Friday, December 30, 2005

The Bell Tolls for the Beef

 The Bell Tolls for Beef


Well the count down clock has started. Looking at the beef today it
appears they are ready for there visit with destiny.

My son raises several every year. He sells them custom butchered and we
always have a half.

This is big red: A red angus crossed on Black Angus which creates a nice

And we have two angus crosses on some white faced cattle. All are in the
1100 pound range and therefore are ready to perform their next task.
Which is to become white packages in peoples' freezers.

Between the cost of the calves and feed it runs about $1000 to get one
to butchering weight. We feed them corn every day they go through 800# of
corn every six weeks. In the end they start gaining 4.7 pounds per day.
Monday they are going to visit the butcher shop. After hanging for 18 to
21 days they will be cut and wrapped.

Mary Lou did a twin salmon tray that I thought was real nice for a

About all from here for now. I am working on a picture guide to smoked
salmon. Probably finish it up next Monday or so. We are all cooking
tomorrow for the New Years Eve parties so we will be out of touch until
Sunday or late late Saturday night.

Wishing you all a great start to the New Year. Best wishes and great

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Octopus Salad, a picture guide

Octopus Salad a picture guide


So my friend Sal Sassano from Sicily offers up his octopus salad recipe
to me as an appie idea for myself and friends. What is a chef to do?
Order octopus and start cooking of course! I am always on the prow for
something new. In the catering business there are those that lead and
those the try to follow. We lead and put ourselves out there on the edge
all the time.

So first we clean the octopus, sorry I forgot to take pictures that
first morning, then we boil and steam the octopus until it is cooked all
the way through. I use a lot of Old Bay, salt and pepper, then let is
steep in the cooking juices over night in the walk in, this allows it to
rest, and also allows it to relax and tenderize a little.

Then I cut it up into big pieces:

And the pieces should look nice and white with the purplish outer skin.
I wanted to skin it but Sal says no. However after eating it, I will
skin it next time. Did not like the mouth feel of the skin.

Then we have to cut the seamonster up:

Then we add in the garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and parsley and fold
into the octopus.

dice one red onion small, one stalk of celery and add to sea monster in
the bowl. Add some olive oil and toss.

Add in a mixture of olives, a little smoked salmon and a tin of
anchovies, fold together and cover, remove to cooler overnight.

Toss and serve:

It was very good, although I think if I had skinned the sea monster the
mouth texture would have been better. But hey that is the thing with
recipe development, you have to start somewhere and keep improving until
you say, ah that is it!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Monday, December 26, 2005

Makin' Bacon with bbally, not a Wife alone follow up!

Makin' Bacon With bbally NOT Wife Alone Follow Up!


As I have been finishing my own hog that was butchered in early
September I thought it might be good to go through pork fresh side and
converting that belly to bacon.

First, the trichinosis has to be dealt with, I doubt the hogs I purchase
have it, but I am not willing to take the chance. So into the deep
freeze they go after butchering until they have been at 0 F for 3
months. Now the new guidelines allow a shorter period in the freezer,
but I really don't need the meat we butcher for our own consumption
faster so I still stick with what I was taught in the mid 1970s. If you
find references allowing a shorter period from the U.S. FDA or USDA that
is fine have at it. These times and ratios are stuck fast in my head and
so for the same reason I can not get divorced (hate the idea of being
retrained by a new women!) I have not retrained my brain to the new
shorter time tables.

I use the dry box method for bacon curing. We are talking a real cure
here so I am using sodium nitrate to chemically cook the meat prior to
the smoking process. This allows me to use the cold smoke method if I
want to for a deeper smoke flavor.

So first we trim the sides up to square them off and make them even.
This is mostly done so the sides are ready to slice at the end of the
cure period.

