Monday, April 25, 2011

Build your own burrito

The first thing I do at work each Monday morning is to survey the refrigerators for weekend leftovers. As I work through each container, I work up a mental list of uses for the leftovers that I find. Many (especially rice, beans and most vegetables) find their way into soup early in the week.

The cooks did a good job over the weekend. Unlike most Mondays, where six or more containers test my ability to utilize leftovers, I only found a large container of spiral-cut ham and a small bowl of salsa verde.

My initial reaction was to cook scalloped potatoes with ham for dinner. By its self, the residents would've enjoyed the cream dish. I was all set to slice potatoes and prepare a rich bechemel when I walked by the flavored tortilla wraps at Cash and Carry this afternoon.

I quickly changed the menu. A purchased crimini mushrooms, packaged spinach and sweet grape tomatoes for the filing. Three packages of the large flavored tortilla would form the burrito wrapper.

Back in the kitchen, it took about 90 minutes to do my prep and to cook individual components for the burrito. I added brown rice pilaf and re-fried beans (from a package of Sysco dehydrated re-fried beans) to the menu for additional filler.

Once the residents started asking what was for dinner, I thought that a build your own burrito would be the best approach, as residents were trying to special order their burrito. I set up a burrito station with each ingredient at arm's reach. I built and folded one burrito for each resident to her liking.

Components for the burrito fest included:
  • 30 (13-1/2-inch tortilla wraps (10-each tomato, spinach and whole wheat)
  • 4-1/2 pounds ham, heated in oven
  • 2 (9-ounce) packages spinach, sauteed
  • 2 pounds sliced crimini mushrooms, sauteed
  • 2 pounds sweet grape tomatoes, sauteed
  • 1 pound chopped green onions
  • 2 jalapeno chili peppers, minced
  • 2-1/2 quarts re-fried beans
  • 3 quarts brown rice pilaf
  • 2 pound shredded cheese
  • 2 quarts salsa ranchera
The meal took 25 minutes to serve, almost twice the time that needed to serve 25 residents. But it was worth the extra effort. Each resident received a burrito tailored to her liking.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chuckbox video

When I check the stats for 'Round the Chuckbox, it comes as no surprise that two of the top five pages (in terms of viewers) look at chuckbox plans. This makes sense because the chuckbox has been the center of my camp cooking ensemble since May 2001. Many of these clicks come to the blog via Google and other search engines.

The second highest rated page asks if a Griswald 20-inch cast iron skillet is worth $340, while my recreation of lemon aid pork chops from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is the third. (For the record, the skillet in question sold for $510 on eBay in February 2009.)

The video, posted on YouTube by dracona70, features a medium-sized chuckbox, built mainly for car camping. He "designed and built (the chuckbox) few years ago to make car camping a little easier." In the seven and one-half minute video, the narrator explains each section and drawer in the chuckbox. He also offers several design alterations that he would make to lighted the box.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Navy culinary specialists strive for Chef de Cuisine certification

By Aviation Electronic’s Technician 3rd Class Omari Janhrette, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Seven top culinary specialists from the Naval Air Station Jacksonville Flight Line Cafe participated in the American Culinary Federation Chef de Cuisine certification, April 13.

The ACF certification is designed to identify those chefs who have demonstrated a level of culinary skill and expertise through their education, work experience and culinary knowledge that is consistent with ACF chef level.

The assessment for certification practical testing was divided into four general areas: safety and sanitation skills, organization, craftsmanship skills and finished product skills.

"All of our CSs here are levels above anyone who's not certified, because they've taken the initiative to get the training early in their career," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kathy Wiseman, NAS Jax Food Services division officer. "This certification will benefit them in both their evaluations and in their personal careers."

The top seven CSs were evaluated during a three-hour examination period through frequent monitoring by evaluators. The board of judges consisted of chefs who are active duty military members or culinary arts instructors at local schools. \

The evaluators included Master Chief Culinary Specialist Mike Carter, Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Food Management Team; David Bearl, First Coast Technical College director of College Advancement; Noel Ridsdale and Brett Harris, Art Institute of Jacksonville instructors.

"This was my first time participating in the chef certification," said Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Rosalind Holmes, Flight Line Cafe. "It means a lot for me to get this certification, because I can use this for the next five years if I plan on making this a career outside the Navy."

Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Rolando Pablo was also a first-time participant in the practical examination.

"Working with the three-hour time limit was not difficult," said Pablo. "We had a lot of training and preparation for months."

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Settle has been through the evaluation process before, taking part in the Sous Chef certification in 2006. Sous chefs hold the second most senior position in a kitchen's chain of command. They are responsible for a kitchen's routine operations, including food preparation and production, and supervising kitchen staff. With this type of experience, Settle said that he was confident with being timed and eager to get his certification.

The next step will be the written exam later this month. The certification results are expected this summer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Braised cabbage with leeks and carrots

This is a work in progress. After browsing through Molly Steven's All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking, I converted her recipe for braised cabbage (World's Best Braised Cabbage on page 59) for a 12-inch Dutch oven. While I enjoyed the cabbage, I need to re-visit my technique one more time. I'll post once I prepare the dish a second time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rotisserie roasted prime rib

Enjoy this video that features Billy and Sue Ruiz of Cowboy Flavor, a catering company in the Santa Maria area of California. In the video, Billy instructs you how to roast a standing rib roast on the Grizzly Spit battery operated portable rotisserie, made by Bar Brothers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pinto bean soup with roasted tomatoes

I first prepared Pinto Bean Soup with Roasted Tomatoes 10 years ago for an article on I drove up the Mormon Immigrant Trail in Eldorado National Forest to Pebble Canyon Road and found a spot to cook.

With Mick Martin's Blues Party blaring on the car radio, I worked my way through the recipe, took photographs for the article and enjoyed the clean air of the forest. In the next hour and one-half, I roasted three tomatoes with an onion and garlic in a 12-inch deep Dutch oven, a task that took twice the time in the confined space of the cast iron oven.

As the vegetables roasted, moisture sweated into the oven. Juices dancing about the bottom of the hot oven. Rich tomato juices commingled with moisture from the onion and garlic. Flavors intensified as the natural sugars caramelized. Around 45 minutes later, the roasted tomatoes were ready for the soup. The soup came together quickly once the tomatoes, onions and garlic took on a rich yellow-brown color.

I poured chicken broth, canned pinto beans, chili powder, cilantro and lemon juice into the Dutch oven and finished the soup. The flavor of roasted tomatoes was much deeper and more intense than fresh or canned tomatoes. Onions and garlic become rich, sweet and slightly smoky when roasted apart from tomatoes.

Pinto Bean Soup with Roasted Tomatoes is a great pantry soup. I prepared it at work today with ingredients that I typically stock in the storeroom and refrigerator. Kidney beans stood in for pinto beans in today's soup. Otherwise, I prepared the recipe as it's published.



Kidney or red beans work for this recipe as well. Use a quality brand of chili powder and adjust the amount to suit your tolerance for heat. Start with the suggested amount and taste the soup while it simmers. If it's not spicy enough, add more chili powder and re-taste.

6 tomatoes, stemmed, cut into eighths
2 onions, peeled, cut into eighths
8 garlic cloves, whole, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chili powder (medium heat)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 quarts pinto beans, cooked or canned, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice Kosher salt, to taste Garnish
1 pint corn tortilla strips, fried, or tortilla chips
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, green onions or chives

Toss tomatoes, onions and garlic with oil in a bowl. Spread a half-sized sheet pan and roast in 475-degree convection oven until tender and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn tomato mixture into large pot and mash to break up tomatoes. Add chicken broth, beans and 1/2 cup of the cilantro. Heat to boiling, then reduce to simmer, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Mash coarsely with potato masher or immersible blender.

Add lemon juice and salt and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Top each serving with tortilla strips or chips, sour cream and cilantro.

Serves 12 (10-ounce) or 15 (8-ounce) portions.

Adapted from a Idaho Bean Commission recipe.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where there's meat, potatoes soon follow

Meat and potatoes share a place of honor on military menus. Even in a era of ethnic cuisine and vegetarian meals, meat and potatoes are always welcomed on the menu. They provide comfort on long deployments and fill the body with good food. ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 3, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Recruit Bryan Pearson, from Harrisburg, Pa., prepares two pans of sliced roast beef for the enlisted crew aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). Whidbey Island is deployed as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group in the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Cuaron.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Enhancing the flavor of packaged gumbo mix

While I focus on scratch cooking at work, one or two flavor combinations elude me. The chicken and sausage gumbo, which I menu once in four weeks, is one such dish. Instead of taking the time to prepare a dark Cajun roux, I rely on a packaged gumbo mix.

