Saturday, July 29, 2006
Then I though that a dish of roasted cauliflower topped with bread crumbs and gorganzola cheese would liven up a dreary day. What better way to brighten to the bland white flowers the cousin of broccoli.
The first time cooked this dish was at my in-law's house. But I've lost the recipe, which I believe came from Fine Cooking. Everyone, including my brother-in-law, loved the dish. It's refreshing nuttiness seemed to be a hit.
Like the pizza rice from Tuesday night, I used the roasted cauliflower to use up a few ingredients that have been lurking in the cooler.
There is no recipe for this dish. This is one of those side dishes that came together as I cooked.
To get started, cut a head of cauliflower into flowerets, about 1/2-inch across. In the meantime, set a 10-inch Dutch oven over a medium flame to pre-heat. When hot, pour a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the oven.
Sweat a bit of sliced onion (about 1/2-cup) until translucent. Then add the cauliflower to the onion and stir. Watch the heat. Too much and you'll burn everything.
With the flame adjusted properly, it'll take 5 to 10 minutes to see the cauliflower change color. At first the flowerets will turn a creamy yellow. Then as you stir and toss, the peaks will turn to a golden brown.
Be patient. This part takes time to thoroughly brown the cauliflower. Turn the heat down a notch if it's browning too fast. Give it a small boost if nothing's happening.
What you're looking for is a rich golden brown color and nutty aroma. When brown, leave the cauliflower in the Dutch oven. Stir in some sun-dried tomato pesto (about 1/2-cup) and the juice of one lemon. A tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano or parsley (I didn't have any) will liven the dish.
Top the cauliflower mixture with several hands of bread crumbs. I made my own from the remains of a rustic garlic loaf. It's best to moisten the bread crumbs with a little olive oil.
Then top the dish with crumbled gorganzola cheese and place the lid on the Dutch oven. Scoop a shovel of hot coals (or 20 charcoal briquettes) onto the lid. Bake 10 minutes or until the cheese just starts to brown. You'll know the roasted cauliflower is done when the nutty aroma wafts up to you.
Much to the disdain of my children in their younger years, we always eat in local establishments on the road.
Even if the restaurant doesn't contribute to the flavor or culture of the town -- a steakhouse on the waterfront, for instance -- we always eat local.
This noon, my son and I drove down to Old Town Florence to walk the eclectic collection of shops along the Siuslaw River. He picked up a copy of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Books N' Bears on Bay Street. I'm still looking for that perfect item.
We found great food at The Firehouse Restaurant & Lounge (1263 Bay Street, Florence, Oregon, 541.997.2800), an eatery with t-shirts, patches and fire department memorabilia decorating its walls. In a town where every other restaurant features seafood, The Firehouse offers hearty sandwiches.
They let you design a sandwich that matches your heat tolerance. Fire levels are classed as 1-, 2- or 3-alarm, which is fitting for a place called The Firehouse.
Who can resist a great blow of clam chowder on the coast? The Firehouse Restaurant gives a choice of sides, fries, garlic fries, cole slaw, salad and chowder among them.
The chowder has a distinct clam flavor, a plus when looking for great chowder. It's thick, chunky and is full of large pieces of clam.
Florence is full of wonderful restaurants. Seafood on the harbor or ribs and barbecue off the Coast Highway -- the selection seems endless.
You'll find great food when you eat local.
Friday, July 28, 2006
I'd recommend Harris Beach to anyone who likes to camp along the Oregon coast. Its 149 campsites and 6 yurts are all situated close to water and showers. Many sites come with electrical hookups as well.
The staff are helpful and courteous, even when they're correcting minor rule violations! The other night a ranger approached our neighbor's camp and asked them to turn down the boom box, saying, "You know, that's one of my favorite CDs. But I've got to ask you ..."
This is our fourth time using the campground. Each time we visit, usually in July, we encounter different weather. Be ready for cold, foggy mornings. A heat wave is defined as any temperatures above 90.
I prefer C Loop. The campsites (both RV and tent sites) that are the roomiest are situated on the outside of the loops. D Loop is closest to U.S. 101. Expect lots of highway noise until later in the evening.
Reserve your site ahead. We've learned the painful lesson that Harris Beach is popular. It's almost impossible to get a reservation this time of year. When you find unreserved blocks of days, they rarely include electrical hookups. These are the least desirable sites as well.
We were fortunate this year. I made a reservation a week before heading north for a tent site with no hookups. The spot (C5) wasn't as roomy as we like, but it was acceptable.
We're heading inland tomorrow and plan to end up somewhere along Orgeon Highway 58, possiable Odell Lake. Until then ...
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Sunday as we approached Harris Beach State Park turnoff, I noticed a sign that said, "Wireless Internet." The ranger at campground entrance confirmed that the campground had a wireless connection.
She cautioned that the signal didn't reach all 149 campsites. "You may need to park in the campground office parking lot to find an adequate connection." Just park your car in the employee parking lot and connect, she added.
Sunday evening I opened the wireless connection dialog box on the laptop, located the signal and logged in to Road Connect -- Oregon's roadside Internet provider. Access for seven days cost $6.99.
Being connected is great. It allows me to answer email, blog on last night's dinner and checkout SeaLionCaves.com (we've planned a visit there Friday).
