Monday, May 28, 2007

Barbecued Beef Sandwiches

Folks in the budget shop where I now work ask culinary questions on occasion. This week Terry asked me how to prepare barbecued beef sandwiches.

She's hosting a graduation BBQ for he daughter next Saturday and would like to cook the meat on the gas grill in the back yard. With temperatures climbing toward the century mark this time of year, Terry doesn't want to heat the house.

Someone recommended that Terry use a brisket for the meat. Brisket is a very flavorful cut of meat. The cut comes from the breast meat just under the chuck, which is located under the first five ribs.

Brisket's toughness steams from its proximity to the working muscles of the forelegs. The meat is typically used for barbecue, pot roast and corned beef.

Slow cooking tenderizes the brisket. The cut, which is often cut into pieces that range from six to 12 pounds, lends itself to smoking and dry rubs. Ever popular Texas barbecue is made with full cuts of brisket smoked for eight to 10 hours with flavorful hardwoods like apple, mesquite and hickory. We'll leave smoking for another time.

Like its cousin chuck from further up on the back, brisket responds well to a slow braise in a flavored liquid. The key, like pot roast made from a seven-bone chuck roast, it to barely cover the meat with a liquid. Heat control is critical outdoors where weather conditions, such as wind and precipitation, has greater influence on the heat source.

The simplest way to braise a brisket is to place it in a diluted barbecue sauce. Many barbecue sauces are too thick for a braise. Since the sugars in the thick sauce can easily burn, I find that it's best to dilute it by one-third (a 3:1 sauce to broth ratio).


This recipe will serve 30 to 40 people. The total number of servings will vary according to the total weight of brisket prepared. Figure about three ounces cooked meat per portion. By the time you trim excess fat, the yield will be about four servings per pound of brisket.

I was able to snuggly fit 2 briskets in a 14-inch regular Dutch oven. I purchased 9-1/2-pounds for the test batch, which was almost too much for 14-inch regular oven. Next time I'll use a deep camp oven for the recipe.

One four- to five-pound brisket will fit inside a 12-inch Dutch oven. Prepare one-half the recipe for a 12-incher.

2 beef briskets, trimmed (about 8 to 10 pounds)
2 large onions, sliced
6 cups barbecue sauce
2 cups chicken broth
40 to 50 hamburger buns

Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Heat a light coating of oil in a 14-inch Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the brisket, brown on all sides and transfer to a platter. Pour off excess fat. Add onions and cook until carmelized.

Place brisket on top of onions. Combine barbecue sauce and broth. Pour over meat and place lid on the Dutch oven. Bake with coals for 300 to 325 degrees for about 2 to 3 hours or until fork tender.

Remove meat from braising liquid and cool. Skim fat from liquid. Thinly slice the meat and return to the Dutch oven and heat. Serve 3 ounces meat on each hamburger bun.

Armed Forces Recipe Service Set on eBay

Here's a fitting post for Memorial Day:

The U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service is a wonderful recipe resource. A 1969 set has appeared for sale on eBay. The Buy it Now is $50. This a great find for anyone who cooks for large groups often.

The seller's mother "aquired this years ago when she first started catering. The man she got it from told her he was a cook in the Army and this was the recipe box that they used for cooking. Every card has the ingredents for making 100 portions. The metal box is 8-1/2 wide, 13 long and 6 inches high."

I used them throughout my 29-year active and reserve career with the U.S. Navy. Most recipes are basic and do not have a lot of exotic ingredients or preparation techniques.

Each recipe is written for 100 portions and gives you:
  • Number of pans per 100 portions
  • Pan size in common U.S. pan sizes
  • Serving size, usually in ounces, cups or pieces
  • Oven temperature for baked items
  • Ingredient list on the left-hand column
  • Weight and volume of each ingredient for 100 portions--on these cards, each preparation step is tied to one or more ingredients in the two center columns
  • Preparation method delineated in clear steps in the right-hand column
  • Notes at the end of the recipe that list alternative ingredients (especially dehydrated) and preparation notes—most notable are: "as purchased" (A.P.) and "edible portion" (E.P.) amounts are given here
  • Variations to the recipe--often, these variations are for dehydrated and other special foods that the US military buys

Although I have a number of AFRS sets from the 1950s to the 1990s, I most often use the Internet version of AFRS when planning an event. I print each recipe so I can write purchasing, production and serving notes right on the recipe.
Since I rarely cook for exactly 100 persons (and the fact that US military serving sizes can be hefty), I also make adjustments to ingredients and note that right on my printed sheet. After the event, I save all the printed recipes in a file as a record of the event.

