Monday, November 21, 2016

Pancit canton shrimp salad and potlucks

Sauteed green beans with shiitake mushrooms
and bacon. Two large loaves of artisan-style bread
are in the background.
This is one of those dishes that wasn't prepared with a recipe. Many of my dishes have their origin in the minute. I throw the dish together using ingredients in the fridge and cupboard. These dishes are those that I have prepared many times during my career. You could say that the recipe is embedded in my head.

For the second time in a week Debbie and I offered bread and a vegetable dish for a potluck. The first took place last week at a Thanksgiving gathering of a local church family. I prepared two loaves of no-knead bread and sauteed green beans with shiitake mushrooms and bacon. Three scraps of bread and a couple mushroom pieces were all that remained. One person asked me for the bread recipe after the meal.

Saturday we took pancit canton shrimp salad to a memorial service at the same church. For the second time, I offered a dish that was put together on the spur of the moment. The impromptu salad for the potluck, which followed the service, was inspired by my years of sevice in and of of the Philippines. I combined romaine lettuce, canton noodles, carrot sticks and baby shrimp. The salad was tossed with an Asian inspired vinaigrette. It fit in with the salad and sandwich theme for the potluck.

Pancit canton shrimp salad.
To prepare the salad, cooked 4 ounces canton noodles (called pancit canton or canton sticks) in chicken broth until al dente. (Follow the instructions on the package.) After draining and cooling, I cut one head of romaine lettuce and ran a large carrot through the mandoline using the smallest julienne setting. Eight ounces of cooked baby shrimp were thawed as well. Any number of vegetables could've been prepared at this point, including sliced radish or diakon, halved grape tomatoes and chopped cilantro.

The vinaigrette was prepared without measuring. Three cloves of finely minced garlic, tablespoon or two of cane vinegar, teaspoon or two of toyomansi (Filipino soy sauce with calamani), small spoonful of Dijon mustard, few drops of sesame oil and coarsely ground black pepper were whisked together in a bowl. I then streamed in canola oil while vigorously whisking to form a vinaigrette. While I can't tell you the ratio of vinegar to oil that I used, it was somewhere between 1:2 and 1:3. I enjoyed the garlicky sauce with its peppery bite.

To assemble the salad, I first tossed the shrimp in a couple tablespoons of the vinaigrette.While the shrimp marinated for a couple minutes, the lettuce, carrot and noodles were tossed together in a large bowl. The salad was tossed with the remaining vinaigrette, followed by shrimp. Serve cold.

Notes: Purchase Filipino products in any well-stocked Asianmarket. While Filipino soy sauce (toyo) adds a distinct flavor, any soy sauce can be used. Toyo has a mildly subtle flavor to it. Filipino cane vinegar is prepared from the juice of cane sugar (sukano ilocano). Calamansi is Filipino lime. Lemon or lime can be substituted for the calamansi in the Filipino soy sauce. I have yet to locate calamansi (fresh or bottled) in Northern California.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sicilian-style cast iron skillet pizza

I haven't prepared skillet pizza in over four years for 'Round the Chuckbox. In February 2012, I baked a pizza in a 17-inch cast iron skillet when my baking stone "bit the dust." Three month later, when the home oven quit working, I baked a take 'n bake pizza in an inverted 14-inch Dutch oven. I felt it was time to feature another cast iron pizza.

After testing a recipe from the Serious Eats website two weeks ago, cast iron skillet pizza sounded good. I wanted a recipe that I can use at my summer job and when camping. This recipe will serve both purposes. It can either be baked in a half-sized (13x18-inch) sheet pan or in two large cast iron skillets (10- to 12-inch diameter).

The camp edition of the pizza can be baked with charcoal briquettes or inside the home oven. While this recipe uses a stand mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid 5-quart mixer), the Serious Eats website has instructions for hand-mixing the dough. You can use an inverted Dutch oven as well. I will post hand-mixing instructions when I get a chance.

The full-sized (18x26-inch) sheet pan will be used for the camp. It takes six to eight sheet pan pizzas for each 100 campers. Pizza is often pared with honey barbecued chicken wings, pasta salad and a loaded salad bar. We typically feature cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, vegan pizza and a meat-lover's pizza.

