Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Scalloped potatoes with ham and onions

Debbie and I enjoyed a quite Christmas Day at home. Everything about the day was simple. Rainy weather dictated the day's activities would be conducted indoors. We slept in, read and watched holiday movies. A simple holiday meal capped the day.

Scalloped potatoes with ham and onions sounds more like a meal for leftover Christmas ham. Yet when we purchased a small smoked ham Sunday afternoon, I figured that it would make a nice meal when coupled with Sierra Gold potatoes. We also bought several heads of fresh broccoli and a pound of Brussels sprouts as well.

Heavy rain saturated our uncovered patio when I began cooking just after two o'clock in the afternoon. Since preparing the meal in a camp-style Dutch oven wasn't practical, the meal was cooked in a 10-1/2-inch skillet. Once the sauce was formed in the skillet, I stirred in the diced ham and potatoes and placed the skillet into a pre-heated oven.

Around 4 p.m., Debbie and I sat down to a meal of scalloped potatoes with ham and onions. Oven roasted broccoli with garlic and tossed romaine salad accompanied the meal. While the casserole became the centerpiece of our holiday meal, you can use it to use leftover Christmas ham. Enjoy and bon appitite!

Roasted broccoli with garlic and tossed green salad with fresh croutons from French bread accompanied the meal.
SCALLOPED POTATOES WITH HAM AND ONIONS

To prepare in a 12-inch camp-style Dutch oven, heat over a bed of coals or gas burner. Prepare recipe as directed. Bake in the Dutch oven with 9 coals under the oven and 18 on the lid.

I find that adding chicken stock to the sauce gives the potatoes a richer, more refined flavor, especially when you add one or two cheeses. While I used Parmesan cheese for the casserole, one or two ounces of Gruyere or Swiss cheese will certainly enhance its appeal.

4 tablespoons butter (2 ounces)
1 medium onion, sliced
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups scaled milk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided (2 ounces)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound smoked ham, diced
5 medium potatoes, diced (1 pound 4 ounces)

Melt butter in a 10-1/2-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sweat onions until soft and translucent. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk stock and milk into the onion-roux mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in ham and potatoes. Place skillet in 375-degree oven and bake until potatoes are soft, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and spread remaining Parmesan cheese over potatoes. Continue baking until cheese has lightly browned. Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Navy scratch cooking

For several years I've been reading about the Navy's re-emphases on scratch cooking. It's good to see that Navy culinary specialists are returning to their roots. It looks like the Navy has realized that you can only prepare the best meals when you have control over the cooking process. While prepared foods have a place during military operations, I'm encouraged to see the Navy's cooks and bakers are cooking from scratch when possible. Not only does the crew receive the best meals, the emphasis on scratch cooking enhances the employment skills of the CSs when they leave the service.

NORFOLK (Dec. 3, 2012) -- Chef Jud Flynn, senior executive chef of On-Site Culinary Solutions, watches as Culinary Specialist 1st Class Tony Johnson, attached to Naval Station Norfolk, inspects a pan of scratch-styled cooked yams during a 5-day culinary training course. The course is for Navy culinary specialists to relearn basic cooking principles to implement more healthy and nutritious meals into base galleys in the mid-Atlantic region.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Molly A. Burgess.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Creamed ground beef

Each year I receive two or three requests for the old military recipe for creamed beef. Known as SOS or "stuff" on a shingle, most ask for the recipe from the time period of their service to this great nation. In view of a recent request for a recipe that's suitable for a "small family," I have posted such a recipe. It's based on one pound of ground beef, which should be sufficient for the average family.

Click for the recipe for 100 portions if you need to serve a crowd. It's based on the 1969 U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service card No. L-30.

I "enjoyed when it was served in the (CPO) mess," wrote a retired Navy chief petty officer.

CREAMED GROUND BEEF

1 pound ground beef
5-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons beef base
3-1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Brown beef in its own fat in an saucepan or skillet. Drain excess fat. Add flour, pepper and beef base to beef. Mix thoroughly and cook until flour is absorbed.

Add milk and Worcestershire sauce to beef mixture. Heat to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cook until thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Serves 4 to 6.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Bakin' Bill's ham 'n cheese muffins

Bakin' Bill and Deeann Johnson offer this recipe for ham 'n cheese muffins. They originally presented it at a Dutch oven class in November 2004 at Macey's supermarket in Ogden, Utah, near their hometown of Layton. The Johnson's taught the monthly class for 14 years.

"Each month we did a different main dish, bread and dessert," explained Bill. "Each time we would do one or two of the recipes for the first time there in the class. It was to teach them to get out of their comfort zone and try new things."

BAKIN' BILL'S HAM 'N CHEESE MUFFINS

These muffins can be baked in cast iron muffin tins or as balls on the lid of the Dutch oven.

1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups reduced-fat biscuit/baking mix
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup finely chopped fully cooked ham

In a seasoned cast iron skillet, sauté onion in butter until tender; set aside. In a bowl, combine cheese and biscuit mix. Stir in milk and egg just until moistened. Fold in ham and onion mixture.

Coat muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or use paper liners. Fill three-fourths full. Bake at 425 degree for 13 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Cornucopia

That's a nice looking cornucopia. It looks like the bakers made it from bread dough. With vegetation "growing" up the ladder, the culinary specialists appear to be working on a topside display.

EAST CHINA SEA (Nov. 22, 2012) -- Culinary Specialists assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) create a cornucopia to serve as a centerpiece for the ship's Thanksgiving meal. Mustin is conducting a patrol of the Western Pacific in support of regional security and stability of the vital Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Potluck and presentation

Each December, the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation hosts its annual meeting and Christmas potluck at a local historic venue. This is year we used the recreated Southern Pacific depot in the historic town of El Dorado. Around 45 railroad volunteers and their families packed into the station. This was the largest crowd we've had in memory.

I've often used to potluck to feature new dishes. This year my wife and I brought a Mexican casserole with black beans in a 9 by 13-inch roasting pan. I adapted the recipe from the Deer Crossing Wilderness Camp kitchen manual, where it was served every other week at dinner.

I had two jobs this year, so to speak. As the cook in the family, the task of preparing the casserole fell to me this morning. My other job, assigned by the president of the foundation, was to present a talk on rail passenger service on the Placerville Branch rail line of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

After the annual meeting (and before the meal), I presented a mix of historic photographs and newspaper reports on passenger service, which ran from March 1888 to January 1939. One of the two daily trains was provided by a McKeen motor car.

The meeting and potluck were a success. The volunteers enjoyed my presentation. And the dish was nearly cleaned.