I lay them out and wash them, then place them in a bussing tub lined
with plastic wrap or a large plastic bag. The two sides we are working
today will be maple cured with a hickory smoke. So 4 pounds of salt, 2/3
cup of sodium nitrate cure salt (6.25 percent sodium nitrate, pink salt
in most places) 2/3 cup white pepper, and three pounds of maple syrup,
mix the dry ingredients and rub the belly side and the fat cap liberally
and place in the plastic bag. Roll over and coat all surfaces with maple
syrup. I use a squirt bottle to get a nice even coating. remove air from
the bag and tie shut. Place in the cooler for 7 to 10 days. After two
days the meat should be covered and in contact with a lot of juice that
has been created. If not mix a little pickle up at the same ratio and
add to the bag so the bellies are covered. Realize that in three days
the meat is basically cured but the sugar moves into the fiber slower
than the sodium nitrate and salt. The salt is carrying the sugar into
the meat so the salt creates the conduit, but time creates the depth and

After they have been in the cooler for 10 days they come out like this:

When we add them to the smoker we are looking for low heat and lots of
smoke. So I use a green wood that will smolder for a long long time with
lots of smoke. You can use the dry chunks that the stores sell now in
bags, but soak them in water overnight so they don't just burn up
without creating smoke.

I run my up to 152 F to finish them up in the end. At this point you
don't need smoke at they have already absorbed what they need to absorb
for flavor.

Then I slice them up on a regular deli slicer.

Or if you have Big Dog Chef sousing for you and he has the secret
slicing weapon that Derek sent him for Christmas you can use big Al
and the Ginsu knives

After slicing I am a big fan of these new vacuum packers, my is the
V1205 in stainless steel from FoodSaver. I really think this is one of
the best methods (vacuum packing not necessarily foodsaver) to prepare
food for freezer storage.

This url will take you to a place that sells the rolls in bulk so you
don't have to pay full retail for the bags

FoodSaver supplies
I find this system to be a great way to package
veggies, and soup and anything else you want to put in the freezer to

So in the end you produce about 21 pounds of very nice bacon.

So there you have it, makin' bacon with bbally. Next I am going to
create my own proscuitto I will take pictures of the process and post it
when I complete the methodology.

I have a picture story of making the octopus salad I will post in a few
days. Until then cook something you have not tried before, hey if it
turns out bad you can always make one of my favorites for
dinner........... reservations!


Til we talk again

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wife and I alone at home

Wife and I alone at home!


There has been so much talk about prime rib with the holidays I had a
thought that it might be nice to do a little for the old la....... er
the wife!

So I stop down to the kitchen and my SO calls, kids our out shopping for
Christmas when are you coming home!!!! YYEEEESSSSS! oh what bring
something for dinner? Uh maybe I had a different thought than she

So into the walk-in and what is laying there a perfectly good abate
abandon prime rib. And some scallops made by the very capable Big Dog
Chef. So I thought well why not bribe her with a little prime rib! (I
mean for a Christmas present, wait that did not come out right either.)
I mean I thought my lovely wife puts up with me all the time so I should
bring home and cook a prime rib up for her.

So I decide on Two Tone Farms Cabernet Sauvignon for me and one of the
few remaining bottles of Boulder Creek for her!

This is what the plate looked like at 130 F

I have a second shot, but it is really to show off the cool Santa Claus
I purchased at auction for my wife. She collects these Santa Clauses, an
artist friend of mine made the piece and was worried it would not bring
enough money. So I bid it up to a respectable level and bought it.
(Money went to 4-H youth program so the cause was just for the amount

Anyway short and sweet is as chefs please remember we have regular lives
as well. We have families, we have children, we have a sense of humor,
we also have to eat dinner and meet the expectations of our SO. I just
thought it would be nice for everyone to understand we do normal things,
just at weird hours sometimes.

I worked Octopus today. Tomorrow after it is done in the reefer I am
building a traditional Sicilian octopus salad. I cook for (and with) a
Sicilian couple and they turned me onto this a year ago. I also have to
make some deep fried artichoke hearts (also a Sicilian thing) to go with
it one the side. I love fried arties! They are just so damn good and
with this traditional octopus salad it is just magic. Anyway more on
octopus salad tomorrow after I finish it and take a few pics.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA


