Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving reservation board

I went to the Diamond Springs Hotel for breakfast lastt Tuesday.

As I left, owner Amy Shim asked if we were coming in for Thanksgiving Day. I said that there's be five for dinner.

Amy walked off and wrote our name in the 5 p.m. block on a large sheet of cardboard.

Since the Hotel doesn't take dinner reservations during the year, she had to find a lasting method to record guest reservations for the speacial menu offering on Thanksgiving Day.

"I tried everything," said Amy, "srap paper, notebooks."

Paper reservation sheets can be lost, torn and soiled, noted Amy. Over the past five years, she's found that the board, cut from a large cardboard box, works the best.

Sometimes, the simplest method makes the most sense. It's sturdy, easily found when misplaced and difficult to damage.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in Iraq

Let's not forget our loved ones who're serving the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first image reminds us that these celebrations occur in a war zone. These Marines and Sailors must remain vigilant during the brief respite from the dangers of the war.

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- U.S. Navy Command Master Chief Michael R. Ruiz, I Marine Expeditionary Force, stands outside as Secretary of the Navy The Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter visits Camp Baharia. Winter is visiting bases around Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way on Thanksgiving Day.

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- Thanksgiving goodies are displayed as the Secretary of the Navy The Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter visits U.S. Marines, Sailors and Soldiers at Camp Taqaddum. The Honorable Mr. Winter is visiting bases around Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way on Thanksgiving Day.

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- Secretary of the Navy The Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter cuts the Thanksgiving cake at the chow hall at Camp Baharia. Winter is visiting bases around Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way.

AL ASAD AIRBASE, Iraq (Nov. 27, 2008) -- Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Mr. Donald C. Winter, from Brooklyn, N.Y., serves a U.S. Marine during Thanksgiving dinner at the chow hall onboard Camp Baharia. Winter is visiting bases throughout Al Anbar, thanking service members for their sacrifice and serving them in a small way.

U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres.

Low-key Thansgiving Day

As part of a low-key Thanksgiving Day, we're having biscuits, eggs and orange juice for breakfast. It's not like I'm now into some minimalist movement or the like. Working in a restaurant, I didn't know that I had today off until I clocked out late Tuesday night.

My prayer for next year is that my employment situation will allow for us to attend a family gathering. I miss the opportunity to cook for a large family gathering.

This will be the first Thanksgiving in many years where I'm letting others do the cooking. We're going to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Diamond Springs Hotel this afternoon with two of Debbie's girlfriends.

Let's always remember to:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken paprika

Chicken paprika was one of the camper's favorite dishes this summer at Deer Crossing Camp. I served diced chicken meat, bathed in a rich creamy sauce and lots of sweet paprika over steamed brown rice on the first Tuesday of each two-week session.

Gigi, Deer Crossing's assistant cook for the 2008 season, introduced the dish from her native Hungary. I enjoyed cooking it because of my own Hungarian ancestry.

It's only the second native dish that I've cooked during my professional career. The other dish is Hungarian goulash.

Gigi's chicken paprika is reminiscent of a recipe that I found in the Culinary Arts Institute's 1955 cookbook, The Hungarian Cookbook (Culinary Art Institute: Chicago, 1955).


Because my family likes drumsticks and thighs, I used a package of five chicken hindquarters for this dish. Split each quarter into two pieces at the joint between the drumstick and thigh.

Chicken & flour dredge
1 chicken fryer, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
1-1/2 cups soup cream

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Combine flour and seasonings in bowl. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Shake off excess flour.

Melt enough shortening over low heat to come just 1/8-inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan. Once shortening melts, increase heat to medium-high.

Place chicken skin side down into the pan. Put thighs in the center, and breast and legs around the edge of the pan. The oil should come half way up the pan. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side.

The internal temperature of the chicken should be about 180 degrees F when done. Remove chicken from skillet and discard fat. Wipe skillet clean if desired. Return chicken to skillet, arranging pieces in a single layer.

