Thursday, February 28, 2013

Navy chef with live ammo

I always enjoyed live fire exercises on the ship's fantail. It was one of the perks of the job. We fired the M14 rifle, M60 machine gun and M1911A1 service pistol on the USS Stein (DE 1065) in the mid-1970s. The USS Cocopa (ATF 101) had a couple Thompson submachine guns in its armory in 1972.

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 27, 2013) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class Chad Lahousse fires a 9 mm pistol during a live-fire exercise on the flight deck aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), U.S. 7th Fleet flagship.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jared Harra.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Deep dish pizza rice casserole for 24

I have posted this recipe several times in the history of 'Round the Chuckbox. The first time I prepared deep dish pizza rice entree was at a 2006 family camping near Fortuna, California. My son mumbled "This is good" over and over as he shoveled multiple helpings into his face. I then set the recipe aside for several years.

In 2010 on a camping trip to South Lake Tahoe, Jacob asked for "that pizza stuff." I obliged by sneaking baby spinach into the dish. I posted a pictorial recipe of my reworked deep dish pizza rice.

Since I left work an hour before the residents served dinner on Friday, I asked a staff member to snap this picture of deep dish pizza rice casserole on her cell phone. Thinking back, I should've asked then to save me a serving for my lunch today! This dish was baked with cheddar-jack cheese mixture.

Last fall, the residents at work were asking that I prepare some new dishes in the evening. This gave me the opportunity to re-work the recipe from a 10-inch Dutch oven to a 12 by 20 by 2-inch hotel pan. I first prepared the deep dish pizza rice casserole for 24 in mid-December.

The first meal gave me the opportunity to fine tune the recipe for larger portions. I prepared the casserole for the second time last Friday.


Use the drained tomato juice as part of the chicken stock. You need 2 quarts total chicken stock and tomato juice for the recipe.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups diced yellow onion
1-1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
10 ounces Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes in juice, drained
1 quart long grain rice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 quarts chicken stock, boiling
2 cups pizza sauce
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
10 ounces sliced pepperoni

Heat oil in saucepan or brazier over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sweat until soft. Do not brown or burn. Stir sausage, tomatoes, rice, garlic and herbs into onion and garlic mixture.

Spread mixture evenly into bottom of greased 12 by 20 by 2-inch hotel pan. Evenly pour stock over mixture; cover tightly with foil or lid. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Remove pan from heat and fluff rice mixture with fork. Gently smooth out top of rice. Top with layer of pizza sauce, then layers of both cheeses. Top with pepperoni. Continue bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese melts.

Remove from heat. Let stand at least 10 minutes before dishing up. Cut or score pan 4 by 6 for 24 servings. Serve equal portion of rice and topping.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kent Rollin's 1876 Studebaker chuckwagon

Have you ever wondered what goes into a well-designed and well-stocked chuckwagon?

"This was our kitchen cupboard, our kitchen table, our kitchen counter. Everything was done right here on this old chuckbox," explains cowboy chef Kent Rollins from the working end of the chuckwagon. He frequently caters with his wife Shannon out of the back of his 1876 Studebaker chuckwagon.

Kent answers these questions in this video by Western Horseman. Remove the tailgate, fit in a chuckbox and "any wagon" could be converted into a chuckwagon. Kent explains the setup of the chuckbox and table, boot, coffee grinder, side table and water barrel.

He also introduces the topic of cowboy etiquette. "It was always law. It was always in the code of ethics (for) cowboys and cooks that this was sacred ground. Between this chuckbox lid and my fire no cowboy would ever enter," explains Kent in the video. Cowboys respected the cook. They wouldn't come under the tent fly without asking permission.

Enjoy ...

YouTube description: "Kent Rollins shows the key features of his 1876 Studebaker chuckwagon."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cowboy Tastes & Tales with Kent Rollins

Cowboy chef and humorist Kent Rollins has a new gig. "I've teamed up with Western Horseman for a special recipe series," Kent wrote in a recent email broadcast. "Beginning this month, for a year, I'll be sharing a recipe and story in each issue."

