Sunday, January 31, 2010
Steaming toward El Dorado
County Supervisors approve concept plan for El Dorado County railroad park
By Keith Berry, President
The long awaited moment has now occurred. The El Dorado County Railroad Park concept plan has been approved!
Over the past years, we have searched for a site to establish exhibit and operational trackage for our rail logging artifacts. Several sites were evaluated but could not be developed for a variety of reasons.
Our growingly difficult challenge was to locate a site where the local community would support our plan, and a site with rail in place to shorten the development timeframe.
The site would also require public access, be close to U.S. Highway 50, yet be reflective of a pastoral setting reflective of the age of logging railroad activity in El Dorado County.
Such a site was found along the old Southern Pacific Placerville Branch adjacent to the township of El Dorado, now designated as a transportation corridor featuring multiple recreational formats.
During the summer months, we worked with our Museum Director Mary Cory to assemble our concept plan including a detailed site plan drawing by Harold Kiser. During August, this plan was carried thru the Joint Powers Authority and the County Board of Supervisors by Supervisor Jack Sweeney.
Final plan development was assigned to the County Department of Transportation for survey work, utility verification, road access evaluation, and coordination with other corridor recreational stake holders including trails and visiting rail groups.
Given full support by the community, recreation commission, and trails groups, approval was achieved with unanimous votes! A vital resource was the concept watercolor volunteered by ANOVA Architects.
While all this was going on, we had the opportunity to "glean" the rail materials from the old Diamond Springs Yard, adjacent to Missouri Flat Road. This project permitted the reuse of approximate three-fourths of a mile of track and switches at El Dorado, and cleared the area for public trail development along the right of way to the east.
A tremendous effort was put forth by all volunteers and friends to accomplish the disassembly and transport of tons of materials in the course of several weeks during the dog day heat of summer.
Thank you to all who came to work and kept with it until this valuable inventory was protected and protected for the future recreational benefit of our community.
Currently, we are waiting for a property survey to verify the actual boundary lines, this very much in our favor to recover the entire right of way to public use. The fire season is almost over; we can then address the current unkept weedy nature of the area.
Railroad work will commence with replacement of rotted ties along a 1,500-foot section north from the old station site, this to allow use in 2010.
As this work will soon commence, while we continue to restore equipment, we encourage all volunteer support, we need your help in a variety of ways.
Our moment has arrived!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Here are several possibilities to enhance the recipe for Fresh Tomato Salsa:
- Smokin' hot -- Toss one or two chipotle chilies into the blender or food processor bowl. Add more or less to suit you tolerance for a smoky salsa. Start with one chipotle and taste before adding a second. You want to add an smoky flavor, not overpower the salsa.
- Mix it up -- By itself, the jalapeno provides a nice layer of spicy richness to the salsa. But in culinary terms, more is often better. Experiment -- blend two or three different chili varieties, like Anaheim, jalapeno and serrano.
- Go green -- Why not change direction (and color)? Go green with chili verde. Substitute an equal number of tomatillos for the tomatoes. Follow recipe direction for roasting.
Instead of roasting the salsa ingredients in a skillet, you can roast the tomatoes (or tomatillos), chilies and garlic under the broiler. Cut the tomatoes and chilies in half and lay them on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Broil for five to seven minutes, or until caramelized. Then place all ingredients in the blender or food processor bowl and process.
Monday, January 25, 2010
OKINAWA, Japan (Jan. 24, 2010) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Olivia Hooker slices tomatoes for lunch aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed expeditionary strike group and serves as the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 76.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew A. Ebarb.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I suppose the lighthearted remark eased the guilt of scooping the round, preformed chop off the deck and tossing it back onto the griddle.
In defense of the Robison's galley team, there was little chance for bacteria to catch a ride to the griddle and contaminate the rest of the meal. Quick action on the cook's part limited the time the chop rested on the deck.
Plus, the deck was scrubbed after each meal, a process that washed bacteria down the drain. The cooks ran a tight ship in the sanitation sense of the word.
While our process called for decisive action, it won't work in today's kitchen. No one uses wax paper any longer.
