Thursday, December 31, 2009

Culinary photographer

Although I snapped thousands of photographs during my naval career, I don't recall ever taking one of an admiral saluting side boys during a change of command ceremony.

SAN DIEGO (Dec. 18, 2009) -- Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier, vice commander of Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Command, renders a salute to the side boys at the change of command ceremony for Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21.

U.S. Navy photo by Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Kelly.

Monday, December 21, 2009

New job

Postings on 'Round the Chuckbox have been a bit dry over the past few months. After being unemployed for two months, I landed a cook's position in one of the local casinos in early October.

From the beginning, I knew that the casino was the wrong place to jumpstart a post-retirement career. With the physical demands of the job, low pay and work hours (swing shift with Wednesdays and Thursdays off), my search for the ideal retirement job didn't end there.

A particularly crazy weekend in the buffet last month sent me back to Craigslist.

Just when I was considering returning to budget work, I answered an ad for a chef's position in a Sacramento residential facility. I gave notice two weeks ago and worked my last shift last night at the casino.

After working in the buffet for 10 weeks, I started my new job this morning. Saturday night each of the casino's chefs -- from the executive chef to the three sous chefs on duty -- asked what day would be last. One-by-one, I said Sunday.

After the last chef asked the question late into the shift, I realized that I could've closed out my employment with the casino Saturday night. The tactic would've given me a day to rest before joining the Sacramento commute.

Of course, it would've been dishonest on my part. I made a commitment to the casino to work through Sunday in my resignation letter -- one which I honored.

My last shift in the casino went well. We were slammed all night, which is typical for a Sunday night. The crowds didn't break until around 8:15 p.m.

With normal hours (8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), I should have more to say on 'Round the Chuckbox. Expect more culinary commentary and recipes soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Merry Christmas From Cee Dub, Pen & Al

Howdy from our camp to yours,

No, we haven't dropped off the edge of the earth, but we did drop into the Sabinal River Canyon near Utopia, Texas.

The last two years have been a real challenge for everyone, Cee Dub's included. The impact of the changing economy impacted us in ways we did not envision when we started Cee Dub's over ten years ago.

Last winter we realized that after ten years of being in business for ourselves, we needed to re-enter the work force in order to keep things afloat. Anyone who is looking for work whose hair is more salt than pepper knows the apprehension of doing resumes and getting ready for a job interview.

We were very blessed to find the perfect place for our combined skill sets after answering just one "Help Wanted" ad. We truly enjoy what we are doing.

We now work year around at a Texas Hill Country ranch that is a seasonal camp for kids ages 7-16 years of age. We plant a large garden in the spring, along with lots of flowers.

During the summer camp season, we teach 40+ hours of "Outdoor Cooking" each week along with cooking for campouts, doing "food preservation" demonstrations with things grown in the camp garden, and making sure the campers leave here with practical knowledge that will last them a lifetime.

The rest of the year is much slower paced and spent doing landscape work, growing a winter garden, farming food plots, shipping orders from the camp store, and getting ready for the next camp season.

By any measure, times were much tougher when Dutch oven cookin' was an everyday matter versus today when many of us do it for fun, recreation, or just as a change of pace. The moral of the story for those of us who love our Dutch ovens is this. Because our DO's are "timeless" ... by holding on to them we continue to use our past to make the future better, a lesson we try to impart to our campers.

If you would like a closer look at where we are, you can visit the website at

Anyway ... sorry for the long greeting, but we wanted to get caught up with all of you, our friends and customers, with our changes and what has been going on in our lives.

Price Roll Backs, Christmas Specials, Good Through December 2009
Store closures and consolidation within the sporting goods market have made finding some items more difficult. Here are a few items that are available for new or experienced Dutch oven cooks.

Lid Lifter and Glove Combo - $26.95. Cee Dub’s is offering this combo now for the current price, but we are raising the price January 1, 2010 to $29.95.

Add a set of 16 inch tongs for an additional $10.00, a savings of $2.95.

We are lowering the price of Cee Dub’s latest cookbook, Gather 'Round the Table, 10%, from $19.95 to $17.95. ( copy is not discounted.)

And, the two DVD set, Series I, with Cookbooklet, is $49.95, a savings of $20.00.

Combining a Dutch oven with the tools, a DVD, and one of Cee Dub’s cookbooks can get a beginning DO cook stocked up with all the essentials to get started.

Also, we’re offering the following Dutch oven specials:

Camp Chef 12 inch Classic Pre-seasoned DO discounted from $44.95 to $39.95, a savings of $5, a great price for a great oven.

NEW! Camp Chef is now offering a cast aluminum 12 inch Dutch oven which Cee Dub’s is introducing at the GREAT PRICE of only $79.95 through December 31, 2009.

Firepans are ALWAYS a great gift for Dutch oven and outdoor cooks. RV’ers also find firepans useful additions as well. We've rolled back the prices a few years to the following:

Large Firepan - $209.95, a savings of $35!
Small Firepan - $199.95, a savings of $25!

So take advantage of these special low prices now for the holidays! They won't last long!

Click Here For Cee Dub's Christmas & Year End Specials

With both of us going back to work full time, we've cut back the number of both our appearances and our clinics. Typically we announce the coming year's Dutch oven cooking clinics in our Christmas newsletter.

Time limitations have forced us to cut our winter tour down to just four appearances in the Northwest January-March 2010. We hope to offer a couple of spring 2010 clinics here in Texas. When we confirm the dates and details, we'll post them on the website and send out another newsletter.

Were it not for you, our friends and customers, we would have much less to say thanks for as this year winds down. We wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and may 2010 Be Your Best Year Ever!

Take Care,

Cee Dub, Pen & Al

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Camp Cookoff

Try the Colusa (California) Winter Camp Cookoff is you're looking for a challenging experience. Fog, rain and a nasty crosswind all promise to make cooking in a Dutch oven a trying experience.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Search for the best

I served in the general mess at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California in 1971-72 when it was a runner-up for the Ney Award.

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 8, 2009) -- Master Chief Culinary Specialist Michael Carter, an inspector for the Capt. Edward F. Ney Award for Food Service Excellence, speaks to culinary specialists aboard U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). Blue Ridge is a finalist for the award in the large afloat ship category.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cynthia Griggs.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving reservation board

I went to the Diamond Springs Hotel for breakfast lastt Tuesday.

