Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year appetizers

The residents are enjoying a New Years party this evening. To help them celebrate, I purchased sodas and an assortment of chips. The sodas are a rare treat since I only purchase them three or four times each year.

I also prepared three dips and a salsa for the evening. All of the recipes except one are found on 'Round the Chuckbox. The dips are:
  • Clam dip -- this is an old family favorite
  • Onion dip -- I adopted this dip from Alton Brown
  • Spinach dip -- to prepare, add approximately 20 ounces thawed and drained frozen spinach to a quart of onion dip; mix and chill
  • Garlicky salsa ranchera -- roast tomatoes, chiles and double or triple garlic in oven until charred; continue with recipe instructions
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Summa soup

This article was originally published to in November 2001. Carefully selected, leftovers become the perfect starting place for an impromptu soup in camp. It's a skill that I use at work some 35 years later.

Summa this. Summa that. That's what Navy cooks called the supper soup.

Each afternoon, the ship's cook added all of the noonday leftovers to the soup pot. Since the supper menu only identified the soup as "Soup Du Jour," the cooks hand a free hand at creating any soup for the evening meal. Summa soup, as the cooks called it, gave an outlet for breakfast and dinner leftovers, and it tested their culinary skills.

Leftover meals pose a problem for camp cooks as well. They eat up precious space in the ice chest, and they can quickly spoil if handled improperly. So, it's best to use them quickly. Summa soup is the answer this dilemma. Like Navy cooks, camp cooks can use leftover beans, spaghetti or stroganoff, for instance, as the foundation for flavor-packed soups.

A camp cooking adventure

Summa soup is the ultimate culinary adventure -- at least in the realm of leftovers. You never know how the soup's going to taste. Today, the soup's ingredients meld wonderfully. Tomorrow, they fall short. But despite expectations, summa soup's always good.

It's as easy as blending all the leftovers that you want into a large stockpot. All you need a leftover dish and a few other ingredients. Sometimes, leftovers are sufficient to build a summa soup. Other times, you'll need to add a few fresh ingredients to build your summa soup. Here are a few ideas:

  • Leftover beans are a good place to begin. Make vegetable bean soup by adding steamed vegetables (who doesn't have steamed broccoli or green beans lurking in the ice chest), chicken stock and bacon or sausage. Sprinkle salt and pepper, add fresh thyme and the soup is ready. It makes a quick lunch.
  • Leftover spaghetti easily becomes minestrone. Add chicken stock, julienned green peppers, shredded green cabbage and chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper and top each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The spaghetti sauce gives the soup its foundation while the pasta and vegetables add substance and a little starch for body. The stock brings it all together like an orchestra conductor.
  • Leftover stroganoff transforms into a beef mushroom soup. It's as simple as adding beef stock and cream. You can use milk if cream is too rich. Just remember to thicken the soup with flour or cornstarch. Stroganoff transforms into beef mushroom soup with a hint of tanginess.
  • With a little imagination, you'll have wonderful soup to accompany sandwiches on a drizzly day in camp. But remember summa soup is risky business. You may never create the same soup twice. Each meal is an adventure.

    Sharpen your soup-making skills

    Start with any foundation desired. Expect its flavor to dominate your soup like the beef and mushrooms of the stroganoff. What you start with doesn't matter. Chili becomes Mexican spiced soup with rice and beans. Leftover roast serves as the foundation for quick vegetable beef soup.

    Just add to the flavors that your ice chest presents to you. Have chicken, beef or vegetable stock handy to add volume and the essence of meats or vegetables to your foundation. Fresh herbs like parsley, basil, thyme or cilantro enhance a lackluster dish. Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce or hot pepper sauce send the soup on tangents -- Asian, American or Southwestern.

    Even if your ice chest is lacking leftover steamed rice for a chicken vegetable, try leftover pasta or beans. Any complimentary ingredient is fair game. Start with traditional accompaniments and expand.