I found the answer on Facebook this afternoon. Friend and fellow chef Ira Krizo posted a link to the five-second rule decision tree.
I traced the photograph back to the San Francisco Food Blog (SFoodie).
We've all been there: You dropped your cupcake on the ground. Did it land icing up, down? Can you just scrape off the icing? How many hours have you lost trying to decide? Here's a time-saving flow chart to help out. (Andrew Wright, "You Dropped Food on the Floor. Do You Eat It?" January 19, 2010.)There you have it. Commit it to memory. Next time you drop a pork chop (or cupcake) onto the floor, you can quickly determine if it's edible or not.
Since cats weren't allowed on the the Robison, it looks like the cooks rightly threw it back onto the griddle. Following the "Is it a raw steak?" chain, the cooked pork chop was safe to eat!
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Although several residents have extensive restaurant experience, one resident of Mexican heritage leaned to cook from her paternal grandmother. "Laci" is is one of four ladies who cook in my place on the weekend and when I take a day off.
Last Tuesday morning, Laci approached me and asked if she could make a fresh tomato salsa for lunch. I quickly said yes. Not only would the residents enjoy a spicy salsa with lunch, it would give me a chance to watch her.
Laci placed four larger tomatoes and three jalapeno chilies into a medium-hot skillet. Over the next 20 to 30 minutes she frequently turned the vegetables as the skin charred.
Laci then threw six whole peeled garlic cloves in the skillet after she removed the tomatoes. The tomatoes by this time were soft and falling apart.
Once the garlic was lightly browned, Laci transferred the vegetables to the blender bowl. She added one chopped onion, the juice of one lemon and salt before processing the mixture into a fine salsa.
When I tasted the salsa, its clean, spicy flavor impressed me. Laci's salsa is reminiscent of the salsa served at better Mexican restaurants in Northern California.
"I make this salsa the way my grandmother taught me to make it," said Laci. I invited her to prepare chili verde next time that I purchase a Boston butt.
5 medium tomatoes
2 jalapeno chilies
6 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, chopped large
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 limes, juiced
Salt, to taste
Char tomatoes and jalapeno chilies in a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat. Add garlic after about 15 minutes. Be careful not burn garlic as it will impart a bitter flavor.
After tomatoes and chilies are soft and skin is brown, toss in food processor or blender bowl. Add onion, cilantro and lime juice. Possess to desired consistency. Season with salt to taste.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Jackson.
Monday, January 18, 2010
"Thanks for the great food."
I looked up as I assembled a pizza to find a middle-aged woman with silver-streaked hair. Her wave emphasised the compliment.
"Thanks for the great food."
Interaction with buffet patrons helped the evening flow. Most cooks enjoy the occasional compliment about their labor.
It's the valuable feedback that lets know how customers receive our tasty creations.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
We usually didn't have time to check the delivery against the invoice, especially when the ship was underway. I'd check the delivery after the fact and adjust the invoice later.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mike Mulcare.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Pork butt (also known as pork shoulder) is a fantastic cut for the institutional kitchen. It's economical and full of flavor.
I purchased a package of two pork butts at the Smart and Final warehouse grocery store this morning for $1.49 per pound. I placed the second roast in the freezer for a later meal.
The meat for tomorrow's meal cost about $12. That's a $5 savings when compared against ground beef or hamburger patties.
While $5 may not sound like a lot of money, it's significant to me because I'm feeding around 30 residents on about $5 per day. I'll apply the savings toward something special for the residents later in the month.
To roast the pork butts, I placed it in a two-inch hotel pan and three two-inch deep cuts on the top and bottom. I then seasoned the roast with a spicy rub made from chili powder, cumin, paprika, granulated garlic, dried oregano and kosher salt. A little brown sugar would've given the rub a hint of sweetness.
I placed the roast in a 325-degree oven, fat side up. A quart of water helped tenderize the meat and prevented the drippings from burning during the long cooking process. It took close to four hours to cook to the point where the meat pulls apart with little effort.