But campsite C5 has one drawback: It's classified as "No hook, typical site." That means no electricity.
The batteries on my connectivity devises -- laptop, Palm Pilot, cell phone and digital camera -- require frequent charging. The phone and PDA can be charged via the cigarette lighter in the truck. The other two require an electrical outlet.
But I've only found one outlet at Harris Beach to charge the laptop and camera batteries. I've resisted the urge to sit in the men's rest room and baby sit the laptop (and serf the Internet) while the batteries charge.
Fortunately, we're headed to my sister-in-law's house this evening to fill up on conversation, grilled chicken and electricity.
I'll be connected through Sunday at motels, roadside rest stops and coffee houses. Then we're heading into dark territory (remember Steven Segal in Under Siege 2?).
Any one have an extension cord and satellite Internet connection?
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Deep dish rice pizza grew out of a desire to bake a pizza in the Dutch oven last night. But a dead laptop battery prevented me from searching for a recipe.
The recipe that I could find was one for 100 servings on the Palm Pilot. That wouldn't work. The recipe was written for weights, not measures. And I didn't want to break the dough recipe down to one pie.
Also on the Palm Pilot was a "pizza" recipe that I clipped from Food Management magazine several years ago. Thomas Long created this dish for the Milton Hershey Schools in Hershey, Penn.
Give it a try. This deep dish "pizza" is good. You find yourself reaching for seconds.
DEEP DISH PIZZA RICE ENTREE
Don't add any additional oil to the recipe. Pesto has sufficient oil to sweat the onions and garlic.
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups long-grain rice
4 ounces sliced pepperoni, cut into quarters
4 ounces Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Use a 10-inch Dutch oven for this recipe. Ignite 21 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until they are barely covered with ash, about 20 minutes. For a 350-degree oven, you'll need 5 briquettes underneath and 16 on top of the oven.
Arrange 16 briquettes underneath oven in a checkerboard pattern. Pour about 1 tablespoon of pesto oil into oven and heat. Add onions and garlic and sweat until translucent. Add rice and stir to coat with oil.
Add pepperoni, sausage, pesto, oregano and broth. Stir. Place lid on oven. Remove 11 briquettes from underneath the oven and set aside. Arrange remaining 5 briquettes underneath oven in a circle. Arrange 16 briquettes on lid. Replace lid and cook for about 20 minutes, until done.
Top with cheeses and bake an additional 5-7 minutes, until cheese melts. Top cheese with additional pepperoni slices before baking if desired. Serves 6.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
This my standard pot roast recipe. As often happens when I'm camping, I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand. I seasoned the chuck roast with Carl's seasoning because the thyme was left behind and I left the nutmeg out. And since I don't drink, extra beef broth took the place of the wine. A splash of Worcestershire finished the sauce.
I neglected to take a picture, however.
YANKEE POT ROAST
2-1/2 to 3 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 diced carrots
1 (15-ounce) can tomatoes, crushed
3/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon beef base
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Use a 12-inch Dutch oven for this recipe. Ignite 25 to 30 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until they are barely covered with ash, about 20 minutes. For a 350-degree oven, you'll need 8 briquettes underneath and 17 on top of the oven. You may need several extra briquettes underneath the oven while browning the meat.
Arrange 14 briquettes underneath oven in a circle. Add oil to oven and heat. Season roast with salt and pepper. Brown roast in oil until a rich brown color develops, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove roast and place on a plate. Add onions and sweat. Add the garlic and sweat until you smell them. Add remaining ingredients, to a boil and simmer until slightly reduced. Return roast to oven and cover with sauce.
Place lid on oven. Remove 6 briquettes from underneath oven and place them on lid. Place 11 additional briquettes on lid and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until roast is fork tender. (You will have 8 briquettes underneath and 17 on top.) You will need to add additional briquettes after about 1 hour to maintain oven heat.
When done, remove roast and place on a plate. Let roast stand about 10 to 20 minutes before slicing. Transfer remaining briquettes from lid to underneath oven. Strain sauce if desired. Mix water and flour with a fork until blended. Add to sauce and cook until thicken, about 10 minutes. Slice roast against the grain and top each serving with sauce.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Temps were in the low 90s along the Southern Oregon coast today. It's downright cold for someone accustomed to highs in the 105s.
Do you remember the last time you stood around a glowing fall campfire? Your backside froze in the crisp autumn air while your front roasted. To equalize the radiant energy of the campfire, you’d momentarily turn your back to the fire. But soon, your front would freeze and you’d once again turn to face the fire.
The autumn campfire gives fall campers the perfect opportunity to cook a favorite among camp dishes. So, why waist a good campfire? Prepare three-sided chicken for dinner with your next fall campfire. Like the two-sided effect of the campfire, a whole chicken fryer roasts on three sides (top, bottom and the side facing the fire) in a deep-model Dutch oven.
Three-sided cooking in camp
Next time you light a campfire on a fall camping adventure, clear a spot in front of the fire for a large Dutch oven. Meanwhile, slip a jacket on to keep your back warm, step over to the chuckbox and rub a fresh four to five pound chicken fryer your favorite seasoning. Once the campfire burns to a nice bed of coals, you’re ready to cook.