    When you cook you summa soup, simmer. Don't boil. If you do, you run the risk of cooking everything into a pulp. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat on your camp stove as low as it'll go. By simmering, the meat, vegetables, pasta and starches will heat slowly so they retain they're shape and texture.

    Food safety with leftovers

    Remember to heat leftovers to 165 degrees. This is necessary to kill any wayward bacteria that may be lurking in your leftovers. If you don't have a thermometer to test the temperature, let the pot simmer (when bubbles are barely breaking the surface) for about 15 minutes. Since a simmer is about 190 degrees at sea level, this will ensure your safety.

    Avoid using leftovers that have been hiding in your ice chest for more than three days. And throw out any that are questionable. If leftovers have a sour or putrid odor, toss them. Also avoid any that look funny, are discolored or have mold growing on the surface.

    Is your appetite still there? Open the ice chest and see what lays hidden on the bottom. It just may be the beginning of your next culinary adventure.

    Guidelines for handling leftovers in camp are found in my article "Handling Leftovers in Camp or Spaghetti that's Better Leftover." The leftover spaghetti's a good place to start.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    Chef to chef

    A naval vessel doesn't close its doors during holidays. In port, a portion of the crew remains on board to secure the ship and keep it ready for sea. If the duty crew can't go home, then the captain invites family to the ship's mess decks for a wonderful Christmas meal.

    NORFOLK (Dec. 25, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class Susan Graham serves ham to Culinary Specialist 1st Class Carrol Williams during a Christmas dinner held aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) for the ship's crew and family members.

    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter.

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Soft scrambled eggs with cream cheese

    I eat eggs over easy on toast once or twice each week. It's my favorite quick breakfast.

    I gently flip two eggs in my heavy cast iron egg skillet, then set the pair on two pieces of toasted cracked wheat sourdough bread. The toast soaks in the busted yokes. It's better than eating buttered bread.

    To complete the breakfast, I add a small glass of orange juice or several slices of cantaloupe. Breakfast is done in less than 10 minutes. It's the perfect breakfast for a weekday morning.

    As a big fan of cream cheese, I thought its addition to soft scrambled eggs would enhance their flavor. The process is simple. Cook scrambled eggs to the soft stage -- the point when the eggs are a bit runny.

    Off heat, you then work a dollop of your favorite cream cheese blend into the eggs. The cheese softens as it warms and blends with the eggs.

    The cream cheese brings out the creaminess of the eggs. The smooth texture and rich flavor brings the eggs alive.


    Doubling the cream cheese ingredients lets you use the whole 8-ounce package. Use half of the cream cheese mixture for the recipe and save the remainder in the refrigerator for anther use.

    4 ounces cream cheese
    1-1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
    2 green onions, chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    1 small serano chile, minced
    8 large eggs
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    2 tablespoons butter
    8 slices sourdough bread

    Bring cream cheese to room temperature. Mix cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, onion, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno chile in small bowl until blended. Seasoned with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

    Whisk eggs and salt in medium bowl. Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. When foam subsides, add eggs and scramble until eggs are almost cooked but soft. Remove from heat.

    Add cream cheese and stir until incorporated. Arrange 2 slices of toast on each plate. Spoon eggs on toast. Garnish with chopped cilantro and crumbled Mexican cotija cheese if desired. Served 4.

    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    Christmas at sea

    From the date of the photos, my guess is the USS John C. Stennis celebrated Christmas Day early to fit it into the operational schedule.

    ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 20, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class David Yuzon carves slices of turkey in preparation for the Christmas meal in the aft galley aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

    ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 20, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Jon Ketola grills lobster tails in preparation for the Christmas meal in the aft galley aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

    ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 20, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Matthew Ryback measures flour in preparation for the Christmas meal in the bake shop aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

    U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate.

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy for a crowd

    Nothing says breakfast more than a tall buttermilk biscuit smothered in sausage gravy. It seems every breakfast joint serves its own version of the classic American breakfast dish. Bert's Cafe, located an hours drive from home in South Lake Tahoe, serves the best sausage gravy in El Dorado County.