As I left, owner Amy Shim asked if we were coming in for Thanksgiving Day. I said that there's be five for dinner.

Amy walked off and wrote our name in the 5 p.m. block on a large sheet of cardboard.

Since the Hotel doesn't take dinner reservations during the year, she had to find a lasting method to record guest reservations for the speacial menu offering on Thanksgiving Day.

"I tried everything," said Amy, "srap paper, notebooks."

Paper reservation sheets can be lost, torn and soiled, noted Amy. Over the past five years, she's found that the board, cut from a large cardboard box, works the best.

Sometimes, the simplest method makes the most sense. It's sturdy, easily found when misplaced and difficult to damage.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in Iraq

Let's not forget our loved ones who're serving the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first image reminds us that these celebrations occur in a war zone. These Marines and Sailors must remain vigilant during the brief respite from the dangers of the war.

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- U.S. Navy Command Master Chief Michael R. Ruiz, I Marine Expeditionary Force, stands outside as Secretary of the Navy The Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter visits Camp Baharia. Winter is visiting bases around Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way on Thanksgiving Day.

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- Thanksgiving goodies are displayed as the Secretary of the Navy The Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter visits U.S. Marines, Sailors and Soldiers at Camp Taqaddum. The Honorable Mr. Winter is visiting bases around Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way on Thanksgiving Day.

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- Secretary of the Navy The Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter cuts the Thanksgiving cake at the chow hall at Camp Baharia. Winter is visiting bases around Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way.

AL ASAD AIRBASE, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter, from Brooklyn, N.Y., serves a U.S. Marine during Thanksgiving dinner at the chow hall onboard Camp Baharia. Winter is visiting bases throughout Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way.

U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres.

Low-key Thansgiving Day

As part of a low-key Thanksgiving Day, we're having biscuits, eggs and orange juice for breakfast. It's not like I'm now into some minimalist movement or the like. Working in a restaurant, I didn't know that I had today off until I clocked out late Tuesday night.

My prayer for next year is that my employment situation will allow for us to attend a family gathering. I miss the opportunity to cook for a large family gathering.

This will be the first Thanksgiving in many years where I'm letting others do the cooking. We're going to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Diamond Springs Hotel this afternoon with two of Debbie's girlfriends.

Let's always remember to:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken paprika

Chicken paprika was one of the camper's favorite dishes this summer at Deer Crossing Camp. I served diced chicken meat, bathed in a rich creamy sauce and lots of sweet paprika over steamed brown rice on the first Tuesday of each two-week session.

Gigi, Deer Crossing's assistant cook for the 2008 season, introduced the dish from her native Hungary. I enjoyed cooking it because of my own Hungarian ancestry.

It's only the second native dish that I've cooked during my professional career. The other dish is Hungarian goulash.

Gigi's chicken paprika is reminiscent of a recipe that I found in the Culinary Arts Institute's 1955 cookbook, The Hungarian Cookbook (Culinary Art Institute: Chicago, 1955).


Because my family likes drumsticks and thighs, I used a package of five chicken hindquarters for this dish. Split each quarter into two pieces at the joint between the drumstick and thigh.

Chicken & flour dredge
1 chicken fryer, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
1-1/2 cups soup cream

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Combine flour and seasonings in bowl. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Shake off excess flour.

Melt enough shortening over low heat to come just 1/8-inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan. Once shortening melts, increase heat to medium-high.

Place chicken skin side down into the pan. Put thighs in the center, and breast and legs around the edge of the pan. The oil should come half way up the pan. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side.

The internal temperature of the chicken should be about 180 degrees F when done. Remove chicken from skillet and discard fat. Wipe skillet clean if desired. Return chicken to skillet, arranging pieces in a single layer.

Prepare sauce in a 2-quart saucepan. Heat vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and sweat until translucent and soft. Whisk in flour and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Don't brown roux.

Remove saucepan from heat and gradually whisk in stock. Return to heat and bring mixture to a rapid boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Add milk and paprika to saucepan, siring constantly. While stirring vigorously with wire whisk, add sour cream to sauce in small amounts.

Pour sauce over each piece of chicken in the skillet. Cook sauce over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Don't boil. Serve chicken over spatzle or egg noodles. Serves 4 to 5.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guard cooks compete for annual food service title

A member of Nebraska's 267th Support Maintenance Company decorates a chocolate cake with an ear of corn during the 42nd annual Phillip A. Connelly Award for Excellence in Army Food Service held at the Greenlief Training Site in Nebraska Oct. 17. Food service units from six states recently showcased their culinary abilities before a national judging panel, while competing for the title. (Photo courtesy of Nebraska National Guard)

By Mark Roland
Nebraska National Guard

GREENLIEF TRAINING SITE, Neb., (10/22/09) -- Call it the military’s version of the "Iron Chef."

Competing on a grassy plain in central Nebraska while the sounds of Soldiers conducting marksmanship training echoed in the distance, food service units from six states recently showcased their culinary abilities before a national judging panel, while competing for the 42nd annual Phillip A. Connelly Award for Excellence in Army Food Service here Oct. 17.

Working together under the ever-watchful eyes of the national inspectors, cooks from Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and West Virginia prepared a meal for 50 Soldiers in a field environment using their unit's Mobile Kitchen Trailer, essentially a kitchen on wheels.

Along with being evaluated on their cooking abilities, the Soldiers also were graded on 10 separate areas ranging from cooking and sanitation procedures to their adherence to Army administrative, safety and supply regulations.

Simply getting to this point meant that the section, which represented a particular region in the Army National Guard’s National Field Kitchen Category, had to conduct hours of training and practice on the unit's mobile kitchen trailer to develop the level of expertise needed to be competitive.

"At first it was to get some experience for my cooks on a (mobile kitchen trailer), some field training," said Sgt. Katherine Smith, first cook for Nebraska’s 267th Support Maintenance Company. "When they go to (advanced individual training) the MKT is already popped open. They just show them what it looks like. When they actually get to cook on it, it was good experience for them."

"It just grew from there," Smith said. "When I learned that it was the first time Nebraska competed in five years, it became really important to do our best."