MEXICAN CASSEROLE WITH BLACK BEANS

Leave the beef-bean-corn mixture a little on the dry side. You do not want a moist or sloppy sauce. The recipe is a favorite of Deer Crossing Camp in Eldorado National Forest, California. A double recipe fits in a 12x20x4-inch hotel pan and serves 24.

2 pounds ground beef
1-1/ ounces taco seasoning
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
frozen whole kernel corn
1-1/2 cups salsa
1 (10-ounce) package corn chips
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces jack cheese, shredded

Saute ground beef in heavy skillet over medium heat until done. Drain excess off fat. Stir in taco seasoning, beans, corn and salsa. Simmer 10 minutes to develop flavor.

Line greased 9x13x3-inch pan with half of the corn chips. Spoon beef mixture over tortilla or corn chips. Top pan with half of each cheese. Top pan with remaining half of the corn chips.

Bake in 350-degree oven, until casserole is bubbling around edges, about 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheeses over chips. Return to oven and continue baking until cheese has melted.

Cool 15 minutes, then cut 3 by 4. Serve an equal portion of the filling with cheesy chip layer. Serves 12.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dutch oven arroz con pollo

Late last week I roasted two chickens in the oven. After they cooled, the meat was picked and and divided between several zipper top bags. I then roasted the bones with mire poix. A pot of stock bubbled on the range all night as we prepared for a family trip.

I prepared a large pan of arroz con pollo for the residents at work Monday evening. As often happens, I came home and cooked the same dish in a deep skillet. It was the prefect way to some of the chicken and stock. Chicken stock from the roasted bones and the onions, carrots and celery gave the rice a nice rich flavor.

I last featured chicken and rice in January 2011. In the pictorial recipe, I used chicken thighs on a family camping trip to Kit Carson Campground in Humboldt-Toyable National Forest. I wrote: "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."

In need of pictures, I though a second helping of my favorite rice dish was in order. To prepare the dish again doesn't bother me as I enjoy it at home and in camp. It's pure comfort food for my family. I can easily eat two helpings, then feast on leftovers for lunch the next day.

DUTCH OVEN ARROZ CON POLLO (SPANISH CHICKEN WITH RICE)

If desired, 1 cup canned diced tomatoes can be used in place of the tomato paste. Use tomatoes and their juices. Reduce stock to 2-1/2 cups and proceed with recipe.

2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile pepper, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups long grain rice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
1 pound cooked diced chicken
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat fat in 10-inch Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute onion, chile pepper and garlic over until nearly tender. Add rice and paprika. Stir until the grains are coated with fat. Add tomato paste, stock and chicken. Bring to a boil. Season liquid with salt and pepper to taste.

Place lid on Dutch oven. Bake with coals for 350 degrees (about 6 under oven and 14 on lid) until rice cooked, about 20 to 30 min. Garnish with cilantro and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

Monday, November 12, 2012

PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 7, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kyle Woolf prepares peppers for dinner aboard the forward deployed Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63).

PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 7, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Bradley Baxter pours marinade into a kettle of chicken aboard the forward deployed Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63).

Cowpens is part of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, the US Navy's only continuously forward deployed carrier strike group based out of Yokosuka, Japan and is currently conducting a routine Western Pacific patrol in support of regional security and stability of the vital Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Chef Tyrone's pulled pork technique

Chef Tyrone of the Tyronbcookin: Seasoned and highly flavored blog has been running a series on menu items from his job. Last week he featured red beans and rice along with his thoughts on two fundraiser menus (pancake breakfast and Thanksgiving dinner. Interesting food related tidbits fill the spaces in between food articles.

Today Tyrone posted the first of a promised series of short how-to videos. "I am trying out a few introductory videos from the work kitchen and maybe even my home kitchen," said Tyrone on his blog. "(Each video) will be short and to the point. If you would like more details of the video in each post, please be sure to comment!"


YouTube video description: "Cooking Boston Butt in convection oven for pulled pork sandwiches."

Sea going pizza maker

This photograph exhibits the reality of life for a U.S. Navy culinary specialist on an aircraft carrier. Much of your time on watch is spent repeating the same task over and over. I counted six sheet pans of pizza in each upper convection oven.

With two pizzas per sheet pan, Seaman Beverley has 24 pizzas in the oven. Another 24 pizza pre-baked shells in the stack stand ready for the oven. More product awaits on the right side of the picture. I suspect Seaman Beverley worked up to half of her 12-hour shift on pizzas on last Saturday.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 3, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman LaDecha Beverly, from Pittsburgh, prepares pizzas in the galley aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington and embarked Carrier Air Wing 5 provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Pittman.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Gobble 'Till You Wobble menu

Ron Clanton shared the menu for Gobble 'Till You Wobble this evening. While 10 menu items being cooking in cast iron Dutch ovens is a lot of work, I'm confident Ron and his crew will do a great job. I've asked Ron to report back next week on the success of the event.

Gobble 'Till You Wobble Menu

Dutch Oven Roasted Turkey
Corn Bread Dressing (Century Old Recipe)
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce with Marsala and Rosemary
Root Beer Glazed Yams
Carrots with Raisin-Fennel Vinaigrette
Pumpkin-Parmesan Biscuits

Dessert Menu

Retro Apple Cobbler
Almost Pumpkin Pie
Gingerbread

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Smoky tortilla soup for a potluck

While Debbie and I knew of the after worship potluck for a week or so, we didn't learn of its theme until late last night. Debbie was told the theme is Mexican after a phone call to the hostess. My initial thought was to prepare tortilla chips and salsa. All I needed were tomatoes since we have tortilla chips in the cupboard.

I changed my mind after returning from the corner market (appropriately named the Busy Spot!). I didn't want to duplicate another dish at the potluck. So I prepared a large pot of smoky tortilla soup. As it turned out, I made a good move. Another person brought chips, salsa and guacamole. With tacos, taquitos, flautas and enchiladas, the soup was a winner. Most enjoyed its flavor and mild bite.

I cooked the soup out on the patio this morning. With the range and oven in the shop for repairs, I've been cooking most of our meals over the two-burner Camp Chef stove. The soup was similar to my recipe from September 2010. Smoked paprika and chipotle powder gave the soup a smoky flavor. And canned crushed tomatoes stood in for tomatillos.

