Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kent Rollins' Mexican cornbread

When I picked up my latest cookbook purchase, On the Trail and in the Kitchen: Tried and True Recipes from Kent Rollins (self-published: Byers, Texas, 2012), the recipe for Mexican cornbread appeared to be a winner. I prepared it in a Lodge 10-inch Dutch oven Saturday evening. The wonderful blend of chiles, buttermilk and cheddar cheese gave the cornbread the same great flavor that you expect from Kent's food.

My first inclination was to call it "Cowboy polenta." This makes sense when you see that Kent's cornbread created the perfect balance between the cake-like texture of cornbread and creamy consistency of Italian polenta. When cut into wedges, the cornbread becomes the perfect accompaniment to chili con carne, huevos rancheros or sauteed pepper steak.

Italian polenta is often served with stews and braised dishes, where it soaks up flavorful juices. What better way to showcase Kent's cornbread than to serve it with large bowl of rich chili con carne in camp? Place a wedge of cornbread in a large bowl or wide-brimmed plate and ladle your best camp chili over it. You get the best of of both dishes as it absorbs the chili-laden juices.

I should note that the lovely Mrs. Chuckbox enjoyed the cornbread it by itself. So, it doesn't matter how you prepare the cornbread. You'll enjoy it with soft butter and honey or buried under a rich bowl of camp chili.

I look forward to trying more recipes from On the Trail and in the Kitchen.


I used 5 Kingsford brand charcoal briquettes under the 10-inch Dutch oven and 15 on the lid on a hot evening. To avoid burning the bottom, remove the Dutch oven from the bottom heat after about 15 minutes. Finish baking with top heat only.

1-1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 (4-ounce) can dice green chiles
1 cup creamed corn
1 cup shredded cheese

In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, eggs and vegetable oil. Mix well. Add green chiles and creamed corn. Mix well.

Pour half of the mixture into a greased 10-inch Dutch oven or casserole dish. Sprinkle top with cheese. Pour the rest of the mixture over cheese.

Bake with coals or in a conventional oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool. Cut into 8 wedges.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sea and anchor

This brings back memories of working the Sea and Anchor Detail on the USS Cocopa (ATF 101), where I was the 1JV fantail phone talker.

MINA SALMAN PIER, Bahrain (July 25, 2012) -- Culinary Specialist 1st Class Robert Purdy receives the mooring line aboard the coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) as the ship gets underway. Firebolt is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Hueming Mui.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Simple camp meal prepared cast iron skillet and grill

Tonight's dinner began as a way to use some Farmer's Market produce, the country sausage that I prepared last week and a container of crushed tomatoes in the refrigerator. Since the forecast called for temperatures in the 100s in the California Mother Lode, cooking the meal outdoors save us from overheating the house. Except for the pasta, I used my Griswold #10 skillet and Camp Chef Sport Grill to cook the meal.

Here's the menu:
  • Spaghetti with country sausage tomato sauce and garnished with toasted bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese
  • Grilled summer squash marinated in a balsamic reduction
  • Sliced cucumbers with sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
To prepare the tomato sauce, I sauteed about 1 pound of country sausage with 1/2 chopped onion until the sausage was cooked. I then poured a 1/2 cup of Madeira wine over the sausage and cooked it until most of the wine had evaporated. About 2 cups of crushed tomatoes and 6 tablespoons of half and half were then stirred into the skillet. The sauce simmered over low heat for about 30 minutes. Since I let the sausage season the tomato sauce, no additional seasoning was needed.

I served the sauce over a plate of cooked spaghetti and garnished it with toasted bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. The bread crumbs added an interesting contrast in texture to the pasta dish.

To prepare the balsamic reduction, I simmered 1 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 4 fat cloves of minced garlic in a saucepan until reduced by half. I then stirred in 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Two sliced summer squashes were then marinated for several hours in the refrigerator.

I grilled the squash until browned and tender on a Camp Chef grill box. While the grill box doesn't give food traditional grill marks, it does give food great flavor.

2012 Olive Festival and Dutch Oven Cook-off in Corning, California

Here's a note from Don Mason:

Hi Dutch oven cook:

On August 25, 2012 in Corning, California, the 23rd Olive Festival will be held. Festival organizers are requiring that only California Processed Olives are to be used in one of the three dishes. This should not be a challenge to you great Dutch oven cooks.

The Dutch Oven cookoff will be held at Woodson City Park (southeast corner South and Peach Streets). You will have a 12'x12’ cooking area with one table. You will be cooking in an open area and the weather might be a problem. It is recommended that if you have a type of E-Z up instant shelter. Note: We will be in the same area as last year. This is the hot time of year so dress cool and drink a lot of water.

We will be there about 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. A cooks meeting will be held a 9:00 a.m. At this time the judging time will be assigned. Judging will commence at 1:00 p.m.

This is a 3 pot cookoff: Main dish, bread and dessert or one or two pots is okay. The public will be invited to taste the dishes after judging and vote for the ones they like best.

Cash awards will be for the following: First place for main dish, bread and dessert receives $50 and a plaque. Second and third place will receive plaques. First place in each category for Peoples Choice Award will receive a plaque. This should be a fun Dutch oven cookoff and sharpen your culinary skills. Beginning Dutch oven cooks are invited. Also 4-H, Boy Scouts and Junior groups are invited to cook an adult must accompany this division. Plaques will be awarded to this division.

If you have any questions please contact the Corning Chamber of Commerce at (530) 824-5550 or corningchamber@abcglobal.net.