The work must have paid off, because the cooks had already won the state and regional competition. Still, this was the national competition, which meant that the Soldiers had to take their efforts to an entirely different level.

Chief Warrant Officer Tollie Yoder, food service officer for Nebraska's maintenance company, said the work actually started at the beginning of the year when the unit decided to compete in the competition.

"When we first talked about competing (the cooks) said 'It would be easy, I cook.' I had to explain to them that it’s more than just cooking… it’s site setup, power plan, field sanitation issues, rodent disposal, sanitary issues, taking care of ration accounting, ration accessibility, ration control, portion control, trash management, water distribution point, and water purification tasks."

Smith agreed, saying the training and preparations made a major impact on the unit’s success.

"When we learned that you have to do more to do it, it was like ‘Alright we can do this.’ Then it became really hard because we realized that we couldn’t do it with just five cooks."

Instead, Smith said, it took the work of the entire unit to help the cooks prepare for the various stages of the competition. That level of support especially came in handy when, the night before the regional competition, a thunderstorm blew in, sending the Soldiers to tornado shelters while it dumped four-and-a-half inches of rain on the training site, flooding the area the mess section had spent days preparing for the competition.

The unit halted training and moved the site to a down range location and completely set up the new site in one day.

"That was very challenging, but they overcame it," Smith said.

This weekend's competition also marked the last time these Soldiers will be together as a team. Two cooks have been transferred to another maintenance company and are preparing for deployment next year, one cook will become a wheeled mechanic to take a position in a detachment closer to home and stay in the unit, and Smith will soon change jobs because of her full-time military position.

Still, that didn’t make the Soldiers work any less hard. In fact, it actually caused them focus that much more on making sure the inspection went well.

"We all knew this was like our like our last hurrah," Smith said, "and the section wanted to do really well. Out of all the cooks I’ve ever worked with, this is probably one of the best because we got along so well. We all hope we will be able to work together in the future."

After completing the inspection, the cooks now are participating in a different type of competition… the waiting game. They should find out how if their work paid off in December when the results are releases. Smith was optimistic.

"I think we set the bar really high. I think the biggest thing is that we couldn’t have gotten this far without the unit’s support and everyone in the cook’s section really, really, really appreciates the help the unit gave us."

Receiving honors

As part of my annual Veteran's Day tribute to U.S. Armed Forces, I'm posting photographs of the cooks and bakers in action this year.

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (8/12/09) -- Pfc. David A. Mantilla, a food service specialist with Headquarters Company, 7th Marine Regiment is recognized by Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commanding general, 1st Marine Division here Aug. 12, for superior performance during the regiment’s pre-deployment training exercise. Mantilla, 24, is from Washington Heights, N.Y.

U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Cpl. Zachary J. Nola.

Standing watch

As part of my annual Veteran's Day tribute to U.S. Armed Forces, I'm posting photographs of the cooks and bakers in action this year.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 25, 2009) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Mario M. Evans stands watch at a .50-caliber machine gun station aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) during a transit of the Straits of Malacca.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian A. Stone.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dinner ... or is it supper?

When I sailed into the Korean naval port at Chinhae in 1972, the general mess on the USS Cocopa (ATF 101) served dinner at noon. The cooks, under the able leadership of CS1 George Rooney, prepared supper in the evening, based on naval terminology at the time. Since the late 1970s, the general mess meals have been called breakfast, lunch and dinner, served in that order during the day.

SEA OF JAPAN (Nov. 4, 2009) Culinary Specialist Seaman Alvic Dedios prepares dinner aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46). Tortuga is part of the Denver Amphibious Ready Group participating in the annual bilateral Korean Integrated Training Program exercise.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Geronimo Aquino.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Army field range burner for sale on eBay

I occasionally receive email from readers of this blog who're looking for surplus military field feeding equipment. This burner -- know as the M2A burner unit in military parlance -- is being sold on eBay through its "Buy it Now" feature for $140. The seller has two units for sale.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Seagoing paperwork

Someone has to do the paperwork at sea! Typically, the watch captain, or galley shift leader, records important historical data on the worksheet after each meal. The leading chief culinary specialist uses this information to plan future meals.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 28, 2009) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class Neil Monato verifies figures on a food preparation worksheet while underway aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19).

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Viramontes.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Phenomenon on the lake

Phenomenon on the lake
Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook

One Thursday last August, campers at Deer Crossing Camp arose to a strange weather phenomenon on nearby Loon Lake.

A thick layer of fog arose off the south end of the lake and was driven north toward Pleasant Lake by a brisk cold wind.

"This is weird," said Jim Wiltens, Deer Crossing owner and camp director.

"I've never seen this on the lake this late in the season."

The cold front steadily moved in over the lake over the next two hours. The cold air seemed to suck the moisture right out of the warm lake.

With an icy wind that cut right through you, staff and campers quickly domed warmer clothing. The uniform of the day quickly shifted from shorts and T-shirts to long pants and down jackets.

"It's so cold," noted one young camper at the breakfast table. This set the tone for the day.

The instructors scrambled to shift the planned water activities for the day. Extra cold water compromised swimming, kayaking and sailing.

Rain throughout the day drove many campers into the lodge. Instructors fed the woodstove all morning for the first time since the training session in June.

Weird weather for August? Yes, but it was a fun day. We watched the fog, and the rain that soon followed, from the warm comfort of the lodge.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rebuild or retreat?

By Mike Anderson
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:7-8).
One of the newest additions to the U.S. Naval fleet launched out on its maiden voyage two weeks ago. The U.S.S. New York, an amphibious transport dock ship, left Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's yard in southeastern Louisiana for its official commissioning in New York in November.

While new naval vessels are built and commissioned on a regular basis, this one is different. What sets the U.S.S. New York apart is that 8 tons of steel salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers was used in its construction. The ship was named to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks of eight years ago.

Following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, about all that remained was mangled and twisted piles of structural steel. Those piles of misshapen metal became a symbol of weakness and vulnerability for our nation.

But now some of that same metal, re-forged and re-formed, becomes a symbol of strength and preparedness. Something useless became something useful. A painful reminder became a motivation for renewed effort.

