Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Grilled tri-tip and baked potatoes

Tri-tip is one of the most flavorful cuts of beef on the market today. Other than a nice cut of prime rib at the Diamond Springs Hotel, I'd rather enjoy a medium-rare tri-tip that a porterhouse any day.

While tri-tip normally benefits from a long, slow cook over hardwood coals, I usually work with pine wood when camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains. To avoid flavoring the meat with the acrid punch of pine, I seared the roast in a cast iron skillet.

The lid went on after browning both sides. I adjusted the heat under the skillet so the roast would cook slowly. It took about 45 to 60 minutes to cook the tri-tip to medium.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Enterprise's unsung heroes key to operational success

This article is filed under "Somebody has to do the dishes" ...

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristin M. Baker, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- As USS Enterprise (CVN 65) continued work-ups and flight deck operations Aug. 25, the ship's food service attendants (FSAs) proved vital to the operational success of the fleet's largest aircraft carrier.

FSAs are junior Sailors of all rating specialties who work six-month helping trained culinary specialists.

With more than 4,000 Sailors aboard and 13,000 meals to serve each day, the task of feeding the crew is complex and difficult. But with the help of 'Big E' and Carrier Air Wing 1's FSAs, the ship's Supply Department aced the supply management assessment (SMA) and helped the ship pass its tailored ship's training availability and final evaluation period.

The purpose of work-ups is to prepare ships, air wings and strike groups for deployment. Similarly, the SMA is designed to ensure the Supply Department is ready to handle serving an entire ship's crew on a daily basis while deployed for significant periods of time.

FSAs take out the trash, wipe down tables, assist with food preparation in the galleys, clean staterooms and do laundry for the crew.

"It's very rewarding knowing that what we do as FSAs keep the crew going," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Jacques D. Floyd, who leads a team of more than 30 FSAs. "If the crew doesn't eat a good meal in a nice and clean environment, they won't work at the levels required to complete the ship's mission."

Departments throughout the ship and attached squadrons send Sailors to work as FSAs based on manning levels, seniority and the ship's mission. The personnel chosen to fill each FSA billet are selected by their department's chain of command.

"I think the unsung heroes of food service on Enterprise are the food service attendants," said Chief Warrant Officer Shawn M. Porch, Enterprise's food service officer. "We would not be able to offer the services we provide the crew without the hard work and dedication of the FSAs we have."

Sending Sailors to work for a short time in the galley is a long-standing Navy tradition.

"I get to meet a lot of people and learn a lot from everyone I work with," said Deck department's Seaman Nick J. Mahoney, an FSA assigned to the forward mess decks. "Working as an FSA is something I will remember my entire career."

Enterprise is conducting work-ups and flight deck operations in preparation for its upcoming deployment.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Volume cooking

Cooking on an aircraft carrier differs from the average restaurant. With over 5,000 Sailors and Marines to feed three times each day, the cooks and bakers focus on volume instead of personal service.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 21, 2010) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Cody D. Cunningham prepares pork chops for lunch in the galley aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush is conducting training in the Atlantic Ocean.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Betsy Lynn Knapper.

ARABIAN SEA (Aug. 22, 2010) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Jaime Vilches, from Garfield, N.J., prepares macaroni and cheese for Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Harry S. Truman is deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jared Hall.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Grilled corned beef brisket

Brisket is menued once each month at work. While I usually serve corned beef, I'll purchase a beef brisket when corned beef is too pricey for my budget. Since I grilled the brisket in July, I wanted to see how a grilled corned beef brisket would work. So, yesterday I grilled the 15-pound corned beef on the propane grill.

It took about two and one-half hours to reach an internal temperature of 185 to 190 degrees. The meat came out fork-tender and very succulent. Here's my procedure:
  • Rinsed the brisket under cold running water to wash away as much brine as possible.
  • Trimmed the fat off the top of the brisket to within a quarter inch of the meat.
  • Turned all four burners on the grill to high to pre-heat the grill.
  • Set the meat on the grill without a rub or any seasoning since corned beef already has a strong flavor.
  • Browned the brisket on both sides with the meat centered on the grill.
  • Turned the two outside burners to medium, cut the heat on the two center burners and closed the lid.
  • Turned the brisket over once each hour.
  • Periodically adjusted the two outside burners to keep the grill between 325 and 350 degrees with the lid closed.
  • Cut the heat when the internal temperature of the brisket reached 185 degrees.
The residents enjoyed a succulent, tender piece of corned beef. Except for the bark, the meat wasn't too salty. I accompanied the meat with scalloped potatoes and braised cabbage and carrots.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chuckwagon for sale

Kent Rollins, cowboy humorist, poet and chuckwagon cook, shared this information with me today. A friend is selling his chuckwagon.

