Monday, May 29, 2006

What Not To Do During a Competition

I sometimes locate a military picture that puzzles me. This one is from the 30th Annual U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition, held at Fort Lee, Virginia, in March 2005. An army culinary specialist from the Fort Riley, Kansas, team is adding dried parsley flakes to a 10-gallon pot of macaroni and cheese.

My issue isn't that the cook is adding dried parsley to the macaroni dish. This is an Army field cooking competition that tests the team's cooking skills using ingredients from the Army's field menu.

Rather, it's her technique. You don't tip a 1-gallon container of any spice or herb over the pot and expect to measure with any accuracy. Remember, accidents happen. And they're disastrous when competing for gold.

Sgt. Erica Vega, Fort Riley, Kan., adds parsley flakes to the macaroni pot. Sgt. Brian Brooks supervises the team to ensure a timely finish. (Photo by Sgt. Jorge Gomez, Fort Lee Public Affairs Office.)

With less than 30 minutes left before deadline, the Fort Riley, Kan., team rushes to complete their menu of breaded pork chops, macaroni and green beans in a mobile kitchen trailer. (Photo by Sgt. Jorge Gomez, Fort Lee Public Affairs Office.)
Here's an excerpt on the field competition from an article, published on March 15, 2006:
Chefs faced the pressure of preparing 50 meals in cramped space with very little room for error. Teams of four Soldiers marched into their mobile kitchen trailers and took inventory of equipment. With a mystery basket of ingredients featuring pork chops, the chefs sketched a plan of attack.
Mobile burner units lit up at 8:30 a.m., launching the competition into full-battle cooking.
Two senior food service judges from Fort Lee closely observed the teams throughout the morning. Like hawks, they watched the Soldiers butcher meats, knead dough, sauté onions and maintain sanitation procedures to meet the 11:30 a.m. deadline.
Designed to try the Soldiers in field cookery and teamwork, the event tested how the teams used their equipment, planned, prepared and served their meals. Points were awarded for sanitation, timing, techniques, presentation, nutrition and enhancement. Major points were awarded for flavor, taste, texture, temperature and doneness.
Given limited resources, Soldiers tackled the challenge of coming up with a creative way to “sell” their product to the judges, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Arnold Montiel, Basic Food Services Training Division chief and judge.
“This experience encourages the Soldiers to maximize the use of all their ingredients to better prepare meals when they are out in the field. It teaches them that there is always another way to prepare the same menu,” Montiel said.
“Anyone can make a pork chop,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Jackson, food service sergeant major at Fort Drum, N.Y.
“Creativity will be a key element in the competition, but the advantage may go to the teams who have more experience cooking in the field,” Jackson said.

Tartare Sauce

I had a request from a World War II veteran trying to locate the Navy recipe for tarter sauce.
Norman Scott wrote: "A friend, now 84 years old, was in the navy long ago aboard a carrier and when fish was served he thought the tarter sauce was exceptional. He now fishes for fun in Ontario, Canada, and would dearly like to have the recipe for tarter sauce. Other than buying old USN cookbooks, is there a way I can find an old tarter sauce formulation?"
Here's the recipe for tartare sauce (yes, that's the correct spelling for the recipe):


1/2 cup capers
1/2 cup chopped olives
1/2 cup chopped pickles
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 gallon mayonnaise

Combine capers, olives, pickles, onion and parsley. Stir into mayonnaise. Mix well. This recipe makes approx 1/2-gallon. Serving size is 1-1/2 tablespoons.

Source: Cook Book of the United States Navy, 1944, page 218.

Sauerbratten and Armed Forces Recipe Service

I received this email from Davis Boshart:

I am a former CS-2 and served on the Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) from '69-'72. I helped de-commission her. Recently I tried to remember how to do sauerbraten beef which was a recipe in the standardized recipe file. I came close but the flavor wasn't what I remembered. How do I get a copy of that recipe? For that matter is there a chance of getting a complete set of those cards? I look forward to hearing from you on this; any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for writing, David. I too remember cooking sauerbraten, although it wasn't one of my favorites. I like the sharpness that the vinegar adds, but the dish looses it for me once you add the gingersnaps.

I'll post the recipe tonight.

Armed Forces Recipe Service

The US Armed Forces Recipe Service is a wonderful recipe resource. I used them throughout my 29-year active and reserve career with the US Navy. I use them each summer at camp. You can find the AFRS on the Internet at

Each recipe is written for 100 portions and gives you:
  • Number of pans per 100 portions
  • Pan size in common US pan sizes
  • Serving size, usually in ounces, cups or pieces
  • Oven temperature for baked items
  • Ingredient list on the left-hand column
  • Weight and volume of each ingredient for 100 portions--on these cards, each preparation step is tied to one or more ingredients in the two center columns
  • Preparation method delineated in clear steps in the right-hand column
  • Notes at the end of the recipe that list alternative ingredients (especially dehydrated) and preparation notes. Most notable are: "as purchased" (A.P.) and "edible portion" (E.P.) amounts are given here
  • Variations to the recipe--often, these variations are for dehydrated and other special foods that the US military buys
Although I have a number of AFRS sets from the 1950s to the 1990s, I most often use the Internet version of AFRS when planning an event. I print each recipe so I can write purchasing, production and serving notes right on the recipe. Since I rarely cook for exactly 100 persons (and the fact that serving sizes can be hefty), I also make adjustments to ingredients and note that right on my printed sheet. After the event, I save all the printed recipes in a file as a record of the event.