It is possible that each of us may face times of devastation in our own lives -- times with the potential to leave us standing standing among the twisted wreckage, staring at smoldering piles that once were our personal hoped and dreams.

When such times come, we have a choice to make. We can allow the wreckage of life to become a monument that forever haunts us and reminds us of our defeats and failures or we can take remnants of the wreckage, re-forge them in the furnace of affliction, and use them to rebuild what Satan seeks to permanently destroy.

The time to make the choice is now, before difficult times come. In the heat of the moment, with tears of pain and grief clouding our vision, we may be tempted to give up.

So we must determine now, with God's help, to expose Satan for the terrorist he is and to refuse to allow him to defeat us. May we resolve to rebuild instead of retreat.

Mike preaches for the Placerville Church of Christ, which meets at 4120 Missouri Flat Road, Placerville, California, 95667. He also serves as one of the elders for the congregation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Armed Forces Recipe Service link

I have repaired the link to the Armed Forces Recipe Service. It seems the U.S. Army plays with the URL every year or so.

The Army IT folks moved the file to a new folder that reflects the new Army food service organization. The organization is now called the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence.

The main AFRS link takes you to a searchable PDF file that's located on the U.S. Army Quartermaster School website.

If you prefer, you can download a ZIP file of the military recipe database. The link takes you to the food service publications page. Click on "Download Recipe Service" and follow the instructions to extract the file.

The Army food service publications webpage also includes a nutritional analysis of recipes in the AFRS.

The AFRS is also available on the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps websites at:
  • Marine Corps -- a PDF with a table of contents
  • Navy -- note that there's a problem with the Navy's security certificate

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Long lasting

I found this picture this morning while browsing through my collection of photographs from Deer Crossing Camp. This five-pound can of baking powder has been sitting in the kitchen since Sysco delivered it to the camp for the 1996 season.

What's amazing is that the can of baking powder had lot of staying power in it. I used it all summer and never had an issue with poorly leavened products.

Given a shelf life of three to six months, Deer Crossing Camp should purchase a new can each summer. While it's tempting to toss it and buy a new, much smaller can of baking powder, it should last another season or two.

At this rate, the Deer Crossing chef only has to purchase one large can of baking powder every 10 to 15 years!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All wet

No one promised U.S. Navy culinary specialists that they'd stay dry! Life aboard a ship is an endless cycle of damage control drills, general quarters and working in the galley.

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 25, 2009) Culinary Specialist Seaman Dylan Smith, from St. Louis, Mo., and Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Preston Rodgers, from Odessa, Texas, patch a ruptured pipe during a damage control Olympics event aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85). McCampbell is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, and is permanently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's a camp cook to do in his spare time?

"What's your weakness at a sale?" asked reporter Kathy Hay Khay. The Cornwall Standard Freeholder featured business owner Mike Logan on October 20 in the on-line article, "For Mike Logan, it's all about the food."

"The yard sale! Obviously," responded Logan, owner of Logan's Gallery & Gift Shop in Cornwall, Ontario, "I never buy art."

"Kitchen gadgets. How many spatulas do you have? I have 25."

Six hand-blenders and two Kitchen Aide mixers top the collection. Logan mixes paint with one of the hand-blenders.

His passion for collecting kitchen makes sense when you consider his earlier career in food. Logan managed a large delicatessen until 1990, when Logan turned his passion for wildlife photography and picture-framing into full time business.

Logan's passion for food (and kitchen gadgets) never left him. It seems to have started in August 1971, when "jumped ship" from camp counseling right into the kitchen at Camp Pioneer in eastern Ontario.

"The next year he was made the camp cook and went from preparing meals for 35 people his first day, to 250 by his last that summer," wrote Khay.

Logan's "passion for cooking caught up with him again in 2004." This time he came full circle and opened a tea room at the gallery.

My guess is that Logan put those blenders and Kitchen Aide mixers to work, making "eight-egg quiches and four-layer cakes."

"Kitchen stuff is nuts," said Logan in the interview. "It's crazy."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don Mason's Dutch oven newsletter

Here's the latest edition of Don Mason's Dutch oven newsletter. Email Don to receive a copy electronically.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ugly drum smoker

It's always nice to put a name to a piece of equipment. Back when I worked at a large residential facility for the state, the kitchen staff enjoyed a picnic at Folsom Lake each June.

One of the sous chefs always brought his homemade vertical drum smoker to the park and smoked tri-tip. A package of six or seven Costco tri-tips fit inside the smoker. I'll post more of my experience with the smoker in a day or two.

I learned over the weekend that barbecue folks commonly call it an ugly drum smoker (or UDS). It may not be the best looking piece of barbecue equipment, but it produces some wonderful meat. (Here are instructions to build one from the California BBQ Association.)

In the photo, the meat was about 30 minutes from being pulled. The seven roasts took about three hours.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Livin' high on the hog at sea

About the time I savored smoked hog at Oinktoberfest, the culinary specialists of the USS Nimitz served roast pig to the crew.

INDIAN OCEAN (Oct. 13, 2009) -- Machinist's Mate Fireman Maria Cortez, right, waits for Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Torrance Davis to serve her a slice of roasted pig during the 234th Navy Birthday celebration aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph H. Moon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where there's fire, smoke follows

There's more than one way to light a fire inside a smoker. John Chips, of Butte Creek BBQ, uses a built-in propane torch to light the fire inside the smokebox of his Gater Pit mobile smoker.

I took my family to the 2009 NorCal Bash & Oinktoberfest in Oroville, California last Saturday. A whole smoked pig that was smoked on site was the centerpiece of the event.

Leonard "Wagon Cook" Sanders organized the gathering for the California BBQ Association. Leonard is the chef-owner of Chuck Wagon BBQ Company in Oroville.

Smoked whole hog
The most important man of the event was Harry Stewart, owner of Great American Barbecue Co. in Alameda, California. "Harry took time out of his busy schedule to come up and smoke the pig and demonstrate technique," said Sanders on the CBBQA discussion forum.

After arriving around 10 p.m. Friday, Harry lightly seasoned the 65-pound pig with olive oil, dried thyme and black pepper. He didn't salt the pig because it draws out moisture and toughens the skin.

Sometime just before midnight, Harry stoked the fire and set the pig inside the smoker. Harry kept watch through the night, arising at two-hour intervals to check the temperature in the smoker.

