Sunday, July 20, 2014

Roast eye of round at camp

I menu roast beef at Oakland Feather River Camp every week or two. I have been using the eye of round (IMPS/NAMP 171C) for five years now. It can usually be purchased at a reasonable price, slightly above $3 per pound when purchased in a 54-pound case. Each case holds six to eight individual roasts.

You can also purchase the eye of round at the local cash and carry restaurant supply house. I purchased it at Cash and Carry on Richards Boulevard, Sacramento, California, when I worked in midtown Sacramento. The store currently sells the roast for $3.22 per pound for a five-pound average roast.

I like the roast because it cooks quickly and gives a reasonably tender serving to the camper. The cylindrical shape of the roast yields a consistently round serving when sliced on the meat slicer. I don't use a recipe for the roast, but will describe my process:
  1. Trim fat and silver skin on the roast. I generally leave a quarter-inch of fat on each roast.
  2. Rub each roast with a light coat of canola oil. Then rub kosher salt, coarse ground and granulated garlic.Place in roasting pan.
  3. Brown roasts in pre-heated 450-degree convection oven until browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Pull pan from oven and reduce oven setting to 200 degrees. Turn roasts over. Add a bit of water or stock to pan if the drippings have dried.
  5. Cover pan and return to the oven. Roast until roasts reach desired temperature. At camp I pull them when the internal temperature reaches 145 to 150 degrees. This gives you a nice, evenly colored roast.
  6. Rest meat 10 to 15 minutes. Slice on meat slicer to desired thickness. I prefer it on the thinner side. This lets campers take as many slices as they desire without impacting portion control. Each six to seven-pound roast yields 20 to 25 (4-ounce) servings at Oakland Camp.
  7. Prepare gravy or au jus as desired from the drippings.


I find that it's best to slice the roast using a meat slicer. The slicer gives you consistently sized pieces. It also helps maximize the slices from each roast. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Horse ridin' chef

Please do not think that I'm a seasoned horseman as I guide Samsonite into the corral. I just appear to know what I'm doing. I spent a good part of the hour-long ride trying to convince him that I'm the chef and he's the horse. Yet, Samsonite is a good steed. I look forward to riding him again before Debbie and I leave for home next month.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mexican rice on the griddle

Earlier this week my sous chef and I wanted to use up two pans of leftover rice. In order to re-purpose the rice into a new dish, I prepared a sauce from canned tomatoes, poblano chilies, onion and garlic. The rice was poured onto a oiled griddle and stirred several times. I then folded the sauce into the rice and brought it up to temperature.

The rice looked just like Mexican restaurant rice. It even had one or two obligatory pieces of tomato in the mixture! Here's our new process for cooking Mexican rice at Oakland Feather River Camp:

  1. Combine 2 quarts white or brown rice with 4 quarts chicken or vegetable stock in a 12x20x4-inch hotel pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and lid. Two pans of rice will feed around 100 campers at Oakland Camp.
  2. Bake in a 325-degree convection oven until tender. White rice takes 20 to 30 minutes. You need 45 to 50 minutes for brown rice. 
  3. Cool rice overnight in the walk-in refrigerator.
  4. Pre-heat griddle to 350 degrees.
  5. Saute 4 large pobleno chilies (diced), 1 or 2 jalapeno chilies (minced), 2 onions (diced) with a couple tablespoons minced garlic until soft and slightly charred. Roasted poblano chilies work as well.
  6. Puree 1/2 #10 can diced tomatoes with the sauteed vegetables in a blender or food processor.
  7. Pour one pan of rice onto griddle. Stir to break up clumps and heat rice.
  8. Pour half the puree mixture over the rice. Stir quickly to ensure even distribution of the sauce. Cook until mixture reaches 165 degrees or higher.
  9. Check seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Portion into serving pans.
  10. Repeat the process for additional pans of rice.

Mexican brown rice cooks on the griddle at around 350 degrees. 

Cook's position at Murphys, California, Christian camp

Here's recent posting from Gold Country Craigslist. The part-time position pays $9 per hour. To respond, click the box titled 'Contact' in the upper left corner of the Craigslist ad.

Position available immediately at Dream Mountain Christian Camp! We are looking for extra help in our camp kitchen for the busy summer season. We need someone local with reliable transportation that would be willing to work split shifts.

We are a Christian camp that's looking for someone with a strong work ethic, servant's heart and can exemplify the love of Christ through humble, excellent and genuine guest service.

Hours would be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the lunch shift and 5 to 8 p.m. for dinner shift (with some flexibility). Summer dates would be July 14-20, July 23-26, July 27-31, August 1-4 and August 7-9. We will also need help on weekends after the summer season as an on-call basis.

We are a Christian family-run camp. If interested, please contact Camp Director Cheree Munoz.