In addition to giving you standard ingredient amounts and instructions, the big advantage with AFRS is purchasing. Anytime you need to know how many pounds of an item serves 100 persons, just look it up on AFRS. (Remember that servings per hundred are always tied to serving size.) Once you have a basic understanding of ingredients, amounts and method, you can easily add that special ingredient or two that sends the recipe "over the top."

As for collecting complete recipe sets: AFRS is very difficult to locate, especially on eBay. I'm not curtain that I've every purchased a 5- x 8-inch AFRS set on eBay. Most AFRS sets in my collection were acquired during my 29-year career in the Navy. A retired chief commissarryman gave me one or two sets before he passed on.

AFRS is now available on CD for less than $10. I purchased a set in Adobe Acrobat last year from eBay. A CD is available right now for $9.99 with the "Buy it Now" feature of eBay. Search on the keywords "Navy recipe" and you'll find it. A few dollars saves you the time of individually downloading each recipe from the naval supply website. It's a valuable addition to any culinary library, especially if you cook for large groups.

MSCS Steven C. Karoly, USN, Ret

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp

Last year I posted my thoughts on operating a kitchen at a children's Bible camp. Each summer, I chef for the Northern California Florida College Camp, which meets at Daybreak Camp in Felton, California for one week. I'll blog on preparations for the 2006 session as we get closer to our July 2 start date.

I started telling you about my preparations for food service at camp in April 2005 . My blogs shared my thoughts on running a kitchen for a weeklong children's camp. They're based operating a stand-alone kitchen where you plan the menu, purchase food and cook meals for the week only. Several points won't apply to a camp kitchen that operates all summer because you can hold excessive stock from one week to the next.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 9--Get ready to go home.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 8--Walk the ground.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 7 -- Document your extensive knowledge base as chef.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 6 -- Service is not a four-letter word.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 5 -- Thank your staff.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 4 -- Hire sufficient cooks and dishwashers.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 3 -- Think about where you're going to shop.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 2 -- Purchase ready-to-cook food and keep the menu simple.

Second Set of Lessons from Week-Long Bible Camp, Part 1 -- Don't neglect the spiritual aspect of camp.

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 7 -- More purchasing tips.

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 6 -- Check your list twice.

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 5 -- Service and signature menu ideas.

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 4 -- Five a day is a noble goal.

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 3 -- Children and adult leaders enjoy salads.

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 2 -- Keep the campers hydrated.

Lessons From a Week-Long Children's Bible Camp, Part 1 -- Your mission is to feed children, nothing more.

Monday, May 08, 2006

American Chop Suey Recipe

This recipe is adapted from U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service card L-64. It yields 100 (1-cup) portions or 2 (18 by 24-inch) roasting pans. Bake at 350 degrees.

1-1/2 gallons water
1 (#10) can tomato paste
1 (#10) can diced tomatoes, drained
1-1/2 pounds diced green bell peppers
1-1/4 pounds chopped onions
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup salt1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2-2/3 tablespoons dried crushed basil
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
6 pounds elbow macaroni
11 pounds lean ground beef
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese

Combine water, tomato paste, tomatoes, peppers, onions, sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, basil, red pepper and thyme in steam-jacketed kettle or stock pot. Combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened.

Add macaroni to boiling, salted water. Return to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Do not overcook.

Brown beef until it loses its pink color. Drain or skim off excess fat. Combine beef, tomato sauce mixture, and macaroni. Mix well. Pour about 8-1/4 quarts macaroni mixture in each pan. Sprinkle 1-1/3 cups cheese over macaroni mixture in each pan.

Using a convection oven, bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees on high fan, closed vent or until mixture is bubbling and cheese is melted. Internal temperature must reach 155 degrees or higher for 15 seconds. Hold for service at 140 degrees or higher.

American Chop Suey

I received this email from Miles Lambert of Williamsburg, Virginia:

I came across your website while doing a little preliminary exploring about Navy food. I am a free lance writer and especially like to write humorous pieces about food and wine. Having served in the Navy during 1969-73, I have thought about doing something relating to Navy chow, though I'm not too sure in what way. Sometime these things require a long incubation, during which time I do some research. Sometime these things require a long incubation, during which time I do some research. One reason I wanted to contact you now is to ask whether you can recommend any books that talk about how recipes were developed in the Navy in past times, let's say in the period from WWII to Vietnam. I would be interested in reading about specific recipes as well as the general topic. I'd also like to know about how much leeway a cook has in 'bending' recipes as need be. I am sure galley cooks must have some very funny stories in that regard.

