Monday, January 31, 2011

Summer project

While looking through CDs of my photographs, I came across this picture of my outdoor kitchen. I built it in 1999 at our rented house in Shingle Springs, California.

Since moving into our current house in 2002, I have not constructed an outdoor kitchen. Instead, I set up the two-burner propane stove, Webber kettle grill and Dutch oven table each spring as the weather clears.

The picture has inspired to clean the backyard up and contemplate a design for a 2011 outdoor kitchen. More to come ...

Sea and anchor detail

I was assigned to to Sea and Anchor Detail while serving on the USS Cocopa (ATF-101) in 1971 and 1972. As a young commissaryman seaman, I was the fantail phone talker on the 1JV circuit.

Even though I became proficient in nautical terminology, I don't recall the
Cocopa's mooring line handlers ever tying a rat tail stopper. After looking the term up, I learned that it's a "line used to hold the mooring line while it is being secured to bitts."

Click here to read my knot tying chef article from 2009.

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Jan. 28, 2011) Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Brandon Troublefield passes a rat tail stopper on a mooring line aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fidel C. Hart.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barbecued turkey

Here's a article that I posted to in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving in 2000.

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where food is almost as important as the meaning behind the holiday. I’m thankful to have been raised in a family that agrees with me. It doesn't matter which direction we travel -- south to one of the in-law’s houses or to my sister’s in San Jose -- a roasted turkey awaits us.

A barbecued turkey at Thanksgiving -- or any other time of the year -- is simply divine. It’s browned to perfection in the barbecue. Instead of filling the house with the pleasant aroma of a roasting turkey, you’ll be inviting all of your neighbors as its scent wafts over the fence into their yard. Better set extra place settings just in case.


I find that a fifteen-pound turkey is about right for the barbecue. But the important question is this: Will the turkey fit under the dome lid? On their Website, Weber advises that turkeys over 24 pounds may not fit under the lid of their barbecue kettles.

Completely thaw your turkey before grilling. It should be thawed in the refrigerator. A 15-pound turkey takes about three days to thaw. Thaw the turkey on the lowest shelf and place it over a pan to catch juices. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.

I don’t recommend stuffing the bird. Instead, place the stuffing into a baking pan and place the pan on the grill during the last 45 to 60 minutes that the turkey is on the grill. Use a thermometer to test the stuffing for doneness. It should reach 165 degrees. If the stuffing isn't hot enough, leave it on the grill while the turkey cools. A colorful alternative is to stuff green, red and yellow bell peppers with your favorite stuffing. Grill alongside the turkey.

1 (15 pound) turkey, thawed if frozen
Olive or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 chopped medium onion
2 stalks diced celery
2 diced carrots

Consult the instructions for your charcoal barbecue kettle before proceeding. The amount of needed charcoal briquettes will vary slightly from model to model. This recipe is written for the Weber 22-1/2-inch Bar-B-Kettle™ Grill.

Ignite 50 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until they are barely covered with ash, about 20 to 30 minutes. While charcoal is burning, rinse thoroughly turkey under running cold water and pat dry. Rub skin with oil. Season with salt and pepper inside and out. Place turkey, breast side up, on a baking rack.

When charcoal is ready, place an even number of briquettes on the left and right sides of the lower grill. Place a drip pan between the charcoal. Position the cooking grill with the handles directly over the charcoal. This will make adding fresh briquettes easier. Adjust the top and bottom vents to maintain the barbecue at 325 degrees.

Place the turkey (in the baking rack) on the cooking grill. Make sure to center the turkey directly over the drip pan. Cover barbecue kettle. Add 7 charcoal briquettes to each side each hour. A 15-pound turkey is done in about 3 hours. During the last hour of grilling, add onion, carrot and celery to drip pan if desired to flavor drippings. You don’t have to turn or baste the turkey.

