Wednesday, February 28, 2007

U.S. Navy Announces New Award Winners

I found this news release via Food Service Director magazine:

FEB. 5, 2007 - The Mid-Atlantic Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, VA, heads the list of winners of the 50th Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Awards for 2007.

The Ney Awards represent excellence in Navy food service, and will be presented March 31 during the International Food Service Executives Association conference in Kansas City, MO. The Little Creek base won in the Continental U.S. General Mess category. The Hawaii Silver Dolphin Bistro won in the Overseas General Mess category.

In the five Afloat categories, the winners were: USS Cheyenne, Submarine; USS Taylor, Small Afloat; USS Oscar Austin, Medium Afloat; USS Essex, Large Afloat, and USS Ronald Reagan, Aircraft Carrier.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Where Do You Heat a Burrito in a Locomotive?

I sat down to lunch with Garrtett Augustus at Denny's after working at the engine house yesterday. I wanted to know where on the backhead is the best place to heat lunch.

Garrett ordered the mega meat lover's breakfast, a meal that comes loaded with hash browned potatoes, scrambled eggs and three breakfast meats.

It's easy to imagine sausage, bacon and sausages sizzling on a clean shovel. But I forgot one key element to cooking on West Coast Shays.

"Oil-fire locomotives have no coal scoop," said Garrett. He's right.

An experienced locomotive cook and one who has fired historic Shay locomotives, like the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Nos. 10 and 15, Garrtett should know.

Garrett heats burritos, sandwiches and "anything that's packaged" in the engine cab with heat from the backhead. But he doesn't really cook.

There's "no surface with a controllable heat source that you can really cook on," said Gattett.

But the immense heat radiating off the boiler backhead will heat any prepared meal through. It's a matter of locating a good spot to capture the wasted heat.

The theory is simple enough. "Look for a good place to basically jam your food so it doesn't fall out."

Garrett likes several spots, but has no favorite. "It just depends what you're making," said Garrett.

Do you need slow heat? Try the oil can pan that sits above the firebox door. But be sure to wrap the burrito well as things get messy.

Intense heat can be found on the hydrostatic lubricator on the engineer's side of the cab. The four lubricating lines on the Shay are full of steam. Set close together, the lines act "almost like a grill."

It sounds like a good spot to grill a Rubin or grilled cheese sandwich. Just keep it simple and focus on firing the engine.

Any spot will do. All you need is is an exposed steam line, added Garret.

Garrett will sometimes jam a burrito behind the lifting injectors on the fireman's side. He also tucks it up behind the steam turret on top of the backhead. The turret's a great spot because it's the steam source for all accessories in the engine cab.

It's too bad an oil-burning locomotive like the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay doesn't need a coal shovel. Just think of the culinary creations a fireman could cook on its flat griddle-like surface.

The photograph shows the backhead of Roaring Camp & Big Trees Narrow-Guage Railroad No. 1 Shay.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


The "large kettle steamer" that Seaman Viera is cleaning is called a copper in Navy parlance. It's a steam-jacketed kettle to the civilian cook.

Navy culinary specialists use coppers to prepare soups, sauces, vegetables, meats and beverages. These large cooking vessels are often found in 80- to 100-gallon sizes in Navy galleys and aircraft carriers. Smaller-sized coppers are outfitted on destroyers and cruisers.

The lower two-thirds of each kettle is surrounded by a jacket offset from the main kettle body. Steam to circulates in this space and heat the contents of the kettle.

Coppers are permanently mounted on a pedestal (illustrated in drawing to right) or three legs and have a hinged lid or cover. The faucet can be used to draw liquids instead of dipping them out. Each kettle has a steam inlet connection, steam outlet connection and safety valve.

Trunnion-operated models (illustrated in drawing to left) have a handle on the side that makes it possible to tilt the kettle and pour contents into a service container. This type of kettle is usually used to prepare gravies and sauces.

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (Feb 21, 2007) - Culinary Specialist Seaman Danny Viera, from Florida, Puerto Rico, washes out a large kettle steamer in the Admiral Nimitz Dining Facility located on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The dining facility was recently awarded a five star accreditation.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Bruce McVicar.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Phil Reader's Beef Stew

This recipe was provided by Phil and Karell Reader. Phil often reheats the stew on the boiler backhead on one of the Pacific Coast Railroad Company's locomotives.