"Whether you're stoking up the fire to fix some grub in your Dutch ovens, or looking to create something special in your home, these are favorite recipes I'm excited to share with ya'll."

Look for a copy of Western Horseman at your favorite newsstand or subscribe to the magazine. Kent promises you'll "get your issues delivered right to your homestead." I'm off to locate my copy. Are you?

YouTube video description: "Cowboy Chef Kent Rollins lists the best Dutch ovens for cooking over coals."

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Dave Herzog's Dutch oven paella

Last Sunday, Dave Herzog posted this picture of Spanish paella on his Facebook fan page, Cast Iron "Covered Wagon" Cookin'. He posted the recipe after receiving 30 private messages this week.

Dave entered the paella in the Dutch oven cookoff at the 2007 Nor Cal Boat, Sport and RV Show in Anderson, California. He walked away with first place in the main dish category. For the three-pot competition, Dave prepared German chocolate ice cream topped cake and cheddar sourdough bread for his other two dishes.

This recipe and others are found in Dave's cookbook, Cast Iron "Covered Wagon" Cookin' for Crowds in BIG Ovens. BIG Ovens is the fourth cookbook in a series of five dedicated to cooking in cast iron cookware. It's ideal for the outdoor cook who regularly cooks for groups of 20 or more.

"This book covers recipes for those outdoor cooks with a serious case of castironitis!" Most recipes are written for Maca branch deep Dutch ovens, including the massive 22-inch oven, which tips the scale at over 150 pounds and holds 45 quarts of food!

To purchase, contact Dave at The Official Cast Iron "Covered Wagon" Cookin' website. It costs $10 plus $5 shipping for the paper copy of the book. Discounts apply when purchasing multiple books. The cookbook can also be downloaded for the Cook'n Recipe Organizer software for $7.95. The software must be purchased separately.

You can do paella in a Dutch oven lid or Dutch oven. Dave Herzog cooked this paella in the lid of a 20-inch Cabela's Dutch oven. The cast iron works for the Spanish dish without having to buy a paella pan.

This recipe may be doubled by cooking in the 20-inch Dutch oven by using the oven right-side up.

In the intervening years, Dave has adjusted one or more ingredients. "I also now use 5 pound wing sections instead of chicken thighs," Dave wrote on Facebook. "The wings are easier to divide between people, even though I prefer the thigh meat." Substitute Mexican Chorizo if you can't locate Spanish chorizo.

1/2 cup olive oil, divided
12 chicken thighs
3 tablespoons Emeril’s Essence
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 pounds Spanish chorizo, diced into 1/4-inch half moons
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups red bell peppers, chopped (about 2-3 peppers)
2 cups green bell peppers, chopped (about 2-3 peppers)
4 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons saffron threads
2 quarts chicken stock
1 quart medium grain rice
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, shells and tails on, back split
1 pound mussels, cleaned and de bearded
1 pound steamer clams, cleaned
2-1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed

In a large mixing bowl or tub season the chicken with 2 tablespoons Emeril’s  Essence and 2 teaspoons salt. Toss the thighs to cover with seasonings. Heat a 20-inch Cabela’s Dutch oven lid over a checkerboard pattern of charcoal briquettes. Add 1/4 cup oil to the lid. Once the oil starts to smoke cook the thighs on each side for 4 minutes per side to sear. Remove the chicken from the lid, and set aside.

Add remaining oil and chorizo and brown, stirring occasionally until well browned, about 7 minutes. Add onions and peppers. Continue cooking until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and saute 3 minutes, then add garlic and saffron. Spread this mixture evenly across the lid then place the chicken thighs across the top of the mixture in a single layer.