When the thermometer reaches 170 degrees in the breast or 180 degrees in the thigh, remove turkey from the grill. Let cool about 20 minutes before carving. The meat just under the skin will be pink. Figure about 1 pound of turkey (with bones) for each person.

Strain vegetables into a pint-sized measuring cup. Skim fat from drippings. Discard vegetables. Reserve 1/4 cup of the fat for the gravy, and discard the remainder. Serve sliced turkey with camp mashed potatoes and turkey gravy.

According the Weber Website, unstuffed turkeys will take:

10-11 pounds -- 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hours
12-14 pounds -- 2-1/4 to 3hours
15-17 pounds -- 2-3/4 to 3-3/4hours
18-22 pounds -- 3-1/2 to 4hours
23-24 pounds -- 4 to 4-1/2hours


5 or 6 medium potatoes
Salted water to cover
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk
Salt and white pepper to taste

Bring 2 quarts salted to boil in a 4-quart stockpot. Peel potatoes with paring knife or vegetable peeler. Wash and pat dry. Cut potatoes into eighths. Carefully place in boiling water. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain water. With a potato masher, mash potatoes until they’re broken up into small pieces. Add butter, milk, salt and white pepper. (You can use black pepper, but black specks will color the potatoes.) Continue to mash potatoes with the potato masher. Serves about 5 to 6.


1/4 cup reserved turkey fat
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sherry (optional)
3 cups reserved turkey drippings and water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, heat reserved fat. (Be careful: moisture in the fat will splatter.) Add flour and stir to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in sherry and drippings and water. Whisk until roux is completely absorbed by the liquid. Cook for about 10 minutes until the gravy is thickened and the flour is cooked out. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over potatoes and turkey. Makes about 3 cups.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chicago Navy Week 2010 - Navy vs. Le Cordon Bleu

Here's a short news clip of Navy culinary students in competition against Le Cordon Bleu culinary students in Chicago.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grill cook

After a stint in the bakery at NAS Lemoore, California, in 1971, I was reassigned to the airfield galley. My first assignment was to run the ovens and griddles, a job that I alternately detested and loved.

Feeding a thousand Sailors meant long hours laboring over pork chops, chicken fried steak or hamburgers on any given day. On the good side, the job taught me organization skills and the importance of prep work (or mise en place). I also learned how to work quickly and to perform multiple tasks at once.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 24, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Diante A. Johnson prepares pork chops in the ship's galley for the crew aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68).

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian M. Brooks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Grilled pineapple meat madness

It's been almost three years since I last featured a photograph of railroader Phill Reader's "Cowboy Hibachi." Until 2009, he regularly provided photographs and recipes of his railroad cooking adventures. Phil was the chief mechanical officer at the Pacific Coast Railroad Co. at the time.

After he left Southern California, Phil landed back in his home state of Colorado, where he's now chief mechanical officer for the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Phil and I recently became friends on Facebook, where he often posts pictures of two of his favorite activities: hoggin' on the West Side Lumber Co. No. 12 and cooking on his Cowboy Hibachi.

"Last year I put the little Kahalui #12 back together for them," Phil responded to my question on the No. 12. "Yes the Shay #12 is a West Side Shay. I take care of it and the W.S.L.Co. #14 as well."

Phil shared this photograph of last night's dinner on Facebook. He grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp, chicken and pineapple with a pineapple-Honey glaze. The tri-tip on the spit was marinated in Mr. Yushida's Marinade and Cooking Sauce.

"Last night I just got into a weird grilling jag," said Phil on Facebook. "Then it started to snow."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baked Dutch oven chicken and rice

On a warm Sunday afternoon last July, I baked chicken and rice for my wife, son and granddaughter in a 12-inch deep Dutch oven. We were camped at at the Kit Carson Campground in Toyable National Forest.

Since we had just spent the day in South Lake Tahoe, I wanted to cook a dish that assembled quickly. So I picked up a package of chicken thighs at the market. A one-pot meal, like chicken and rice, would be ready within the hour.