Phil grew up eating his Grandmother Bessie’s home cooking and fondly remembers her warm beef stews on cold winter nights. Karell had never really gotten into stewing, but after a couple of false starts and coaching from what Phil could remember from his grandmother’s stew, they put their crockpot to work, producing a thick, hearty and wholesome stew. Phil says it almost rivals Bessie’s and there are rarely any leftovers, so that is a good sign that they are on the right track with this recipe.


Vegetable oil
1 cup flour
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1 pound stew meat, 1-inch cubes
3 cups water
2 carrots, 1-inch cubes
2 celery stalks, 1/2-inch slices
2 russet potatoes, 1-inch cubes
1 package gravy or stew mix

Dredge the stew meat in flour, salt and pepper mix. Brown beef in oil in deep skillet. Heat water in crockpot on high. Add carrots, celery and potatoes. Place browned beef in pot with other ingredients and gravy or stew mix. Stew on high for 1-1/2 or 2 hours until all ingredients are soft and ready to eat.

Serve with fresh baked bread and garden salad.

Train Meals, Texas Style

The F&N was never an on time line. Not only did the train have to stop to have the tunnel checked on every run, but the crew including the conductor and porters kept shotguns aboard except during deer season, when they kept rifles aboard.

--C. F. Eckhardt
Texas Escapes Online Magazine

It seems a good track-side hunt kept crews of the Frerdericksburg and Northern Railroad busy. Fresh food for the dinner table caused more than one train to run late on the Texas Hill Country line in the early 1900s.

Any deer (in or out of season), rabbit or fowl seen along the right-of-way would give cause for an unscheduled stop. At other times, "the locomotive crew would find it necessary to stop 'to oil the bearings'," especially when black bass were biting. The engineer timed track-side maintenance as the train crossed Grape or Black creeks.

While the one crewman oiled the bearings, the other dipped hook and line into the creek. The fresh bass was cooked on the boiler backhead. "The bass would be done to a turn about the time the train pulled into Fredericksburg Junction."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Don Mason's Dutch Oven Newsletter

Here's the latest issue of Don Mason's Dutch Oven Newsletter from Northern California. Email Don at to receive an electronic copy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bakery Scales at Sea

The baker uses the balance or beam scale, pictured at right, to measure ingredients by weight, not volume. The Navy baker gets consistent results every time by measuring by weight. All Navy training manuals have said the same thing since the 1950s and before:

"The set of scales is one of the most important pieces of equipment you have. For best results weight everything use. If the recipe calls for 165 pounds of meat, weight out 165 pounds. Don't guess (Commissaryman 3 and 2 rate training manual, 1952)."

Pacific Ocean (Feb. 6, 2007) - Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Lisa Greenlee, from Rockford, Ill., measures shortening for pie dough in the bakery aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is currently underway on deployment in support of U.S. military operations in the Western Pacific.

U.S. Navy photo (above) by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joe Painter.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Maple Pepper Chicken

This recipe was provided by Phil and Karell Reader ...

With chicken breasts in the freezer but no new ideas on how to prepare them, it was looking a bit bleak and boring until Phil found a recipe from a "recipe" machine at Nob Hill Foods. There it was, a sheet of recipes that no one had claimed. Phil thought it sounded good and the ingredients were readily available, so it was time to break out of the rut. It was a smash hit on the first try and has been a favorite to serve company ever since.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup flour
2 tablespoon pepper
Vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 package chicken bouillon
1-1/2 cups maple syrup

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet on high. Mix flour and pepper. Rinse and dredge chicken in the flour and pepper mixture. Lay in skillet and fry until golden and crispy on both sides. Turn down heat. Add water to bullion and mix well. Add to chicken. Pour in maple syrup. Cover and cook slowly until sauce reduces down and thickens. Remove from heat and serve, using the sauce on chicken and side dishes.

Serving suggestions -- Serve over mashed potatoes with a side of buttered peas and carrots.

Dutch Oven Bread Pudding

BREAD PUDDING: Break up any old leftover biscuits or sourdough bread. Mix soft with milk and sugar; some spices. Dump in some raisins and cook slow in dutch oven. If you have eggs you can add them to the pudding.