I prepared the soup base at home. Corn tortillas strips, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro (for garnish) went into containers. Once we arrived at the the potluck, the hostess let me re-heat the soup on her range. I dumped the tortilla strips into the soup and heated it until they dissolved into the soup. The soup was served with cheese and cilantro on the side.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Gobble 'Till You Wobble looking for cooks

Goggle 'Till You Wobble Harvest Feast is looking for cooks on Saturday, November 10, 2012. Featured will be a five to six course Thanksgiving dinner prepared in Dutch ovens at the Butte Creek Mill, Eagle Point, Oregon.

You can cook, "help serve, or just move pots around for us and learn to cook in the Dutch oven," said Ron Clanton on the Rogue Dutch Oven Cookers blog. "We have tons of fun, and a little hard work, all worth it."

The Cookers will start cooking around 9 a.m.and serve dinner around 12:30 to 1 p.m. Turkey, dressing, cranberries and dessert are on the menu. Dinner rolls and a "few other things" may be added . The cooking is being done by the members of Rogue Dutch Oven Cookers for the third year. The Cookers are a chapter of International Dutch Oven Society.

The event is free to the public.Thanksgiving meal will be served until the food runs out. Mill owners Bob and Debbie Russell are sponsoring the dinner.

Email Ron if you can cook or assist. The Butte Creek Mill is located at 402 Royal Ave. N., Eagle Point, OR, 97524.

Meanwhile, enjoy these pictures from the 2010 event at the mill.

Lora Lee of the Rogue Dutch Oven Cooker surveys the serving table. The Cookers prepared a 50-pound Turdocken, two (20-pound) turkeys, fresh cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing (Ron's grandmother's recipe) and all the timings. "They ate it all," said Ron on the Cooker's blog. "About 200 people came out to see us cook, or just to eat (I don't know)."

Charles Lee begins work at the 2010 feast. The Cookers used all of the Dutch ovens in the picture "and then some." "I was beat from all the cast iron I pumped that day," said Ron. "But it's always worth it."

Dave Herzog, Medford, Oregon, "pumps iron" at the 2010 Gobble 'Till You Wobble Harvest Feast. Dave roasted the 50-pound Turducken in his 22-inch MACA Dutch oven (pictured at his feet).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Softwood Solution

I depend on downed softwood in the Sierra Nevada high country to build my campfires. To me, it’s a waste of precious dollars to haul oak firewood or charcoal briquettes to the campground. Instead, I rely on the natural resources of the forest.

I’ve learned that to be successful with softwood you must pay constant attention to your Dutch oven. Pine, fir and cedar burn quickly. As a result, you need to watch your oven and replenish the coals often.

I don’t focus oven temperature when camping. I just pile hot coals from the campfire onto the oven with a gloved hand and a pair of 14-inch tongs. I use experience and the five senses to approximate the correct number of coals.

I usually build a campfire that’s four to five times the volume of the camp oven and burn it down to a glowing bed of coals. You can accomplish this in approximately 30 minutes with pine, fir and cedar.

I've learned from many poorly cooked dishes that you can never have too many campfire coals. To make sure I finish the dish with sufficient heat, I continue to feed the campfire even after I’ve heated the oven. I keep feeding the fire as long as I have a plentiful supply of firewood.

This article was originally presented in the Fall 2004 issue of the Dutch Oven News, the official newsletter of the International Dutch Oven Society, as a sidebar to "Three-Sided Chicken: Use Your Next Campfire to Roast a Chicken in a Dutch Oven."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tomato soup with poblano chiles

The residents at work welcome a pot of scratch-made soup each weekday for lunch. I prepared five hearty soups as two rain storms sloshed their way through Sacramento this week. A thick lentil soup was served alongside Polish sausage on Monday. Tuesday saw the traditional match-up of grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.

 Wednesday's chicken tender was served with up with a flavor packed chicken rice soup. Cheesy potato soup complimented a tuna salad sandwich on Thursday. And on Friday, the residents enjoyed tomato rice soup with an Ortega cheeseburger.

Tuesday's tomato soup was, by far, the star of the week. It's one that I enjoy cooking, especially during rainy weather. Twice featured on these pages (here and here), the soup can be prepared in less than one hour.

To prepare, I generally combine one-part tomato sauce, one-part broth (chicken or vegetable) and one-part bechemel. This soup uses a variation of that formula. Instead of preparing the three components in separate pots, I cooked it in a single stockpot.

I wanted to prepare tomato soup with a differing flavor profile, something that's better than canned tomato soup. Salsa is always popular at work. With a large stock of poblano chile peppers in the refrigerator, I figured the typical salsa ingredients (tomatoes, peppers, cumin and cilantro) would provide a robust Southwestern flavor profile for the soup.

While the soup doesn't mimic the flavor of salsa, poblano chile peppers, cumin and cilantro give the tomato a unique flavor profile. And please leave feedback (especially Chef Brian and Chef Tyrone). I'm always interested in how others (both professionals and home cooks) modify my recipes. Enjoy.

TOMATO SOUP WITH POBLANO CHILES

Ingredient amounts are estimated as I prepared the soup on the fly.

4 ounces unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 roasted poblano chile peppers, chared skin removed and diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 (8 ounce) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1-1/2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups sour cream or Mexican crema
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or cojita cheese

Melt butter in a 8- to 10-quart heavy sauce pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and peppers to butter. Sweat until softened, but not browned. Add flour and stir to form a white roux. Cook roux-vegetable mixture for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring continually. Stir in tomato paste and cumin and cook for an additional minute.

Add crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, lime juice, bay leaves, oregano and cilantro. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes to meld flavors. In a medium bowl, temper sour cream by slowly whisking 2 cups of hot soup into sour cream. Pour tempered sour cream into soup while whisking.

Check seasoning. Add a little sugar if necessary to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes. If the soup is too thick, thin with a little chicken broth or milk. Season with salt and ground white pepper to taste.

Makes approximately 3 quarts, or 12 (8-ounce) servings. Garnish each bowl with fresh cilantro leaves and Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Oat hotcakes in camp

I am posting this recipe by request. After a camping trip with my sister's family to Upper Blue Lake in Eldorado National Forest last month, I received this email from Elizabeth: "Hope you are going to post the recipe for your impromptu hotcakes. Both Ashley and Naomi want it!"

Elizabeth and I worked out the menu in the month leading to the trip. With family favorites, like campfire grilled chicken and roast trip-tip planned for the dinner meals, I was to bring my Dutch ovens into camp, prepare my much requested bread pudding for a dessert and the family hotcake recipe for Saturday morning breakfast.

Everyone enjoyed dinner and dessert Friday evening. My brother-in-law grilled chicken breasts and thighs to perfection over the cooking fire while I introduced Ashley, a young culinary student and my niece's high school friend, to cast iron Dutch ovens. As Ashley sliced 14 apples (a mixture of Granny Smith, honeycrisp and Fuji) for apple crisp, I prepared the 14-inch Dutch oven for the dessert.