    I often judge a restaurant by its biscuits and gravy. Any joint that serves frozen biscuits and packaged gravy doesn't deserve a repeat visit. I'll reward any place that takes the time to mix scratch biscuits and crumble real sausage into milk gravy with repeat business. There's nothing like the genuine product.

    Since I rarely cook breakfast at work, I've wanted to perfect my sausage gravy for some time. I mastered buttermilk biscuits years ago. A rich sausage flavor is a must in my gravy. And the gravy should be thick, full bodied and void of any flour aftertaste. I insist on whole milk, a roux cooked into the sausage and the right mix of onions, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings.

    Last week's Christmas breakfast potluck for employees gave me the right opportunity to test my newest version of biscuits and gravy. I modeled the gravy after the dish I ate in South Lake Tahoe the summer before last. The chef worked roasted red peppers into the sauce. It was the best tasting sausage gravies that I've had.


    This recipe will serve 25 heafty portions or 50 more modest portions. You can use your favorite biscuit recipe if desired. Don't skimp on the milk. While lowfat or nonfat milk may shave a few calories off the finish product, you loose the richness provided by the extra fat in the milk.

    2 pounds all-purpose flour (baker's percent: 50%)
    2 pounds pastry flour (50%)
    3 ounces granulated sugar (5%)
    1-1/4 ounces table salt (2%)
    3-1/4 ounces baking powder (5%)
    1/2 ounce baking soda (1%)
    1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    1-3/8 pounds shortening (35%)
    2-5/8 pounds buttermilk (65%)

    12 ounces pork sausage
    12 ounces spicy pork sausage
    1 cup minced onion
    3/4 cup minced red bell pepper
    12 ounces all-purpose flour
    1 gallon whole milk
    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    2 teaspoons beef base (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

    FOR BUTTERMILK BISCUITS: Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda in mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until blended, approximately 10 seconds, using flat beater. Add shortening to flour mixture. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Stop and scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Mix 1 minute longer. The mixture will be crumbly. Add buttermilk. Mix on low speed to form a soft dough, about 30 seconds. Do not over mix. Dough should be as soft as can be handled.

    Place dough on lightly floured board or table. Knead lightly 15-20 times. Roll to 3/4-inch thickness. Biscuits will approximately double in height during baking. Cut with a 2-inch cutter, or cut into 2- inch squares with a knife. When using round hand cutters, cut straight down and do not twist to produce the best shape. Space the cuts close together to minimize scraps. Use of a roller cutter or cutting the dough into squares eliminates or reduces scraps. The scraps can be rerolled, but the biscuits may not be as tender.

    Place on ungreased baking sheets 1/2-inch apart for crusty biscuits, just touching for softer biscuits. Repeat, using remaining dough. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Biscuits may be held 2-3 hours in the refrigerator until time to bake.

    FOR SAUSAGE BRAVY: In a 8- to 10-quart stockpot or braiser, add sausage and cook until browned and cooked through. Drain grease and add onion and red pepper to sausage. Continue cooking until onion softens.

    Add flour and cook over medium-high heat until the sausage is well-coated with the flour. Add milk and Worcestershire sauce and stir until desired thickness. Season with salt, beef base (if used) and pepper, to taste.

    The recipe prepares 50 (2-inch) biscuits and 5 quarts of gravy. Serve 3 ounces gravy over each split biscuit.

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Eating to cook

    You have to eat to cook. You can’t be a good cook and be a noneater. I think eating is the secret to good cooking.
    --Julia Child
    I came across Julia's quote this week on Twitter. While I haven't found the source article or book, it reminds me that eating is essential element in the cook's journey. The only way the cook can develop a sense of flavor is to eat.

    To become "well eaten," the cook must eat at a variety of tables, both home and restaurant. Relish the occasion when you can eat at the table of an accomplished home cook, especially one who descends from a long line of cooks. Enjoy a great meal, soak in the good company and make mental notes of the meal.

