Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Day prep

I enjoyed a busy day at work on Thanksgiving Day. As the chef in a institutional program, holiday meals give me the chance to cook a special meal for the residents. The holiday meal provides a break from the routine of the standard menu.

Prep work began on Monday morning when I placed two 12- to 13-pound turkeys in the refrigerator to thaw. On Tuesday morning, I wrote a list of a dozen tasks that had to be completed in two days. I worked on most items on the list while cooking the regular meals.

Here's a list of the prep work for the Thanksgiving Day meal. Even though the holiday has past, it gives you an idea of how to organize prep for any large meal.

  • Thaw turkey
  • Finish shopping for the meal
  • Cut carrots and celery for relish tray; place in ice water
  • Prepare orange cranberry relish from 2 (12-ounce) bags of fresh cranberries
  • Prepare 1 quart of cilantro lime vinaigrette
  • Dice 3 pounds of cracked wheat sourdough bread for stuffing
  • Prepare 1 cup of green salt by whirling 1 cup kosher salt with fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme in the food processor; the salt was used to season the turkey
  • Thaw turkey
  • Peel 9 pounds (A.P.) of fresh sweet potatoes
  • Gently simmer sweet potatoes in salted water until al dente
  • Prepare about 3 quarts of turkey stock from the necks, giblets and hearts
  • Remove plastic wrapping from turkey and set in roasting pan
  • Baked 4 pumpkin and 2 pecan pies with assistance from a team of residents
  • Remove turkey from refrigeration and season at 9:15 a.m.
  • Place turkey in oven at 10 a.m.
  • Two residents assemble the relish tray appetizer at noon
  • Complete the rest of the meal meal between noon and 2 p.m. with assistance from a team of residents
  • Pull turkey from oven at around 1:30 p.m.
  • Carved turkey two residents mashed the potatoes and the rest of the hot dishes
  • Served the meal at 3 p.m.
  • Traditional relish tray with carrot and celery sticks, radish roses, stuffed green olives, pepperoncini peppers and gherkin pickles
  • Tossed green salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette
  • Roast hen turkey
  • Giblet bread dressing
  • Mashed garlic potatoes
  • Candied sweet potatoes
  • Braised collard greens with smoked turkey necks
  • Mustard herb gravy
  • Orange cranberry sauce

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Carving turkeys at sea

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Nov. 24, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Charles Masten carves a turkey in a galley aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). George H.W. Bush is underway in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility and is celebrating its first Thanksgiving deployed.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Nov. 24, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Aaron J. Hammond slices a ham on the mess decks aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Molly Treece.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Birthday cake

It's only fitting that a ship designed to carry Marines celebrates their birthday.

GULF OF ADEN (Nov. 8, 2011) -- Chief Culinary Specialist Jason Teasley and Culinary Specialist 1st Class Michael Mahan decorate a cake for the Marine Corps birthday celebration aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). Whidbey Island is deployed as part of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts is the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Turner.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Roasted Brussels sprouts

An older episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives rekindled my interest in Brussels sprouts. Chef Louis Silva of Naglee Park Garage, San Jose, Calif., tosses the sprouts in olive oil, lemon slices, bay leaves, sage leaves, fresh garlic cloves, salt and pepper. He then wraps them in parchment paper and aluminum foil and roasts the sprouts in a 350-degree oven until they pass the smell test.

"When I smell them," explained Louis, "I know they're done."

The roasted Brussels sprouts come out the oven, cool for a minute or two and head straight for a skillet. A healthy pat of butter, ladle of hot chicken stock and handful of cooked crumbled bacon join the sprouts. The vegetable quickly cooks as the stock reduces.

The adventure of trying a new vegetable on the residents intrigued me. I purchased five pounds at the market and prepared them for dinner one evening last week. My goal was to duplicate the Chef Louis' process.

Yet, I had reservations. I've always had this love-hate affair with the little cabbages. While I enjoy the bright cabbage flavor when cooked right, bitter compounds that leach out during cooking ruin the experience. And as I entered this new experience, I didn't know how the residents would react to Brussels sprouts.

The residents surprised me (as they have in the past). Enthusiasm for the vegetable surfaced early in the afternoon. "We're having Brussels sprouts," a resident exclaimed as I trimmed the sprouts. "We're have Brussels sprouts!"

My initial purchase of five pounds proved inadequate. Almost all 26 residents took a serving of roasted Brussels sprouts that evening. It didn't help that they accompanied tri-tip roast, mashed potatoes and brown gravy, one of the most popular meals at work.