You’ll need a large campfire to produce sufficient coals to boost the oven to an estimated internal temperature of 375 degrees to 400 degrees F. The hot oven turns the skin to a crisp golden brown and the breast meat to a succulent juiciness when cooked just right. To evenly brown the bird, apply heat to three sides of the oven. Top, bottom and backside heat creates a bird with perfectly browned skin.
To start, burn a large campfire until a hot, glowing bed of coals remains. This’ll take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the available wood. Then clear a shallow pit in front of the fire that’s the approximate diameter of a 12-inch Dutch oven. When ready, use a shovel to transfer hot coals to the pit and pre-heat the Dutch oven over the bed of coals.
Since you don’t want to set the chicken onto the floor of the oven, place a round baking rack or Dutch oven trivet in the oven. (Don’t have a trivet? Set the chicken on a bed of roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery.)
Place the seasoned chicken on the rack or trivet. Then place the lid on the oven and shovel a heap of coals over the Dutch oven. It’s this blast of heat that’ll radiate to the skin and transform the chicken into a delicious meal.
The problem with three-sided cooking is that the fourth side languishes without intense heat. It sets at sub-roasting temperatures while the side that faces the fire sizzles dangerously close to carbonization. To ensure even cooking, frequently turn the Dutch oven. At the same time, rotate the lid in the opposite direction. This’ll compensate for the uneven cooking of the coals.
If you haven’t done so already, add fresh firewood to the fire. Heat from the flame and the coals of the fire will radiate to the exposed side of the oven. Next time that you lift the lid, you’ll notice the skin and juices sizzling toward a simple meal.
Senses become your doneness meter
I can’t tell you how long you’ll be able to face the fire before you must turn your body. Each person comes to the campfire with his own tolerances for heat and cold. This is where you’ll have to depend on experience––both as a camper and cook.
Nor can I tell you how many coals that you’ll need to heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Just pile fresh coals on the lid of the oven as often as needed to maintain oven temperature. Experience will teach you how many coals to add to the pot.
Your senses will become your thermometer and doneness indicator. You’ll have to gauge temperature by watching the chicken cook. (Is the skin sizzling or sitting limp? Has the skin started to brown within 20 to 30 minutes?) Since you don’t want to lift the lid too often, listen for cooking sounds (can you hear the sizzle?). And as the chicken cooks, satisfying aromas will waft up to you.
All three--browning action, sizzle and aroma--work together to help you assess the bird’s progress and ultimate doneness. To gauge doneness, simply pull one leg from the body. If it gives with an effortless twist and the juices run clear, the chicken is done. It’ll take 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours to roast the chicken.
The key is to cook the chicken just until it’s done––not a minute longer. Overcook the bird and you’ll be rewarded with dry meat. You’ll need a quart of gravy to make the meal palatable. And remember, if it smells burnt, it is.
For a complete meal, add Yukon Gold or Klondike Rose potatoes to the pot about 45 minutes before the chicken is done. One or two small potatoes per person should do. Or cool the chicken slightly and pull the meat off of the bone. Then wrap in flour tortillas with Spanish rice, salsa and sour cream.
Plan to cook three-sided chicken on your next fall camping adventure. Follow these simple techniques and you’ll be rewarding with one of the simplest Dutch oven meals that you can produce in camp. You’ll need a jacket to warm your back and a campfire to heat your front and roast the chicken.
The softwood solution
I depend on downed softwood in the Sierra Nevada high country to build my campfires. To me, it’s a waste of precious dollars to haul oak firewood or charcoal briquettes to the campground. I instead rely of the natural resources of the forest.
I’ve learned that to be successful with softwood you must pay constant attention to your Dutch oven. Pine, fir and cedar burns quickly. As a result, you need watch your oven and replenish the coals often.
I don’t focus oven temperature when camping. I just pile hot coals from the campfire onto the oven with a gloved hand and a pair of 14-inch tongs. I use experience and the five senses to approximate the correct number of coals.
I usually build a campfire that’s four to five times the volume of the camp oven and burn it down to a glowing bed of coals. You can accomplish this in approximately 30 minutes with pine, fir and cedar.
I've learned from many poorly cooked dishes that you can never have too many campfire coals. To make sure I finish the dish with sufficient heat, I continue to feed the campfire even after I’ve heated the oven. I keep feeding the fire as long as I have a plentiful supply of firewood.
TIPS FOR A PERFECTLY ROASTED CHICKEN
- Don’t truss the chicken. Though recommended by chefs, trussing forces the breast up into the oven’s head space. This reduces the likelihood that the chicken will brown properly.
- Rotate the Dutch oven often. For a perfectly browned chicken, rotate the oven in increments. You have to judge how often based on experience and observation. As the skin in the first section browns, give the oven a 45- to 90-degree turn to brown the next section.
- Think food safety. A bout of Salmonella is the last thing you want in camp. Freeze the bird at home. Then wrap it in two sheets of newsprint and enclose it in a large zipper-lock bag. And thoroughly scrub your hands in warm soapy water after handling the chicken.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Here's a picture and story from Daryle Coates from Texas:
The story on the trailer is interesting. I got the gig to feed the International Guests in the International Room at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo one meal. This consisted of BBQ goat, pinto beans, cole slaw, potato salad, cobbler and condiments. I did this 2 years in a row.