"Manual pit with oven thermos to gauge temp, just like working on the railroad ...," explained Harry on the forum. His target was 225 to 250 degrees thoughout the night and morning.

Eighteen hours later, Harry rewarded event goers with the sweet, succulent flesh of a smoked hog. It's simplicity at its best, according to Harry.

"18 hours over Oak and charcoal, no injections just a simple rub and mop."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smoked bacon log

Leonard Sanders smoked a bacon log for breakfast on Saturday, October 10 at the 2009 NorCal Bach & Oinktoberfest in Oroville. He weaved a pound of bacon (16 slices) together and cooked it until it was starting to crisp, but pliable enough to roll.

Next Sanders set a layer of deli ham over the bacon. He then topped it with a layer of shredded cheddar and jack cheeses. He smoked it inside his smoker after carefully rolling it.

Sanders said he didn't add a layer of ham the first he tried the log. Cheese oozed between the strips of bacon. In addition to adding a new flavor dimension, the ham prevented the melting cheese from escaping and making a big mess.

Once you've mastered the basic bacon log in a smoker or Dutch oven, try adding new ingredients. A third meat, like crumbled chorizo or sausage, will work, as will your favorite vegetables. Try adding sauteed onions, sweet or hot peppers and mushrooms on top of the ham.

Sanders also advised that you cook the bacon on top of a baking rack. This will let the grease drain from the bacon. (The picture doesn't show a rack because he forgot it Saturday.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baking school

The quality of training for Navy cooks and bakers has improved in recent years. My ship mates and I would've welcomed training in the production of pate a choux dough from experienced culinary arts instructors.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Sept. 4, 2009) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Ganiu Jubrila shows strawberry and chocolate russe cakes made for the final exam of the Principles of Baking course at Tidewater Community College. Culinary specialists assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth attending the culinary arts courses prepared desserts and puff pastry-encased meats, which were served to galley patrons.

Naval Medical Center Portsmouth culinary specialists prepared gourmet desserts during the final exam of a culinary arts course at Tidewater Community College.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William R. Heimbuch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dinner's cookin'

Dinner's cookin'
Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook

Leonard's pot rack will hold up to 17 Dutch ovens when fully loaded. Here, the 24-hour coffee pot and three ovens hang over burning embers.

I took this picture a couple hours after the one posted yesterday. By 4 p.m., Leonard dropped the 16-inch Dutch oven with the chili verde to make room for my Dutch oven bread. The chili was done and only needed to stay warm.

Unlike the other pots, which only needed bottom heat, I added a large shovel of coals from the campfire to the lid. This provided even top and bottom heat to the bread oven.

Fifteen minutes later I dropped the bread oven to the ground and finished it with top heat only.

My basic Dutch oven bread recipe is posted here. It's written for the 14-inch deep Dutch oven.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pot rack

Pot rack
Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook
As I noted Friday afternoon, I took my family to the 2009 NorCal Bash & Oinktoberfest in Oroville, California on Saturday. Upwards of 30 barbecue competitors, barbecue business owners and barbecue enthusiasts attended the three-day gathering.

Leonard "Wagon Cook" Sanders organized the gathering for the California BBQ Association. Sanders is the chef-owner of Chuck Wagon BBQ Company in Oroville.

Instead of driving iron rods into the earth and running a pole between them, Sanders suspends seven-foot sections of inch-and-a-quarter iron water pipe between "A" frames. He hangs coffee pots and Dutch ovens over the glowing coals of the cook fire.

Sanders constructed his irons in 7-foot sections so that he can tailor the length to the event. For Oinktoberfest, he set up two sections, but only used one section on Saturday. At other events, like the June 2001's Bash at the Ranch, Sanders used all three sections to feed 120 Navy veterans.

And with eight hooks to each section, Sanders can suspend up to 17 pots from the irons. He uses hooks that completely circle the cross-piece. He says the problem with "S" hooks is that they easily come off and fall into the fire.

Saturday afternoon, Leonard had the following pots working on the rack:
  • 24-hour pot of cowboy coffee for the overnight whole pig barbeque crew
  • Spotted pub rice pudding with raisins
  • Leonard's quick chili verde with leftover smoked tri-tip
  • Dutch oven bread fermenting in the pot to the right

Friday, October 09, 2009


I'm heading north to Oroville, California this afternoon for the 2009 NorCal Bash and Oinktoberfest. As the guest of Leonard "Wagon Cook" Sanders, chef and proprietor of the Chuck Wagon BBQ Company, my contribution will be limited to Dutch oven bread.

The event appears to be limited to members and guests of the California Barbecue Association.

When I talked to Leonard two hours ago, he was on his way to pick up a whole pig in Yuba City. That should make for mighty fine tastin' barbecue tomorrow for dinner.

Potluck sign-ups feature assorted local BBQ Sauces, a North Carolina vinegar sauce, Dutch oven cowboy potatoes with "various pork," smoked cabbage and Grandma's All American potato salad. The one dessert listed is sweet potato pecan bread pudding with Southern Comfort sauce. I'm sure there'll be much more food.

I learned of the event last weekend when Leonard posted a Oinktoberfest photograph on his Facebook site. I jokingly commented, "Will work for free pig ..." Leonard shot back two hours later:
Steve Karoly: If you would like to come to Oroville this Saturday with one single Dutch oven and make one loaf of bread like you made 6-1/2 years ago for my 50th birthday, we will feed you and your family all the pork that you can eat.
Not one to pass up free pork, my "one" 14-inch deep Dutch oven is packed in the truck with flour, yeast and fixin's for my basic Dutch oven bread. Since I can't pass up an opportunity to cook, I also loaded an extra 14-inch Dutch oven and 17-inch skillet.

Notebook and camera are packed as well. I'll report back with pictures and my thoughts on the pig fest during the week. This should be some seriously good eats.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New reader ... sort of

One of the joys of writing a blog is that you occasionally meet one of your readers. Most find 'Round the Chuckbox through web searches or word-of-mouth as I don't expend a lot of effort marketing the blog.

Occasional Dutch oven cook Matt Allen (pictured, left) first found the blog some two years ago during a Google search for camping recipes. Matt enjoys baking sheepherder's bread and apple crisp in his Dutch ovens while camping.