"Anyway saw the post, my friend is selling his wagon," said Kent. "Let me know if you're interested. Keep the wood dry and don't burn the bread!"

Unfortunately, I'm not in the market for a chuckwagon. Please contact Rockin O Ranch if interested.

Originally uploaded by sgk82
Rockin O Ranch
Authentic Cowboy Cooking, LLC

Contact: Tony at rockinoranch01@gmail.com or 318-245-9774

Chuckwagon for sale

Authentic chuckwagon: comes with tongue, single trees, brakes, chuck-box with copper covered work table top. Two flies (14' x 18') with opening for stove pipe and 12' x 10' steel stove with three eyes and removable grate for grilling. Also includes: stove pipe, cedar poles, ropes and tie downs, shovels, coal rake, ax, sledge hammer and pry bar. Wagon is completely stocked and ready to cook from!

Inventory to be included with chuckwagon:
  • Cast iron Dutch ovens:
    3-14” shallow
    1-14” deep

  • Cast iron skillets:
    2-14” with lids

  • Cast iron roasting pans:
    1-oval with lid

  • Coffee Pots:
    2-1 1/2 gallon
    1-2 gallon

  • Bean pots: 4- large with lids

  • Enamelware: Numerous pieces of varied sizes

  • Crocks:

  • Tables: 2- 8’ with folding legs

  • Other Items:
    Water bath warming table with two large openings
    and two small openings. Comes with pans and lids
    to fit. Runs off butane.

  • Steel fire pit set.

  • 2 Butane lanterns

  • 15 gallon wooden water can with spigot

It's only fitting that the following photographs were taken at a railroad museum.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ready, set, go, part 2

I was selected to prepare the tip of the month for Royal Tine hunting, fishing, guiding and camping forums. Since I could only find one other tip that related to camp cooking, I though I'd start with the fundamentals.

My entry for the August tip of the month is partically based on a post titled "Ready, set, go" from last April. Here's my tip:

At my current job, I work through a mental checklist each morning when I first walk into the kitchen. It's a routine that's served me well for nearly 40 years in the culinary business.

My checklist is much like the pre-flight checklist that my father worked through each time he climbed in the left seat of the family Cessna 182 when I was a child. Dad wanted to ensure all systems on the aircraft were in good working order once we were airborne.

My mental checklist helps me size-up the day. I check refrigerator temperatures and make sure the breakfast cook properly cleaned the kitchen. I also take the time to lay tools out and get the kitchen ready for lunch.

Chefs call this process mise en place. In addition to organizing my work station, I set up the cutting board and collect ingredients for the soup, entree and sides for lunch. This process also helps me make sure that I have enough food for the meal.

It's the "ready, set, go" for the cook. Also known as “prep work,” it basically means the cook gets everything ready to cook before he starts cooking. Tasks include making sure your knives are sharp, honed and clean; setting up your work area; setting out spices, herbs and other ingredients and cutting vegetables and fruit for the meal.

Prep work takes on special meaning for the camp cook. The cook works in a harsh environment, one that’s unforgiving when things go wrong. No one wants to serve their guests or clients an overcooked or cold layered enchilada casserole (for instance) because the cook forgot to grate the cheese, shred the lettuce or chop the onions.

Here are a few tasks the camp cook must attend to before she starts the next meal:
  • Has sufficient firewood been gathered and/or are the propane bottle full?
  • Is the campfire large enough to support the meal? Nothing is more irritating than to run out of coals for the fire and Dutch ovens before the meal is done.
  • Do you have enough potable water to cook the meal and clean up after the meal?
  • Is the workstation clean and organized?
  • Are knives cleaned, sharpened and honed; utensils, pots and pans set out; meat, vegetables and other ingredients handy and ready to go; etc.?
  • Are your hands washed? (Need I say any more?)
I could continue on for some time. But since this tip of the month is already long winded, I’ll stop here. For the camp cooks out there, what tasks do you perform each meal to get ready to cook?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Imagine a real Thomas The Tank Engine

Yesterday morning I noticed something as I dropped my three-year-old granddaughter off at preschool. While waiting in line, I saw two boys wearing Thomas The Tank Engine t-shirts. A third boy sported a brand new Thomas daypack.