There were over 500 each year. I needed something to haul the necessities and a larger shade. I found this service bed that had been for sale a long time and purchased it. I did some welding on the frame to add a space for a chuck box and a cooler. Later I also added a water storage tank.
There had been an old barn on the place where I was raised. When I was young, my Father tore it down and moved the lumber to another ranch and built a small barn. Many years later, I tore down the barn and used some of the wood to build the chuck box. That barn wood is approaching 100 years old. I had a tarp company make me a 16x20 tarp and made the frame using preformed corners, etc.
I am not a carpenter and will never build another chuck box, but I am sure proud of the one I have. I will send you a better pic of it.
Stay cool on your vacation.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
This recipe is a quick alternative to working with yeast dough in camp. As the name implies, they’re (relatively) quick. And they make a great accompaniment to your next campfire breakfast.
I’ve tried to skip the step where you pat the dough into a rectangle, spread melted butter and cinnamon-sugar filling and roll into a log. I’ve found that this can be a bit much work in camp.
But I find the extra step is worth the effort. I ran out of time while preparing this recipe at the Winter Camp Cookoff in 2005. So, instead of forming the rolled cinnamon log as I had in Navy bakeries, I formed biscuits.
To form biscuits, I patted the dough into a large circle on a floured board and sprinkled the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough. I then pressed the sugar into the dough and cut 2-inch biscuits. These biscuits were just as popular as my chili on the cold, foggy day of the cookoff.
On another occasion, I formed a cinnamon biscuit "sandwich." This time I patted the dough into two rectangles, each about half the width as the recipe calls for. I then sprinkled the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the first piece and folded the second piece on top of it.
After pressing the two pieces together, I cut biscuits as before. I encountered a small problem: The two halves separated as I cut the biscuits.Use the first alternative if you're pressed for time or if you don't see the need to impress anyone with the spiraling coils of traditional cinnamon buns.
QUICK CINNAMON BUNS WITH BUTTERMILK ICING
This recipe is adapted for Dutch ovens from the May/June 2002 Cook’s Illustrated.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup confectioner's sugar
Use a 10-inch Dutch oven for this recipe. Ignite 27 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until they are barely covered with ash, about 20 minutes. For a 425-degree oven, you’ll need 9 briquettes underneath and 18 on top of the oven. Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter in 10-inch Dutch oven; brush to coat bottom and sides of oven.
To make cinnamon-sugar filling: Combine sugars, spices and salt in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter and stir with fork or fingers until mixture resembles wet sand; set filling mixture aside.
To make biscuit dough: Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk and 2 tablespoons melted butter in measuring cup or small bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until liquid is absorbed (dough will look very shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.
Pat dough with hands into 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with filling, leaving 1/2-inch border of plain dough around edges. Press filling firmly into dough.
Using bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Starting at long side, roll dough, pressing lightly, to form a tight log. Pinch seam to seal.
Roll log seam-side down and cut evenly into eight pieces. With hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal open edges and keep filling in place. Place one roll in center of prepared Dutch oven, then place remaining seven rolls around perimeter of oven.
Brush with 2 tablespoons remaining melted butter. Bake until edges are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Remove lid and cool buns in Dutch oven.To make icing and finish buns: Whisk cream cheese and buttermilk in large bowl until thick and smooth (mixture will look like cottage cheese at first). Sift confectioners’ sugar over; whisk until smooth glaze forms, about 30 seconds. Spoon glaze evenly over buns; serve immediately.
NOTES: Melted butter is used in both the filling and the dough and to grease the oven; it’s easiest to melt the total amount (8 tablespoons) at once and measure it out as you need it. The finished buns are best eaten warm, but they hold reasonably well for up to 2 hours.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Story and photo By Photographer's Mate Airman Paul Polach, USN
Whether it’s scrubbing pans, wiping tables, or washing dishes, food service attendants always put in a full day’s work. They spend long hours on the mess decks and in the galley feeding their
shipmates aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4), and usually, this includes advancement exam season as well.
However, Boxer’s 1st Class Petty Officer Association decided to step up and help these junior Sailors out by serving in their place the day of the exam, giving the FSAs time to relax and get a good night sleep before taking the test.
AO1 (AW/SW) Jacques Beaver, Boxer’s FCPOA President, noted, “Serving chow, washing dishes, wiping tables, and replacing trays and silverware is one of the hardest jobs in the Navy ... my hat goes off to everyone who has worked the mess deck.”
Monday, July 17, 2006
With the A/C on working poorly, Sacramento Commuter No. 3 bus became the Big Blue and White Pizza Bus (my apologies to Doug for the analogy!).
The mercury tipped the scales at 109 degrees this afternoon in the river city. I believe it's the hottest day of the year so far.
I suspect that the A/C in the bus couldn't handle the heat. The air blowing on my head actually got cooler as we approached Placerville at 5:30 p.m., with the thermometer hovering somewhere around the its high of 105.
It was more like a Big Blue and White Bread Oven Bus at that point.
Placerville temperatures are expected to plunge to the low 100s for the remainder of the week.
At about 4 p.m., the driver of a pick-up truck, who was southbound from El Dorado on State Route 49, hit a motorcyclist near the What About Bobs convenience store. After killing the driver of the motorcycle, the pick-up driver fled the scene, south toward the Amador County line.