Good luck

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Reliving the chuckwagon tradition on the Bell Ranch, part 2

Here's the second video from Kent Rollins. He spent most of the month of June the "pulling" the the chuckwagon on the massive Bell Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. Along with his wife Shannon, the two fed a crew of cowboys from the ranch chuckwagon. As the crew finished work at one pasture, Kent and Shannon drove the team of horses to the next pasture, where they set up camp and worked early mornings to the setting of the sun.

The message of this video shifts from cooking to the life of the cowboy on a traditional Western ranch. Several Bell Ranch hands explain what the cowboy life means, including the values and the traditions they hold.

You Tube description for the first video: "Not since 1958, has The Bell Ranch pulled a traditional chuck wagon. This two part mini-documentary follows the crew of The Bell and Kent Rollins, as the chuck wagon "cookie," as they revive the tradition of pulling a chuck wagon with a team for the four week spring gathering."

Monday, August 06, 2012

Fresh country sausage

Here's the recipe for fresh country sausage. It's based on Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's recipe for Fresh Master Sausage in Charcutery: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by (Norton & Company: New York, 2005) (found on (page 117).

I worked out a flavor profile that appealed to me. Cumin and coriander are among my favorite spices, along with chile peppers, cilantro, garlic and thyme. These herbs and spices, along with the wine, give the sausage a pleasant taste. The wine (I used pinot noir) adds flavor and brings all the ingredients together.


"It's very important to keep your meat as cold as possible during the sausage making process," cautions Ruhlman and Polcyn. "Sausage that gets too warm can 'break,' meaning the fat and the protein will separate from each other when cooked." Instead of enjoying a firm, juicy sausage, where the fat evenly coats each bit of meat, you'll be eating something that's dry and crumbly.

Keep the pork and chicken in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients. Also place the wine in the cooler. Cold ingredients reduce the chance that your sausage will break. And, "always grind the meat and the fat into a bowl set in ice."

3-1/2 pounds pork shoulder butt, diced
1-1/2 pounds chicken or turkey thigh meat, diced
1-1/2 ounces kosher salt (about 3 tablespoons)
2 jalapeno chiles, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup good red wine, chilled

Mix pork, chicken, salt, chiles, cilantro, thyme, garlic, cumin, coriander and pepper together in large bowl until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to blend flavors.

Grind mixture through small die (1/8-inch) into a bowl set in ice. Transfer mixture to mixer bowl (5-quart or larger). Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add wine while mixing on low speed; Increase speed to medium and mix 1 minute more, or until liquid is incorporated and meats looks sticky.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Sausage making venture

Yesterday I set out to prepare a five-pound batch of country sausage. My sausage making venture promised to be the ideal project for a lazy Saturday afternoon at home. My goal was to stock the freezer with several packages of bulk sausage and then publish the recipe on the blog.

Armed with a mug of coffee and Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie, I penciled a draft recipe for the sausage. A mixture of pork shoulder and chicken or turkey thigh meat appealed to me. I figured the right combination of cumin, coriander, cilantro and jalapeno chile pepper with a nice red wine would give the meat a pleasant taste. Confident that my recipe would meet the flavor test, I drove off to the meat market.

My plan was simple: Buy a large pork shoulder from my local meat purveyor and have him grind it through an 1/8-inch die; return home to place the meat in the refrigerator; and then finish shopping at the supermarket. I contemplated wrapping up the project by 3 or 4 p.m. As you'll soon see, my plan didn't survive the first stop on the itinerary.

The butcher's meat grinder was a key element in my plan. Even though I purchased a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a five-quart bowl some 15 years ago, I never saw a need for the grinder attachment. Until yesterday, my vintage Climax No. 50 meat grinder efficiently ground cooked meat and vegetables, mostly for hash. I wasn't confident of it ability to grind raw meat.

For the butcher to grind pork, I learned that I must call ahead to order. The lady at the counter said that he only grinds pork and other meat in the morning. Since that wouldn't help me (and the fact that the shop is only open four day per week), I decided that I must try the hand cranked grinder. I purchased the pork, chicken and remaining ingredients at the supermarket and returned home. (On reflection, I should've asked the supermarket butcher to grind the meat.)

Once home, I quickly diced the pork and chicken meat. It went into the refrigerator while I prepared the spices (cumin, coriander, kosher salt and pepper) and aromatics (cilantro, garlic, jalapeno chile pepper and thyme). I pulled the meat out of the refrigerator, mixed in the spices and aromatics and then returned it to the chill box for a two-hour rest.

Next came the most challenging step in my sausage making process. I had to figure out how to run five pounds of seasoned pork and chicken through the narrow hopper and dull blade of the meat grinder. I gave up after 10 minutes. The grinder mashed the meat instead of cutting it, probably because the die has never been sharpened.

I knew that I had to change direction at that point. I returned the meat mixture to the refrigerator while recovered my largest knife from my knife roll. The heavy blade of the 10-inch chef knife helped me chop the meat, a task that I had to accomplish quickly in order to keep the meat cool.

The remaining steps went quickly (mixing in the Kitchenaid mixer and incorporating the wine into the sausage). Since Debbie and I ate dinner earlier, I elected taste the sausage -- and hunt for a Kitchenaid grinder attachment -- today. The sausage passed its taste test this morning at breakfast. It has a pleasingly fresh taste, perfect for a country breakfast sausage. The flavors blended for a bright, fresh example of charcuterie. And, even with two jalapenos in the mix, there's barely a hint of spiciness.

Oh, I couldn't locate a grinder in my home county this afternoon. If a search yield nothing tomorrow in Sacramento, I'll order one from Amazon.com. I should be able to post the recipe by next weekend. In the meantime, I'll freeze the sausage in one-pound chubs and grind it as needed.