However, Matt and I didn't meet in a culinary context as you might expect. He quickly jumped to the the El Dorado Western Railway blog. As a railroad enthusiast, he's followed the crew's effort to restore the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive for the past two years.

We finally met Saturday at the engine house, where Matt quickly found a place as the railway pipefitter. He's agreed to evaluate and design the piping for the airbrake system for the Diamond and Caldor Railnus No. 10 at the El Dorado County Historical Museum.

Maybe Matt will agree to assist me next time I cook for the crew.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Call for the oven man

My culinary skills were put to work for the first time since joining the El Dorado Western Railway. Although my occasional meals please its volunteers, they're a side benefit. Demonstration railroads don't need a cook to renovate locomotives and rolling stock.

I was asked to check a standard home oven at the engine house last Saturday. Machinist Sam Thompson wanted to use the oven to pre-heat three cast iron valves for the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive.

At about 9 a.m., I watched welder Harold Tilton wheel the oven into the engine house on a hand truck. He planned to plug it into the shop's 240-volt receptacle, which is normally used to power the electric arc welder.

Other than a mental note, the fact that Harold was moving the oven didn't register in my brain. Acquired several years ago, the oven hadn't been used to date. I have often though that it could be become the centerpiece of a shop kitchen.

"I had just sat down to preview photographs of the morning's activities when I heard my name.

Where's the oven man?" called Harold. "We need the cook."

I walked into the engine house and looked at the oven, which was set up in the narrow isle between the 39-ton locomotive and a tool cabinet.

"All I can do is to play with the dial." I explained to Harold that my next move has always been to call the kitchen maintenance man in to repair the problem.

As I walked up to the oven, I saw Bill Rodgers, the railway "kitchen maintenance" man, at work. Once we determined that the oven had no power, Bill quickly assessed that the wrong receptacle was connected to the 240-volt power supply.

Bill is our millwright, a jack-of-all-trades shop maintenance man. We've come to depend on his capability to repair almost any piece of shop equipment, including older General Electric electric ovens.

Once Bill repaired the oven, I asked Sam (pictured above, watching Bill repair the receptacle) what he planned to "cook" in the oven.

"As you know," explained Sam, cast iron cracks when intense, local heat is applied to the cold metal. Instead, Sam set the cold valves inside a cold oven. He then turned the oven dial to about 250 degrees.

Once hot, Harold removed each valve one-by-one and braized a layer of brass on each side of the valve. Sam will later machine the valves to the proper specification.

I may use the oven as long as Sam doesn't intend on cooking toxic compounds inside it. The oven and rangetop will come in handy this winter during inclement weather.

There's no reason we can't mix some harmless metallurgy with a bit of precision bread baking in the engine house.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ann's chili

Ann graciously shared her chili recipe with me.

"Um, well, mine's pretty simple," said Ann. "I've developed this recipe over the years to suit my taste, and I got some of the ingredients from my sister. I've gotten pretty consistent with it."


Substitute 2 extra large cans of cooked pinto beans if you're in a hurry. Rotel brand diced tomatoes and green chilies add a little kick to the chili. You find them at Wal-Mart on the tomato sauce aisle, according to Ann.

The quantity of chili powder depends its quality and strength. "A good brand will be stronger than the cheap ones," said Ann. "I would say 6 tablespoons is the bare minimum for this big a pot." Use more if you want spicy chili.

1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight and cooked for two hours with a couple of slices of bacon or salt pork
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans black beans
2 cans dark red kidney beans
1 large can of Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2-1 teaspoons ground cumin
6(+) tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)

Dump it all together in a big stew pot. You can put it in a crockpot overnight, but you'd have to cut the recipe a little. Simmer it on a LOW setting for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Makes 10-12 bowls (I like leftovers!).

Farewell to a Bosie summer

Close friends Frank and Ann Sexton moved to Boise almost three and one-half years ago. This gave Frank an opportunity to climb into management in the construction industry and move his family far away from the California rat race.

Ann began writing a weekly email letter to friends and family a month before their June 2006 move. She purposed in her opening letter to "keep in touch with the people I care about the most" and to motivate herself to write.

"It seems ridiculous that a woman who wants to be a writer can't make the time to write to the people she loves!" expressed Ann.

With over 120 letters to her credit, Ann's letter writing "campaign" has paid off. She graciously allowed me to share yesterday's letter, written on the heal of a Bosie summer that faded weeks ago.

Farewell to a Bosie summer

By Ann Sexton

October is no longer around the corner, fall is definitely come to roost for a while around here. It was rainy and cold last night and this morning I haven't so much as ventured a toe out the door yet.

It's 8:04 and still barely light, which means it's cloudy at the very least. The days grow shorter, even before the time change, and suddenly hot soup and a warm snugly afghan sound awfully good to me.

For the first time in many years (probably since childhood), I regret summer abandoning me. Usually I can't wait for it to scamper off and leave in its wake falling leaves and cold wind. I don't know, this year is different.

I enjoyed the summer so much, between my projects and walking every morning in the cool new air of a summer morning. I'm going to miss it.

I'm dreading the bad weather because that will make it much more difficult to get myself out the door for a walk ... yep, it's going to be a long winter. (I'm beginning to understand much better why Frank doesn't care for winter ... since he HAS to be out in it daily.)

Barely October and I'm already feeling hibernation mode kicking in ... stay home, stay in, eat, sleep more, snuggle. I will have to fight those urges if I'm going to continue my quest to get "fitter."

And I AM determined to keep on ... NOT give in, just because it's autumn. But still, I'm making a big pot of chili for lunch!

Friday, October 02, 2009

New Dutch oven cookoff in Colusa, Calif.

This looks like a fun cookoff and will benefit a great cause. And there's no charge to cook!

Don Mason

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Strawberry shortcake at sea

While we enjoyed an opportunity to work with fresh strawberries in the Western Pacific, we had to settle for frozen fruit most of the time.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 28, 2009) -- Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Wiellard Guillermo, a baker assigned to the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), prepares strawberry shortcakes in the ship's bake shop.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Viramontes.