I enjoyed a lazy Saturday morning next to the campfire with a cup of coffee while the fishing brigade worked the lake. As Elizabeth and I talked about our late-morning breakfast, I learned that I had misread her email. I was supposed to prepare the hotcake mix at home (click for my original article on "Hotcakes at 9,000 feet").

After a quick inventory, I realized that flour was in short supply in camp. Elizabeth had purposely left her flour at home. And my supply amounted to a meager cup of all-purpose flour. So, I prepared the hotcake batter with ingredients on hand. Quick cooking rolled oats filled in for most of the flour.

Oat hotcakes are a new camp favorite.

OAT HOTCAKES IN CAMP

These are approximate measurements as I eyeballed each ingredient. For a richer flavor, substitute molasses or dark brown sugar for the white sugar. Try adding toasted pecans or walnuts for a nutty flavor. Raisins or currants will also work in this recipe. Click for my oatmeal walnut hotcake recipe from 2011.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup liquid bacon grease or vegetable oil

Light a campfire and burn until you have a bed of hot coals. (Hotcakes can be cooked over a campstove if desired.)

In a bowl, stir flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Crack eggs into the dry mixture. Add milk and vanilla. Whisk just until the batter is blended. Add the oil or bacon grease and mix again just until the batter is blended. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

When the coals are ready, spread them under a lightly greased cast iron skillet or griddle and heat just until it smokes. For each hotcake, pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot griddle or skillet. Turn when each hotcake’s surface is bubbly and the edges are slightly dry. Cook until golden brown.

Serve with butter and brown sugar syrup (recipe follows). While I didn't count how many hotcakes that I cooked, each person in camp (11 total) received one cake. It should give you around 12 hotcakes.

BROWN SUGAR SYRUP

Some things are just too easy to make at home, including hotcakes and brown sugar syrup. I figure, why buy the bottled stuff when you can easily produce quality syrup at home.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 cups water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugars, corn syrup and water to a boil. Reduce heat to a vigorous simmer until thickened to a syrupy consistency, about 30 minutes. Stir in butter. Let cool slightly. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Culinary training, New Orleans style

BANGOR, Wash. (Sept. 28, 2012) -- Chef Tenney Flynn, co-owner of the New Orleans seafood restaurant GW Fins, offers some cooking pointers to Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Larry Risher, assigned to the Blue Crew of the ballistic missile submarine USS Louisiana (SSBN 743). Flynn helped the boat's culinary specialists make some of GW Fins' popular dishes for Louisiana's crew while he was visiting.

U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ed Early.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Hot pepper jelly

For the last 10 or 15 years, my sister has gifted jars of her wonderful hot pepper jelly to the family at Christmastime. The recipe came from a long forgotten cookbook. Since this was the "best recipe out of the book," she let the cookbook go. I suspect that she traded it in for another cookbook.

With no jelly eaters in my house, Debbie would give our jelly to her parents. My mother-in-law frequently enjoys peanut butter and hot pepper jelly sandwiches with it. In time, she ran out of the jelly and asked my sister directly for some more (they live in the same city). Now my sister includes them in her annual jelly giveaway.

A recipe for jalapeno jelly in the food section of the Sacramento Bee prompted me to talk to Elizabeth about the jelly making process. She responded to my questions with her recipe and a detailed explanation of the process. I thought that her jelly would nicely compliment the empanadas on the menu at work on Monday.

I prepared and canned four half-pint jars of Elizabeth's hot pepper jelly at work yesterday. "The more red peppers (hot or sweet)," she said in an email Thursday evening, "the more appealing the jelly is to the eye." She lets the brightness of the peppers color the jelly.

To prepare the jelly, I trimmed, seeded and minced the contents of a 12-ounce package of sweet mini peppers. The assortment of red, orange and yellow peppers gave the finished jelly an appealing red hue. This yielded 1-3/4 cups of finely minced peppers. Eight ounces of jalapeno chile peppers yielded one cup of minced chiles. 

"Sterilize the jars and keep in the hot water until ready to fill," advised Elizabeth. "I always just add new lids and re-used rims to the hot water as well." Fill the jars with the prepared jelly. She then wipes the rim of the jars with a clean towel, place the lid on and tighten the rim. Inverting the jars helps form a seal and distribute the contents.

I enjoyed the sweet and spicy flavor of the jelly, as did several residents at work. You'll enjoy the clean pepper flavor. Elizabeth's hot pepper jelly is good when pared with cream cheese. She will spoon the jelly over a block of cheese and serve it with crackers for a quick appetizer.

HOT PEPPER JELLY

Adjusting the quantity of jalapeno chile peppers will determine the heat level of this jelly. Because I used mild jalapenos in this batch, I didn't think the jelly was too hot. To boost the heat level, use more jalapeno chile peppers and less of the sweet peppers. You can also substitute a hotter chile pepper (like Serrano's) for the jalapenos.

12 ounces sweet peppers, minced
8 ounces jalapeno chile peppers, minced
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 (3-ounce) package liquid pectin

Place sweet and hot peppers, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice in a 4- to 6-quart saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring continually; remove from heat. Remove from heat; stir in liquid pectin. Return to a full rolling boil; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Skim foam off, if necessary.

Immediately fill hot, sterilized, half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Place hot lids on jars and screw bands on firmly; invert jars for 5 minutes. Turn right side up and let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 half-pint jars, or about 2 cups jelly.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kent Rollins' Mexican cornbread

When I picked up my latest cookbook purchase, On the Trail and in the Kitchen: Tried and True Recipes from Kent Rollins (self-published: Byers, Texas, 2012), the recipe for Mexican cornbread appeared to be a winner. I prepared it in a Lodge 10-inch Dutch oven Saturday evening. The wonderful blend of chiles, buttermilk and cheddar cheese gave the cornbread the same great flavor that you expect from Kent's food.

My first inclination was to call it "Cowboy polenta." This makes sense when you see that Kent's cornbread created the perfect balance between the cake-like texture of cornbread and creamy consistency of Italian polenta. When cut into wedges, the cornbread becomes the perfect accompaniment to chili con carne, huevos rancheros or sauteed pepper steak.

Italian polenta is often served with stews and braised dishes, where it soaks up flavorful juices. What better way to showcase Kent's cornbread than to serve it with large bowl of rich chili con carne in camp? Place a wedge of cornbread in a large bowl or wide-brimmed plate and ladle your best camp chili over it. You get the best of of both dishes as it absorbs the chili-laden juices.