The marriage of rice, tomato sauce and chicken thighs makes one of the best Dutch oven dishes that I can think of. Sprinkle a healthy dose of hot pepper sauce over the rice and you have created a dish that qualifies as pure comfort food.

Here's how I prepared the dish:

Heat 1 or 2 tablespoons bacon grease (from the morning breakfast) in skillet over a bed of hot coals. When hot, brown 4 seasoned chicken thighs on both side. This is one of those times when I can't tell you how long it takes to crisp the skin and give the chicken a head start.

Meanwhile, dice a medium onion (I use sweet onions), mince 3 cloves garlic and chop 1 or 2 small chili peppers (jalapeno or Serrano). Heat some bacon fat in a 12-inch Deep Dutch oven and sweat until soft and translucent. Add 1-1/2 cups long grain rice. Stir to coat with the oil. Cook for the next several minutes, stirring frequently. I like to quickly fry the rice until it takes on a light brown color.

Add 3 cups chicken stock with 2 tablespoons tomato paste mixed in. Stir, then place the lid on top of the Dutch oven. Add a shovelful of coals from the campfire to the lid and cook until rice and chicken are done.

Prepare a side dish or two while the rice and chicken bake in the Dutch oven. Try a tossed green salad with a light drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette. I enjoy cilantro lime dressing. We enjoyed a tossed salad with blue cheese crumbles that was dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a spritz of fresh lemon juice. As pictured here, broccoli was the side.

In the real world, you need 18 minutes to cook white rice until tender. Allow extra time in camp. How much time depends on the ambient temperature, number of coals on the lid and under the oven and the amount of heat generated by the coals.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Handling leftovers in camp or there’s nothing better that leftover spaghetti

There's nothing better that leftover spaghetti, especially when camping. I don’t know exactly what happens, but the pasta and tomato sauce seems to age with time. It's one of those meals that tastes better the second time around.

Spaghetti also makes a great meal for the first night in camp. It heats up quickly with little fuss. Just fire up the stove, preheat a cast iron skillet and reheat the spaghetti. Toast some garlic bread and toss a salad and dinner is ready. (The recipe for spaghetti that's better leftover follows at the end of the article.)

But before you toss the pasta and sauce in the skillet, you need to understand a few rules about handling leftovers in camp. A few minutes after each meal is all you need to take care of leftover food.

Handling leftovers in camp

Leftover food must be cooled quickly. Professional chefs understand that food must be cooled through the "danger zone" in four hours or less. The danger zone is the temperature range from 41 to 135 degrees. This is the zone in which bacteria and other harmful microorganisms grow rapidly. To prevent rapid bacterial growth, chefs divide leftovers into small portions and place the containers of food over ice. This quickly dissipates the heat in the dish.

It's always best to avoid leftovers in camp. The camp cook often finds it difficult to make sure that leftovers are adequately cooled, especially in hot weather. That's the down side of saving leftovers. But, despite the best efforts of the camp cook, wayward appetites can easily foil the best-laid plans.

Saving leftovers

Few camp cooks like to throw food away. That's guidance I even find hard to follow in camp. So when you're faced with leftovers, use these techniques to save them:
  • Put leftover food away within two hours of being served. The longer food remains within the danger zone, the greater chance you have of contaminating it with harmful bacteria.
  • Place leftovers in plastic containers. Plastic transfers heat more rapidly than glass or metal. I like the Ziploc Brand 20- and 32-ounce containers. They're easy to handle and are the right size holding leftovers in camp.
  • Set the container of food directly on the block of ice to cool. This is especially important in hot weather since your ice chest may be higher than the 41-degree maximum temperature. Once the dish is cooled, you can move it to a more convenient area of the ice chest.
  • Use leftovers within three days. Bacteria growth doesn't stop in the ice chest. It just slows considerably. It's much safer to eat the leftovers within three days. If you can’t, dispose of them.
Reheating leftovers