Monday, December 19, 2005

New Kitchen

New Kitchen for 4 months, time for changes


Well we have been in the new kitchen for a few months now. And as the
holiday season party catering start to slow down I have been thinking
about all the modifications everyone has requested. But mostly I am
thinking about how to make my six eye oven range work station area a
little more efficient for pushing out food in a hurry. I only fired the
thing up a couple weeks ago. As it was the lowest priority until we got
busy with the Holiday Party season. The steamer is above me to the
right. The microwave is under the steamer on top my short prep freezer.
So right off that microwave has to move to a wall mount shelf to the
right of the steamer. It will be outside the hood set but that is OK for
the nuker. The Hobart sits to the right of the steamer as well. I hooked
it up and use it for mashers. Directly behind me I have a hand sink and
a single bay large (300 pounds of taters in it easy) prep sink with a
large drain board. I am thinking once the nuker is off my prep freezer I
can sit a cutting board and tiered spice rack on it for doing my prep.
And I have the sinks I need, and the steamer is cool although personally
I would like to move the steam and switch it with the salamander at the
other end. But the plumbing changes would be a nightmare so I will live
with the steamer and just have access to the salamander. But a big pain
in the butt is the proofer cabinet sitting directly to the left of me! I
get stuck making sauces and reductions a lot. And I want my steam kettle
sitting where the proofer is presently sitting. So I am trying to figure
out how to fit the proofer in beside the two door freezer. In what I
call reefer alley. A two door freezer reach in, a two door cooler reach
in, another two door freezer reach in and a hall space then two big a5s
pizza ovens. (Blodgett) So I think if I move the slicer cart and situate
the proofer next to the two door freezer I could drop in my steam
kettle. Plus I have to run the three phase power to it and a water line.
But for the ability to reheat sauces without having to constantly stir
the damn things I think it will be worth the time! Plus having the micro
off my prep freezer would allow me to set the six eye up all the way for
cranking out food! So I continue to plot.

Other things to do for the other chefs in the business:

Al and Mike want a stainless shelf across their work stations to set
Mise up on. Zane wants two more power drops over the old bakers table.
Lights in the storage shed. Everyone wants a separate circuit for the
store room lights. Presently hooked to the pool table lights so when the
bar goes dark so does the dry stores! Brian wanted mats for the dish
pit, which I did today. And I need a clothing rack for our chefs
uniforms and such as the business office is just not convenient to get
to for changing. So there you have it the first changes to help us all
work better after being in the place for a few months. I know this one
is a little boring but I think a blog is suppose to let you know what we
do and this is what we do a lot. How do we do it faster? How do we do it

That is all for now, go pour a couple glasses of red and relax til we
talk again

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Limp Snowman

The Limp Snowman


So just a typical weekend of catering for Christmas Parties. Lots of
funny stuff going on, but the coolest thing is the story of the limp

Mary Lou is a very creative chef. She is always trying to create neat
food things that match the decorations. Until Al came along she had no
real partner in crime. However with the creativity Big Dog Chef shows
with food and combining that with Mary Lou's zeal to create neat designs
and food decoration enhancements you get people in your kitchen building
snowmen out of cream cheese dips and such. All was going well with the
cream cheese snowmen. They look very nice with their apple peel scarves
and black olive buttons and some green things for eyes and a tiny carrot
nose. All built they are stuck through with a "STICK" and have a
mushroom hat added. Then put in the cooler to garnish off cheese plates
and fruit plates for the holiday parties all weekend.

So Friday they seem to be doing well, going out the door for the various
pick ups and the drop offs of appies and other party food supplies.

Saturday morning there is a problem, the snowmen have gone limp over
night? My first thought was like dog years many there is snowman years,
these things are leaning over and sloughing off to the left, right,
forward and backward. I did not think anything of it, but Mary Lou is
wanting to know how they can lean with a skewer as a spine. A few hours
later the answer would reveal itself as Mary Lou and Big Dog Chef
dissect a snowman to checkout the physiological problem. Al and Mary Lou
have found the answer. The STICK has turned into what looks like a tape
worm. (I am dutifully running my six top and steamer, as well as roasting
potatoes, glazing carrots and making rice) I hear commotion about the
"tape worm" I hear one of the two question what is in the cheese that it
is eating the stick away? As Zane (E.C.) walks over to inspect the
cheese that is eating away the sticks, I see Al holding one of the
STICKS and displaying it to Zane. I suddenly burst out laughing, I mean
Pee you pants laughing. As it occurs to me what has happened. I had a
bunch of Udon noodles sitting at my work station in a bowl from feeding
the crew curry beef on Udon. I recognize that Mary Lou has gone by my
station and, thinking they were the skewers I use for Shish Kebab must
have grabbed up a bunch to skewer the snowmen. Now I am about to really
pee my pants as no one can understand why I am laughing (They know I am
only a few neuron losses away from the rubber room anyway) so hard about
the snowmen. I finally spill it out that they have skewered the snowman
with pasta not a stick!