I should note that the lovely Mrs. Chuckbox enjoyed the cornbread it by itself. So, it doesn't matter how you prepare the cornbread. You'll enjoy it with soft butter and honey or buried under a rich bowl of camp chili.

I look forward to trying more recipes from On the Trail and in the Kitchen.

KENT ROLLINS' MEXICAN CORNBREAD

I used 5 Kingsford brand charcoal briquettes under the 10-inch Dutch oven and 15 on the lid on a hot evening. To avoid burning the bottom, remove the Dutch oven from the bottom heat after about 15 minutes. Finish baking with top heat only.

1-1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 (4-ounce) can dice green chiles
1 cup creamed corn
1 cup shredded cheese

In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, eggs and vegetable oil. Mix well. Add green chiles and creamed corn. Mix well.

Pour half of the mixture into a greased 10-inch Dutch oven or casserole dish. Sprinkle top with cheese. Pour the rest of the mixture over cheese.

Bake with coals or in a conventional oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool. Cut into 8 wedges.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sea and anchor

This brings back memories of working the Sea and Anchor Detail on the USS Cocopa (ATF 101), where I was the 1JV fantail phone talker.

MINA SALMAN PIER, Bahrain (July 25, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Purdy receives the mooring line aboard the coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) as the ship gets underway. Firebolt is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Hueming Mui.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Simple camp meal prepared cast iron skillet and grill

Tonight's dinner began as a way to use some Farmer's Market produce, the country sausage that I prepared last week and a container of crushed tomatoes in the refrigerator. Since the forecast called for temperatures in the 100s in the California Mother Lode, cooking the meal outdoors save us from overheating the house. Except for the pasta, I used my Griswold #10 skillet and Camp Chef Sport Grill to cook the meal.

Here's the menu:
  • Spaghetti with country sausage tomato sauce and garnished with toasted bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese
  • Grilled summer squash marinated in a balsamic reduction
  • Sliced cucumbers with sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
To prepare the tomato sauce, I sauteed about 1 pound of country sausage with 1/2 chopped onion until the sausage was cooked. I then poured a 1/2 cup of Madeira wine over the sausage and cooked it until most of the wine had evaporated. About 2 cups of crushed tomatoes and 6 tablespoons of half and half were then stirred into the skillet. The sauce simmered over low heat for about 30 minutes. Since I let the sausage season the tomato sauce, no additional seasoning was needed.

I served the sauce over a plate of cooked spaghetti and garnished it with toasted bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. The bread crumbs added an interesting contrast in texture to the pasta dish.

To prepare the balsamic reduction, I simmered 1 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 4 fat cloves of minced garlic in a saucepan until reduced by half. I then stirred in 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Two sliced summer squashes were then marinated for several hours in the refrigerator.

I grilled the squash until browned and tender on a Camp Chef grill box. While the grill box doesn't give food traditional grill marks, it does give food great flavor.

2012 Olive Festival and Dutch Oven Cook-off in Corning, California

Here's a note from Don Mason:

Hi Dutch oven cook:

On August 25, 2012 in Corning, California, the 23rd Olive Festival will be held. Festival organizers are requiring that only California Processed Olives are to be used in one of the three dishes. This should not be a challenge to you great Dutch oven cooks.

The Dutch Oven cookoff will be held at Woodson City Park (southeast corner South and Peach Streets). You will have a 12'x12’ cooking area with one table. You will be cooking in an open area and the weather might be a problem. It is recommended that if you have a type of E-Z up instant shelter. Note: We will be in the same area as last year. This is the hot time of year so dress cool and drink a lot of water.

We will be there about 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. A cooks meeting will be held a 9:00 a.m. At this time the judging time will be assigned. Judging will commence at 1:00 p.m.

This is a 3 pot cookoff: Main dish, bread and dessert or one or two pots is okay. The public will be invited to taste the dishes after judging and vote for the ones they like best.

Cash awards will be for the following: First place for main dish, bread and dessert receives $50 and a plaque. Second and third place will receive plaques. First place in each category for Peoples Choice Award will receive a plaque. This should be a fun Dutch oven cookoff and sharpen your culinary skills. Beginning Dutch oven cooks are invited. Also 4-H, Boy Scouts and Junior groups are invited to cook an adult must accompany this division. Plaques will be awarded to this division.

If you have any questions please contact the Corning Chamber of Commerce at (530) 824-5550 or corningchamber@abcglobal.net.

Good luck

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Reliving the chuckwagon tradition on the Bell Ranch, part 2

Here's the second video from Kent Rollins. He spent most of the month of June the "pulling" the the chuckwagon on the massive Bell Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. Along with his wife Shannon, the two fed a crew of cowboys from the ranch chuckwagon. As the crew finished work at one pasture, Kent and Shannon drove the team of horses to the next pasture, where they set up camp and worked early mornings to the setting of the sun.

The message of this video shifts from cooking to the life of the cowboy on a traditional Western ranch. Several Bell Ranch hands explain what the cowboy life means, including the values and the traditions they hold.


You Tube description for the first video: "Not since 1958, has The Bell Ranch pulled a traditional chuck wagon. This two part mini-documentary follows the crew of The Bell and Kent Rollins, as the chuck wagon "cookie," as they revive the tradition of pulling a chuck wagon with a team for the four week spring gathering."

Monday, August 06, 2012

Fresh country sausage


Here's the recipe for fresh country sausage. It's based on Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's recipe for Fresh Master Sausage in Charcutery: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by (Norton & Company: New York, 2005) (found on (page 117).

I worked out a flavor profile that appealed to me. Cumin and coriander are among my favorite spices, along with chile peppers, cilantro, garlic and thyme. These herbs and spices, along with the wine, give the sausage a pleasant taste. The wine (I used pinot noir) adds flavor and brings all the ingredients together.

FRESH COUNTRY SAUSAGE

"It's very important to keep your meat as cold as possible during the sausage making process," cautions Ruhlman and Polcyn. "Sausage that gets too warm can 'break,' meaning the fat and the protein will separate from each other when cooked." Instead of enjoying a firm, juicy sausage, where the fat evenly coats each bit of meat, you'll be eating something that's dry and crumbly.

Keep the pork and chicken in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients. Also place the wine in the cooler. Cold ingredients reduce the chance that your sausage will break. And, "always grind the meat and the fat into a bowl set in ice."