Unfortunately, I won't be able to taste the end product as I have the weekend off.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Anna posted this question on Monday. I was intrigued by the question because 70 cents per person per meal isn't a lot of money to feed a large group, even when discounts for purchasing in bulk.
Even though the food budget at work is more than double Anna's, my answer is based on experience. While I buy the bulk of our food supply from Sysco Food Services, I use the markets listed below to purchase food on sale and to take advantage of special deals to save money.
I cook weekly for 160 needy community members, ages 5 to around 90. I have helpers, so one person can do the entree, one the salad, one the bread and donated desserts, one the beverages. The problem is sustaining the budget as our numbers keep growing. I want to serve the best nutrition possible for about $.70 per serving.I commend you for your effort. Purchasing on a limited budget is one of the most challenging situations for a chef.
A budget of 70 cents per meal requires intimate knowledge of the food market in your city. You must developed a keen sense of locating deals, as well as becoming a frugal shopper.
You need to be tuned into local market food prices and be ready to adjust the menu on a moment's notice. Stores like Wal-Mart, local 99 cent stores and other discount stores in town can be a great source of discount food.
Pick up the Wednesday section of the newspaper and search the market ads for weekly specials. When ground beef, beef chuck, pork putt, whole chickens, etc., go on sale, be ready to buy in bulk (as long as you have space in the freezer). I take advantage these products when prices hover around $1 per pound.
Learn how to cook the cheaper, but more flavorful, cuts of meat. Beef chuck and pork shoulder can be turned into dozens of dishes, especially when braised, smoked or slow roasted.
I'd also keep a close eye on the serving size of the main protein source. While it's nice to offer a 5- to 6-ounce portion of meat, a budget of 70 cents per meal makes this a challenge. To avoid smaller portions, focus on casseroles, soups and stews, where the protein can be incorporated into the dish.
Another strategy is to offer a vegetarian entree each week (or so). As long as you watch the amount of eggs and cheese in each recipe, the use of vegetarian dishes can help save the cost of purchasing meat, since it's the costliest element of the menu.
One last idea: Search the community for donations, either of food or money. I worked at a boys home many years ago that received produce, dairy and eggs from a local supermarket.
Each morning I planned the meals for the day based on the food that was donated the day before. While it's a challenge, its situations like this that bring out the best in a cook.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
With the holidays behind us and 2010 underway, I'm keeping one of my New Year's Resolutions ... to get these newsletters out on a more regular basis.
Here's how that Resolution came about. Most married folks learn something new when overhearing their spouse talking to someone on the telephone. And, that's how I learned about MY New Year's Resolution.
I was sitting at the kitchen counter one afternoon while Pen was on the phone taking a phone order from a customer who'd recently received our Christmas Newsletter. My ears really perked up when I heard her say this, "He's made a New Year's Resolution to send out newsletters on a more regular basis. He just doesn't know it yet!"
Well, so far, so good.
Sweet Heart Deals & Winter Tour
Based on the response to the special pricing we did for Christmas to the New Year, we're extending those price breaks through Valentine's Day. So take advantage of the specials and price roll backs and get a special gift for your camp cook. Spring and summer are just around the corner!
As a result of us both working full time, we've had to reduce our appearance schedule. Last year Pen and I did nine shows in nine weekends from Seattle, Washington, to LaGrange, Texas.
This year, Pen is holding down the fort in Texas. Her brother, Al, will be making the appearances with me. For our friends and customers in the Northwest, here is our appearance schedule. Check the "Appearance Page" on our website.
- Tri-Cities Sporstmen's Show - Pasco, Washington - January 15-17, 2010.
- Washington Sportsmen't Show - Puyallup, Washington - January 27-31,2010.
- Pacific Northwest Sportsmen's Show - Portland, Oregon -February 10-14, 2010.
- Central Oregon Sportsmen's Show - Redmond, Oregon - March 11-14, 2010.
We had a great holiday season, and hope you and yours did as well. See you out there on the trail!
Cee Dub, Pen, and Al
Sunday, January 10, 2010
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
From scratch, split pea soup can be ready for the table in about two hours. Simply add a mirepoix, a bit of ham or bacon and two or three basic herbs to a three pounds of green split peas and you have the recipe.