It got me to thinking. If the railroad tracks along the 28-mile Placerville Branch are torn out by Iron Horse Preservation Society, as proposed by the Friends of the El Dorado Trail, then these boys (and their sisters) will never have the opportunity to ride the rails on the historic Placerville Branch rail line.

Sure, the parents of our young Thomas fans could drive the family to the California State Railroad Museum and ride the train on the Sacramento Southern Railroad. After all, the museum is a worthy destination with its amazing collection of locomotives from California's long railroading history.

But I say, why drive over 40 miles to ride an excursion train when there could be at two local railroad venues, one at each end of the line? Boys and girls from throughout the area would encourage their parents make the short drive to passenger depots in Folsom, Latrobe, Shingle Springs, El Dorado and Diamond Springs.

Can't you picture a young El Dorado County family boarding the train at the newly re-created historic Southern Pacific passenger depot in El Dorado? Approved by the county Board of Supervisors last year, the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park will soon become the premier rail destination for the local region.

The Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive would pull the train – with young Thomas fans sitting on the edge of their seats – to the end-of-track at Missouri Flat Road, near the location of the old Diamond Springs interchange with the Diamond and Caldor Railway. On the ride, the conductor will tell our young Thomas fans how the Four-Spot once pulled trains loaded with rough-cut lumber from the Caldor mill to Diamond Springs.

Then these young Thomas fans will get the view of a lifetime as they poke their heads out the window. At the head of the train, the brakeman will uncouple the Four-Spot from the train. And the engineer will guide the century-old geared steam locomotive through the switch onto the run-around track.

What child wouldn’t react with enthusiasm as the Shay backs down on the run-around track? The engineer and fireman will wave as if they were personal friends of each boy and girl on the train. Our young fans will have come into contact with the real “Thomas” in person.

Along the way, our young Thomas fans will enjoy an afternoon of family fun, while viewing some of the best countryside in California. And, they’ll experience history in the best way possible – by experiencing it firsthand! Captivated by the train crew, dressed in bib overalls, long-sleeved shirts and striped engineer caps, our young Thomas fans will feel the heat of the engine as it passes by. And the sweet aroma of the steam exhaust will capture their hearts.

If the citizens of El Dorado County allow the Friends of the El Dorado Trail and Iron Horse Preservation Society to rip out the twin steel tracks of the Placerville Branch, they’ll be tearing out a piece of our history for good. And families, both young and old, will never be able to experience the once daily passenger local, bound for Placerville.

Come to think of it, I don’t recall seeing any boys in bicycle t-shirts! Tear out the tracks and these boys and girls will miss the sights and sounds of the real Thomas The Tank Engine.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Clam dip

Several weeks ago, a reader left this comment on my rendition of Alton Brown's onion dip recipe:
Great recipe!

Now, would you mind sharing your clam dip recipe? I've been searching for years for the one my parents used to make in the 60's. Nothing so far comes even close, but of course I am battling memory....
Here's the clam dip that I've been making since the 1980s. It's basically the same as the classic Kraft Foods recipe.


Let the clam flavor dominate. Don't overdo competing ingredients. Add dash of your favorite hot pepper sauce. Substitute horseradish sauce for garlic.

2 (8-ounce) cans clam
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Drain clams, reserving 1/2 of the liquid.

Combine clams, reserved clam liquid, garlic, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcester-shire sauce and seasonings; mix until well blended.

Chill 2 hours before serving to blend flavors. Serve with potato chips, crackers or raw vegetables. Makes about 1 quart.

"One of Kraft's most popular recipes; this appeared on a commercial in the early 1950s."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cast iron 20-inch skillet

Here's greenturtle's blog post from this afternoon from Ramblings on Cast Iron. She graciously allowed my to reprint it on 'Round the Chuckbox.

This is a cast iron 20-inch skillet. It's huge.

It's sometimes called a "lumberjack skillet."

These skillets were frequently used by railroad workers, to cook full meals for the crew. It's useful for large group fishing, hunting, or camping trips.

Cook an entire breakfast of eggs, bacon and hash browns, or an entire supper of fish and all the trimmings. Or steaks, fajitas, fried chicken, etc.

Since it takes a lot of heat to use this skillet, regular oven mitts won't do; You need heavy duty oven mitts with silicone.

The only brand still selling them is Bayou Classic, but I have not been impressed with their quality.