3-1/2 pounds pork shoulder butt, diced
1-1/2 pounds chicken or turkey thigh meat, diced
1-1/2 ounces kosher salt (about 3 tablespoons)
2 jalapeno chiles, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup good red wine, chilled

Mix pork, chicken, salt, chiles, cilantro, thyme, garlic, cumin, coriander and pepper together in large bowl until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to blend flavors.

Grind mixture through small die (1/8-inch) into a bowl set in ice. Transfer mixture to mixer bowl (5-quart or larger). Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add wine while mixing on low speed; Increase speed to medium and mix 1 minute more, or until liquid is incorporated and meats looks sticky.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sausage making venture

Yesterday I set out to prepare a five-pound batch of country sausage. My sausage making venture promised to be the ideal project for a lazy Saturday afternoon at home. My goal was to stock the freezer with several packages of bulk sausage and then publish the recipe on the blog.

Armed with a mug of coffee and Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie, I penciled a draft recipe for the sausage. A mixture of pork shoulder and chicken or turkey thigh meat appealed to me. I figured the right combination of cumin, coriander, cilantro and jalapeno chile pepper with a nice red wine would give the meat a pleasant taste. Confident that my recipe would meet the flavor test, I drove off to the meat market.

My plan was simple: Buy a large pork shoulder from my local meat purveyor and have him grind it through an 1/8-inch die; return home to place the meat in the refrigerator; and then finish shopping at the supermarket. I contemplated wrapping up the project by 3 or 4 p.m. As you'll soon see, my plan didn't survive the first stop on the itinerary.

The butcher's meat grinder was a key element in my plan. Even though I purchased a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a five-quart bowl some 15 years ago, I never saw a need for the grinder attachment. Until yesterday, my vintage Climax No. 50 meat grinder efficiently ground cooked meat and vegetables, mostly for hash. I wasn't confident of it ability to grind raw meat.

For the butcher to grind pork, I learned that I must call ahead to order. The lady at the counter said that he only grinds pork and other meat in the morning. Since that wouldn't help me (and the fact that the shop is only open four day per week), I decided that I must try the hand cranked grinder. I purchased the pork, chicken and remaining ingredients at the supermarket and returned home. (On reflection, I should've asked the supermarket butcher to grind the meat.)

Once home, I quickly diced the pork and chicken meat. It went into the refrigerator while I prepared the spices (cumin, coriander, kosher salt and pepper) and aromatics (cilantro, garlic, jalapeno chile pepper and thyme). I pulled the meat out of the refrigerator, mixed in the spices and aromatics and then returned it to the chill box for a two-hour rest.

Next came the most challenging step in my sausage making process. I had to figure out how to run five pounds of seasoned pork and chicken through the narrow hopper and dull blade of the meat grinder. I gave up after 10 minutes. The grinder mashed the meat instead of cutting it, probably because the die has never been sharpened.

I knew that I had to change direction at that point. I returned the meat mixture to the refrigerator while recovered my largest knife from my knife roll. The heavy blade of the 10-inch chef knife helped me chop the meat, a task that I had to accomplish quickly in order to keep the meat cool.

The remaining steps went quickly (mixing in the Kitchenaid mixer and incorporating the wine into the sausage). Since Debbie and I ate dinner earlier, I elected taste the sausage -- and hunt for a Kitchenaid grinder attachment -- today. The sausage passed its taste test this morning at breakfast. It has a pleasingly fresh taste, perfect for a country breakfast sausage. The flavors blended for a bright, fresh example of charcuterie. And, even with two jalapenos in the mix, there's barely a hint of spiciness.

Oh, I couldn't locate a grinder in my home county this afternoon. If a search yield nothing tomorrow in Sacramento, I'll order one from Amazon.com. I should be able to post the recipe by next weekend. In the meantime, I'll freeze the sausage in one-pound chubs and grind it as needed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Copper king

During my time in the fleet in the 1970s, the copper king worked the steam jacketed kettles, or coppers in Navy parlance, in U.S. Navy galleys. Most culinary skill on the shift rested with this cook. He prepared soups, sauces, braised meats and casseroles for the ship's crew.
GULF OF ADEN (July 12, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Harvey Xavier prepares meat sauce aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71). Cape St. George is deployed as part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher S. Johnson.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Blog readers at Deer Crossing Camp


Last weekend Debbie and I hiked into Deer Crossing Summer Camp, located on the southeastern shore of Loon Lake in Eldorado National Forest. We worked in the camp kitchen during the summer of 2009. As the chef , I cooked nearly 2,700 meals over the 10-week season.

The fact that both cooks had read my blog impressed me the most about the visit. I learned two years ago that camp owner and director Jim Wiltens routinely uses the blog to screen prospective cooks. He likes it because I've "pulled no punches" in describing my experience at the wilderness leadership camp.

In 2010 a classically trained cook backed out when he saw the daily challenges at the camp. In contrast, one of the cooks from that season returned for a second summer in 2011. The cooks hired in the intervening years have done a good job.

Both cooks recognized Debbie and me from the blog. It felt good to meet cooks who had read the blog in detail. Click on the label "Camp 2009" to follow my journey that summer.

Just as I do in my current job, I've always enjoyed teaching my craft to others, especially when I can demonstrate culinary technique in person. Saturday, I showed Jenny how to season her chicken skillet dish in layers. She welcomed my assistance and let me help with the meal.

'Round the Chuckbox lets me reach a much wider audience. As much fun as it would be to travel throughout the country helping others cook, I don't have that luxury right now. Work, family and railroad obligations limit travel at this time.

The blog gives me a venue to share recipes and production techniques for small to medium sized kitchens. I've dedicated the past two and one-half years at my current job developing a set of recipes for 25 and 50 persons. When possible, I share the recipes on these pages.

Occasional feedback tells me that I'm on the right track. So, until I'm able to travel more and meet some of my readers, I plan to continue writing about my culinary journey. Please let me know how these pages have helped. Thank you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reliving the chuckwagon tradition on the Bell Ranch

Chuckwagon cook Kent Rollins spent most of the month of June the "pulling" the the chuckwagon on the massive Bell Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. Along with his wife Shannon, the two fed a crew of cowboys from the ranch chuckwagon. As the crew finished work at one pasture, Kent and Shannon drove the team of horses to the next pasture, where they set up camp and worked early mornings to the setting of the sun.

Enjoy the video. In it, you'll see the chuckwagon in action and view a map of the 290,100-acre ranch. Kent also explains how to prepare Upside Down Pizza. "Them boys eat it up faster than we can put it down on the table," said Kent in the video.