I simmered a pot of split pea soup for the ladies at the residential facility last Thursday. From initial comments, I though the soup was going to be a failure.
Residents inquired about the source of the wonderful aroma in the house throughout the morning. Many seemed disappointed when I explained that it was the soup. Their faces told me the soup may not be a popular as I had hoped.
That all changed when I called lunch at 11:30 p.m.
"I have not eaten split pea soup since I was a teenager," said Sarah (not her real name), a middle-aged resident who recently entered the program.
Sarah changed her mind saw a bowl of soup on the table at mealtime. "That soup was good."
The soup was a success. In my three weeks on the job, this was the first time the ladies ate all of the soup. Four or five servings are left after most meals.
I recorded "None left -- very well accepted" in my notebook. It looks like I now have several new converts to split pea soup.
SPLIT PEA SOUP
A ham bone or ham hock can be used to flavor the cooking liquid when ham stock isn't available. Simmer the water and bone together for an hour or more before making the soup. This'll extract more flavor from the bone.
6 ounces salt pork, diced small
10 ounces onion, chopped
5 ounces celery, chopped
5 ounces carrot, chopped
6 quarts ham or chicken stock
3 pounds green split peas
3 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cook salt pork slowly in a heavy sauce pot to render the fat. Do not brown. Add chopped onion, celery and carrot and sweat in fat until the vegetables are slightly softened.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add split peas, bay leaves and thyme. Cover and simmer until the peas are soft, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Puree soup if desired.
If soup is to thick bring it to proper consistency with a little stock or water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If ham hock is used, trim off the meat, dice and add to the soup.
Serves 25 (8-ounce) portions.
Post Script ...
I can't seem to convert one of my daughters. She posted "Ewwwwwwwww ..." in response to a status update on Facebook!.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
The sharp, nutty aroma of the cumin and coriander amazed me as it wafted into the exhaust system. I asked the lead cook what was in the marinate, "Cumin, cilantro, sage, coriander and lemon juice," said the cook.
To serve, the cook sliced the chicken breasts and arranged them in a single line down the center of a decrative buffet pan. After arrangining a line of the garnish on either side of the chicken, he ladled the chimichurri over the chicken and placed the pan on the buffet line.
CUMIN MARINATED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH CHIMICHURRI
Substitute any citrus juice for the lemon. Lime juice complements the marinade well.
Chicken and marinade:
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup vegetable oil
8 (5-ounce) chicken breasts
1 large sweet onion, sliced into rings
4 medium tomatoes, quartered
2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and sliced (optional)
2 lemons, cut in half
1 cup flat leaf parsley (packed)
1/4 cup cilantro (packed)
2 cloves garlic
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
In a large container or bowl, combine cumin, coriander, sage, cilantro, salt, pepper, lemon juice and oil. Place chicken breasts in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, prepare chimichurri up to 2 hours ahead. Puree all chimichurri ingredients in food processor or blender until consistency of pesto. Transfer to serving bowl.
Remove chicken from bowl and brush off excess marinade. Grill over medium-hot heat for about 20 minutes, turning after first 10 minutes. Check for doneness. Place chicken on a clean platter and cover with aluminum foil.
While chicken sets, saute garnish ingredients (sliced onion, quartered tomatoes and sliced jalapeño chilies) in a skillet over high heat until soft and they're just beginning to brown. Sqeeze lemon juice over onion and tomato mixture.
Slice chicken on the bias and arrange in a line in the center of a serving platter. Arrange garnish on either side of chicken. Lightly spoon chimichurri over chicken. Serve remaining chimichurri on the table.
In a way, the 10-week job in the buffet restaurant was really an extension of my nearly 40-year career feeding military, hospital and prison populations. Instead of focusing on plated service, the buffet was organized like an upscale serving line.
Like any new job, I took it to heart and set out to train myself how to become the most competent buffet cook possible. Even though the job was physically demanding -- long hours on your feet with constant running when the buffet was busy -- I quickly learned that I needed to become familiar with each food item on the buffet line.