--Slim Ellison, Globe, Arizona
Chuck Wagon Cookin' by Stella Hughes
(Univ. Ariz. Press, 1974)

I was initially apprehensive about baking a traditional bread pudding in a cast iron Dutch oven. In the camp kitchen, I always bake the pudding in a water bath. The water bath is an essential element when baking custard-like recipes.

The water bath insulates delicate foods like custard and quiches from the intense direct heat in the oven. I used this technique in the Dutch oven in September 2005 when I baked individual custard cups.

Yesterday I didn't want to fool with placing a glass dish or pie pan inside the 12-inch Dutch oven. Since we were traveling to my brother's house in Davis, California for a family gathering, I wanted a dish that came together with little fuss.

I found an appealing recipe by Dian Thomas, author of Recipes for Roughing it Easy, in Camp Cooking: 100 Years, 1905-2005. Two features of Thomas' recipe didn't make sense to me -- the use of an aluminum foil liner and her layered approach to the recipe. Otherwise, the recipe is essentially the same, including her use of sour cream.


Add 1/2 cup dried fruit to the recipe if desired.

6 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound sliced bread, cubed
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a medium bowl, mix eggs, granulated sugar, sour cream, half-and-half and vanilla. Grease 12-inch Dutch oven with melted butter. Place bread in oven. Stream butter over bread and toss to thoroughly coat. Evenly sprinkle brown sugar and nutmeg over bread. Toss to combine. Pour egg mixture over bread and thoroughly mix. Let set about 20 minutes until the bread adsorbs most of the mixture.

Bake in moderate oven (6 coals under oven and 16 on lid) for 40 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or cold. Serves 8 to 12.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cookin' on the Railroad

Good food and railroads had symbiotic relationship until Amtrak took over passenger service in the early 1970s. Mainline roads were know for operating high-class diners as their trains crossed the country. Even the logging companies and their railroads used food draw employees. Many loggers were known for their cookhouses.

It was nice to see another railroad that cooks in the engine house like we do at the El Dorado Western.

My counterpart on the Pacific Coast Railroad Co. blog, Ed "Oil Can" Kelly, recently posted his January 2006 update. The crew gathered mid-month to thaw the engine house and trainmen at the height of California's deep freeze last month.

A busted water main left as flood in the engine house. The coffee pot, beef brisket and a frozen fireman's manifold competed for space on the shop's wood stove.

"Sometimes I am also the cook for this outfit and the chief bottle washer as well," said chief mechanical officer Phil Reader in response to my message on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum.

"Dutch ovens are a lot of fun. I get a kick out of using them."

I agree. Dutch ovens are a great way to combine my love for outdoor cooking and trains. A hearty meal in the engine house can bring the crew together. It's akin to mealtime tradition in the caboose.

So it seems natural that a train guy like Phil would cook in the steam locomotive. You have the essential ingredients for great railroad chow. Heat from the backhead and a hungry crew make for the perfect combination.

Cooking on the backhead is a tradition at the PCRR. Simplicity seems to be the rule. No gourmet foods on these rails. Spam and eggs, burritos and canned chili beans make perfect railroad fare.

"Someday I may have to write the steam railroader's backhead cookbook," said Phil.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Friday, February 09, 2007

Grill Cook for the Gator Flleet

This photograph brings memories to mind. I spent many early morning hours grilling eggs for the sailors at Naval Air Station Lemoore, in California's Central Valley.

The only difference was we didn't grill six or eight omelets at a time. We didn't have time. Five hundred to 1,000 sailors lined up each morning at the airfield galley where I worked.

When omelets were on the menu, I'd spread a layer of whipped eggs over the griddle. Just before the egg set up, I'd sprinkle grated ham and cheese over the surface and cut and fold the eggs. You had to learn to work fast and keep the griddle working.

Virginia Beach, Va. (Feb. 6, 2007) - Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Eric Williams prepares eggs for the breakfast crowd. Gator Inn, the Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek galley, was awarded first place in the continental U.S. ashore general mess category of the 2007 Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Award for food service excellence.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ash Severe.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Smothered Chicken from Cee Dub

It's always gratifying when someone likes one of my recipes. C.W. "Butch" Welch, cookbook author and proprietor of, left the this comment on the Yahoo! Dutch oven group the other day:

I like your modifications to the recipe! I encourage folks at all the demos I do and clinics to treat recipes regardless of the source as an outline. I like to see folks take something I've done and expand on it!