It was a great great moment in kitchen history or is it kitchen

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chicken Sausage Gumbo

 Chicken Sausage Gumbo


Went in Tuesday morning and started one of two stocks I will need for
the weekend. Had a bunch of chicken bones and various other chickens
pieces left from the Smoked Pineapple chicken served at a couple of
caterings last weekend. So into the stainless steel reduction pot they
went, finally decided that I am going to finish this into a Chicken
Sausage Gumbo for my 24 person plated at The Two Rivers Chateau and
Winery Friday. I was told this group is important and please do
something special. So I now have 15 pounds of Okra to add to the stock.
But I want more meat so I ordered in 18 pounds of chicken legs, got to
put them down in the rock salt this morning, then this evening rinse and
put them in the smoker for a couple hours. I really think the dark meat
on poultry is where the flavor is, they have bred these commercial birds
to the point all the white meat tastes the same. Tasteless describes the
white meat best. So short of ordering in heirloom birds the legs are
what is usable in my mind. Especially for dishes where you are looking
for depth in flavor!

Have to start to reduce my ham hide reduction stock this morning.

My personal bacon sides are now trig free and slacked off, so I am
taking them in to start the cure process on them. So with any luck by
Sunday all the parts of the pig we butchered will be in its "Dress
Whites" (butcher paper) and in our freezer.

I love this time of the year, I get to do so many "just do it and make
it great" recipe developments that I look forward to the mornings in the

Have a fantastic day and I will talk at you later!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

More Salmon in the Pickle

More Salmon down in the Pickle!


Well seems the salmon is getting so popular that we have to continually
produce the stuff. In to plunk a mess of it down this weekend and then
set it to smoke on Sunday. Stopped in to taste it today. I love this
product. So easy, so much value added it is incredible. Not so much for
the salmon taste (which is excellent) but for the fact that our
competitors have to match our offer of including cured smoked salmon in
their quotes against us. I know what I make it for and I know what they
have to buy it for from a purveyor! And it just tickles me to death to
arrange for them to make a lot less money then us on a catering. We are
not large enough to cover all the caterings in the area, but we are
smart enough to make sure our competitors are working their collective
butts off for a lot less money.

Was in early this morning and Al (Big Dog Chef) was doing his master
finish to the cured hams. He pulls the hide and cross hatches the fat
layer. Then paints on a glaze and braise it to a caramel. Unfreakin
believable how damn good he has made these hams. I always thought they
we great just carved but this adds another dimension. (Al is also stingy
about his glaze recipe, even to me.) plus our competitors come to C2C to
have a look at what we are up to so we can not post it. Anyway this is
another example of the value added focus that gives us the edge on a

Received a nice cookbook from Moselle, what a nice thing to do, I really
really appreciate it!

I really want to point out that I added a Maytag blue cheese to my
cheese cave! For the price it is very nice and you can make money with

I am ordering in a crown roast or two, I have an idea for a new dinner
menu, I want to cure one crown roast into ham, then do the second one as
roast pork. Then I would like to plate a ham chop and pork chop
together. But the pork chop will be finish in Fennel and the other
spices that make up my hot Ike sausage. I think with mashers and roaster
carrots maybe diced roasted butternut squash this would play for a
corporate event. I don't know, I will order the stuff and make it for
the crew for lunch see what the reaction is like. More on this as the
recipe development continues!

Had to go in Sunday for a while to put my own shoulders and hams into
the pickle. I had a pig butchered in August and did the freeze trig kill
thing to them. So they are pumped and in the pickle. I am going to ham
steak these for the house. I like a real good ham steak for dinner.

I will not be on the prowl again until this Friday and Saturday. Friday
is the standard 6 caterings so no big deal just a lot of prep and
cooking. Then Saturday a 300 plus serve for Dinner, I also think there
is a couple lunches and another dinner Saturday. So a relatively easy
weekend compared to this past weekend. Be nice to be in under more mild
stress conditions.

We have a problem in that our Wedding dates are mostly gone for the
summer. I don't know what we are going to book at the wedding show. Most
people know they need to book us almost a year out for summer weddings.
It may be time to raise prices again to slow it down a little.

About all from here, son's jazz band concert tonight, so that will be

Talk at you later!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Party Makes someone special

Christmas Parties, make someone special!