"According to law enforcement and fire personnel, the truck lost a tire in the accident," said the Sacramento Bee news story, "and the driver fled the scene south on Highway 49, with sparks from the metal rim igniting about 12 grass fires along both sides of the roadway."
Law enforcement authorities apprehended Tamara Wilson at the El Dorado/Amador County line. Television news reports indicated that she would be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
I called Keith around 6 p.m. after learning of the incident on the NorCalFire Yahoo Group. Thankfully, Keith said that they weren't evacuated. He added that all evacuations seemed to be occurring on the east side of Highway 49.
The wind was in their favor, Keith added. The light wind was blowing from the east early in the evening. News 10 had it at 7 miles-per-hour from the northwest around 6:30 p.m.
Helicopters interrupted our conversation every five minutes as they filled their water buckets in a nearby pond.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection responded quickly to quench the blaze. Firefighters were able to contain the fire at approximately 40 acres.
However, two homes and two out buildings were destroyed in the fire.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
This afternoon (it's a hot one -- I'm typing this in 100-degree heat on battery power on my laptop in a power outage) I made one of those rare purchases. After walking through Empire Antiques, a large co-op in front of the Bell Tower, I though I'd peruse one or two more stores before heading off to lunch.
Right now I can only think of two reasons that explain my reluctance to open my wallet in these stores. First, antiques can be costly. Though that won't stop me from buying a piece that strikes my fancy, it's the realization that I don't have unlimited funds.
More important -- remember I can easily break my first rule when I see something that catches my eye -- is the realization that I don't need to fill my house with expensive artifacts from ages past.
I often apply this three-fold test when making purchases:
- Is it cast iron? A piece of cast iron cookware that's in good condition will catch my eye as I walk the isles. Heavy rust or poor condition (cracked or chipped) will turn me away. Any piece that I purchase must be ready for the stove or fire.
- Is it a piece of food service equipment? I like old military food service utensils, especially those stamped with "USN" or "USA" on the handle. Again, they must be usable. (My chuckbox is full of such spoons and ladles.)
- Does it catch my eye enough to use as an interesting piece for the house? This is a new area for me. I haven't made any purchases yet. This rule is crucial in case my wife sees something that strikes her fancy!
The markings on the bottom of the oven seem to be characteristic of Lodge. However, I'm not an expert on old cast iron. Any thoughts? I purchase cast iron Dutch ovens and skillets as cookware, not collection pieces.
So I walked up Main Street and wandered into Placerville Antiques & Collectables at 448 Main Street. I can't ever remember making a purchase in this store. But it's had one of the richest collections of cast iron cookware in past years.
Today, tucked away in the back corner, was a Lodge #10 home-style Dutch oven. It's not really that old and may only date to the 1980s. The pot is in great condition, ready to be re-seasoned and put to use and a bean or stew pot. The little rust on the lid will easily buff out.
The $35 purchase price seems fair enough. (BTW, power just returned!) A Lodge #10 (model 10DO2A) currently lists for $59.95 on their website. You can find discounted Lodge cast iron from many Internet dealers. Considering its near prime condition, cost of shipping, etc., I say it's a good purchase.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
At 1900 hours, I reported in for my shift. My partner and I took turns eating from the Mobile Kitchen. The food was very, very good and I ate more than I should have, despite my original reluctance to eat food prepared by convicts (I am primarily a police dispatcher, after all).Although I can’t say with any accuracy, the kitchen that served the Stephens Fire may have been Mobile Kitchen Unit-45 from the Growlersburg Conservation Camp in Georgetown, California. The Growlersburg MKU was the closest to the fire and, as such, would’ve responded quickly.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
With camp over, I still have a few post-camp tasks to get done before I set it aside for the better part of eight or nine months. In the week following camp, I like to evaluate the menu, review purchases and analyze the end-of-camp inventory while my memory of camp is fresh.
In past years I've focused my attention on lunch and dinner entrees and the Thursday night banquet. Most campers have accepted these meals. I don't think there's really an issue of running the same meals year after year.
This year I need to focus my attention on the salad bar. I've been unhappy with my reliance on tomatoes and cucumbers for a couple years.
Tomatoes will remain popular. The Northern California FC Camp is always scheduled when the tomato crop is in full "bloom." Camp staff savor tomatoes marinated in an olive oil based vinaigrette with a chiffonade of basil. Tacos, salsa and hamburgers are also well complimented by fresh tomatoes.
So I plan to serve tomatoes on the salad bar in some form each day, even though consumption varies from year to year. This year we only used two and one-half flats (2 layers packed 5 by 6 each). We've used up to five flats in years past.
Cucumbers, more than any other produce item, tends to be inventory driven. Each year I've purchased one flat of 36 large cukes. To exhaust a seemingly endless supply, I push cucumbers on the salad bar each lunch and dinner. The two cucumber salads that were moderately popular were traditional cucumber and onion and a cucumber and tomato salad with a creamy Italian dressing. But four cucumbers will last two or three meals.
Next year, I plan to reduce my purchase of cucumbers to a dozen and run a cucumber salad twice during the week, not daily.
My current task is to get out of this salad rut and locate a few kid friendly salad ideas. Until now, many of our salads were placed on the menu to please the adult staff. Traditional salads like cole slaw, potato and macaroni salads work well in the camp setting. My task now is to menu several kid pleasers, while satisfying the tastes of the adults.