If you're lucky enough to find a better quality brand, expect to pay between $500-600. Way more than I'd want to pay!

A more affordable alternative, without sacrificing quality, is the Lodge 17 inch skillet for $69.

It's smaller, but will serve the same purpose, and you can at least use that in your oven as well as outdoors. The 20-inch will not fit in most ovens.

Large cast iron skillets revisited

Some 18 months ago, I commented on a vintage Griswold 20-inch cast iron skillet that was being actioned on eBay. I noted that any cast iron purchase was destined to be put to work feeding large groups.

My self-imposed limit was $100. Any higher and it would have to be chained to a tree.

I want camp equipment, including cast iron, that's ready for any culinary application. Museum piece or not, I don't want added worries about theft to hinder my ability to use the skillet in camp.

The article, originally posted on February 2, 2009, remains active to this day. As of this afternoon, seven readers have left comments. And I have responded four times.

It's the most active blog article in 'Round the Chuckbox history!

In April 2009, an anonymous reader left a link for the Bayou classic 20-inch cast iron skillet in response to my question. My research showed that it was the only 20-inch skillet on the market at the time.

I asked several questions of the anonymous reader:
Do you have a review of the Bayou Classic 20-inch skillet? How does it compare to the Lodge 17-inch in construction and durability? Amazon reviews highlight some problems, although most said they liked the product.
Questions unanswered, I opted to purchase a Lodge 17-inch cast iron skillet. I cooked fried chicken thighs smothered in gravy at the 3rd Annual IDOS Region II Dutch Oven Gathering shortly after the purchase.

I finally received an answer to questions early this afternoon.

"I don't recommend bayou classic quality," said greenturtle, the prolific editor of the blog Ramblings on Cast Iron. (In three months, the writer has posted 182 articles. Most are reviews of cast iron cookware.)

"It's cheaper but I wasn't impressed," continued greenturtle. "It was pitted in some places and made the food taste funny."

With my suspicion confirmed, I'm happy that I purchased the Lodge 17-inch cast iron skillet from Placerville Hardware last year. It received full use last summer, as attested my the photographs attached to this article.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Don't expect chow like this on the mess decks!

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Aug. 5, 2010) -- Chief Culinary Specialist Brandon Parry, assigned to Commander, Naval Air Forces in San Diego, plates his main entree during the American Culinary Federation's Chef of the Year competition. Parry is the first active-duty Sailor to ever compete in the highly selective event.

U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Fahey.

Here's a story about Chief Parry from last February:

Navy chef uses his know-how improving chow
By Jeanette Steele, Union-Tribune staff writer

If Navy Chief Petty Officer Brandon Parry makes chow, it’s probably going to be pretty tasty.

Think braised pork cheek. Think julienned carrots with vanilla bean.

Parry, 36, is executive chef for Vice Adm. Thomas Kilcline Jr., who commands Naval Air Forces from North Island Naval Air Station. Now, Parry also is top chef of the American Culinary Federation’s Western region after winning a civilian cuisine-off in Albuquerque, N.M., this month.

(Read more here ...)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Creamy coleslaw

I've been on a salad kick at work for the past month. With the summer heat, I'm working on salad recipes that the residents enjoy.

This is the third in a trio of favorite salads. The others include black bean and corn salad and marinated tomatoes. The tomato recipe dates back to my parents 50th wedding anniversary in 1999.


Weights for cabbage, carrot and apple are based on edible portion (E.P.). Use two medium-large heads of cabbage, five medium carrots and four apples for this recipe.

Add hot pepper sauce if desired. Substitute 1/3 to 1/2 mayonnaise with sour cream if desired.

12 ounces mayonnaise
1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3-1/2 pounds cabbage, shredded (E.P.)
8 ounces carrot, shredded (E.P.)
1 pound Granny Smith apple, shredded (E.P.)

Whisk mayonnaise, pepper, mustard, salt and sugar together. Add vinegar gradually and blend well. Pour dressing over cabbage. Toss lightly until well mixed.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve 1/2-cup or 4-ounce (by weight) portions. Yield is approximately 6-1/2 pounds.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943

My sister periodically sends me links to blogs of interest. While most of Lib's suggestions are food related, she occasionally comes through with a link that fulfils my interests in other endeavors.

This morning, Lib send me a link to Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943, a blog post on the Denver Post website. The article contains some 70 color government photographs from the World War II era.
These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.
"Toward the end - trains and planes ...," Lib wrote in her mid-morning email. The reference to trains was intended for my eyes. The photos of planes will interest my brother David, a pilot.