Now on to one of the coolest things from Saturday night. Basically this
was a no brainier; buffet service, little over 100 people, appies social,
prime rib and a few Chicken Cordon-bleu, salad, scallop taters and green
beans. Then a dessert line replaces the appies area for the end.

So like some many others I am slogging through yet another corporate
Christmas Party. I had part of the crew eating so I was manning the
restocking of the dessert bar. I notice a couple going through the
dessert line late. I had by now cut off the restock so we could use what
was left and get ready to tear down. The lady has one tooth and the man
does not smell the best, also some type of physiological problems are
obvious. (which is probably what has led to the social shyness of a
loner.) They are looking through everything and she seems worked up or
worried over something? I went over and asked if everything was OK? Well
she says she saw the Double Chocolate Cheese cake and was coming over to
get a piece as her and her husband really wanted to try it. Then she
tells me this is their one real big dinner out per year and she they
were really hoping to get a piece of this cheese cake. 'They had arrived
late because the baby sitter was late and they just had finished the
best Christmas dinner the corporation had ever put on, And did I think I
might have some in the back?'

I had been until that point contemplating the tear down and getting
hustling to get out of there ASAP. And suddenly rule one of buffet
service as drilled into me over the years. 1.) The last person through
the line shall have the same choices and experience as the first person
through the line. And then I start thinking jeeze this is really their
big night out for the whole year. I mean she told me as much and must
have really meant it to stop and ask the Chef about Chocolate Cheese
Cake with over 10 other dessert items to choose from on the table. And
then I remember Rule 2 of buffet catering. 2.) You were hired to bring
magic and elegance to an event for every person in attendance. COULD I
Help? HE11 YA I CAN HELP I AM THE CHEF!! And I did what I knew had to be
done, I asked them where they were seated, in the back, alone at a six
top. I went in the back and asked Al (Big Dog Chef) could he please
break open another box of Double Chocolate Cheese cake and plate TWO for
me. Plates in hand out to their table I went, served them the Cheese
Cake and did the whip cream they asked for at the table. The lady looks
at me and says, "We feel so important that the Chef is doing this for
us, his self, this has been a perfect dinner and a great night." And
there it is folks,
reminding me why I love this job. Does not matter
who they are, how the dress or what their history: for one night at
their Christmas Party or Christmas Dinner you can take charge and make
it magic for each client whether there is 10 or 10,000, solve their
concern and you are, for a brief moment, the hero and that person is
made special! And that is why I love what I do in catering! It is easy
to get tired near the end, but when you are tired is when you need to be
at your best.

A couple updates to tie up previous blog entries;

Wine Board dinner went well. The back to basics seems to have been a
hit. I actually cut the sirloin out in muscle groups and then did them
all in the London Broil Fashion. Since Florida is again supplying Wild
Caught Grouper I used that as the Surf part of the dish. Again with the
collard greens and again everyone wondering what was done to make them
so good. Astonishment on their faces when I explained the secret is to
not do to much to them, salt, pepper, bacon fat and that is it. Forgot
about my Asparagus in the convection oven for an extra thirty minutes
before loading out. Needless to say that needed to be repeated without
the extra time to have the veggie edible. All in all very impressive.
Jazz did not sound so good in the barrel room concrete floors and metal
don't make for good acoustics! We will drape more cloth next time to
solve the problem.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Christmas Party Season is in Full Swing

 Christmas Party Season is in full swing!


Well the true test of a catering menu is in what returns to the kitchen
to be dumped in the can! So how did the duck and pheasant do! Nothing
back at all. This was the weirdest thing I have ever had happen. I was
out speaking with the clients as explaining dishes. First, everyone
wanted to know about the Trout! Which is why we worked so hard to tweak
the recipe until it was special. Word will start to spread about the
trout through the winter. Next question was everyone trying to guess the
sweet undertone in my Hunters Harvest Pheasant Vegetable Soup. I did the
stock the day before, Al veggied it up for me, I was finishing it and it
still did not taste special to me, just a good soup. I was standing in
front of it thinking about how to make it special with a gallon of apple
cider in hand and I thought "what the he11." Dumped it in, reduced down
a lot and served it. Came out nice and freaked them out when I told them
it was apple cider in the stock.