In addition to giving you standard ingredient amounts and instructions, the big advantage with AFRS is purchasing. Anytime you need to know how many pounds of an item serves 100 persons, just look it up on AFRS. (Remember that servings per hundred is always tied to serving size.)

Once you have a basic understanding of ingredients, amounts and method, you can easily add that special ingredient or two that sends the recipe "over the top."

I don't have any connection with the seller.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Airing Dirty Laundry

Looking for a unique vacation experience? Come join us for an authentic wagon journey as experienced in the 1800s. The Highway 50 Wagon Train Association has many fun filled activities guaranteed to entertain everyone in the family. There is a meeting each night at Lead Hitch - In addition you will experience the excitement of nightly campouts, BBQ and street dance, cowboy music, demonstrations, and endless fun. --Highway 50 Association website.
Since I attend the Carsdon City Rendezvous each year on the same weekend, I won't be able to watch the Highway 50 Wagon Train roll down Main Street in Placerville this year. This year is the 58th anniversary of the week-long trek from Zepher Cove, Nevada to Placerville. The annual event reenacts of the Great Western Migration that started in the 1840s.

Placerville served as the western terminus of the Overland Trail in the 1950s. From 1859 to 1866, the Placerville-Carson Road witnessed the great era of freighting and staging by horse-drawn vehicles to the Comstock in Nevada. U.S. Highway 50 now follows the route.

Confidence Hall was erected in 1860 as the firehouse for the Confidence Fire Company No. 1 in Placerville. According to one website, the fire company purchased a used engine called the "Confidence." When the firefighters found they couldn't remove its engraved name, they changed their name to match the engine.

The building, which is located at 487 Main Street, hosted the Placerville City Hall from 1902 until it relocated at the end of 2005.

The Jane Stuart Building is located at 489 Main Street. The plaque says, "Emigrant Jane drove a band of horses across the plains and from the proceeds of their sale, she built this building in 1861."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Camp Nerdly Kitchen

I found a website that may offer assistance to anyone who plans to feed 80 to 100 campers at a remote camp.

Camp Nerdly One was held May 4 to 6, 2007 in Prince William Forest National Park, Triangle, Virginia. According to the list of attendees, 64 adults and four children enjoyed "food czar" Meguey Baker's meals.

The website is an open source wiki. It looks like event organizers used it to coordinate planning efforts via the Internet.

Meguey has a complete list of food that's need for 50 people on the food planning page. The menu is relatively basic with eggs, bacon and cereal for breakfast, chili and sandwiches for lunch and tacos for Saturday dinner.

She includes a list of all pots and pans and utensils for the weekend. This note from the National Park Service is posted in the discussion section of the web page:

There is no equipment or utensils provided in the dining halls. You will need to bring all necessary items to prepare your food (pots, pans, spoons, flippers, etc. ...). Please be sure to also bring vegetable oil and salt to clean and season the griddle. The kitchens are equipped with a 10-burner stove, a griddle and three ovens. The park also provides buckets and mops for cleaning up the dining hall and bathrooms, but we do not provide the cleaning solutions, rags, gloves or trash bags.

The website also contains K.P. assignments and a cook's schedule here. Chores were assigned as follows:

Everyone attending will be expected to do some chores. People appointed "Captain" should round up their work crew and decide how they want to divide the labor. Your name should be listed once below. If it is listed zero or two times, let Jason know. If you don't like the job you were more or less randomly assigned for any reason, feel free to note that and offer to swap with somebody. Make your own matches offline, then adjust the wiki. Nobody cares who does what as long as the numbers stay the same - 4 cooks + 4 kitchen cleaners per meal, 9 bathroom cleaners, and so forth. The only people I placed deliberately were early volunteers and, for Friday meals, people I knew would be there early. It would break my heart if you re-jiggered it so you weren't making new friends while you did your chores.
Meal cost was projected at about $20 per person for the weekend. Food was projected as follows:

  • Snacks = $150
  • Condiments = $45
  • Grains = $165
  • Prepared foods = $90
  • Produce = $165
  • Meat = $215
  • Dairy = $250

  • In addition, the group spent $155 on cleaning chemicals and supplies and $25 to cover equipment that was not borrowed from participants.