Fortuna Apple Harvest Festival Dutch oven cookoff

The Fortuna Dutch Oven Society will hold its 4th annual Dutch oven cookoff at the Fortuna (California) Apple Harvest Festival this Saturday, October 3, 2009 at Rohner Park.

This is a one- to three pot cookoff. Cookoff categories include main dish, bread and and dessert. You may sign up for one category or all three. Apples must be incorporated into the dessert dish.

A $75 cash prize will be awarded to the 1st place winner. Second place wins a $25 award. A Peoples Choice Award will be given based on food sampling be the public.

For more information, cookoff application and rules, please contact Marvin Rutledge at (707) 764-3547.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I have heard of a land ...

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. … Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:1-2, 14).
I'm sometimes at a loss to describe the beauty of God's creation. Words dance about my head as I sit next to a roaring campfire, but I can never pen them onto paper.

Instead, I'm content to watch the light glance off the pines trees that reach to the heavens. With the stars visible through the tree tops, the campfire gives me time to contemplate the handiwork of God's wonderful creation and consider the day when I will join Him in a "land on a faraway strand."

Song writers have used words for generations to express their faith about heaven. With inspiration from the inspired words of scripture, they've often used scenes of delightful gardens and forests to explain what we'll see in heaven one day.

We sang such a hymn in worship yesterday morning. The second stanza from the hymn, penned by Mrs. F.A.F. White in 1889, caught my attention. The verse reminded me of my beloved Sierra Nevada mountains:
There are evergreen trees
That bend low in the breeze,
And their fruitage is brighter than gold;
There are harps for our hands
In that fairest of lands,
And nothing shall ever grow old.
While Mrs. White’s beautiful hymn describes heaven ("I Have Heard of a Land"), I couldn’t help but think of majestic ponderosa pines, so common in the thick forests of the Sierra Nevada. Its yellow-green leaves blanket the forest, with tree tops swaying in the breeze.

White’s hymn describes heaven as a place of great splendor and glory. You could compare White’s evergreen tree to the "tree of life" of Genesis and Revelation.

It makes sense that the tree of life, when described in human terms, would never shed its leaves. Unlike the ponderosa, whose cones take two years to mature, the tree of life bears continuous fruit to those who obey God's commands.

Next time I light a campfire, I'll remember Mrs. White's words. Those and words remind you of heaven. "And nothing shall grow old. In that beautiful land on the faraway strand," she concludes in the refrain.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Roasted red potato salad

We enjoyed an evening with family in Davis yesterday. My brother invited the California siblings to his house so we could say goodbye to Mom. She's leaving at the end of week for Virginia to spend the fall and early winter with my sister.

We arrived in Davis in time to watch the second half of my nephew's soccer game against Rio Linda. I never did find out who won!

After the game, the clan drove to the house and enjoyed a salad fest with grilled hot dogs and knackwurst. Two potato salads, three-bean salad and a cole slaw graced the table as we talked.


3 pounds red potatoes, diced
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 green onions, sliced thin
2 dill pickles, chopped fine
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

Place potatoes in a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread potatoes on a greased 18 x 13-inch sheet pan.

Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees F until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool for 15 minutes and transfer to serving container.

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise, mustard, green onion, pickle and eggs. Toss lightly to evenly coat potatoes. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Garnish with paprika and hard-cooked egg wedges if desired. Yields about 3 quarts. Serves 12 (2/3-cup) portions.

NOTES: Sour cream or plain yogurt may be substituted for half of the mayonnaise.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Army's 'Grill Sergeant' matches skills against culinary hero

The Grill Sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Brad Turner, takes a look at what Chef Bobby Flay cooks up for an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay," filmed at Fort Lee, Va. last summer. The episode airs on the Food Network tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Story and photograph by Kimberly Fritz, Fort Lee (Virginia) Public Affairs

FORT LEE, Va. (July 2, 2009) -- For Sgt. 1st Class Brad Turner, his work is his passion. The culinary artist, currently working in the Executive Dining Facility inside the Pentagon, is also well-known by the moniker of "The Grill Sergeant."

Recently Turner returned to Fort Lee, where he was once an instructor at the Army Center of Excellence, Subsistence, to film a special for the Food Network ... or so he thought.

With food service training students watching and learning, Turner began entertaining and engaging the Soldiers gathered for a special day of culinary training.

Turner, who is known for singing while he cooks, shared his cooking philosophy and culinary tips, as well as his unique lexicon. Words like "marinipulating, splaining" and ingredients dubbed "ooh, wee and wow" roll off his tongue as he cooks. Salt, otherwise known as "ooh," "wee," known as pepper, and "wow," representing garlic are staples in most Turner original recipes. Turner asked the audience to help him by shouting "ooh, wee, wow" when he used these ingredients.

The students happily engaged as he prepared the mustard-based marinade for his special "Sunshine Barbecue Chicken." The origin of his marinade came early in his career when a fellow Soldier asked Turner to concoct a milder sauce that wouldn't aggravate his fierce heartburn.

As the culinary students watched his every move, Turner didn't miss an opportunity to educate and inspire. He told the students how they are learning the same methods during their training as any other culinary student in the world.

With his chicken on the grill, Turner began preparations for his baby red potato salad when famed Chef Bobby Flay jumped from the back of a tactical vehicle at the field services training area and challenged Turner to a competitive cook-off for an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay."

Turner, astonished at the appearance of one of the world's premiere grill chefs, immediately rose to the challenge set before him. Claiming to always be the professional, Turner cited some of the NCO Creed.

"No one is more professional than I," he said.

The set originally configured for one chef was quickly transformed into dueling work stations where Flay's team worked to catch up with Turner's progress.

As the two chefs worked over the hot coals of the charcoal grills, culinary students soaked up the delicious aromas and the cooking tips emanating from the two successful chefs.

When the cooking was completed, the dishes were served up and each Soldier sampled the dueling chefs' creations.

Brig. Gen. Jesse R. Cross, Quartermaster Center and School commanding general, and Frances Daniel, owner of Mrs. Marshall's Carytown Cafe, served as judges in a blind taste test to determine the winner of the cook-off.

The results are a well-guarded secret which viewers will learn when the show airs later this year.

No matter which recipe and chef won the lighthearted and entertaining battle of the barbecue, the young culinary Soldiers walked away winners.