Then watching the clients while the mains went out, men horsed it all
down so I figure "ok this is going to be a good menu for a long time."
The weird part started when I sent FOH out to bus in prep for dessert.
They come back in asking for foil? I'm asking, what the #*&^^%$ do you
need foil for in the FOH? All the ladies are all asking to wrap the
remaining half to carry it home. "Ok here is a full roll of foil, help
them out." I have never had everyone carry out the part they could not
eat at a company Christmas Dinner! So I think they liked it.

Word about the crew, so cool to work with a crew that is great. Al and
Mike busting prep on everything all day. Zane doing his thing and trying
to EC people who can not be ECd. With multiple caterings everyday from
Tuesday through next Sunday the freaking walk-in looks like hell. But it
smells like profit!!!!!!

So tomorrow the pressure comes back-on as the Colorado Wine Board is my
client for the evenings meal. These are the people we pulled the stops
out for several years ago, it was when we decided to go upscale on
catering and leave the utility catering to our competitors. The Wine
Board still talk about that first night when some company called The
Cowboy and The Rose Catering, did dinner, they all figured Bar-B-Q, but
we revealed to the world "Seven Courses and Smooth Jazz (TM)" with the
C&R production of The Tuscan Kitchen "a restaurant without walls" and a
full 7 course meal based around Colorado wines paired with each course
and three mains, Fish, White Protein and red protein, in this case
Colorado Lamb Racks with Cabernet Sauvignon. We are required to top that
first dinner in every subsequent dinner we do for them. And so far we
have done that, this Friday night will be the 16th time we have
performed the magic for them. The will probably never know how reaching
for the brass ring with them one night changed our business forever. We
went from utility caterer to the caterer that met with "Andrea Immer" to
learn wine, the guys the went to see "Steve Jenkins" for cheese
training, the guys that cooked for the Cakebread Cellars, the guys that
would cook anything, anywhere for your party.

So what to do for this Friday, I am electing to go on the edge by going
back to the basic, I am going to layout a surf and turf for their dining
pleasure! Complete with Jazz I think it will floor them how good such a
simple age old menu can really be! I am even plating on plain bone white
China for the evening. Every course.... hope I am correct on this but I
think it will work.

About it from here, talk at you tomorrow evening I will be prepping all
day for the evenings caterings and of course finishing the evening
presenting Surf and Turf to the group that made us start it all.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

 The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

 Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Tomorrow the Recipe gets tested!

Tomorrow the New Recipe gets tested


Prepping for the Christmas party tonight. Only 22 people could probably
do it in my sleep. But the exciting part is tomorrow. For the first time

Mexican Grits
will be tested in prime time on real people. The
supplies should up yesterday. I find this part of recipe development the
coolest. I mean you make it, you taste it, have everyone in the kitchen
taste it, but until a client writes a check for the product it is still
just an idea.

The real question will be do they request it after they have had it the
first time? When they are asking for it, that's when you know you have
come up with a winner. I really like them as did EC Zane. But ultimately
what we like does not really count until the customer says they want it
again it is just something we served.

Here's hoping it goes well and is requested for next Thursday's

Well off to the kitchen, have to prep the duck, finish the pheasant,
prep the potatoes, asparagus, and soup stock. More tomorrow about how
this evening went and what is up for Friday and Saturday I see I am on
the schedule all day for both days. I think I will bring in a 12 pack of
Christmas Corona's to celebrate the Christmas Party Season being in full

Oh and I will need to check out Al's (big dog chef) finger he says it is
getting pretty cool looking as it is changing colors and stuff. Man in
the scar world I think this will be a winner in the competition.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Next Up Lawyer's Christmas Party

Next up the Lawyer Christmas Party


So I head in today to start to put together what I need for a Wednesday
night Christmas Party. This one is really small 16 people plus staff
should be around 21 total. Hell I think I could throw this together in 2
hours, but this is my personal and business law office so special it
will be:

So far I have decided on a wine contrasting menu. I set the menu:

Merlot marinated Braised Duck Breast with a raspberry sauce also plated
with a Smoked Pheasant pierogi glazed with a apple cider glaze. Roasted
Yellow flesh fingerling Idaho's and three asparagus tips wrapped in
Smoked Pheasant cracklings'.

I think I will do the apple stuffed mushroom soup and a salad and maybe
a chocolate cake for dessert. All contrasted with the Two Rivers Winery
2004 Merlot.