Cee Dub
I baked a version of his DISCO chicken (Darn Incredible Stuff Cooking in Oven, or something like that) for the El Dorado Western Railway two weeks ago. My recipe for smothered chicken can be found here.

A post on the Yahoo! prompted me to look up the recipe and see if I could use it. After reading Cee Dub's recipe (it's in his More Cee Dub's Dutch Oven and Other Camp Cookin'), I though it would be a great pick-me-up for the crew down at the engine house.

Once the dishes were cleaned, I went back and added my thoughts to the long thread that had since developed. Cee Dub came 'round the other day and added his endorsement.

Thanks, Cee Dub.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Faith Matters

Sports has had little impact on my life. It’s not that I dislike sports. I just don’t pay any attention to football, baseball or basketball. I'd rather sit by a rushing Sierra Nevada creek than to play volleyball or golf.

And I probably won’t find out who won the Super Bowl until late Monday evening. I can't even tell you which team is favored to win.

So I wouldn't have found the feature article on Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith from the Miami Herald's on my own initiative. My supervisor handed me the Sacramento Bee sports section this morning and said, "You'll find this interesting."

Sandi's husband is the sports enthusiast her family. I have him to thank for making me aware of these two coaches.

Without Sandi's prompting, I would never have known that the two reigning football coaches in the country are men who place a higher value on their individual relationship with God than worldly coaching techniques.

Although one of these men will go down in history as the first African American NFL coach to win a Super Bowl title, skin color is not what makes Dungy and Smith stand out from other coaches.

These men have nurtured a life-changing relationship with the God of Heaven according to the article.

But the more you learn about these two men, the more it becomes apparent their close friendship stems from something far deeper than race -- their convictions. Both are devout Christians who don't drink or curse.

In my book, it's their apparent hold on the message of the cross that makes these men stand out.

The church of Corinth was one that tried to follow the code of wordly wisdom in their dealing with each other. Division and the creation of sects, placing too much emphasis on human leaders, accepting blatant sin among members of the church and conducting disorderly worship marred the congregation.

The apostle Paul said:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Paul takes the 16 chapters of his Corinthian epistle to explain what the "power of God" means to the Christian. Christians are men and women who place God first in their lives. They have learned to love God with "heart ... soul ... mind" (Matthew 22:37).

This means that Christians place God first in their lives. They "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33a). This means relationships with neighbors, including football players, are always conducted in a Godly manner.

Writer Michelle Kaufman reported that neither drinks or curses, characteristics that the world often lifts high. These character traits are symptoms of something greater. They show that Dungy and Smith have set aside human traits and have replaced them with Godly fruit, as Paul said:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galations 5:22-23).

I suspect that these men are strong coaches, men who have learned to use their God-inspired love for their players for good. "Rather than belittle players with profanity-laced tirades on the sidelines, they shoot a stare that delivers the message loud and clear," said Kaufman.

I'm certain Super Bowl XLI will be a unique game. One history-making coach will be the first African American coach to lead his team to the title.

But Dunge and Smith have a higher calling. Each coach is running his personal life like a football game. Paul said: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it" (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Both Dungy and Smith are running to obtain "an imperishable crown" at the end of life's race.

Cookin' The Books

During my time at sea (in the 1970s), the watch captain prepared a NAVSUP Form 1282 each watch. As the senior cook on watch, the watch captain formulated a requisition for the following day's food needs in the galley.

Once approved by the chief, the jack of the dust -- the Navy term for the subsistence storeroom supervisor -- fulfilled the order. The JOOD didn't run a delivery service. I usually sent the mess cooks to the storeroom and reefers to hustle the food up to the galley.

Pacific Ocean (Feb. 1, 2007) – Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jimnett Santos checks food order forms for accuracy in the galley aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan recently received the Captain Edward F. Ney Award for excellence in food service for aircraft carriers. The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is currently underway on a deployment in support of U.S. military operations in the western Pacific.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kathleen Gorby.