Over the next month, I'd like to discuss six or seven lessons for cooks working on the buffet line. Really, much of this advise applies to all cooks. A good cook will apply these lessons to any setting, whether in restaurant or institutional food service.
Learn the location of every item on the buffet line.
Customer service is one of the most important jobs for the cook that works in view of the public. Patrons frequently look to the cooks for direction.
From my first shift in October, patrons continually asked, "Where's the cocktail sauce?" I eventually found it helpful to walk the buffet line sometime during the shift to learn the location of each item.
Questions like, "Is the curry shrimp hot?" and "What's in the enchiladas?" often sent me into the kitchen for answers. I found it necessary to taste new foods, a task that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Of course, sometimes it took two bites!)
While standing in front of the buffet line on one of my last days at the casino, a customer asked, "Where are the potatoes?" She was looking for the potatoes that had become the starring attraction on the new Saturday "Steak and Potatoes Night."
In addition to "numerous steaks such as Delmonico, Strip, Tri Tip, Butt Steaks, Pork Chops, Grilled Chicken Breast, Snow Crab Legs and Carved Prime Rib," the buffet served "many styles of potatoes such as Mashed, Pan Fried with Onions, Baked, Sweet Au Gratin and more with all the toppings."
I showed the patron that we had a dozen different potato dishes, all located next to the appropriate steak dish. Mashed potatoes along with roasted red potatoes and peppers were located on my station.
Garlic fries, scalloped potatoes and candied sweet potatoes were on the carver station, between to the prime rib and grilled t-bone steak. Customers could find garlic mashed (along with one or two other preparations) on the American bounty station.
I'd always tried to walk the entire buffet line sometime in the first two hours of my shift. Even though most buffet offerings remain the same from day to day, the chefs introduced new dishes each week.
Remember that you represent the restaurant when you're working on the buffet line. It's your responsibility to know the make-up of each dish on your station, as well as the location.
Friday, January 01, 2010
Culinary Specialist John Smith's description of Creole macaroni caught my attention. Smith stirred a large steam-jacketed kettle of the popular casserole or "spaghetti sauce with macaroni."
I remember cooking the casserole, topped with lots of shredded cheddar cheese and finished in a medium-hot oven, during my sea-going days in the Navy. The dish features a combination of elbow macaroni, ground beef and canned tomatoes with sauteed onions and green bell peppers. It's all-American comfort goodness.
America's Heartland description: "This is a story not so much about the exciting life topside but the more routine life below decks. While seemingly mundane, the galley crews like 'Culinary Specialist' or 'C.S.', Torry Mitchell, take enormous pride in their work."
CREOLE MACARONI (OR AMERICAN CHOP SUEY)
This recipe is adapted from U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service card L-64. It yields 100 (1-cup) portions or 2 (18 by 24-inch) roasting pans. Bake at 350 degrees.
1-1/2 gallons water
1 (#10) can tomato paste
1 (#10) can diced tomatoes, drained
1-1/2 pounds diced green bell peppers
1-1/4 pounds chopped onions
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2-2/3 tablespoons dried crushed basil
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
6 pounds elbow macaroni
11 pounds lean ground beef
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
Combine water, tomato paste, tomatoes, peppers, onions, sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, basil, red pepper and thyme in steam-jacketed kettle or stock pot. Combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened.
Add macaroni to boiling, salted water. Return to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Do not overcook.
Brown beef until it loses its pink color. Drain or skim off excess fat. Combine beef, tomato sauce mixture, and macaroni. Mix well. Pour about 8-1/4 quarts macaroni mixture in each pan. Sprinkle 1-1/3 cups cheese over macaroni mixture in each pan.
Using a convection oven, bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees on high fan, closed vent or until mixture is bubbling and cheese is melted. Internal temperature must reach 155 degrees or higher for 15 seconds. Hold for service at 140 degrees or higher.
Check this Diners, Drive Ins and Dives video for Chef Roy Donohue's take on Amercican chop suey. It was filmed at Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, New Hampshire.
This video was posted to YouTube in April 2008. Chefs from each of the five military services battled in an Iron Chef style competition.