Today I just started the stock and pheasant for the pierogi. I did lamb
ravioli for a party the other night. It was OK but I used egg roll
wrappers to do the ravioli with that night to save time. I am going to
build the pasta myself for the pierogi as I am not happy with how the
egg roll wrapper performed while being held.

The pierogi will be chopped smoked pheasant with a green apple pie
filling mixed into it. Then finished with a royal dice honey glazed
carrot. Folded, sealed and pan fried in butter.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Monday, December 5, 2005

Pressure is on, Chef Having us cater his Xmas party

Pressure is on Chef has us catering his Xmas party


Well one of our better local chefs hired us in to cater their Christmas
party this year. He runs the Redlands Mesa Grill. Nice place makes neat
stuff. I have known him for years, he is creative and very good at the
culinary arts. So out of professional courtesy I thought I should try
and make something special for him as well. Chef Al (Big Dog Chef) is
making his spinach rolls, Chef Mike is making Seafood Cups, and EC Zane
will be doing something. So I stopped in this morning to watch Al try to
burn the kitchen down. (He can Explain that) while I came up with
something creative to help out.

Lamb laying around, vegetables, and ricotta along with Parmesan cheese.
Ah wonton wrappers, ravioli it is!

So just so you can try it to:

Sweat in bacon fat; Spinach greens, red onion, celery, bell pepper (red)
garlic, down then add into it, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, little red
pepper, parsley and oregano. (about a cup of each vegetable) Herbs to

Brown up the 2# ground lamb with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary, After
browning add 2 cups Merlot (remember you are ruining the wine when
cooking it, so use a cheaper merlot liked the box stuff) Reduce buy 90
percent. Drain.

In a food processor puree the veggies dump into the mixer with a wire
whisk in the head. get it moving, add in 1 quart ricotta, 1/2 quart
grated parm and keep it mixing, add in six eggs one at a time, then add
in the browned meat. Taste and Adjust.

Use 3/4 oz scoop and place four to a wonton wrapper, egg wash around the
meat scoops, place another wonton on top and press together. Cut into
for ravioli and place on sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Boil off and serve with a mint sauce collected to the meat with thyme in

Taste testing in the kitchen says it worked well. Talk at you tomorrow
as I have to make up Pheasant Pierogi for a Wednesday party.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Curing Hams a picture guide


 Cured Hams: A Picture Guide To The Product


Well they have been down in the pickle the correct amount of days, today
we crack it back open and see if we made money or dumpster offerings!

Here they are open and looking good!

So up out of the pickle they come and into the bus tubs for the short
ride to the smoker.

Three or four to a pickle bucket depending on my work load. In this case
two tubs of three. Racked up and ready to roll to the smoker!

Looking close in the upper right corner of the rack stack, you can just
see Big Dog Chefs pink tutu in the crate ready for the laundry. (And you
guys thought he was kidding about his uniform!)

Everything is out of the pickle

Setting up the fire box with hickory to make the smoke

Loading them on the racks and getting set to program the temp profile

Starting the smoke

When they reach the hold temp and have their bone come up to the
prescribed temperature they should carve off and show this type of
beautiful color and marble.

All in all I am happy with this years products. I think dropping the
dextrose and going to a honey brown sugar cure with the clove in the
background is working well. I would say it must be as they cleaned up
two hams on Saturday night at the first catering using our home cured
Country Christmas Ham!

Did up the dishes and cleared out of there. Have to go back tonight
about nine and get them out of the smoker and look at the finals.

You might ask why with commercial hams would we go through the brain
damage of curing and presenting our own hams. Well several reasons, in
catering its about who can not only do the meal, but do the meal and put
the most money in the bank. (As in left over money not the turn over!)
And this allows several marketing advantages, we sell this as heirloom
country ham, so our competitors are forced to find a place to buy such a
beast. And they are expensive. Two we carve this live on the spike and
it presents really really nice. And last it is unique, no one in our
area will copy it, and no one in our area could make the taste.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Kitchen Picking up Speed for the weekend

Kitchen picking up speed for the weekend


So I drop down to the kitchen today after lunch, I have to haul over the
hams to keep them homogenous. Anyway for days I have been coming down,
preparing hams or smoking hams and nobody has been around. This time of
year weekends are it for catering. Nice to have the break, but it was
nice being in the kitchen and having people around to talk with about
things. I cut a slice off the ham and Big Dog Chef had a taste at it. He
did not puke so I assume it was OK. Zane is out with the flu but Mary
Lou was in and had a taste. She liked it a lot. So looks like people
with taste buds like it as well.