Pour about 1 quart stock into the lid or as much liquid it will hold without over flowing. Cover with bottom and add more stock as needed in 15 to 20 minute intervals, adding as much as possible without over flowing until all the broth is used up.

When the last of the broth is added, place the shrimp, mussels, and clams around the entire dish and cover. Cook 15 minutes, remove cover and sprinkle peas over the top, cover and remove from heat, let rest 7 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve from the lid on a lid trivet in the center of a table.

Serves 8 with two chicken thighs per person or 16 with one thigh each.

Recipe and photograph used with permission.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Cast iron skillet pizza

What do you do when your pizza stone bites the dust? Use a pre-heated cast iron skillet as a pizza pan. With similar heat holding capacity, the skillet yields a better pizza than a sheet pan. The skillet absorbs heat as the oven heats up, then transfers it to the pizza during baking. The heavy floor of the skillet mimics the deck of a pizza oven in the same manner as ceramic pizza stone.

I prepared a pizza dough last night. I had intended to purchase a new ceramic stone on my way home from work this afternoon. When other chores got in the way, I arrived home without a stone. My first thought was to bake the pizza in an inverted 14-inch Dutch oven.

During a telephone conversation with my sister, we hit on the idea to use a skillet. I said that I had the perfect skillet to bake the pizza in the home oven. I recovered my 17-inch cast iron Lodge skillet from the garage and put the 14-inch Dutch oven away.

I formed the pizza from a 14 ounce piece of dough, After setting it on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal, I spread 3/4-cup pizza sauce on the dough. Eight ounces mozzarella cheese and 6 ounces crumbled Italian sausage topped the pizza.

To bake, I slipped the pizza into the pre-heated skillet and placed it in a 450-degree oven. The pizza was ready in 15 minutes. The under crust of the pizza was evenly browned. And the pizza was cooked to perfection.

At this point, I'm not sure that I'm going to purchase a new pizza stone. Why spend the money when the 17-inch skillet serves the same purpose? Plus, it's being used. Since I rarely use the skillet, except when cooking for a crowd, it stays seasoned and clean.

Since not everyone owns Lodge's largest skillet, roll out a piece of dough to fit the diameter of your largest skillet. Pre-heat the skillet in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes before baking the pizza. A pizza peel simplifies the task of transferring the pizza into the skillet. With practice, you'll drop the pizza into the center of the skillet.

I baked a 13-inch pizza inside my Lodge 17-inch cast iron skillet this evening. The pizza fit comfortably on the surface of the skillet, which is 14 inches in diameter.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The watch captain the leader of a shift of cooks in the galley. The position is equivelent to the sous chef in hotel and casino kitchens.

SAN DIEGO (Feb. 1, 2013) -- Lt. Rayfield Golden, site director for the Center for Service Support Learning Site San Diego, addresses culinary specialists attending the Galley Watch Captains School prior to a ribbon cutting ceremony. The ribbon cutting ceremony signifies the reopening of the school after several renovations.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephen D. Doyle II.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Notes on yeast

Yeast is one of the most important baking ingredients. It contributes much to bread and pastry in contrast to the small amount used in most formulas. Through a process known as fermentation, yeast gives bread its light, airy structure and helps produce a pleasingly soft texture in pastries.

During fermentation, yeast feeds on sugars in the dough and changes them into carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. The yeast releases sugar from the flour through enzymatic action. It also feeds on sugars added by the baker in richer doughs.

Fermentation takes place when as carbon dioxide gas accumulates in the structure of the dough. Since these gasses can't escape, the dough rises as gasses are trapped in air pockets in the dough. This leavening action turns breads and pastries into the products that we all treasure.

Types of yeast

Three forms of yeast are available to the baker. While pre-ferments such as the Italian biga or Western sourdough starter provide leavening action through yeast or other microorganisms, my focus here is on commercially available yeast products for the baker. They are:

Fresh or compressed yeast is often used by professional bakers. Since it's a perishable product, fresh yeast must be stored  in the refrigerator as it has a relatively short shelf life. Red Star Yeast advises that one (2-ounce) cake will leaven about three pounds of flour.