I proofed the dough on the picnic table on the patio. The skillet in the foreground in a Lodge No. 12. The other one is a Wagner 1891. My wife and I purchased the Wagner in the early 1980s when we were first married.
The pizza is ready for toppings. Each skillet pizza needs 1/4- to 1/2-cup sauce, 3 to 4 ounces shredded cheese and 2 to 4 ounces meat (if used). I added a bunch of sauteed spinach to both pizzas. Four ounces sliced chicken sausage with feta and spinach was used on the larger pizza.
You have to pile the charcoal briquettes to achieve a close approximation of 550 degrees F. Lighting 10 extra briquettes will give you extra heat should you need it.
Finished pizzas. The crust could've been a bit more crisp. The smaller pizza is vegetarian.
Sheet pan pizza prepared from the same recipe. I will use this recipe to bake pizza in full-sized (18x26-inch) sheet pans for Oakland Feather River Camp, where I am the executive chef. Four sheet pans yield 96 slices.

This recipe requires two large cast iron skillets, 10- to 13-inches in diameter. Match each skillet to the rimmed Dutch oven lid (or camp-style Dutch oven) that fits best. The 12-inch lid will fit the smaller skillet while the larger skillets will require the 14-inch lid.

To bake in a rimmed 13x18-inch half-sized sheet pan, pour remaining oil (in second paragraph of instructions) into a half sheet pan. Place dough on sheet pan and let rise as directed. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat home oven to 550 degrees with rack in the middle position. Proceed to stretch dough to the sides and corners of the pan, as directed. Double toppings and bake 15 to 20.

This recipe was adapted from the website.

17-1/2 ounces bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
12-1/4 ounces root temperature water

Combine flour, salt, yeast and 2 tablespoons oil in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk to combine. Add water and mix on medium speed until it comes together and no dry flour remains. Increase speed to medium-high and mix until the dough is stretchy and smooth, about 6 minutes. The dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl but pull away from the sides.

Divide oil between 2 cast iron skillets and spread over surface with hands. Divide dough in half and place one piece in each. (Add slightly more dough to the larger skillet when using mismatched pans.) Rub top surface with oil until thoroughly coated. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature until dough has spread out to nearly touch each rim of each skillet, about 2 hours.

Carefully remove plastic wrap. Using oiled hands and being as gentle as possible to maintain air bubbles, push and stretch dough into corners of each skillet by pressing out from the center and lifting and stretching it beyond the rim of each skillet. The dough should pull back until the skillet is just filled with dough.

Light 45 to 60 charcoal briquettes in a charcoal chimney about 30 minutes before the dough is ready. One lid is needed since you will bake the pizzas one at a time. For 550 degrees, use around 45 briquettes (30 on lid and 15 under skillet) on the 12-in camp-style Dutch oven lid. The 14-inch lid requires around 60 briquettes (40 on lid and 20 under skillet).

Top each pizza with about 1/3- to 1/2-cup sauce, 3 to 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, plus additional toppings as desired. Place the first skillet on trivet. Place the lid from a Dutch oven on top of the skillet. Bake with charcoal briquettes for 550 degrees until bottom is crisp and top surface is bubbling, 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat for second skillet. Allow to cool at room temperature for 5 minutes. Slice as desired.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Filipino chicken adobo

Preparation for a lesson on Filipino cuisine has brought back fond memories to my time in the Philippine Islands. Lord willing, I will give the presentation to the Christian Culinary Academe next spring in Cannon Beach, Oregon. The culinary students will be immersed in international cuisine at the time of my visit, which will coincide with the annual Christian Chefs International conference.

Sailing between the Philippines and Vietnam with the U.S. Navy in the 1970s was my introduction to the cuisine. Once I secured an assignment to the big air base at Cubi Point in 1975, I had plenty of time to explore the the food of Luzon, the northernmost of over 7,000 islands in the nation. Influenced by visitors from neighboring lands and from across the sea alike, Filipino cooks have adapted many unique favors and incorporated many exciting ingredients into their meals. It's a true melting pot.

I enjoyed foods like pancit (stir-fried Chinese-style noodles) by the plateful at the mom and pop cafe on Magsaysay Boulevard and Gordon Avenue in Olongapo. I lived on pancit because it was inexpensive, filling and delicious. Then there were the steamed buns served at the theater on Rizal Avenue and the zingy soup (a form a sinigang) made with local fish from the market and the essence of tamarind.

Chicken adobo was one of my favorite Filipino dishes. We prepared it in the galley on the U.S.S. Stein (DE-1065). And I enjoyed it in many restaurants between Olangapo and Manila. A bowl of steamed rice with a couple pieces of chicken or pork adobo was heavenly. Add my other favorites to the meal -- pancit guisado , lumpia and leche flan -- and you had the makings for a complete Filipino mea.


This dish has been called the Philippine national dish, with good reason. It brings out the best in Filipino cuisine. The unique sauce, made with soy sauce, vinegar and garlic, covers the chicken in a tangy coating, with extra sauce to flavor steamed rice.