More to come in the weeks ahead...
Many mobile kitchen units use these Cambro table-top food bars to serve salads and dessert items. They are available in four-, five- and six-foot lengths and list for $940 to $1,140. The four-, five- and six-foot models hold three, four and five full-sized hotels pans respectively. Cambro literature says: "It is lightweight, easy to handle, extremely durable and affordable. The thick foam ice well holds ice for hours to keep your food presentation looking and tasting fresh. A drain plug is also included to make clean-up quick and easy. This Table Top Model comes complete with a sneeze guard that attaches securely to the Food Bar body. The sneeze guard is double-sided to accomodate serving from both sides of the bar. End panels shield food for even greater food protection."
Monday, July 10, 2006
All the cooks joined me on stage to sing this song to the tune of the Ballad of the Green Berets:
2006 KITCHEN CAMP SONG
At the Florida College Camp,
We have come to cook and sweat,
And we know that when Saturday comes
All the kids willa been well fed.
Should we by chance cough or sneeze
Just be sure to use those sleeves
Everyone knows that's what they're for
And to wipe things off the floor.
We want those kids to not get sick
So we'll be careful what we lick
We'll be careful how things are done
And always share our cinnamon buns.
Is that a hair? Oh no can't be!
Cause be agree to decree
That all must shave their heads so bare
Or be fired as a volunteer.
When our work at camp is done
And we travel near and far,
We'll think of you from FC Camp
As we hobble to our cars.
See you next year!
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Last Thursday and Friday the cooks persistently informed that we needed to make a Safeway run. We were already running out of catsup, margarine, white sugar, vegetable oil and dry cereal.
It's human nature. The cooks see that we're out of one or more products and assume that we need to run to the market and replenish the cupboards. I know that my cooks had the camp's best interest in kind when they made the suggestion.
But I had one consistent answer throughout the week: "No, we'll make do."
As chef, I have a job to perform. Budget and the need to use excess stock drove my response. Although I came in about $300 under budget for the week, I saw little need to spend more money. I knew with a little ingenuity, we'd make do.
There are several reasons for running low on stock. This year, the 20 extra campers caught us all by surprise late in the week before camp. We used the last 32 boxes of cereal Friday morning. I had cut my cereal order from five cases to four because the original estimate was for 140 campers and staff, not 165.
I generally buy a one-gallon jug of oil for the week. The olive-vegetable oil mixture is great for salads. But when the jug starts to run on empty, I look for alternatives. Wednesday or Thursday, I instructed my salad cook to assemble a tomato-cucumber salad.
Instead of mixing a vinaigrette dressing, I had her thin the creamy Italian dressing with cider vinegar and milk. It worked well. This was a good use of creamy Italian because we always have one or two quarts left at the end of camp.
With few exceptions -- margarine and cereal among them -- we substituted stock on hand for the missing items. I had my baker use raisin brand and bran flakes in place of the rolled oats for the apple crisp topping. We purchased margarine for toast only. Bacon grease worked well on Friday (we don't serve bacon until Friday).
We served oatmeal for the first time in five years Friday. As an aside, I plan to serve oatmeal maybe two or three days next year. It was very popular.
A word to the wise: Watch your stock. For many dishes, margarine, shortening and oil are interchangeable. But a drive to conserve salad oil, for instance, may push the cooks into using greater quantities of margarine. As chef, you need to constantly balance like products. Ask, "Is margarine best for this menu item?" Or, "Can I use shortening or bacon fat?"
We arrived home about 7 p.m. last night. I'm showered, rested and heading off to worship. I'll post more pictures and thoughts about the camp kitchen this afternoon -- after I purchase a new USB cable for the camera (left it in the camp office!).
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The answer: re-package and serve it for breakfast! Thomas Jefferson frittata to be precise. While not a true frittata, our leftover mac and cheese woke a few kids up this morning. It got most thinking, "What's the connection between Jefferson and mac and cheese?" (Jefferson is credited with bringing the first pasta machine to the U.S. from Italy in 1787.)
A slice of true frittata may have been nice next to an oven fresh cinnamon roll and 2-ounce sausage link. But remember, we didn't do anything to the mac and cheese -- only re-packaged it. In the end, 165 kids and adults only ate 24 servings.
I'll have more on leftovers later. Today is "catch up day" in the Northern California FC Camp kitchen.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
22 pounds lean ground beef
2-3/4 cups taco seasoning
200 taco shells
6 pounds cheddar cheese, grated
5-7/8 pounds lettuce, shredded
3-1/2 pounds onion, chopped
3-1/4 quarts salsa
Cook beef until beef loses its pink color; stir to break apart. Drain fat. Add taco seasoning to beef. Saute 5 minutes. CCP: Internal temperature must reach 155 deg F or higher for 15 seconds. CCP: Hold at 135 deg F or higher.
Arrange taco shells on sheet pans. Using a convection oven, bake 2 to 3 minutes at 325 deg F on high fan, open vent until just heated. Place 1/4-cup meat in each taco; line up next to each other in steam table pan. CCP: Hold for service at 135 deg F or higher. Just before serving, top each taco with 2 tablespoons cheese, 2-1/3 tablespoons lettuce, 2 teaspoons onions, and 1 tablespoon taco sauce.