    Prince William Forest National Park is located 35 miles south of Washington, D.C. in Triangle, Virginia. Camp Nerdly was located at Camp Orenda, one of five cabin camps built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as rustic forest retreats for underprivileged children. The Office of Strategic Services trained intelligence operatives at the site during World War II.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Greensburg, Kansas Tornado Assistance Base Camp Facts

    GREENSBURG, KAS. (May 21, 2007) -- The Boise Incident Management Team continues to manage a base camp in Greensburg, Kansas providing emergency responders with hot meals, temporary housing, laundry service, and hot showers. The Base Camp, located in Davis Park, was established on May 8 with help from the San Juan Hotshots from Durango, CO.

    The Hotshots assisted the IMT with: removing numerous fallen trees and tornado debris blown into the park; setting up sleeping tents; and mitigating any identified safety hazards within and around the base camp facility. They were released earlier this week, but their efforts were invaluable in getting the Base Camp established. The Base Camp has become very popular with emergency responders, giving them a place to rest and break away from the hectic and stressful environment they are working in.

    The Boise IMT will continue to operate the camp over the next few weeks and provide responders with quality logistical support to maintain health and strength to accomplish the response mission for the community and people of Greensburg, Kansas.

    Photograph captions: Catering is provided by Incident Catering Service of Snohomish, Wash. To the left, Kansas National Guard is waiting in the chow line at base camp. (Photo credit: Mike Ferris of the U.S. Forest Service.)

    CAMP FACTS AS OF MAY 21, 2007

    • Incident Management Team Personnel Includes (these personnel are running the base camp):
      Incident Commander
      Deputy Incident Commander
      Safety Officer
      Public Information Officer
      Planning Section Chief
      Logistics Section Chief (Base Camp Managers, Ground Support, Communications, Supply, Security, & Food Units)
      Finance Section Chief (Equip Time Recorder & Costs)
      2 Camp Crews (20 total)
    • Catering unit: 1 - Capacity to feed up to 1,200 people
    • Shower unit: 1 - Contains 18 shower stalls
    • Sleeping tents: 40 - Each sleeps up to 8 people
    • Housing provided: Sleeping average 269 responders from 36 agencies per night
    • Laundry service: Local laundry service provided daily
    • Meals provided: 15,737 - breakfasts, lunches and dinners
    • Cost to date: $936,000
    Emergency responders washing up before dinner at Davis Park Base Camp.

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    2007 Carson City Rendezvous Dutch Oven Cookoff

    The 2007 Carson City Rendezvous Dutch oven gathering and cookoff will take place during the weekend of June 8-10, 2007. The action-packed weekend contains these events:

    A full day of cooking demonstrations, classes and fellowship among the public is scheduled for Friday, June 8. Come join Dave Herzog and other Dutch oven cooks.

    Classes for Saturday, June 9 include cooking in Maca deep Dutch ovens, making ice cream in a Dutch oven, sourdough baking, using pine cones as a heat source and much more.

    The Dutch oven gathering (a Dutch oven potluck) begins at 3 p.m. Saturday. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. There is not charge for the potluck. However, a 12-ounce cut of succulent prime rib costs $10. To purchase a ticket for prime rib you must see Dave Herzog by 1 p.m. on Saturday.

    A breakfast cookoff is scheduled for Sunday, June 10. The day begins at 7:00 a.m. Judging takes place at at 8:45 a.m. A biscuit and gravy breakfast will be served with the breakfast cook-off at $2 per person. Come early because there are hungry mountain men and women that wait all weekend for this one!

    The main event starts on Sunday, June 10 at 9:30 a.m. with a cook's meeting. Judging begins at 1:00 p.m. with people's choice judging at 1:15 p.m. Tickets for the people's choice will cost $2.00 per person.

    The winning team of the 3-pot cookoff will have the opportunity to move on to the 2008 World Championships Dutch Oven Cookoff in Utah. To enter the cook-off, the registration fee is $10 per entry of bread, main dish, and dessert. Or $25 to enter all three to qualify for the International Dutch Oven Society world championships.

    Don Alt, of Silver Springs, Nevada, will be selling his barbecue beef sandwiches from a restored 1880 chuck wagon. Dave is actively trying to get a few more Dutch oven cooks to join the group. We also have several groups who are bringing canvas wall tents and other goodies just for the Dutch oven part of the rendezvous. If you would like to join us for this grand weekend in down town Carson City, please contact Dave so he can reserve a free campsite for you and your group to join us.