To prepare the spicy stew, one that most residents enjoy, I combine the contents of two (5-ounce) packages of Louisiana Cajun Gumbo Mix with 4 quarts cold water in a large stockpot. Following the instruction on the package, I bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Four pounds of diced chicken bread and 2 pounds of sliced Polish sausage provide the protein component of the dish. For the first year on the job I served the gumbo as is -- chicken, sausage and gravy. Since the residents enjoyed the stew, I was pleased with the results.

Two months ago I garnished the finished dish with sauteed vegetables. I hadn't done any research to determine the appropriate vegetables to use. I figured a mixture of celery and green and red and green sweet peppers would work. (Though ubiquitous, I avoid onions because a couple residents suffer from an allergic reaction.)

To prepare, I quickly sauteed 5 celery ribs, cut on the bias, 1 red and 2 green sweet peppers, cut into strips, and added them to the gumbo just before serving. I didn't want the vegetables to stew in the gumbo, but to present them in full color and crisp.

I received several compliments for the garnish. Although one or two residents always turn their collective noses at anything vegetable, I've added the garnish to my recipe for the gumbo. My next move will be to practice making the roux and create a scratch-made gumbo.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chicken and kale gratin

Spend 15 to 20 minutes on mise en place before heading outdoors. Once you light a chimney load of charcoal, the dish will come together quickly. Wash and cut one bunch of kale, trim and pound 2 or 3 chicken breasts and assemble the remaining ingredients.

You'll need chicken breasts, kale, butter, flour, milk, salt and pepper, three cheeses (Fontina, Asiago and Parmesan), bread crumbs and chopped parsley. Approximate measurements are given below.

I pounded 2 large chicken breasts to an even thickness, about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. This ensures even and quick cooking.

Season with salt and ground black pepper. Quickly saute chicken breasts in a skillet over medium-high heat. Rest 5 to 10 minutes, then slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices and set aside.

If desired deglaze skillet with about 1/2-cup white wine. When mostly evaporated, reduce heat to medium and add kale. Cook kale, stirring frequently, until limp. Set aside.

Place a 10-inch camp oven over medium heat. When warm, drop in 1/4-cup butter and melt. Whisk in 1/4-cup all-purpose flour to form a roux. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to burn.

Pour 2 cups milk into the Dutch oven while whisking. Continue cooking over medium heat until thickened. Add 5 ounces cubed Fontina cheese and about 2-1/2 ounces grated Asiago cheese. Continue cooking over medium heat until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Add chicken and kale and stir to incorporate.

Combine 1 cup bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons melted butter and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Evenly spread over the chicken and kale mixture.

Place lid on Dutch oven. Bake at approximately 350 degrees until sauce bubbles and bread crumbs are browned. I used lump charcoal to heat the oven.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

New 'Round the Chuckbox page on Facebook

'Round the Chuckbox ventured into the social network arena last week with its new page on Facebook. The page will enhance the ability of the blog to interact of its reader base. You can add your own status updates and comment on what others have said.

The ability to post your personal photo is one of the best features. You'll be able post personal camp cooking photos. All the normal Facebook features in photo albums, including the ubiquitous "Like" button, comments and tagging, have been turned on.

If you enjoy reading articles on ‘Round the Chuckbox, please click on the “Like” button below and join our Facebook team. I'll be using Facebook to post periodic updates and to follow up on your comments.

Welcome aboard. We'll see you on Facebook. And leave a comment or two.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Cross-training is important for Navy cooks. As the culinary specialists learn to function in different platforms, each with its unique arrangement of equipment in the galley, they exchange of ideas and learn a fresh approach to nourishing their respective crews.

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 28, 2011) -- Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Leo Miranda, right, assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), assists in galley operation aboard USS Germantown (LSD 42). Harpers Ferry and Germantown are exchanging some of their crew for cross-deck training on ship's familiarization as a preparation for a scheduled hull swap.

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