Serving Ideas: Serve 2 tacos per portion. Acceptability is approx 125% when 1 taco is served for firsts and when seconds are considered.
Notes: Substitute ground chicken or turkey for beef if desired.
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup ground cumin
1/4 cup dried oregano
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Mix; store in air-tight container. Use 2 tablespoons per pound of cooked ground meat. Add water or stock to moisten; heat to 165 deg F for 15 seconds.
Yield: 2-1/2 cups
Serving Ideas: Substitute ground chipotle pepper for a smoky flavor.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
We closed the day with a barbecued chicken dinner and paper plates, and we gave the dishwasher the night off. CS, our head dishwasher, also attends to a cabin of 6th and 7th grade boys. He lives in the cabin each night and works in the kitchen by day. A well deserved night off seemed in order.
I lit 24-pounds of Kingsford charcoal at 6:40 this morning. The first thing I did was to sweat chopped onions in margarine for the cottage fried potatoes in a deep Dutch oven. I then used this oven to cook the gravy.
Six quarts of sausage gravy was prepared in a 14-inch deep Dutch oven. I used two 14-inch regular ovens to brown the potatoes. To save time, we use a pre-cooked diced red potato product from Sysco. Thirty pounds of potatoes were cooked in two batches. About four pounds of potatoes fit into each oven.
It took 18-dozen medium eggs to feed 165 campers. We scrambled the eggs in four batches in this wonderful skillet that comes with the camp. One of these days, I'm going to purchase one.
After the meal. We served breakfast from about 8:40 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. The eggs were transferred from the large skillet to a Dutch oven for service. We baked the biscuits in the kitchen to save time, but served them from a Dutch oven. The kids ate everything except for about 10 portions of the potatoes and eggs.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Tonight was pizza night. This in one of the items that I love to prepare from scratch. Since I couldn't find the dough hook or the rolling pin, I mixed and kneaded a double recipe by hand. I know that these items were around last year, because I used them for the pizza dough and the cinnamon rolls.
I found the dough hook deep behind the mixer stand, almost under the ice machine (the two are located side-by-side). The rolling pin was buried under the large center work table that's in front of the range. My first though was that the camp had disposed of these items. I had visions of rolling pizza dough with a can or bottle!
At the suggestion of my second cook, we prepared these pizzas this year:
4 cheese pizzas
3 chicken pizzas
3 combination pizzas
Unlike past years, we didn't prepare pepperoni pizza tonight. It was time for a change. Three to five pounds of pre-cooked chicken is sufficient for the three pizzas. We buy a Sysco product that comes packed two 5-pound bags per box. The pizzas are cut 4x5. Off 200 servings, 23 were left oven. This meal is the most popular of the week.
2-3/8 ounces active dry yeast
1-1/8 cups warm water
1-1/2 quarts cold water
6-5/8 pounds bread flour
1 ounce salt
2-1/3 ounces sugar
1-1/2 cups olive oil, divided
1 gallons pizza sauce
4 pounds mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 pound sliced pepperoni
7 ounces Parmesan cheese
Sprinkle yeast over water. Do not use temperatures above 110 deg F. Mix well. Let stand 5 minutes, stir. Place water, flour, salt, sugar and olive oil in mixer bowl in order listed. Add yeast solution. Using a dough hook, mix at low speed about 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough temperature should be 86 deg F to 88 deg F.
Divide dough; shape into 4 (2-pound 2-ounce) balls. Cover; let rise in warm place 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until double in bulk. Coat bottom and sides of each pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Place dough balls on lightly floured working surface. Roll out each ball to 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer dough to 18x26-in sheet pans pushing dough slightly up edges of pan. Using 1 tablespoon oil per pan, lightly brush dough. Gently prick dough to prevent bubbling.
Spread 1 quart sauce evenly over dough in each pan. Sprinkle 1 quart shredded cheese over each pan. Thinly slice pepperoni; evenly distribute 4 ounces over cheese in each pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup grated cheese over mixture in each pan.
Using a convection oven, bake 8 minutes at 450 deg F on high fan, closed vent or until crust is browned and cheese starts to turn golden. Cut each sheet pan 4 by 5. CCP: Hold for service at 135 deg F or higher.
Serving Ideas: This recipe prepares 5 (18x26-in) sheet pans. For 150 campers, prepare 9-10 sheet pans. Serve 1 slice for firsts before calling seconds. Acceptability is approx 115-120%.
This recipe takes about 3-4 hours to set the dough, let it ferment, punch it and roll out the pizzas. You should have sufficient time to work the dough if you activate the yeast at 2:30 p.m. for a 5:30 p.m. dinner. Do not activate the yeast any later than 2:30 p.m. It will take 2 batches as the mixer cannot accommodate any more than 1 recipe. Prepare 1 full recipe for each batch. Each recipe will yield 4-1/2 to 5 sheets of pizza, depending on how efficiently you work.
For cheese pizza, omit the pepperoni.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Opening meal this year was much the same as last year. The menu didn't change. So you can look up last year's comments for the chicken tender, barbecue, roasted potato wedge and broccoli meal.
I have the same 11 staff as last year, save one. As I've said last year, don't fret over the number of staff assigned to the kitchen, especially when working with volunteers. Most are taking a hard earned vacation from work to help feed hungry campers. They'll appreciate a break now and then.