    The Carson City Rendezvous is in its 24th year. The event attracts 20,000 people each year. It is a fun-packed weekend family event which includes Civil War reenactments, Mountain Man encampment and merchant's row. Live entertainment includes Sourdough Slim and Karen Quest-Cowgirl Tricks. More information is available at the website.

    Click on this image for additional information and cookoff application:

    Adapted from a news release by Dave Herzog at CastIronitis.

    Sunday, May 13, 2007


    Today is a special day in many respects. Foremost, we assembled with the saints in the Camino-Pollock Pines area to worship our Lord and Savior. The day is also special because my wife, Debbie, was able to have all her children and grandchildren under one roof. Yesterday was the first time that all three grandchildren, including two-week old grandson David and four-day old granddaughter Nevaeh, were together.

    Mothers everywhere rejoice with Mary who "kept all these things in her heart" as Jesus "increased in wisdom and stature" (Luke 2:51-52). On that note, I reprint an article from Gary Henry on motherliness. So read and enjoy ...

    MOTHERLINESS by Gary Henry

    Some human attributes are typically found in women more often than in men, and "motherliness" is one such trait.

    Notice carefully the word: It's not just "motherhood," but "motherliness." Motherhood is the biological fact of being a mother, and it may or may not be accompanied by motherly attitudes and actions. Usually it is, but may not always. And so we properly pay tribute to those women who've not only borne children but having done so, have also given their children the great gift of motherliness.

    Motherliness is not just a trait; it's a virtue. It's something to be admired and praised. Yes, it does come naturally to most women, but the actual following instincts on a day-to-day basis requires choice. It requires work. And it requires no small measure of sacrifice. Those mothers who have gone beyond motherhood into the realm of real motherliness are to be honored in the very highest way.

    In some parts of the world, May is the month when "Mother's Day" comes around. This is a day to remember our mothers for their greatness -- and if they're still living, to express our appreciation to them personally.

    Fortunately, greatness as a mother doesn't require a woman to have achieved many of the things that the world admires; "success" (at least in the usual sense) is simply not necessary. And that's a good thing because not many of our mothers had any realistic chance to make a mark that the world would notice. But oh, how they loved us! And if today we had little else in life but the love our mothers gave up their lives to give us, we'd still be wealthy, wouldn't we?

    Reprinted from Gary Henry's Enthusiastic Ideas. You can subscribe to the daily motivational message here.

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Marines Enjoy Fine Dining in the Desert

    This article gives you a good idea of the state of Marine Corps food service in Iraq.

    COMMAND OUTPOST NORSEMAN, RUTBAH, Iraq - (May 2, 2007) -- For many military members working outside of the major bases in Iraq, chow consists of meals ready to eat and maybe one hot meal a day. But for the Marines and Sailors working here, chow in the desert resembles the menu of a fine restaurant.

    Staff Sgt. Francisco A. Santiago, mess chief and logistics chief for Task Force Tarawa, and his Marines prepare two hot meals a day for more than 750 members of the task force.

    "We support all Task Force Tarawa elements with food service," said Santiago, a 28-year-old, Camuy, Puerto Rico, native.

    On some of the major military bases, the job of a mess Marine is more curtailed toward quality assurance and control, said Santiago.

    "Being out here we do all the cooking," said Cpl. Algie D. Facen-Vaughn, assistant mess chief with TFT. "In the rear, we have contractors that do the cooking. We just check up behind them to make sure the food is good to go for the Marines."

    "Out here, we are field mess," said Lance Cpl. Rene M. Cruzhernandez, food service specialist with TFT.

    Keeping in tradition with all Marines serving in the field, the ability to adapt to their surroundings played a major role in completing their mission.

    "When we got out here, all of the equipment in the kitchen was Army specific," said Santiago. "We had to make it work, and that was a challenge at first. Once we incorporated it with our gear, we were cooking bacon."

    Bacon isn't the only thing cooking nowadays at the COP.

    "We make our own menus here," said Facen-Vaughn, a 25 year-old, Washington, D.C., native. "We are on a 15 day cycle, so on day 16 they will get the same meal they had on day one."

    Though the menu may seem short with only 15 different breakfast and dinner meals, the spread they put out makes up for it.

    "We make chicken parmesan, shrimp scampi, chicken alfredo, and even fried chicken," said Cruzhernandez, a 21 year-old, Winston- Salem, N.C., native. "We even provide them with stuff like salad and ice cream, stuff that is hard to come by in the desert."