The kitchen workers missed out on the dish with its bright lemon aroma. Only one sprout remained when it came time to serve the kitchen workers. I was only able to taste one sprout myself earlier before the meal was served.

I will add to the menu often this fall and winter. And next time, I may need to purchase six pounds for the residents.


This recipe easily multiplies to feed larger groups. I've found that 5 pounds is the minimum quantity needed for the 26 residents at work. As an alternate to the skillet step, I open the foil, stir in the remaining ingredients (bacon, stock and butter) and turn the oven heat up to 400 degrees. Once the sprouts caramelize a bit, I remove the pan from the oven and serve.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 cloves garlic
3 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
3 slices fresh lemon
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

In a large bowl, toss Brussels sprouts, garlic cloves, sage leaves, bay leaves, lemon slices, salt and pepper with olive oil until well coated. Lay out a 20-inch piece of parchment paper over aluminum foil on a sheet pan and pour the Brussels sprout mixture into the middle. Fold the foil over itself.

Place in a 350-degree F oven. Cook for about 30 minutes or until they smell done. A larger batch will require 10 to 15 additional minutes. Remove from oven, open foil wrapper and cool slightly.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add Brussels sprout mixture, chicken stock and bacon crumbles. Cook over medium-high heat until stock reduces and sprouts are tender. Serves 4 to 6 portions.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Guest article on Kent Rollin's Chuck Wagon Cooking School

Last month I asked Lesley Kershaw Tennessen of McHenry, Ill., to write a guest blog on her experience at Kent Rollin's Chuck Wagon Cooking School. She attended the course last spring. My request couldn't have come at a better time as Kent released a new video on the school. While Lesley isn't shown in this video (it features the October 2011 class), it gives a more detailed view of the school. My first two articles on the school are posted here and here.

Here's Lesley's report:

Way back when, a few years ago, I'd heard about going to a chuckwagon school. The thought intrigued me, more and more as time when on. The more I became involved in Dutch oven cooking and of course, teaching about Dutch oven, the more the idea surfaced in my thoughts.

So, round about fall 2010, I took the plunge. I'd met some gals while teaching at a local Women In the Outdoors event and became friends. One of the gals is a go-getter, never leave life behind type of person! When I told her about this opportunity, it was a 'heck yes!' type of response. So we signed up. That was early in December. Counted the days. Looked online, dreamed of getting there.

What did I want to learn? Mesquite cooking like Kent teaches. More about rustic Dutch oven cooking. Meeting new friends. Returning to Texas! Even though I am a tent camper, sleeping in a teepee is not usually how I camp! So that was new. Enjoyable.

What did I find out? I found that cooking with mesquite is like cooking in nucleator! LOL. Really hot wood compared to northern hardwood. And I found that cooking in Kent's kitchen with Ole Bertha keeps you really warm!

I loved learning about sourdough. It's about all I use now for biscuits. I learned cooking with trivets on the ground. I usually use a table and mostly off ground. And best of all, living outdoors in the Texas sun for a few days in late March feels really good.

Cooking in Kent's Chuckwagon School teaches you about yourself and how to adapt to old time ways and simpler things. And it's about having fun while working hard! I'll do this again and not soon enough!

YouTube video description (posted October 31, 2011): Each spring and fall, Kent holds his Dutch oven cooking camp. Students come from all over to experience the old cowboy way of life and to cook from Kent's 1876 Studebaker chuck wagon."

CIA chef weighs in on cast iron myths

Have ever wondered why most chefs don't use cast iron pans in their restaurants? Or heard that soap will ruin your precious cast iron skillet?

As with most topics, there are more opinions than writers. Articles rarely explain why or how something is good (or bad) for you when it's cooked in a cast iron skillet and Dutch oven.

The answer to these questions (and more) comes from an unlikely source. Fox News "set the record straight" in "5 Myths of the Cast Iron Pan Explained," with chef David Kellaway.

The article explorers five myths about cast iron cookware. Will soap ruin a cast iron pan? Kellaway says go ahead if "you had a particularly messy sticky cooking session." But there's a caveat! The pan must be "re-seasoned immediately."

Why don't more restaurants use cast iron pans? They're too heavy for routine use, Kellaway explained to Fox News writer Sasha Bogursky. Too much "care (is) required to keep them clean without rusting."