This dish is often prepared with large cubes of pork or a mix of pork and chicken. If desired, substitute a whole chicken chicken, cut into eight pieces, for the thighs. For a sweeter sauce, stir 1 teaspoon granulated sugar into the sauce just before serving. If too much sauce remains after the chicken is done, remove it to a waiting plate and reduce the sauce to the right consistency.

3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon peppercorns
3 bay leaves

Adobo ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
8-10 chicken thighs, skin removed and fat trimmed

Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Place chicken in the bowl and turn pieces to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 3 hours or more, preferably overnight.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet or wide-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until lightly caramelized, being careful not to burn. Place the chicken in the skillet or pan with the marinade in a single layer. Pour in just enough water to submerge the chicken by two-thirds. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a loose-fitting lid.

Cooking until the chicken is fork-tender. Do not let sauce completely dry up. Add additional water in small amounts (1 or 2 tablespoons at a time) if needed. You need a couple tablespoons sauce for each servings, in addition to the sauce that adheres to the chicken and onions. Strain sauce if desired.

To serve, portion steamed rice into individual bowls or plates with one or two pieces of chicken. Drizzle sauce over rice and chicken. Garnish with chopped parsley or minced green onions.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mercy Chefs prepare Thanksgiving meal for Middletown, California

Mercy One, Mercy Chefs' first
mobile kitchen, is ready to
serve 500 Thanksgiving dinners
in Middletown.
Mercy Chefs returned to Middletown, California, to serve Thanksgiving dinner Saturday afternoon. A team of chefs from California, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma and Virginia converged on the town to prepare the holiday meal for over 500 townspeople. Middletown was devastated by the 76,000-acre Valley Fire in late September.

Dozens of volunteer chefs stand ready to deploy at a moment's notice to the scene of wildland fires, floods, tornado and hurricanes throughout the United States. They deploy with a mobile kitchen, ready to deliver quality meals to the victims of a natural or man-made disaster. The meals are offered free of charge to anyone who asks.

"In a disaster area to share that meal with somebody is an incredibly powerful tool just to encourage them," said Gary LeBlanc in a 2013 video. Chef LeBlanc is the president and founder of Mercy Chefs

Chef Lisa presented a wonderful
buffet centerpiece.
Mercy Chefs has a tradition of sharing a chef-prepared holiday meal with those who have lost so much in recent disasters. The chefs provide a hot meal, complete with turkey, ham, stuffing and all the fixin's, along with an encouraging word and prayer, to those as they rebuild their lives. This is Mercy Chefs' way of reminding the victims of such devastation that they are not forgotten.

Thanksgiving dinner for Middletown was served from a colorful buffet table under a large white tent. Unlike disaster feeding, where the meal is served out of the mobile kitchen in to-go containers, this meal gave the chefs to present the same meal as they would have done at a catered holiday event. Diners enjoyed linen tablecloths and a pleasant fall day in the mid-70s.

Chef Peter of South Carolina was the lead chef for the meal. He led a team of four chefs over two days of preparation and panning to prepare the Thanksgiving meal, which was served from the buffet over a period of three hours. The team included chef Lisa from Oklahoma, chef Buddy from North Carolina and chef Steven from California.

The menu is presented as it was planned by chef Peter. Some 480 pounds of whole turkeys and over 60 pounds of ham were used for the meal.


Mixed baby greens with roasted baby tomatoes, mandarin oranges
& slivered almonds tossed in a  citrus vinaigrette

Roast whole turkey with gravy
Ham with an orange honey glaze
Andouille sausage & apple cornbread stuffing
Sweet & spicy cranberry compote
Roasted acorn squash with raisins & brown sugar
Mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower & skin-on bliss potatoes with Parmesan
Green beans with mushrooms in a soy sauce balsamic reduction
Whole wheat dinner rolls

Pumpkin tart with caramel
Apple cobbler with pecans

Apple juice
Bottled water

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

German red cabbage for a (large) crowd

I realize not many readers of 'Round the Chuckbox have need for six-plus gallon batch of German red cabbage. Faced with a 50-pound of cabbage last September on my mission to Middletown, California, with Mercy Chefs, the natural thing to do was to prepare a large batch of German red cabbage. The cabbage was served with barbecues beef strips, roasted red potatoes, tossed green salad with vinaigrette and peach cobbler.

Two volunteers cut the core out of 24 large heads of red cabbage. They then shredded it by hand after discarding the outer leaves.
I prepared this dish in the 15-gallon tilt skillet on the Mercy Chefs' 32-foot mobile kitchen trailer, known as Mercy One. The red cabbage can also be prepared in one or more large stockpots or in a steam jacketed kettle. See my recipe for a family-sized batch.