    "Once a week we give them steak and lobster," added Santiago. "It helps boost morale."

    According to the Marines here, the chow supersedes their expectations of the food they would receive while in the field.

    "The spaghetti is awesome, but I prefer the shrimp scampi and the pot roast," said Master Sgt. Andreas J. Starling, operations chief for TFT. "I’m used to getting tray rats and MREs. That’s what the companies operating in the city wanted, until we introduced them to our field mess."

    The units within the city receive the same chow as the Marines and Sailors at the COP, explained Santiago.

    "We make sure the Marines at the [forward operating bases] eat as well as we do," said Facen-Vaughn.

    "There’s not a whole lot to look forward to out here," said Santiago. "When the Marines come from out the wire or come back from a patrol, they can expect a good hot meal. That’s the least we can do."

    Task Force Tarawa is part of Regimental Combat Team 2, a Marine Corps command responsible for more than 30,000 square miles and 5,500 Marines, Sailors and Soldiers in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province.

    Photo caption: Lance Cpl. Rene M. Cruzhernandez, a food service specialist with Task Force Tarawa, empties a bag of shrimp scampi into a heated serving pan.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Swiss Steak

    After watching Alton Brown's "Cubing A Round" episode on his Good Eats show, I thought a tender Swiss steak smothered in gravy would taste good. Swiss steak has been a favorite of mine since my days as a young Navy cook. I griddled thousands of pounds of cube steak at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's San Joaquin Valley.

    "The only thing cube steak needs in a little love, a little consideration, a little home-spun know-how," said Alton in the opening monologue. Slow cooking in a braising liquid is often the best remedy to turn the "cheapest cutlet in town (into) a tall culinary shadow."

    Alton's recipe easily adapts to the cast iron camp oven. He often uses home-style Dutch ovens or cast iron skillets for his recipes.

    I used tenderized cube steak instead of tenderizing my own hand-cut steaks from a bottom round. I did this to save time in camp where you usually want to spend time outdoors than working over a hot fire.

    Here's Alton's instructions in case you'd like to cut your own steaks:
    Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the flour into a pie pan. Dredge the pieces of meat on both sides in the flour. Tenderize the meat, using a needling device, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. Dredge in the flour again and set aside.
    The only thing that Alton and I disagree over is the term "Swiss steak." In my experience, Swiss steak refers to any braised, tenderized cube steak. As he points out in the show, swissing refers to the process of tenderizing tougher steaks, not the country of origin.

    Alton calls his steak that's smothered with gravy Country Style Steak. He claims the term Swiss steak is reserved braised cube steak that's smothered in tomatoes and onions. My only contention is that Swiss steak commonly refers to any braised cube steak. Few make a distinction over the addition of tomatoes.


    Use two 14-inch cast iron skillets to brown a large quantity of cube steak for a crown. As the steaks brown, transfer them to a 12- or 14-inch Dutch oven. Build the gravy in one of the skillets and pour it oven the steaks.

    8 cube steaks, about 2-1/2 pounds
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1 large onion, sliced
    3 cups beef broth
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    2 tablespoons tomato sauce
    1 teaspoon dried thyme

    Season on both sides of each steak with salt and pepper. Place the flour into a pie pan. Dredge the pieces of meat on both sides in the flour and set aside. Add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a 10-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. Once oil begins to shimmer, add sliced onions. Cook until onions are light brown and soft, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

    Meanwhile, add enough of the vegetable oil to just coat the bottom of a 12-inch Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the 3 to 4 steaks to the oven, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until golden brown on both sides, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a plate and repeat until all of the steaks have been browned.

    Remove the last steaks from the oven. Make a slurry with 1/4-cup of the broth and 2 tablespoons dredging flour. Add the remaining beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and thyme and whisk until the liquid just comes to a boil. Add slurry to broth and whisk until thickened. Return the steaks to the pot and make sure they are all submerged in the liquid. Spread onions over the steaks.

    Place lid on the oven. Set 5 charcoal briquettes under the oven and 14 on lid. Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Serve with mashed potatoes.

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Training Navy Cooks

    BANGOR, Wash. (April 26, 2007) - Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Michael Deascentiis (left) of Puget Sound Navy food management team teaches various ways to garnish fruit and vegetables to the food service team at the Trident Inn galley during an assist-training visit. The purpose of the visit is to provide training, assistance and technical support to food service personnel in the Naval Base Kitsap region.

    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Maebel Tinoko.