Leftovers make great lunches. Their also ideal quick meals in camp. So use these techniques to make sure leftover are safely reheated:
  • Wash your hands. A salmonella infection -- or worst yet E. coli -- is the last ailment you want when camping. Hand washing is one of
    your top defenses against food borne illness.
  • Heat leftovers until they're 165 degrees throughout. Add a little water to the pan if the dish is dry. This will moisten the dish and help it heat quickly. Purchase an instant-read or digital thermometer for your camping set-up. It's the only accurate way to test for temperature. Cooper Instruments and Taylor USA both make thermometers for home and camp use.
  • Reheat only what your hungry campers can eat. If you have enough of a particular leftover dish for two meals, divide it in half and only reheat what your campers want. Return the remaining half to the cooler for a later meal.
  • Never save leftovers a second time. Once you’ve reheated a leftover dish, it’s best to dispose any that remains.
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. All chefs recite the mantra of food service in their sleep nightly. Camp cooks and campers get sick when contaminated food is allowed to stay in the danger zone long enough for bacteria to grow.

Spaghetti is the perfect meal for the first night in camp. Prepare the sauce and pasta at home two days before the trip and cool in the refrigerator. As hungry campers set up the tent, reheat the spaghetti in a skillet. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese and squeeze a lemon wedge or two over the pasta. You'll enjoy mouth-watering tomato sauce and pasta without all the fuss.

1 pound lean ground beef or Italian sausage
1/2 medium chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces of your favorite pasta

Brown beef or sausage in a skillet over medium heat. Break up meat as it cooks. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Drain fat. Add seasoning, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes to blend flavors. Makes about 7 cups of sauce.

In a large stockpot, boil 4 quarts salted water. Add pasta to water and reduce to a simmer. When done (5 to 6 minutes for vermicelli and 9 to 12 minutes for spaghetti), drain in a colander and rinse. If desired, mix sauce and pasta. Otherwise, serve sauce over pasta. Serves 4 to 7.

To chill — Chill leftover spaghetti and sauce within 2 hours. Mix pasta and sauce together. Place in a plastic self-closing bag or plastic container, uncovered. Cover once spaghetti has cooled. Place spaghetti into the refrigerator or ice chest and store at 41 degrees or lower. Use within 3 days.

To reheat — Place skillet over medium heat and preheat. Add leftover spaghetti. Stir often with a spoon, being careful not to scorch. Heat spaghetti until it's steaming and hot throughout (heat to 165-degrees). Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Orange-pineapple upside down cake with blackberry drizzle

Here's a recipe from October 2000:

Pineapple upside down cake is synonymous with Dutch oven. You find it everywhere. It's featured in every Dutch oven cookbook and brochure, including recipes and instructions that come with each new Lodge Dutch oven.

This recipe is popular because it's easy to prepare. As you flip the cake onto a waiting plate, you'll discover a wonderfully caramelized top with browned pineapple rings. And its tropical fruit flavors will invite you back for seconds.

Here's two ways to prepare orange-pineapple upside down cake. The first recipe uses packaged yellow cake while the second is prepared with baking mix (like Bisquick or Krusteaz brands). Instead of using a caramelized brown sugar topping as in pineapple upside down cake, drizzle warm blackberry jam over each piece of cake.


Here's a tropical alternative to traditional Dutch oven Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This recipe uses packaged cake mix like traditional upside down cake. To enhance the flavor of the cake, I've added orange extract and zest to the batter.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 20-ounce can sliced pineapple rings
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges
8 maraschino cherries
1 18-ounce yellow cake mix (including eggs, vegetable oil and water required to prepare cake mix)
1 teaspoon orange extract
2-1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 cup seedless blackberry jam
Fresh berries, as needed
Mint leaves, as needed

Use a 12-inch Dutch oven for this recipe. Ignite 25 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until they are barely covered with ash, about 20 minutes. For a 350-degree oven, you'll need 5 briquettes underneath and 20 on top of the oven.

