash.

As a troop, the Gohmanns won the outdoor cooking championship earlier this summer at Mississinewa Lake and were to battle winners from Roush and Salamonie for the Upper Wabash title. When it came to the championship bout, though, the Gohmanns were the only team to show up.

The dish they prepared at Roush Lake's Fall Harvest Fest on Saturday, Oct. 24, to demonstrate their champion abilities is a recipe that was a favorite of Cathy Gohmann's mother - a woman who was decidedly not a fan of the great outdoors, her daughter says.

The Gohmanns used two Dutch ovens to prepare chicken and rice, the recipe from Cathy Gohmann's mother, and a cherry dump cake for dessert.

"With the Scouts, we cook outside all the time," Cathy Gohmann says. "The cherry dump cake is something we make almost every time we camp."

Chicken and rice is also a favorite dish which has the advantage of being "quick and easy," she says.

Bill Gohmann has a couple of tips for fellow outdoor chefs: Warm up the Dutch ovens before adding the ingredients; and line the pots with foil before you fill them.

The foil lining is just for convenience, he says.

"The surface inside that pot is seasoned, it's just like Teflon," he says. "The foil just makes it easier to clean up."

While chicken and rice is a favorite for the Gohmanns, they also cite beef stew and chicken stew as dishes they're fond of.

"When you're cooking for Scouts, it's usually a bunch of teenage boys, so we try to do something that's filling," Cathy Gohmann says.

Ease of preparation also figures into their choices.
Chicken and rice, for example, starts with a bag of long grain rice.

"Any brand," Cathy Gohmann says. "We're Scouts; we pick up whatever's cheap."

Additional ingredients include two cans of cream of mushroom soup, two cans of French onion soup, two cans of chicken broth and the chicken. The Gohmanns used four leg quarters but say any cut of chicken will work, although some cuts - such as breasts - take less time to cook. With leg quarters, they say, the casserole will be done in 45 minutes to an hour.

The dump cake takes a box of yellow cake mix, a stick of butter, two cans of cherry (or any other flavor) pie filling and a can of crushed pineapple. It's all dumped into the pot in layers, with some of the cake mix and the butter on top to form a crust. It will take about 45 minutes to cook.

Gohmann stacks his two Dutch ovens - the 14-inch pot on the bottom and the 12-inch pot on top - with coals underneath and on top of each Dutch oven. The entire assembly is surrounded by a piece of folded tin to keep out the wind.

Other than rotate the pots occasionally, there's not much to do besides wait for the meal to be ready.

Whatever they cook, they say it will be quickly devoured by their Scouts.

"Once you take it outdoors, it puts a different spin on it," Cathy Gohmann says.