Nine photographs in the collection feature the Chigago and Northwestern Railway in Chigago and Clinton, Iowa. They're numbered 45 to 54. Here's my favorite photo in the collection:

Caption from the Denver Post blog: "Mrs. Viola Sievers, one of the wipers at the roundhouse giving a giant 'H' class locomotive a bath of live steam. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Too much iron

I have this problem. I can never pack the right amount of cast iron cookware for a job or camping trip. I always take more gear than I use in the end.

This ailment struck as late as yesterday. In the morning, I loaded three 14-inch camp ovens, one #10 Dutch oven and one 14-inch skillet into the truck for an outdoor meal at work. While this may not seem that excessive, I also packed the Navy surplus coffee boiler, fire iron set and fire pan.

Part of the problem was that I threw together the dinner menu for the residents at work at the last minute yesterday. So, I quickly grabbed Dutch ovens and necessary accouterments as I left the house for the commute into Sacramento.

My initial though was to hang the coffee boiler from a tripod on the patio, mostly as a conversation piece. Shopping for the weekend and other administrative duties interfered. In the end, I hauled too much cast iron to work and home.

The picture shows the iron that I hauled to Lake Tahoe last month. In the seven-day vacation, I only used each Dutch oven one time.

I should've followed my own advise from a 2002 trip and limited the iron to one skillet and two Dutch ovens. My Griswald skillet with domed lid was the most versitile piece of cast iron on the trip.

Barely visible in the picture are two additional skillets that my daughter brought to the lake. I had asked her to bring the fire pan from the house. When she showed up with my two largest skillets, I knew they'd sit next to the trailer, unused.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


We encountered a number of camp critters during our week-long camping trip to the Lake Tahoe area this year. Two bears and untold chipmunks and squirrels had the potential to ruin the trip.

Although my loss to bears and chipmunks was minimal, we almost lost our entire food supply to a hungry black bear just after we moved from Kit Carson Campground to Tahoe Valley Campground.

In all we tossed one jar of peanut butter and a container of Hershey's cocoa powder. And in the process I re-learned the importance of locking the ice chest and food in the truck each night.

What proceeds is a do-as-I-say-no-as-I-do story. When we first arrived at Kit Carson, the camp host said, "We've been lucky this year -- no bear sightings. But put your food in the truck each night anyway.

I listened and quickly agreed with the host. It's long been my practice to secure our food in the truck each night when camping in the Sierra Nevada. There were no bears at Kit Carson during our three-day visit.

The chipmunks struck within hours of setting camp up at Tahoe Valley. While away at the supermarket, the cute fury critters almost decapitates our only jar of peanut butter. I suspect we ran them off as we drove up to the campsite.

That night I broke my number one rule in bear country. Out of laziness, I neglected to move all of the food into the backseat of the pick up before going to bed.

We'll be okay, I reasoned. After all, we didn't see any bears at Tahoe Valley last time we visited (in 2007).

At 1 a.m., my daughter bolted from her bed and yelled, "Dad, there's a bear out there!" I quickly crawled over my wife (and calmed her in the process) and joined my daughter in the doorway to the tent trailer.

A small to medium cinnamon-brown black bear had a grip on our circa 1978 Coleman ice cooler. He was minutes away from tearing the lid open and feasting on eggs, Italian sausage and three different cheeses (Parmesan, cheddar and blue).

My 23-year-old daughter blocked the door as I tried to slip by her. I didn't really have a plan at that point. I suppose I would've grabbed a couple pots and become a one-man precession orchestra.

At that point, my sole purpose was to chase the bear back into the forest. A diet berries, fish and nuts seemed more appropriate than the contents of my vintage ice chest.

Content to remain safely in the trailer for the moment, I told my daughter to throw something at him. She peeled a banana and threw it his way.

That did it! The bear charged off to the next victim. I quickly leaped out of the trailer and recovered the ice chest.

I had re-learned my lesson. I will never again leave my ice chest and dry food unattended in bear country.

In honor of a scrambled ice chest (with 1-1/2 doz. eggs inside!), we had scrambled eggs with sausage and spinach for breakfast Wednesday.

Sorry, no pictures of bears. I was too busy protecting my food to snap a few for the record. We did see a larger black bear late Thursday afternoon in the campground, but my focus was again locking up.