Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Scalloped potatoes with ham and onions

Debbie and I enjoyed a quite Christmas Day at home. Everything about the day was simple. Rainy weather dictated the day's activities would be conducted indoors. We slept in, read and watched holiday movies. A simple holiday meal capped the day.

Scalloped potatoes with ham and onions sounds more like a meal for leftover Christmas ham. Yet when we purchased a small smoked ham Sunday afternoon, I figured that it would make a nice meal when coupled with Sierra Gold potatoes. We also bought several heads of fresh broccoli and a pound of Brussels sprouts as well.

Heavy rain saturated our uncovered patio when I began cooking just after two o'clock in the afternoon. Since preparing the meal in a camp-style Dutch oven wasn't practical, the meal was cooked in a 10-1/2-inch skillet. Once the sauce was formed in the skillet, I stirred in the diced ham and potatoes and placed the skillet into a pre-heated oven.

Around 4 p.m., Debbie and I sat down to a meal of scalloped potatoes with ham and onions. Oven roasted broccoli with garlic and tossed romaine salad accompanied the meal. While the casserole became the centerpiece of our holiday meal, you can use it to use leftover Christmas ham. Enjoy and bon appitite!

Roasted broccoli with garlic and tossed green salad with fresh croutons from French bread accompanied the meal.

To prepare in a 12-inch camp-style Dutch oven, heat over a bed of coals or gas burner. Prepare recipe as directed. Bake in the Dutch oven with 9 coals under the oven and 18 on the lid.

I find that adding chicken stock to the sauce gives the potatoes a richer, more refined flavor, especially when you add one or two cheeses. While I used Parmesan cheese for the casserole, one or two ounces of Gruyere or Swiss cheese will certainly enhance its appeal.

4 tablespoons butter (2 ounces)
1 medium onion, sliced
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups scaled milk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided (2 ounces)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound smoked ham, diced
5 medium potatoes, diced (1 pound 4 ounces)

Melt butter in a 10-1/2-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sweat onions until soft and translucent. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk stock and milk into the onion-roux mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in ham and potatoes. Place skillet in 375-degree oven and bake until potatoes are soft, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and spread remaining Parmesan cheese over potatoes. Continue baking until cheese has lightly browned. Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Navy scratch cooking

For several years I've been reading about the Navy's re-emphases on scratch cooking. It's good to see that Navy culinary specialists are returning to their roots. It looks like the Navy has realized that you can only prepare the best meals when you have control over the cooking process. While prepared foods have a place during military operations, I'm encouraged to see the Navy's cooks and bakers are cooking from scratch when possible. Not only does the crew receive the best meals, the emphasis on scratch cooking enhances the employment skills of the CSs when they leave the service.

NORFOLK (Dec. 3, 2012) -- Chef Jud Flynn, senior executive chef of On-Site Culinary Solutions, watches as Culinary Specialist 1st Class Tony Johnson, attached to Naval Station Norfolk, inspects a pan of scratch-styled cooked yams during a 5-day culinary training course. The course is for Navy culinary specialists to relearn basic cooking principles to implement more healthy and nutritious meals into base galleys in the mid-Atlantic region.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Molly A. Burgess.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Creamed ground beef

Each year I receive two or three requests for the old military recipe for creamed beef. Known as SOS or "stuff" on a shingle, most ask for the recipe from the time period of their service to this great nation. In view of a recent request for a recipe that's suitable for a "small family," I have posted such a recipe. It's based on one pound of ground beef, which should be sufficient for the average family.

Click for the recipe for 100 portions if you need to serve a crowd. It's based on the 1969 U.S. Armed Forces Recipe Service card No. L-30.

I "enjoyed when it was served in the (CPO) mess," wrote a retired Navy chief petty officer.


1 pound ground beef
5-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons beef base
3-1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Brown beef in its own fat in an saucepan or skillet. Drain excess fat. Add flour, pepper and beef base to beef. Mix thoroughly and cook until flour is absorbed.

Add milk and Worcestershire sauce to beef mixture. Heat to a simmer, stirring frequently. Cook until thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Serves 4 to 6.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Bakin' Bill's ham 'n cheese muffins

Bakin' Bill and Deeann Johnson offer this recipe for ham 'n cheese muffins. They originally presented it at a Dutch oven class in November 2004 at Macey's supermarket in Ogden, Utah, near their hometown of Layton. The Johnson's taught the monthly class for 14 years.

"Each month we did a different main dish, bread and dessert," explained Bill. "Each time we would do one or two of the recipes for the first time there in the class. It was to teach them to get out of their comfort zone and try new things."


These muffins can be baked in cast iron muffin tins or as balls on the lid of the Dutch oven.

1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups reduced-fat biscuit/baking mix
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup finely chopped fully cooked ham

In a seasoned cast iron skillet, sauté onion in butter until tender; set aside. In a bowl, combine cheese and biscuit mix. Stir in milk and egg just until moistened. Fold in ham and onion mixture.

Coat muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or use paper liners. Fill three-fourths full. Bake at 425 degree for 13 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

Monday, December 03, 2012


That's a nice looking cornucopia. It looks like the bakers made it from bread dough. With vegetation "growing" up the ladder, the culinary specialists appear to be working on a topside display.

EAST CHINA SEA (Nov. 22, 2012) -- Culinary Specialists assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) create a cornucopia to serve as a centerpiece for the ship's Thanksgiving meal. Mustin is conducting a patrol of the Western Pacific in support of regional security and stability of the vital Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Potluck and presentation

Each December, the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation hosts its annual meeting and Christmas potluck at a local historic venue. This is year we used the recreated Southern Pacific depot in the historic town of El Dorado. Around 45 railroad volunteers and their families packed into the station. This was the largest crowd we've had in memory.

I've often used to potluck to feature new dishes. This year my wife and I brought a Mexican casserole with black beans in a 9 by 13-inch roasting pan. I adapted the recipe from the Deer Crossing Wilderness Camp kitchen manual, where it was served every other week at dinner.

I had two jobs this year, so to speak. As the cook in the family, the task of preparing the casserole fell to me this morning. My other job, assigned by the president of the foundation, was to present a talk on rail passenger service on the Placerville Branch rail line of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

After the annual meeting (and before the meal), I presented a mix of historic photographs and newspaper reports on passenger service, which ran from March 1888 to January 1939. One of the two daily trains was provided by a McKeen motor car.

The meeting and potluck were a success. The volunteers enjoyed my presentation. And the dish was nearly cleaned.


Leave the beef-bean-corn mixture a little on the dry side. You do not want a moist or sloppy sauce. The recipe is a favorite of Deer Crossing Camp in Eldorado National Forest, California. A double recipe fits in a 12x20x4-inch hotel pan and serves 24.

2 pounds ground beef
1-1/ ounces taco seasoning
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
frozen whole kernel corn
1-1/2 cups salsa
1 (10-ounce) package corn chips
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces jack cheese, shredded

Saute ground beef in heavy skillet over medium heat until done. Drain excess off fat. Stir in taco seasoning, beans, corn and salsa. Simmer 10 minutes to develop flavor.

Line greased 9x13x3-inch pan with half of the corn chips. Spoon beef mixture over tortilla or corn chips. Top pan with half of each cheese. Top pan with remaining half of the corn chips.

Bake in 350-degree oven, until casserole is bubbling around edges, about 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheeses over chips. Return to oven and continue baking until cheese has melted.

Cool 15 minutes, then cut 3 by 4. Serve an equal portion of the filling with cheesy chip layer. Serves 12.