Cross said the students would remember this day for years to come.

"These guys will be cooking their corn bread and their barbecue recipes and they'll remember they saw Bobby Flay at work," he said.

For Turner, the events of the day didn't quite hit him until he walked away from the set. He was overcome with emotion and overwhelmed at the events.

"When one of your heroes steps around the corner and you're doing what you love to do and they do what you love to do, and then to inspire 100 new Soldiers that are going to be in all parts of the world, it's just overwhelming," Turner said. "They saw something today that let them know that anything is possible. Nineteen years ago I was sitting right where they were sitting and someone inspired me."

For a moment he was at a loss for words thinking about the gravity of the event.

"I love what I do," Turner said. "The greatest part of today came when we were cooking and Chef Flay came to the back where I had set my chicken and potato salad down and he ate three more pieces of chicken and dug into the potato salad. "There is no greater compliment than for someone to genuinely like your food. And he ate it genuinely," he continued. "For me that was the greatest compliment."

When asked what he thought of Turner's unique recipe, Flay said he loved it.

"I was eating throughout the competition. I kept thinking there was curry or something in it," Flay said. "It had natural heat from the mustard and the brown sugar for the sweet, it was a great balance."

Flay wasn't able to pinpoint the spice he tasted in the marinade, until Turner told him.

"Brad told me it was ginger," Flay said. "He shared his secret underlying ingredient."

The consensus of all who gathered to watch the memorable event was that both chefs' dishes and the event were a treat.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lunch at the engine house

I haven't cooked lunch for the crew at the engine house of the El Dorado Western Railway in six months. Several priority projects kept me from cooking in the months leading to my early June departure for the summer camp job. My labor was more important at that point.

Railway President Keith Berry and I first discussed a lunch meal several weeks ago. We both wanted to reward the crew for a summer of notable accomplishments. Twice this summer, Keith called on the volunteers to complete high-profile projects in a short period of time.

Last June the crew rallied to remove the rail, tie plates and rail joiners from the old Southern Pacific yard at Diamond Springs. Once the county gave its approval to remove the track and associated hardware, we had no more than two weeks to complete the track disassembly.

The crew completed the project in eight days. Several volunteers worked every day. The rails and hardware will be used to add a third rail and build the yard at the recently approved El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park in the town of El Dorado.

The county board of supervisors approved the park on August 25. The park will be located on the right-of-way of the Southern Pacific depot in El Dorado.

Volunteers again answered the call this weekend when it became evident that we had to move about 300 ties to a secure location. The ties were open to theft in their current location along the old right-of-way, which is being converted into a riding and walking trail.

Lunch menu

I often use meals at the engine house to try new recipes and to use ingredients that I already have at home. Since I had a 4-pound pork shoulder in the freezer, I knew the menu would be built around a pork dish.

Although chili verde is a favorite -- a dish I enjoy cooking for potlucks -- I wanted to try a flavor combination that was new for me. The idea for a pork stew came to me as I watched Alton Brown's Good Eats television show last week.

In the re-broadcast of his 2005 "Dis-Kabob-Ulated" episode, Brown marinated beef sirloin in a spicy marinade with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Turmeric, smoked paprika and cumin formed the flavor base for the marinade.

Since it isn't practical to make pork kabobs with the tougher pork shoulder, a braised or stewed dish seemed to be the best way to tenderize the meat. I used the marinade to impart flavor, then prepared a tradition stew from that point.

I worked the recipe in my mind Friday evening as I moved railroad ties. I had originally planned to work out the menu and shop that evening. But a 3 p.m. telephone call from Keith brought me to the Diamond Springs yard instead.

When I arrived at the storage site for the ties, the crew asked me what was on the lunch menu for Saturday. I received a chuckle or two when I told them that Keith had pulled me away from my menu planning duties.

They weren't amused when I said that I should be home planning the menu. At that moment, the crew was more interested in my back than culinary skills. Since we didn't quit until 7:30 p.m., I delayed shopping until Saturday morning.

My original thought was to prepare the stew with orange marmalade, but hit on the idea to build the stock with apple juice after moving almost 250 ties. Yams and apples seemed like a natural addition from that point.

Here's the menu for the El Dorado Western Railway lunch:
I arrived at the museum yesterday around 9 a.m. After setting the chuckbox and firepan up next to a historic Studebaker wagon, charcoal briquettes were lit by 9:30 a.m. and the meat was at a simmer shortly after 10 a.m.

All three dished were prepared in 14-inch Dutch ovens. While I could've made the stew in a 12-inch deep Dutch oven, I customarily use 14-inchers when cooking for crowds.

In the end, 11 crew and guests enjoyed the meal. While I cooked, the crew loaded the 1937 Waukesha engine from the Diamond and Caldor railbus onto Doug's trailer. Doug is going to rebuild the six-cylender engine and return it to the museum next spring.

After lunch, Keith asked if I was going to help move the last 40 or 50 ties at Diamond Springs yard. Lunch over, it was time to get back to work.


Use the marinade to flavor diced beef for spicy beef kabobs. Prepare the marinade and combine with 3 to 4 pounds of boneless beef sirloin as directed. Alton Brown's recipe has cooking instructions.

4 pounds pork shoulder
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 quart apple juice
2 pounds yams or sweet potatoes, diced
3 Granny Smith apples, diced

Cut the pork into 1- to 1-1/2-inch cubes and place into a large bowl or container. Set aside.

In a bowl combine garlic, paprika, turmeric, cumin, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar. Drizzle in olive oil while vigorously whisking.

Pour the marinade over meat and toss to coat. Place in the refrigerator in an airtight container or a zipper-lock bag and marinate for 2 to 4 hours.

In a colander, drain marinade from stew. Discard remaining marinade. Heat a 6- or 8-quart Dutch oven to medium-hot. Brown pork in 2 or 3 batches to avoid overcrowding. Remove each batch to a waiting plate or bowl as it's done.

Return browned pork to Dutch oven. Add apple juice and stir. Season with salt to taste. Simmer until pork is tender, about 60 to 75 minutes. Add yams and apples and continue cooking until yams are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Makes about 12 (1-cup) servings. Serve over buttermilk biscuits.