You Tube description: "Not since 1958, has The Bell Ranch pulled a traditional chuck wagon. This two part mini-documentary follows the crew of The Bell and Kent Rollins, as the chuck wagon "cookie," as they revive the tradition of pulling a chuck wagon with a team for the four week spring gathering."




Saturday, June 02, 2012

Evening meal at Canby Grove

My family and I attended the wedding of our niece and her husband in Port Gamble, Washington, yesterday. On the trip north, we met Chef Ira Krizo for breakfast in Canby Grove, Oregon, where he invited the family to dinner on Saturday evening on the homeward bound leg of the trip.

We arrived at 5:30 p.m. after a four-hour drive from the Kitsap Peninsula in Northwestern Washington, in time to watch Ira and his staff serve the meal to the guests of the camp. Ira served the staff dinner at 6 p.m.

This is the third time that we've enjoyed meals at Canby Grove Christian Center, where Ira is the executive chef. Even after 41 years in the business, I enjoy watching others work in the kitchen. It's a pleasure watching the cooks in motion as they put the finishing touches on the meal and filled serving bowls.

In the photograph, Sous Chef Jay Gillett (right) dips pasta cabronara into serving bowls while Chef Ira (center) portions sliced chicken onto the pasta. Other staff filled bowls with roasted vegetables and garnished the chicken and pasta.

According to Chef Ira, the menu consisted of grilled chicken with pasta carbonara (prepared as a bacon cream sauce). He garnished the chicken and pasta in each serving dish with steamed peas and extra shredded Parmesan cheese.

Canby Grove hosted around 200 guests at a weekend family camp. The meal was served family style at some 27 large round tables. Ira and staff served three meals to the group today. They leave after breakfast tomorrow. The cooks used Friday to prepare for the four meals.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Navy chili

What doesn't love good chili? This one interests me because we are staying in Silverdale, Washington this weekend to attend a wedding, where my niece is marrying a sailor from the naval base. Silverdale is located about five miles north of Bremerton.

BREMERTON, Wash. (May 12, 2012) -- Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent gives Culinary Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kenzil Woodard, from Winnsboro, S.C., assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), a thumbs up after taste testing chili during the Olympic College Foundation Military Culinary Arts Competition held in Bremerton.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Charles D. Gaddis IV.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day menu

On Monday, the residents partake in their normal activities as American honor its fallen veterans. Since treatment groups and counseling sessions occupy their time, I've put a Memorial Day menu together so they can celebrate. Even though families aren't able to join the ladies, they'll enjoy a holiday cookout on the patio.

MEMORIAL DAY MENU

Chef Steven's Triple 'B' Burger

All-beef patty grilled on BBQ, garnished with 2 bacon strips & bleu cheese crumbles
Swiss or American cheese for non-bleu cheese eaters

Corn on the cob

Grilled to perfection with chili butter

Roast potato and asparagus salad

Red potatoes and asparagus roasted in oven until golden
Tossed with sweet rosemary balsamic vinaigrette

All the fixin's

Sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion, Romain lettuce leaves
Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise

Bowl of strawberries

Sliced fresh California strawberries, tossed in lemon juice, mint & vanilla

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Culinary specilist trains with Royal Navy

This article should bring a smile to my professional colleagues. Their passion for food drives them to prepare most meal components from scratch. It has become second nature. These chefs transform the word 'cook' into an action verb by cooking full meals, all from scratch.

As a chef for more that 40 years in residential programs, I learned my love for cooking in the U.S. Navy, a career that's focused on the Navy, health care, corrections and camps. When I graduated from U.S. Navy Commissaryman Class 'A' School in March 1971, scratch cooking dominated the Navy's enlisted galleys. We prepared the whole meal from scratch during my eight and one-half years of active duty.

The Navy slowly shifted the emphasis away from scratch cooking in the intervening years. Now, according to this Navy Supply press release, the Navy is slowly reintroducing scratch cooking into its ships and shore stations. Initial goals call for scratch cooking 40 percent of the menu on aircraft carriers.

Maybe the Navy needs to recall some of it retired chief petty officers, like CS1 Cherry's father. We could teach our younger shipmates how to cook. A short cruise on a Navy man of war would be fun for old-times sake. And we could pass our knowledge into the younger generation.

Enjoy the article ...


MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (NNS) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW) John Cherry completed a three-month culinary training course with the United Kingdom Royal Navy's Defence Maritime Logistics School, and returned to Fort Lee, Va. Jan. 3.

Currently serving as an instructor at the Culinary Specialist Class "A" School at Fort Lee, Va., Cherry began instructing a new class today, and will incorporate some of the "hands on" cooking he has learned to help Sailors better understand the Navy's incentive for scratch cooking.

"The training provided by the Royal Navy gives their sailors the knowledge to be able to cook a product from scratch, and not rely solely on pre-prepared items all the time," he explained. This will enable Cherry to better instruct his students in scratch cooking, and supports the U.S. Navy's efforts in increasing scratch cooking and baking aboard carriers to near 40 percent of total output.

The Navy has set three goals to help improve culinary specialists' quality of work. These include slight changes to the menu to incorporate more scratch cooking and bakery products, increasing training and ensuring appropriate staffing levels.

The training Cherry received will certainly help him meet these goals. He was selected by the school's leadership to attend a three-month culinary training regiment, conducted from mid-September through December 2011, including a five-day transit aboard a Royal Navy ship.

"The biggest impact is with the length of the course with the Royal Navy," he emphasized. "The UK training allows students to get in-depth training and allows them to function in a galley onboard ship with a lot of autonomy. It gives that Sailor the knowledge to be able to cook and produce from scratch. It also encourages them to apply what they learned during training to menu planning aboard ships, and use their skills to explore different dishes within the ship's menu," Cherry added.

His efforts coincide with Naval Supply Systems Command ongoing work with Type Commands to increase scratch cooking on carrier menus to 40 percent, which will help guarantee Sailors receive nourishing, high-quality food prepared fresh every day by culinary specialists who take seriously their impact on Sailors' health, morale, and fleet readiness.

"The training CS1 Cherry received will help him provide the over the shoulder training that our junior culinary specialists deserve, to increase their scratch cooking skills," said Cmdr. Danny King, Naval Supply Systems Command Navy Food Service director. "As an example of our commitment, the Navy has increased scratch cooking on carrier menus to 40 percent in just the past two months to bring our Sailors exceptional meals they can enjoy away from home."

King said that the UK Food Allowance per Sailor is not as high as the U.S. Navy's, which requires onboard chefs to prepare many of the meals using raw ingredients, vice using the pre-prepared items.