Prepare sauce in a 2-quart saucepan. Heat vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and sweat until translucent and soft. Whisk in flour and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Don't brown roux.

Remove saucepan from heat and gradually whisk in stock. Return to heat and bring mixture to a rapid boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Add milk and paprika to saucepan, siring constantly. While stirring vigorously with wire whisk, add sour cream to sauce in small amounts.

Pour sauce over each piece of chicken in the skillet. Cook sauce over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Don't boil. Serve chicken over spatzle or egg noodles. Serves 4 to 5.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guard cooks compete for annual food service title

A member of Nebraska's 267th Support Maintenance Company decorates a chocolate cake with an ear of corn during the 42nd annual Phillip A. Connelly Award for Excellence in Army Food Service held at the Greenlief Training Site in Nebraska Oct. 17. Food service units from six states recently showcased their culinary abilities before a national judging panel, while competing for the title. (Photo courtesy of Nebraska National Guard)

By Mark Roland
Nebraska National Guard

GREENLIEF TRAINING SITE, Neb., (10/22/09) -- Call it the military’s version of the "Iron Chef."

Competing on a grassy plain in central Nebraska while the sounds of Soldiers conducting marksmanship training echoed in the distance, food service units from six states recently showcased their culinary abilities before a national judging panel, while competing for the 42nd annual Phillip A. Connelly Award for Excellence in Army Food Service here Oct. 17.

Working together under the ever-watchful eyes of the national inspectors, cooks from Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and West Virginia prepared a meal for 50 Soldiers in a field environment using their unit's Mobile Kitchen Trailer, essentially a kitchen on wheels.

Along with being evaluated on their cooking abilities, the Soldiers also were graded on 10 separate areas ranging from cooking and sanitation procedures to their adherence to Army administrative, safety and supply regulations.

Simply getting to this point meant that the section, which represented a particular region in the Army National Guard’s National Field Kitchen Category, had to conduct hours of training and practice on the unit's mobile kitchen trailer to develop the level of expertise needed to be competitive.

"At first it was to get some experience for my cooks on a (mobile kitchen trailer), some field training," said Sgt. Katherine Smith, first cook for Nebraska’s 267th Support Maintenance Company. "When they go to (advanced individual training) the MKT is already popped open. They just show them what it looks like. When they actually get to cook on it, it was good experience for them."

"It just grew from there," Smith said. "When I learned that it was the first time Nebraska competed in five years, it became really important to do our best."

The work must have paid off, because the cooks had already won the state and regional competition. Still, this was the national competition, which meant that the Soldiers had to take their efforts to an entirely different level.

Chief Warrant Officer Tollie Yoder, food service officer for Nebraska's maintenance company, said the work actually started at the beginning of the year when the unit decided to compete in the competition.

"When we first talked about competing (the cooks) said 'It would be easy, I cook.' I had to explain to them that it’s more than just cooking… it’s site setup, power plan, field sanitation issues, rodent disposal, sanitary issues, taking care of ration accounting, ration accessibility, ration control, portion control, trash management, water distribution point, and water purification tasks."

Smith agreed, saying the training and preparations made a major impact on the unit’s success.

"When we learned that you have to do more to do it, it was like ‘Alright we can do this.’ Then it became really hard because we realized that we couldn’t do it with just five cooks."

Instead, Smith said, it took the work of the entire unit to help the cooks prepare for the various stages of the competition. That level of support especially came in handy when, the night before the regional competition, a thunderstorm blew in, sending the Soldiers to tornado shelters while it dumped four-and-a-half inches of rain on the training site, flooding the area the mess section had spent days preparing for the competition.

The unit halted training and moved the site to a down range location and completely set up the new site in one day.

"That was very challenging, but they overcame it," Smith said.

This weekend's competition also marked the last time these Soldiers will be together as a team. Two cooks have been transferred to another maintenance company and are preparing for deployment next year, one cook will become a wheeled mechanic to take a position in a detachment closer to home and stay in the unit, and Smith will soon change jobs because of her full-time military position.