    And don't discount a good local restaurant. Beyond an enjoyable outing with the family, I always watching out for new a flavor or sauce to incorporate into my culinary repertoire. Get out of your comfort zone and eat around. Most neighborhoods are full of homegrown local eateries that showcase the chef's culinary wares.

    Being well read as a cook is just as important to the cook. As a picky cookbook buyer, I don't want to fill my shelves with books that I'll never read. I focus my limited resources on specialty cookbooks (The Sporting Chef's Wild Game Recipes by Scott Leysath), regional favorites (Chef Paul Prudhomme's Authentic Cajun Cooking) and ethnic tomes (Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking). (I purchased and read each cookbook listed this year.)

    Julia's right. The only way to develop a sense of taste and flavor is to eat. Good food, bad food, mediocre food -- you have to eat it all. Only by eating (and reading) can you learn how to cook good food.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Cee Dub on teaching chefs

    The other day I asked Cee Dub "Butch" Welch to give his input on the teaching a Dutch oven class. I'm introducing Dutch oven cooking to a group of chefs at the Christian Chefs International conference in March.

    Since Cee Dub leads camp cooking clinics near his home in the Texas Hill Country, I figured that he could give me a few pointers. What I didn't count on was that Cee Dub would respond with his own chef story! Thoght intimidated for a minute, Cee Dub continued on with the class. Read on and find out how Cee Dub handled this situation.

    Here's the question I asked on Cee Dub on his Facebook page:

    I'm teaching a Dutch oven class to a group of chefs at a convention next March in Oregon. I have 75 minutes in the first workshop after lunch. I do get a chance to follow up as I'm hosting the dinner that evening.

    Any pointers? I plan to keep it simple and am basing my presentation on the assumption that the chefs do not cook in Dutch ovens currently. My goal is to give them enough information to cook their first meal.

    Here's Cee Dub's response:

    Steve, Sounds like fun!

    Your post got me thinking about a clinic I held a couple of years ago. One, Jaques Duhr, a native of France and a retired French chef from here in the Texas Hill Country, was the first guy to sign up for the clinic! I was intimidated for about a minute. Talk about a prince of a man! A buddy of his with a big ranch out in West Texas flew him to the ranch each year for a big shindig and he wanted to expand his horizons.

    Like every clinic I learned something from my students and especially so in this case. We had a blast! But ... like others who've taken my clinics who were damned good cooks in their own right, I started them all with beginning type recipes. You won't have to teach them how to cook or prepare a recipe.

    But what they'll have to learn is there is no dial to select temperature. The tough part I've found is teaching them to plan the lag time for charcoal to light and old iron pots to heat up to cooking temp. Also teach them to keep the lid on especially when they're baking. Instead of using their vision to tell when things are done they'll need to use their nose.

    I hope this helps,

    Cee Dub

    Cee Dub is the proprietor of and author of Cee Dub's Dutch Oven & Other Camp Cookin', plus a number of other cookbooks. Cee Dub teaches outdoor cooking at Camp Lonehollow in Vanderpool, Texas each summer.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Bakery school at sea

    The Navy's Adapt a Ship Program has provided culinary support to the fleet for over a decade. Professional chefs voluntarily share their training and experience with Navy culinary specialists.

    The link takes you to The Deck Chef's description of the program. Kent Whitaker is know as The Deck Chef because of his involvement (in part) with the Coast Guard Auxiliary Chef program.

    ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 11, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Matthew Ryback trains alongside Master Baker Chef Leslie Bilderback in the bakeshop aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

    ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 11, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Matthew Ryback checks on apple tarts in the oven in the bakeshop aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

    John C. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

    U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Will Tyndall.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Chicken and sausage gumbo

    I prepare chicken and sausage gumbo every fourth Tuesday at work. Most of the residents enjoy it. And a couple staff always ask for the leftovers on Wednesday morning!