"In the U.S. Navy, we have focused on making Navy food service as economical and efficient as possible for the last several years," King said. "We are now working to match those efficiencies by helping the fleet balance their menus and return to more scratch cooking."

Cherry served as culinary specialist at the White House for President George W. Bush and later for Adm. Robert Willard, former vice chief of Naval Operations. He said the training he received will help him meet and exceed his career goals. "My next goal is to serve as a chief petty officer, and to run my own food service establishment, either aboard ship or in a flag community."

Having a father who retired as a chief mess management specialist (forerunner of the culinary specialist rating) and having grown up in the Navy-centric community of Norfolk, Va., Cherry knew as a very young man that he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.

Culinary specialists provide more than 92 million wholesome and nutritious meals per year, helping ensure the Navy's fighting forces operate at peak performance, and are ready to respond to threats and humanitarian operations worldwide. With even more advanced training on the way, Sailors, serving both afloat and ashore, can look forward to even healthier and better-tasting meals.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dutch oven pizza (take 'n bake)

I purchased two take and bake pizzas from Gularte's Pizza & Deli in Diamond Springs, Calif., last night. My usual practice is to call home and ask my son to preheat the home oven to 450 degrees. He set the oven as directed. When I arrived home 15 minutes later, I learned the oven wasn't working.

To bake the pizzas -- 16-inch large and 12-inch medium -- I inverted a 14-inch regular camp Dutch oven and set it on a lid rack. After lighting a chimney of lump charcoal, I piled burning coals on the top (normally the bottom) of the oven. A number of coals were stuffed under the oven as well. To lift the oven off of the lid, I wore heavy welder's gloves.
The 16-inch pizza had to be trimmed to fit inside the Dutch oven. I folded the dough over into a braid, trimmed the cardboard tray and set the pizza in the inverted lid. I set the on the lid and loaded it with coals. Since mesquite lump charcoal (I use Lazzari brand) burns very hot, I was confident I had sufficient heat to bake both pizzas. Each pizza took around 25 minutes to bake.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Military recipe committee meets to explore healthy options

By Kathy Adams
Naval Supply Systems Command Corporate Communications

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (NNS) -- Members of the Joint Services Recipe Committee met April 25 at Naval Supply Systems Command headquarters to collaborate on new recipes and suggest new food products that provide healthy options for the 21st Century Sailor and Marine.

PERTH, Australia (April 26, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Darrius Thomas, left, assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Bunker Hill (DDG 52), and Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Roosevelt Roberts, right, assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), prepare vegetables at the Incontro Restaurant in Perth during a chef exchange visit. The visit is part of the Cooks and Chefs Exchange Program, which allows U.S. Navy culinary specialists and restaurant chefs to meet and exchange information. Carl Vinson was anchored in Perth for a port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dean M. Cates.)
The Joint Services Recipe Committee is comprised of Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy dietitians, and Army Public Health Command personnel. The committee meets quarterly to review recipes and determine new products to be tested at the Armed Forces Recipe Service testing site in Natick, Mass.

"It all starts with a great recipe," said Cmdr. Danny King, director of food service for the Navy. "Our recipes bring quality ingredients together creating the base for our menus. By choosing healthy ingredients, we make healthy recipes that create healthy menus."

The recipe committee's efforts contribute toward the goal of producing healthy, nutritious meals that taste great, sustain the warfighter and support a one-catalog concept that can be supportable worldwide by Defense Logistics Agency-Troop Support for all services (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard).

"Taking a fresh look at recipes is an important part of incorporating healthy alternatives in food prepared for all services," King said.

"The Joint Services Recipe Committee is the backbone of nutrition for Sailors and Marines," said Jennifer Person-Whippo, Navy nutrition program manager and registered dietician. "The committee ensures that quality ingredients are available for use by food service personnel around the world.

"Ethnic flavors and food trends are considered during recipe development and revision," said Person-Whippo. "Feedback from service members who prepare the food is key to determining what works and what food items are well-liked in the field. When new recipes are proposed, dietitians prepare the recipes and scale them to quantities of 100 portions for all services to use.

"From a Navy perspective, food is the biggest factor affecting morale on the ship," said King. "Nothing impacts Sailors more on a daily basis than meals. Trained culinary specialists prepare top quality, fresh, and nutritious foods, contributing to the quality of life for Sailors and Marines who are deployed as well as those stationed ashore."

The Navy's more than 7,300 culinary specialists, deployed around the globe feed on average more than 92.5 million wholesome and nutritious meals per year, ensuring the Navy's fighting forces operate at peak performance and are ready to respond to threats worldwide.

Navy commanding officers agree that nothing impacts Sailors on a day-to-day basis more than the food culinary specialists prepare for them; they believe these top quality meals contribute directly to Sailor quality of life and morale.

Today's culinary specialists have greater culinary instruction than ever before. With even more advanced training on the way, Sailors, both afloat and ashore, can look forward to even healthier and better-tasting meals in the near future.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spinach and chickpea soup

Here's recipe that I tried out on the residents at work this week. This is one of those soups that was born out of necessity. With one quart of leftover spinach in the refrigerator, I needed a creative way to use it. I quickly ruled out cream of spinach soup. With the heat, I didn't think the residents would care for it.

 This recipe is adapted from a similar recipe at Kalyn's Kitchen. The combination of chickpeas, spinach and tomatoes appealed to me. I soon realized that spinach and chickpea soup is a multi-season pleaser. Dried basil and frozen spinach stand in for when fresh spinach and basil are in short supply in the winter. Once fresh products appear at the market in the spring, you'll enjoy the as it's written.

SPINACH AND CHICKPEA SOUP

Four cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, may be used in place of dried peas. Use 1-1/2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed, in place of fresh in of the fresh.

1 pound dried chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1-1/2 quarts chicken stock or vegetable broth
1 (28-ounce) diced tomatoes
1 pinch crushed red pepper
2 quarts fresh spinach
1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Soak chickpeas overnight in cold water. Drain and discard water. Place peas in heavy stockpot and cover with cold water. Simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until tender; Drain and set aside.

In a 10- to 12-quart stockpot, heat olive oil. Add onions and sweat until translucent. Add garlic and stir, cooking for a minute or two. Do not brown or burn garlic.

Add stock or broth, tomatoes and peppers. Simmer for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Add chickpeas and spinach. Cook an additional 15 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Add basil, vinegar and cheese. Cook 5 minutes to wilt basil and blend flavors.

If desired, puree 3 cups of the soup in a blender or food processor. Return pure to soup and stir. This will give soup additional body. Adjust seasoning; serve with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese if desired. Prepares 1 gallon of soup.