I notice that you have a Hungarian last name. I am Hungarian on my mother's side, and you might enjoy this story as much as I did when it happened. I was a yeoman aboard the USS Enterprise, and one day my assistant came back from lunch and said they had "goulash." Of course my ears perked up and I went down to the alley ... Only to find elbow macaroni with ground beef and some tomato and what not. I tried to explain to my shipmate that this concoction has nothing to do with goulash. But I couldn't get it across to him. He was from the mountains of West Virginia, and I was surprised recently to see in June Carter Cash's cookbook that she had exactly the same idea of goulash!

I have a similar goulash story. I too never heard the term goulash applied to the macaroni dish until I got off active duty in 1979 and met my wife. The Navy recipe card called the dish that you described "American chop suey."

Goulash often refers to a one-pot mixture of "stuff," kind of a culinary potpourri. It differs greatly from the Hungarian dish, a stew that's often composed of beef, onions, red peppers and paprika. Dave Desiderio, a Viet Nam War brown water sailor, said:
I remember the chow at ... was good. I particularly remember what I call "American Chop Suey" -- macaroni noodles and hamburger all mixed up. I love that stuff, especially with Tabasco sauce. Breakfasts were typically GI, and I've always liked that stuff, too. Yes, I like SOS.
The first time Debbie invited me to her grandmother's house for dinner, she proudly announced they were having goulash for dinner. Unlike your initial reaction, I puzzled over her Missouri-born and raised grandmother cooking a traditional Hungarian dish (a dish I've only had a few times in my life).

Although their goulash didn't fit my view of the family profile, I enjoyed the dish. And I discovered the dish easily receives copious qualtities of hot sauce.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Catch a Freight

Yesterday, I walked over to the Union Pacific tracks and Amtrak station for my afternoon break. I though that I might catch a freight train during my 15-minute respite from dollar signs and numbers.

Instead, I caught this Chevy highrail maintenance-of-way pickup truck escorting a Dakota Helicopters spray rig. Dakota Helicopters & Air Service is a company that specializes in railway vegetation management.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Carson City Rendezvous Dutch Oven Cookoff

Here's an email that I received from Don Mason today concerning the Carson City Rendezvous:

The Cast Iron Cooks of the West (CICW) invite you to join us in Carson City, Nevada for the annual Dutch Oven Cookoff at the Carson City Rendezvous in Mills Park.

This year’s Cook-off will be a qualifying cook-off for the International Championship Dutch Oven Cookoff in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2007! The first place winner will compete in 2007 for the title of the 2007 International Dutch Oven Champion. This is a title sought by Dutch oven cooks like you from all over the world.

The Cast Iron Cooks of the West want to taste your Dutch oven creations in Carson City and give you the chance of representing the Western United States of America.

If you haven’t cooked in a cookoff before, don’t be afraid of cooking with us! We promote fun times and more fun times at our cook-offs! Beginners have beat experienced cooks at many cook-offs in the past, so everyone has an equal chance of winning a trophy, money, and a full stomach after sampling everyone’s dishes!

You don’t have to be a member of the Cast Iron Cooks of the West to participate in the Carson City Rendezvous Dutch Oven Cook-off. You don’t have to be a member of the International Dutch Oven Society (IDOS). We want you to simply come to historic Carson City and show us what you cook in your Dutch oven.

There is lots of lodging in the Carson City area. Be sure to reserve your room early as the Carson City Rendezvous has an attendance of over 30,000 spectator and participants each year. Call 1-800-NEVADA-1 or go to the internet at for assistance with lodging.

Cookoff details
Never cooked in a Dutch oven? On Friday, June 10th, we will be holding classes on cast iron care and seasoning new cast iron.

Saturday, June 11th, we will be holding demonstrations and classes on outdoor Dutch oven cooking. We will also be having a prime rib DOG (Dutch oven gathering) starting at 2 p.m. and serving at about 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available for prime rib for $7.00 per person. You don’t need a ticket for the D.O.G. Just show up and cook with us in your Dutch oven!

Sunday, June 12th, is the day of the cookoff. A free breakfast cookoff will start at around 7:00 a.m. and be judged at 9:00 a.m. The main cookoff will start at 9:30 a.m. with judging beginning at 1:00 p.m. Awards will be at about 2:00 p.m.

There will be several Dutch oven cookbook authors, Dutch oven and outdoor equipment suppliers, and officers from IDOS and Cast Iron Cooks of the West to answer all your Dutch oven-related questions.

Not only will there be Dutch oven cooking going on, the Carson City Rendezvous is a great living history weekend. Visitors enjoy the Civil War camps and battles, Scottish camps, Mountain Man camps and traders, Pony Express, Native American village, Hispanic Pueblo, Old Time Kids Games and Theater, crafts, live bands and continuous entertainment, and much, much more! It’s all free, in beautiful Mills Park.

How to compete
Entry to all three cookoff categories (Main Dish, Bread and Dessert) costs only $25. A cookoff application is available here.

For more information on the cookoff, contact:

David Herzog
3310 G. Street
Eureka, Ca 95503


Arlington Group
Attn: Maxine Nietz
P.O. Box 4156
Carson City, Nv 89702-4156

Questions? Call Dave at (707) 445-4179 or Maxine at (775) 887-1294.