    When I began working at the recovery home two years ago, I struggled with the stew. The roux gave me fits. I gave up after four or five months. For the next year, I used a packaged gumbo mix to flavor the pot. Though the residents still enjoyed the dinner, I wanted to give it another try.

    My motivation came last spring when I found a copy of Authentic Cajun Cooking, by Chef Paul Prudhomme, at a thrift store in Placerville. Known for "propell(ing) the distinctive cuisine of his native Louisiana into the international spotlight," Chef Paul's gumbo recipes captivated my interest. The makers of Tabasco hot sauce published the booklet around 1982.

    I focused on the roux since I was satisfied the rest of the recipe. For the several months I browned the roux in about 10 minutes. While this saved time in the kitchen, I was not happy with the flavor the roux gave the gumbo. I slowly realized the only way to create the best roux was to slow the process down.

    I now heat the oil for the roux over high heat, then quickly whisk the flour. I immediately turn the heat down to medium. I find that I need to start incrementally turning the heat down after about 10 minutes. It takes at least 30 minutes to produce a roux with a deep reddish-brown color. To avoid burning the roux, even slightly, I'm constantly stirring the roux. Your whole focus should be the roux.


    I have tailored this recipe to satisfy the tastes of the residents at work. While I usually use a mild Polish sausage for the gumbo, andouille is the best for the stew.

    1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 large onion, diced
    1/2 bunch celery, diced
    3 large green bell pepper, diced
    3 quarts chicken stock
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 teaspoon white pepper
    2 teaspoons granulated garlic
    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    3 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    3 bay leaves
    2 tablespoons filé powder
    2 pounds frozen okra
    4 pounds diced cooked chicken
    2 pounds sausage, diced

    Heat oil in a heavy skillet until hot. Gradually stir in flour. Immediately turn heat down to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, until roux is dark reddish-brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Slowly reduce heat under skillet as the roux browns.

    After the roux has brown to desired color, add trinity (onion, celery and bell pepper) and stir to combine. Continue cooking until trinity softens. Set aside.

    Heat chicken stock in a 12- to 15-quart stockpot to a boil. Add black and white peppers, garlic, cayenne, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves and filé powder and stir.

    Slowly add roux-trinity mixture to stock, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered.

    Add okra, chicken and sausage and simmer until chicken is done. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

    To serve, place a mound of white rice in the center of a large bowl. Ladle 8 ounces of gumbo around the rice. Serve immediately. Serves 25 (8-ounce) portions. Yield: 6-1/2 quarts.

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Avocado yogurt sauce

    Every four weeks I prepare chicken burritos at work. Since the residents enjoy any meal with a south of the boarder flare, this is one of the more popular lunches. I rarely have leftovers as every one of the ladies come down for the meal.

    To prepare, I add three cups of guajillo chile sauce, two tablespoons white vinegar and one cup tomato sauce to four pounds of sliced roasted chicken breasts. A handful of chopped cilantro finishes the dish.

    I'm ready to portion the chicken and sauce onto large flour tortillas after heating it for about 10 to 15 minutes. Mexican rice, lime wedges, chopped onions, diced tomatoes, shredded chedar cheese and sour cream are available on the counter. I let each resident assemble and fold her own burrito with these fixin's.

    Although the residents enjoy the full-bodied flavor of sour cream, it adds too many calories to their diet. Avocado yogurt sauce gives me a flavorful alternative to sour cream. And the yogurt adds a nice tang to the sauce.

    It goes without saying that the yogurt-based sauce is the healthier of the two. The residents enjoyed the sauce. The avocados were an added bonus since I rarely buy them. It was the perfect marriage of flavor. The rich creaminess from the avocado offset the tangy goodness from the yogurt.

    The avocado yogurt sauce gave the residents two added benefits. They enjoyed a rare chance to enjoy the smooth richness of the avocado. And the yogurt shaved a healthy dose of calories from their diet.