Read on. You'll want to read the article before cooking in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.

Chef Kellaway is a certified master chef and the managing director of the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America. Soon you'll un

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day tribute -- U.S. Navy

As part of my annual Veterans Day tribute, I'm featuring a photograph of a cook from each of the services. We owe a lot to these men and women, many who have sacrificed a big part of their lives to serve this great county. A hearty thank you from 'Round the Chuckbox.

MAYPORT, Fla. (Nov. 2, 2011) -- Celebrity chef Jeff Rumaner, who appeared on the Food Network television program "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," shows Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Tyree Jennings how to prepare his signature chicken wings for a special lunchtime meal for Sailors at Naval Station Mayport. Culinary specialist stationed near Naval Air Station Jacksonville worked alongside the chefs to learn innovative, healthy and fun approaches to cooking.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr.

Veterans Day tribute -- U.S. Coast Guard

As part of my annual Veterans Day tribute, I'm featuring a photograph of a cook from each of the services. We owe a lot to these men and women, many who have sacrificed a big part of their lives to serve this great county. A hearty thank you from 'Round the Chuckbox.

CGC Forward FS bakes bread underway

ATLANTIC OCEAN--Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Dave Blonn takes loaves of fresh baked bread out of the galley oven onboard the Coast Guard Cutter Forward while underway during an African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership mission May 31, 2011. The Coast Guard Cutter Forward deployed on a four-month patrol to West Africa in support of the AMLEP mission in an effort to increase resident host nation capabilities and to build maritime safety and security on and off shore. The team of five food service specialists prepare three meals a day for the crew of the Forward, as well as a snack for late night watch standers.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Annie R. B. Elis.

Veterans Day tribute -- U.S. Marine Corps

As part of my annual Veterans Day tribute, I'm featuring a photograph of a cook from each of the services. We owe a lot to these men and women, many who have sacrificed a big part of their lives to serve this great county. A hearty thank you from 'Round the Chuckbox.

Corporal Brian Bieber, food service specialist, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, gives a smile as he hands a box of food over to a Marine from Company D during a battalion field exercise. The food, prepared by food service Marines, will be a part of the battalion’s evening chow after a day of tank and infantry integration training.

U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Pfc. James Frazer.

Veterans Day tribute -- U.S. Army

As part of my annual Veterans Day tribute, I'm featuring a photograph of a cook from each of the services. We owe a lot to these men and women, many who have sacrificed a big part of their lives to serve this great county. A hearty thank you from 'Round the Chuckbox.

223rd Medical Detachment holds field sanitation course

Christina R. Marks, a food services specialist at Camelot, dining facility three, with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Fort Hood, Texas, and a New Iberia, La., native, inspects a water buffalo for rust during a field sanitation class Oct. 19 through Oct. 22 at the 223rd Medical Detachment at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Photo Credit: Sgt. Ryan TwistSgt.

Veterans Day tribute -- U.S. Air Force

As part of my annual Veterans Day tribute, I'm featuring a photograph of a cook from each of the services. We owe a lot to these men and women, many who have sacrificed a big part of their lives to serve this great county. A hearty thank you from 'Round the Chuckbox.

The fire inside: an Air Force chef's journey to culinary excellence

Staff Sgt. Ghil Medina, a 633rd Force Support Squadron services journeyman, tries to beat the clock while preparing a meal for the American Culinary Federation's National Student Chef of the Year Award competition at the 2011 ACF National Convention in Dallas on July 24, 2011. While he ultimately did not win this award, Medina has won numerous awards in the military food services community, including being the first Airman to win the 2011 Armed Forces Junior Chef of the Year Award.

Photo courtesy of the American Culinary Federation.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Army dish washing

In the coming weeks I will be posting additional photographs of Robert Mast's World War II era field kitchen. Robert is a reenactor from Tionesta, Penn. His group of reenactors represents Easy Company, 393rd Infantry. As one of three infantry regiments in the 99th Infantry Division, the unit crossed the Rhine River into the heart of Germany on March 11, 1945 at the Remagen Bridge.

The reenactors use the gasoline fueled immersion heater to clean and sanitize field mess equipment in the field. After each soldier finishes his meal, he dips his personal mess kit and canteen cup into the series of wash cans (32-gallon GI garbage can). After scraping leftover food into the garbage can (at the far end of the line), he washes his gear in the first two cans (pre-wash and wash cans). The third can is used to rinse the gear. A bleach solution in the last sanitizes the gear.