Job Duties Include:
  • Prepare, cook and present food quickly and efficiently, meeting our standards
  • Assist in keeping the kitchen clean, hygienic and tidy, at all times
  • Assist in fixing beverages, salads, lunch, dinner and simple desserts. 
  • Assists with setting up serving line.
  • Washes dishes and pots and pans after meals. 
  • Operates dishwasher. 
  • Cleans and secures dining area. 
  • Checks in and putting away orders and deliveries in storeroom and freezer on days needed. 
  • Performs heavy cleaning, such as ovens and grill, when needed. 
  • Performs other duties as required. 
  • Ability to work on your feet.
  • Ability to lift 20-50 pounds

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hotcakes at Oakland Camp

Whole wheat hotcakes on the griddle at Oakland Feather River Camp earlier this week. Last month, the local appliance service technician replaced the four thermostats to the camp griddle. During the initial service call, John of Az-Tech Appliance discovered the thermometer tubes had split. The burners were either on or off. There was no middle ground. The griddle now works as it should.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Favorite time of day at camp

My favorite time of day takes place in the evening between seven and eight o'clock. The cool of the evening is a refreshing change from the hot kitchen. I recharge my spirit by studying the Holy Scriptures, catching up on transcribing the day's activities into my notebook and contemplating the days, both behind and ahead. It gives me time to relax before turning in as morning comes quickly.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Doin' the math

This Facebook photo of Senior Chief
Hunt teaching culinary math to
U.S. Navy culinary specialists
prompted me to write this article.
Senior Chief Hunt is assigned
to Navy Food Management
Team Norfolk, Virginia as an
instructor. She conducted a
coarse in culinary math for
Norfolk area culinary specialists
last month.
The ability to perform basic mathematical calculations is an essential skill for the cook. Converting ounces into pounds, quarts into gallons and teaspoons into tablespoons is frequently done on the fly, without benefit of calculator or chart. The cook must be able to work quickly, and accurately, each time a math problem presents itself.

The number of cooks who have trouble navigating the world of weights and measures amaze me. Experience cooks often ask, “How many quarts in a gallon?” What I regard as elementary easily stumps seasoned cooks. While I don’t expect him to recite the number of teaspoons in a gallon (there are 768 teaspoons), he must understand the relationship between pounds and ounces and the various units of dry and liquid measure.

There are:
  • 16 ounces in a pound
  • 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon
  • 16 tablespoons in a cup
  • 2 cups in a pint
  • 4 cups or 2 pints in a quart
  • 4 quarts or eight pints in a gallon
Once the cook understands the relationship from one unit of measure to another, whether smaller or larger, it simplifies his job. The skilled cook can move between smaller and larger units, and larger to smaller, with ease. The relationship between weights and measures in the American system can only be with difficulty.

Baking steamed rice in the oven will serve as an illustration of culinary math skills. At Oakland Feather River Camp, long grain white (or brown) rice is measured into the standard 12 by 20 by 4-inch hotel pan. The cook measures four pints of rice into each greased pan. (The pint measure is used because it’s handy.) The cook doubles the volume of rice to figure out the amount of boiling water to pour into the pan. At this point, the cook shifts to a half-gallon measure, mainly for efficiency.

To determine the number of half-gallon measures of water, the cook must understand that there are four pints or eight cups in the measure before proceeding. There are two cups in a pint. Since the cook previously measured four pints of rice into the pan, he multiplies four times two (in his head). The product is eight cups. He then doubles that number for 16 cups of boiling water. (I instruct the cooks to use a half-gallon measure because it safer to handle when handling boiling water.)

Sixteen cups divided by two is eight. Thus the cook adds two half-gallon pitchers of water to the rice in each pan. The rice is seasoned with salt and butter, then covered with plastic wrap and a hotel pan lid. It’s baked in a 325-degree convection oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender.

Admittedly, this explanation of preparing steamed rice is long. It takes more time to explain the process than to bake the rice! But it serves as an example of how culinary math finds its way into the kitchen. This is basic math to be sure, but it’s an essential skill. Too little water and the rice is dry and crunchy. Too much and you end up with a soggy mess.

There are a number of applications for math in the kitchen. I've addressed baker’s math previously on ‘Round the Chuckbox. The science of adjusting recipes is a crucial skill for the cook as well. I’ll have more to say in a later article.

In the meantime, let’s mind our pints and quarts!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Raising the ensign, year two

For the second year, I was selected to lead Independence Day ceremonies around the camp flagstaff. The honor has fallen to the chef for the last several years. The ceremony has special meaning to me as a retired U.S. Navy senior chief petty officer. The raising of the ensign at 8 o'clock in the morning was always a memorable time of day.

During the ceremony, I discussed protocol surrounding raising the ensign (the U.S. Navy term for the Stars and Stripes), read the Resolution of the Continental Congress of June 14, 1777 and led campers in the Pledge of Allegiance.