The baker uses more fresh yeast by weight than any other form. To use, dissolve fresh yeast in 90- to 95-degree F. liquid (usually the water in the formula). The liquid must come from the total moisture in the recipe.

Active dry yeast is a dry granular form of yeast. Fleischmann's Yeast developed it during World War II for the U.S. armed forces. It's longer shelf life gave military bakers a yeast product that was stable at room temperature and one that tolerated transportation over long distances. Active dry yeast remains the standard for the Armed Forces Recipe Service. While active dry yeast can be stored at room temperature, refrigeration extends its shelf life.

To use, the yeast must be re-hydrated in warm water (100 to 110 degrees F.), a process called blooming or proofing. After five minutes, the yeast solution is added with the other wet ingredients in the formula. The baker uses about 50 percent less active dry yeast by weight than fresh.

Instant yeast is also a dry granular form of yeast. Unlike active dry yeast, instant yeast doesn't have to be dissolved in warm water before use. The baker mixes it directly in the dry ingredients. Instant yeast is formulated to quickly absorb water and give off more carbon dioxide gas. The baker uses about 50 percent less instant yeast by weight than active dry. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or quick-rise yeast.

Conversion between forms of yeast

Active dry yeast leavened my career as a ship's cook and baker in the U.S. Navy. After using active dry yeast for most of my civilian career as well, I've switched over to instant yeast. It's easier to use and doesn't require blooming in warm water with a bit of sugar. I like it because you mix it directly in the dry ingredients.

With three yeast products on the market, the baker must first determine the type of yeast used in the recipe. A well written bakery formula will state the type of yeast used. Many cookbooks will explain the type of yeast used its recipes.

Convertion from one form of yeast to another requires a bit of math for the baker. Since many recipes call for active dry yeast, let's begin there. These instructions are based on weights and not volume measurement. I will explain my rationale behind the use of weights in baking in a future article.

Fleischmann's and Red Star both package dry yeast (active dry and instant) in strips of three (1/4-ounce) envelopes for the home market. Each envelope is equivalent to 2-1/4 teaspoons. I purchase Red Star's SAF brand instant yeast in 1-pound packages for home and work.
To convert from active dry yeast to instant, multiply the weight of active dry yeast by .70. A recipe that calls for .75 ounce of active yeast, for example, you'd make the following calculation:

.75 oz active dry yeast x .70 = .525 oz instant yeast

To convert from fresh yeast to active dry, multiply the weight of fresh yeast by .50. A recipe that calls for .75 ounce of fresh yeast, for example, you'd make the following calculation:

.75 oz fresh yeast x .50 = .375 oz active dry yeast

To convert from fresh yeast to instant, multiply the weight of fresh yeast by .35. A recipe that calls for .75 ounce of fresh yeast, for example, you'd make the following calculation:

.75 oz fresh yeast x .35 = .253 oz instant yeast

Modern digital scales will accommodate decimals to the hundredths. To make the reverse calculation, divide target yeast by the conversion factor. For example, the recipe calls for instant yeast. Since you have active dry yeast, you need to convert from instant yeast to active dry yeast. Make the calculation as follows:

.50 oz instant yeast / .70 = .71 oz active dry yeast

The Artisan website contains an useful yeast conversion table. Conversion factors on the chart appear to be close to mine.

For the home baker, I don't see any reason why you can't round the amount of yeast used to the nearest tenths or hundredths. Please leave a comment if you have questions regarding the use of yeast. I'll answer as soon as possible.

Note that newer recipes at 'Round the Chuckbox call for instant yeast. Older recipes, including those borrowed from the Armed Forces Recipe Service, use active dry yeast. Unless I decide to experiment with fresh yeast, my recipes will continue to use instant yeast.