Line oven with aluminum foil. Grease foil lining with oil. Drain canned pineapple slices and reserve juice for use in cake batter. Arrange 8 pineapple slices in a circle on the bottom of oven. Arrange orange sections inside the circle of pineapple rings. Place remaining sections between rings. Place 1 cherry inside each ring. Prepare cake mix in a bowl following package instructions, using reserved juice for water. Add orange extract and zest to batter and mix.

Arrange 5 briquettes underneath oven in a circle. Pour batter evenly over rings. Place lid on oven. Arrange 20 briquettes on lid and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Rotate oven and lid in 1/4 turns in opposite directions at 10-minute intervals. When done, remove briquettes and let cool about 10 minutes. Carefully lift cake out of the oven in its foil liner, place plate on top and invert.

Just before serving, warm jam to thin. Cut into 8 servings or 16 half servings. Drizzle jam from spoon onto each serving of cake. Garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves, if desired.


The shortcake recipe gives this version of orange-pineapple upside down cake more of a biscuit-like quality. Although the cake is a little drier than the yellow cake version, you'll enjoy it with drizzled warm blackberry jam over the cake and fresh berries in season.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 20-ounce can pineapple slices, reserve juice
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges
3 cups baking mix
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup seedless blackberry jam
Fresh berries, as needed
Mint leaves, as needed

Use a 12-inch Dutch oven for this recipe. Ignite 25 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until they are barely covered with ash, about 20 minutes. For a 350-degree oven, you'll need 5 briquettes underneath and 20 on top of the oven.

Arrange 5 briquettes underneath oven in a circle. Line oven with aluminum foil. Grease foil pan with oil. Drain canned pineapple slices and reserve juice for use in cake batter. Arrange 8 pineapple slices in a circle on the bottom of oven. Arrange orange sections inside the circle of pineapple rings. Place 1 cherry inside each ring. Place remaining sections between rings and inside each ring.

In a mixing bowl, combine baking mix and sugar. Add reserved juice, milk, oil, eggs, orange extract and orange zest. Mix vigorously with wire whip for about 2 minutes. Pour batter evenly over rings and oranges. Place lid on oven. Arrange 20 briquettes on lid and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Rotate oven and lid in 1/4 turns in opposite directions at 10-minute intervals. When done, remove briquettes and let cool about 10 minutes. Carefully lift cake out of the oven in its foil liner, place plate on top and invert.

Just before serving, warm jam to thin. Cut into 8 servings or 16 half servings. Drizzle jam from spoon onto each serving of cake. Garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves, if desired.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Fire box for camp fire cooking

Here's an article that will interest most camp cooks. Over at the Roger Edison's Cowboys and Chuckwagon Cooking blog, the crew posted detailed instructions to fabricate and build a self-contained fire box for camp cooking. It's similar in design to WagonCook's fire box. I'll locate pictures of his set-up and post one or two in a couple days.

The chuckwagon fire box gives the camp cook a dry container to burn a cook fire. To use the fire box, the cook simply sets it up on the ground and lights the fire. The fire box eliminates the need to dig a fire pit or build a keyhole campfire ring.

Here's Roger's description of the fire box:
The fire box provides a four sided structure to hold wood inside with out the need to dig a hole or trench in the ground. It also allows the spit to be hung over the box to hang cookware for heating and grill bars along the top to place skillets, pot or griddles to cook from. Modern day, the fire box allows to set up on any surface, be it the great outdoors or in a parking lot.
Click over to Rogers's article, "Building a Fire Box for Camp Cooking," to view instructions, photographs and diagrams. It includes a complete materials list with a list of tools for the project.

This isn't a project for the faint-of-heart! It requires the use of heavy-duty metal fabrication tools like a welder and metal saw.

Have you built or purchased a similar fire box? If so, please email me with a description of the outfit and photographs. I'll post them in an article on 'Round the Chuckbox.