Still, that didn’t make the Soldiers work any less hard. In fact, it actually caused them focus that much more on making sure the inspection went well.

"We all knew this was like our like our last hurrah," Smith said, "and the section wanted to do really well. Out of all the cooks I’ve ever worked with, this is probably one of the best because we got along so well. We all hope we will be able to work together in the future."

After completing the inspection, the cooks now are participating in a different type of competition… the waiting game. They should find out how if their work paid off in December when the results are releases. Smith was optimistic.

"I think we set the bar really high. I think the biggest thing is that we couldn’t have gotten this far without the unit’s support and everyone in the cook’s section really, really, really appreciates the help the unit gave us."

Receiving honors

As part of my annual Veteran's Day tribute to U.S. Armed Forces, I'm posting photographs of the cooks and bakers in action this year.

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (8/12/09) -- Pfc. David A. Mantilla, a food service specialist with Headquarters Company, 7th Marine Regiment is recognized by Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commanding general, 1st Marine Division here Aug. 12, for superior performance during the regiment’s pre-deployment training exercise. Mantilla, 24, is from Washington Heights, N.Y.

U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Cpl. Zachary J. Nola.

Standing watch

As part of my annual Veteran's Day tribute to U.S. Armed Forces, I'm posting photographs of the cooks and bakers in action this year.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 25, 2009) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Mario M. Evans stands watch at a .50-caliber machine gun station aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) during a transit of the Straits of Malacca.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian A. Stone.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dinner ... or is it supper?

When I sailed into the Korean naval port at Chinhae in 1972, the general mess on the USS Cocopa (ATF 101) served dinner at noon. The cooks, under the able leadership of CS1 George Rooney, prepared supper in the evening, based on naval terminology at the time. Since the late 1970s, the general mess meals have been called breakfast, lunch and dinner, served in that order during the day.

SEA OF JAPAN (Nov. 4, 2009) Culinary Specialist Seaman Alvic Dedios prepares dinner aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46). Tortuga is part of the Denver Amphibious Ready Group participating in the annual bilateral Korean Integrated Training Program exercise.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Geronimo Aquino.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Army field range burner for sale on eBay

I occasionally receive email from readers of this blog who're looking for surplus military field feeding equipment. This burner -- know as the M2A burner unit in military parlance -- is being sold on eBay through its "Buy it Now" feature for $140. The seller has two units for sale.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Seagoing paperwork

Someone has to do the paperwork at sea! Typically, the watch captain, or galley shift leader, records important historical data on the worksheet after each meal. The leading chief culinary specialist uses this information to plan future meals.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 28, 2009) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class Neil Monato verifies figures on a food preparation worksheet while underway aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19).

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Viramontes.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Phenomenon on the lake

Phenomenon on the lake
Originally uploaded by SeabeeCook

One Thursday last August, campers at Deer Crossing Camp arose to a strange weather phenomenon on nearby Loon Lake.

A thick layer of fog arose off the south end of the lake and was driven north toward Pleasant Lake by a brisk cold wind.

"This is weird," said Jim Wiltens, Deer Crossing owner and camp director.

"I've never seen this on the lake this late in the season."

The cold front steadily moved in over the lake over the next two hours. The cold air seemed to suck the moisture right out of the warm lake.

With an icy wind that cut right through you, staff and campers quickly domed warmer clothing. The uniform of the day quickly shifted from shorts and T-shirts to long pants and down jackets.

"It's so cold," noted one young camper at the breakfast table. This set the tone for the day.

The instructors scrambled to shift the planned water activities for the day. Extra cold water compromised swimming, kayaking and sailing.

Rain throughout the day drove many campers into the lodge. Instructors fed the woodstove all morning for the first time since the training session in June.

Weird weather for August? Yes, but it was a fun day. We watched the fog, and the rain that soon followed, from the warm comfort of the lodge.