This is a vegetarian recipe. Add 4 or 5 pounds of diced cooked bacon to the cabbage if desired.

50 pounds (1 case) red cabbage, cored, outer leaves discarded and shredded
2 cups vegetable oil
3 pounds yellow onions, diced small
1/4-cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
3 quarts apple juice
2 quarts red wine vinegar
2 pounds brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cloves

Heat oil over medium heat. Add onions. Cover; sweat for about 10 minutes, being careful not to brown. Add shredded cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat with oil and onions.

Add juice, vinegar and cloves. Stir to combine. Cover; simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, or until cabbage is tender. Check seasoning. Adjust flavor with additional vinegar and salt, if needed. Makes 200 (1/2-cup) servings.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day tribute: Navy

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Oct. 7, 2015) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class Steven Kane prepares pastries for dinner aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). Donald Cook is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interest in Europe. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mat Murch.

Veteran's Day tribute: Army

An Army cook with the 180th Transportation Company prepares a meal at Crane Army Ammunition Activity, Ind., June 14 as part of Operation Golden Cargo. Operation Golden Cargo gives food service specialists the opportunity to get field training that prepares them for future deployments. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Turner.

Veteran's Day tribute: Coast Guard

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Darwin delaCruz, a food service specialist at Sector San Francisco, serves the noon meal to a hungry crew member at the sector's galley Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. A typical day for a Coast Guard FS begins around 4 a.m. and ends well past the evening meal. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena.

Veteran's Day tribute: Air Force

Elmendorf force support squadron earns Lemay award--Airman 1st Class Cortny Pelton, assigned to 673rd Force Support Squadron, prepares food for lunch at the Iditarod Dining Facility April 23, 2015, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Pelton, a native of Wyoming, Mich., and the rest of the 673rd FSS, earned the Air Force Curtis E. LeMay award for best large installation-level FSS of the year in the Air Force for 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher.

Veteran's Day tribute: Marine Corps

D'ARTA PLAGE, DJ - U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mario V. Castillo, right, a food service specialist with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and native of Escondido, California, grills hamburgers for the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps during sustainment training in D'Arta Plage, Djibouti, Nov. 10, 2014. The 11th MEU is deployed as a theater reserve and crisis response force throughout U.S. Central Command and 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan Waldman.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Baked French toast for Valley Fire victims

In late September I deployed to Middletown, California, to serve with the Mercy Chefs, where chefs cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for victims of the Valley Fire. Many of those served had lost everything when the fire storm raged through the community on September 13. Nearly 2,000 structures -- including 1,280 homes -- were destroyed by the fast moving wildland fire.

The chefs served over 2,500 meals during the 10-day deployment from Mercy One, a 32-foot kitchen trailer. The kitchen is based near Dallas, Texas. Chefs and support staff converged on Middletown from homes in California, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas toward the end of September.

Once the managing chef posted the menu each day, we set about preparing the different dishes for the next day. Several days into the mission, I saw an excessive amount of biscuits, cinnamon rolls and apple crumb cake in the refrigerator trailer. Quick calculations showed that the leftovers would give us five two-inch hotel pans, enough to feed a filling breakfast to 150 persons.

This recipe for baked French toast is offered as I prepared it for our fourth breakfast. (I posted a recipe for Dutch oven baked orange French toast last year.) I quickly put the formula together after briefly confirming custard ratios on the internet. Note that I didn't add any sugar or syrup to the recipe. I felt the orange juice and berries added sufficient sweetness to the dish.


The important thing here is to fill each pan with diced or crumbled biscuits and pastry. I understand that you won't duplicate my mix of leftovers breads. You'll need about three and one-half to four pounds bread for each hotel pan. (Remember the apples in the crumb cake added additional weight to the formula.)

6-1/2 pounds buttermilk biscuits, cut into medium dice
4-1/2 pounds iced cinnamon rolls, cut into medium dice
8-1/4 pounds apple crumb cake, crumbled
10 pounds frozen mixed berries, thawed
2 flats whole eggs (30 eggs per flat)
1 gallon whole milk
6 cups orange juice
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vanilla extract
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Lightly grease or spray each 12 by 20 by2-inch hotel pan. Equally divide crumbled/diced biscuits and pastry among five hotel pan. Spread 2 pounds berries over each pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt together. Evenly pour 6 to 7 cups of the custard over the bread in each pan. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, bake in a 350-degree F oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until set and puffed up. Serves 25 to 30. Serve with fresh berries if available and maple syrup.