    Use as a dip or substitute for sour cream. Yes, you can substitute Mexican crema or sour cream for yogurt for richer flavor. Remember that this variation boosts the caloric count by about 60 percent, from about 50 calories per ounce to 80 (there are 2 tablespoons in each fluid ounce of the sauce).

    3 medium avocados
    2 cups plain yogurt
    2 limes, juiced
    1/4 cup whole cilantro leaves
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

    Puree ingredients in food processor until smooth. Adjust seasoning. Serve 2 tablespoons per person. This batch makes about 3-1/2 cups.

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Robert Mast's World War II U.S. Army field kitchen

    Here are two photographs and an article by Robert Mast, a World War II reenactors from Tionesta, Penn. Robert uses the M59 field range outfit in his field kitchen. The M59 was developed after World War II and served military cooks well until it was replaced in the late 1990s. In November I posted a photograph of Roberts immersion heater battery.

    The unit that I cook for is Easy Company, 393rd Regiment, 99th Infantry Division. They were instrumental in securing the last bridge over the Rhine for the Allied crossing into German in World War II.

    We have had 150 allied and 150 German reenactors for the past three years. You can go to The Bridge at Remagen for information on the event. Everyone has a pretty good time.

    I was in during 'Nam 1966-1968. But I was an MP instead of a cook. The MPs and cooks also got along fine. It was like, You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Anyway, I decided to buy some cook gear and try being the company cook. It's a lot of fun and a lot of work.

    This past year we had two meals for the guys. We served about 175-200 for supper and about 125 for breakfast. We cooked 200 pounds of chicken leg quarters for supper along with mashed spuds, corn, gravy and brownies. For breakfast we had sausage gravy on toast with eggs.

    If you look at the picture, you will see a makeshift oven I made out of an old cooling cabinet, which I modified to a shorter height to match the M-59s. It is located to the left of the "open" sign.

    I had a third M2 unit that I used to heat the oven. I baked the chicken in it. It has five shelves, each holding two 13- x 18-inch trays. Of course the potatoes, gravy and corn went into the 10- and 15-gallon pots.

    The square roasters held the chicken after it was cooked. Of course the SOS went into the 10-gallon pot and the toast was baked in the homemade oven. Coffee was made in another 10 gallon pot and dipped. Wish I had an insulated urn of 4- to 5-gallon size. Eggs were scrambled in the roaster lid.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2011

    Dutch oven presentation to chefs in March

    Dilbert.comThis coming March I'm giving a presentation to a group of chefs at a conference in Canby, Oregon. My goal is to teach these chefs how to use the cast iron Dutch oven. After the mid-afternoon presentation, I'll host a dinner prepared in Dutch ovens.

    My challenge is to tailor the workshop to the chefs without going into information overload. The fact that they're all accomplished cooks and kitchen leaders will simplify my task. I want to avoid giving a dry lecture, one that will send the chefs into zombie land.

    Unlike Dilbert here, my PowerPoint slides will focus on one main point. I want to give them just enough detail to get started in Dutch oven cooking. Each chef will be able to go home, buy a Dutch oven and start cooking. They can learn advanced technique later.

    After considering several approaches organizing the presentation, I rediscovered an on-line article in Backwoods Home Magazine. "Seven secrets of Dutch oven cooking" by Robert L. Beattie will provide the basis for my PowerPoint slide series.

    Beattie's seven points walk the reader from purchase to cooking wonderful meals. The title of each of his "secrets" will be renamed to suit a chef's point-of-view. After helping the chefs buy the right the Dutch oven, we'll season it and discuss the right tools for the job.

    In step four, I'll slow the process down a notch. I want the chefs to appreciate the importance of controlling the fire to their advantage. In the last three steps, the chefs will learn how I plan menus by focusing on three food groups (meat, vegetables/sides and breads).

    I like Beattie's approach because it's to-the-point. It stays on the task of teaching the beginning Dutch oven cook. And the presentation will leave the chefs looking forward to the main show of the evening -- a dinner cooking in Dutch ovens.