I've assigned positions as follows:
Steve -- Chef (5th year)
CD -- 2nd cook (5th year)
AK -- 3rd cook (2nd year)
HB -- Salads and baker (2nd year)
DK -- Kitchen helper (5th year)
EM -- Dining room host (5th year)
CS -- Dishwasher and utility (3rd year)
AK -- Dishwasher and utility (2nd year)
PD -- Dishwasher and utility (2nd year)
DB -- Dishwasher and utility (2nd year)
KM -- Dishwasher and utility (1st year)
The afternoon started with an staff meeting at 2 p.m. in the kitchen. I explained the flow of the dinner prep and made individual assignments. I also demonstrated the proper method to mix the sanitizer solution. (See last year's comments on sanitizer.)
In addition to dinner prep, I started the staff on three additional items. The salad bar is always a hit at FC Camp. HB sliced 15 tomatoes and prepared a marinade while I sliced 8 cucumbers for cucumber and onions. These two salads anchor the salad bar along with a tossed salad. Four tomatoes slices were left at the end of dinner. Tomatoes are much more popular than the cucumbers.
We also made chocolate chip cookies for lunch tomorrow and panned the sausage for breakfast. The morning cooks return to the kitchen at 7 a.m.
6 pounds fresh tomatoes
3/4 cup onion -- chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup parsley -- chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil -- crumbled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups olive oil
1 1/2 cups red wine or balsamic vinegar
Cut tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Shingle in 15 sliced tomatoes in bottom of 2-in hotel pan.
Combine remaining ingredients. Pour over tomato slices. Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours or until flavors are well blended. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. CCP: Hold for service at 41-deg. F or lower.
Serving Ideas : Self serve on the salad bar. This item is very popular with the adults and senior campers. Plan on 1 to 2 (2-in) hotel pans per dinner meal.
Notes: (1) Figure 15 medium-to-large tomatoes per 6 pounds. Figure 60 to 75 slices from 15 medium-to-large tomatoes. (2) 1/3-cup fresh basil may be substituted for dried. Salad oil may be substituted for olive oil. (3) Refrigerator leftover marinated tomatoes at 41-deg or lower.
Variation: Fresh Tomato Relish -- Cut peeled tomatoes in half and gently squeeze out most of the seeds. Chop coarsely and stir into the marinade.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Saturday is training day for kitchen staff at Northern California FC Camp. With the food stowed and the kitchen ready for Sunday dinner, I held a training session for the cooks from 5 to 6 p.m. this evening. The key here is to cover food safety basics, make job assignments and orient all staff to the kitchen, including safety (fire evacuation, etc.). Today's training only took an hour as most of my staff returned from 2005.
Roundtable Pizza hosted dinner tonight. Staff provide their own breakfast and lunch tomorrow. We start cooking dinner at 2 p.m. Sunday and serve the meal after evening worship.
I received news yesterday morning that out camper count unexpectedly climbed to 160 during this past week. We have 20 extra mouths to feed all week. Although this could mean we have to run to Costco Santa Cruz and purchase additional food, I believe we'll be good. I purchased the same quantity of food as last year. Based on the leftovers we had each meal last year, we have sufficient cushion to absorb the extra campers (a split between kids and counselors).
The few items that I cut from last year -- like the chicken tenders and corn dogs -- will good. These were items that I over-purchased and needed to trip. At this point I feel confident that we'll have enough food for the week. Costco is 10 mile south of Felton in the rare event that we need extra food.
Sysco's been early in the past, but never at the crack of dawn. The first year (2002), they showed up at 11:30 a.m. In the succeeding years they've arrived with the food in the early afternoon. So this was a shock when Mike called me on my cell phone.
Fortunately, we had stayed at Jaye's Timberlane Resort in Ben Lomond last night, two miles north of here. I dashed over to Daybreak Camp and had all perishables stowed in the walk-in and freezer by 9:30 a.m. This gave me a chance to unload the food that I purchased at Smart and Final Thursday and to unload my cast iron for outdoor meals. Although our account is tagged COD, the driver departed at 9:30 without check in hand. I still have to make payment arrangements as the checkbook wasn't due to arrive until 1 p.m.
This is something that I've worked at to avoid. Each year as I prepare for camp, I give my Sysco representative a list of delivery needs. (To be fair to Sysco, I haven't talked to her yet today.) I make sure that a Saturday delivery is okay (never had an issue with this), and I make sure that the truck doesn't arrive any sooner than 1 p.m.
I also remind Sysco each year of the bridge and its weight limitations. A 35-foot trailer is the longest that Sysco can send over the bridge, which they did this year. We had one year where it took the driver over 30 minutes to make the turn out of the parking lot onto the bridge.
Sysco's early arrival worked out. The camp that had rented the facilities this last week -- an outreach group from Walnut Creek -- checked out yesterday. So my vision of putting food away while the departing group cooked breakfast and cleaned the kitchen never materialized.
I also found out from the camp caretaker that the last group left a sizable donation for us. It's always nice to give and accept such donations. Each year we leave around $150 to $200 in food behind to the next group. The donation included four crates of milk (over 200 cartons), seven gallons of Costco milk, seven dozen eggs (three flats) and plenty of produce. We'll put the food to good use.