Have a Christmas party for 14 December 7, 2005. Doing duck breast and a
smoked pheasant ravioli, the yellow Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes and
bacon wilted collard greens. I have to decide on the salad and soup and
dessert yet. Anyway more as that develops. Busy weekend for the catering
company, I will be in Durango at my daughters concert. The bassoon is
very interesting at college level.

Take care and blog at ya later!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dark Kitchen Working Hams

 Dark Kitchen working hams


Well it is the slow time of the year for the catering business. Kind of
weird to walk into the kitchen and have it dark. But its kind of a good
change, took the time to do a Frittata today for lunch while I was down
hauling the hams on the bottom to the top and pushing that hams on the
top to the bottom. I have to do this to keep the flavor balanced on all
the hams for consistency.

So I diced up some pepper, pimento, and onions along with the ham that I
smoked Monday. Laid in the eggs and hit the fry pan with it. Placed it
in the oven to finish it high and light. Damn nice product, this year
with the ham.

Been called up to cook for the Wine Board December 9, 2005. I really
like working these small dinners, get a chance to do things you can not
do when you are cooking for 150 or more. Surf and Turf for this one. As
an added bonus the main Chateau is booked for a 100 person event and we
are not doing the catering. Gives me the opportunity to send our food
over for the Chateau Crew and floor the competitor as people start
asking about the other plates that showed up. I hope it is someone that
turned us down on price and went with the local utility caterer. Always
a fun time, for me not the competitor.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Hams in the Pickle

More hams are in the pickle


So I arrive early this morning to the kitchen and unseal my ham pickle
barrel. They look marvelous! I do the normal slice the face off the
first one and fry that sucker to convert the nitrate and have a taste! I
have finally hit the taste I was looking for in the ham. I have not been
happy with the last couple hundred I have made up as they are good and a
salable product, but they are not special, in that the just taste like a
good ham. So this year I was determined to modify my recipe to the point
where they taste not just good, but special. I have basically kept my
recipe the same for over a decade. But last week I pulled a rabbit out
of the hat and added finely ground clove to my pickle, but not in the
normal way, first I toasted the ground clove to move the oils out of the
center, then I put it into the heated honey and brown sugar and let it
steep before incorporating it into pickle. Then I modified the injection
method. I use the normal leg artery and vein injection method to pump
the legs. But I added a pump injection on five points around the bone.
This has allowed the infusion of the pickle to be nice and prevalent at
the dark bone meat. I have to wait about 10 hours for the smoker to
finish but the ham slab has the zip I was looking for that says "this
ain't no ordinary ham" when you taste it.

Did up another six pork legs this morning and got them into the pickle.
They will hit the smoker Thursday or Friday depending on the catering

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA


Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Turkey Carcass

The Turkey Carcass


Well the Thanksgiving weekend is drawing to a close. I thought a word
about handling the Turkey carcass might be in order. Like most people
that cook I hate to throw anything away that is usable. Hence the turkey
soup must be made.

Jack Wilson the Chef that taught me to cook was a soup chef. And he was
very strict in his methods of handling carcasses and bones. Be it
Turkey, chickens, veal bones, beef marrow bones of seafood halls, it all
had to be rendered.

The turkey method is pretty easy and designed to create a stock and soup
that is more representative of true turkey taste. The secret is to
separate the carcass of today's modern turkeys. (If you are buying these
new heirloom birds that actually have taste again you don't have to
separate the carcass but should anyway)

To render the turkey carcass we will separate the leg transport system
of the turkey from the wing (used to be flight) part of the bird. This
will give us two stocks. One dark stock for the pasta or noodle less
soup and one light soup for a noodle soup base.

I like the original mirepoix when making the dark base. So I dice the
carrots, onions and potatoes to 1/8 and sweat them in the bottom of the
stock pot. To that I add half the pan drippings and drop in the dark
meat carcass offerings. Cover with water and start the boil. Once
boiling I reduce to a simmer and add in bay leaf (Derek sent me these
Turkish bay leaves that are fantastic if you can get them) Roasted
garlic, oregano, lemon and orange zest, thyme, parsley, basil, salt
pepper and rosemary, I also add in sage leaves and tarragon. But you can
sub in poultry seasoning. Render this until the bones are empty. I mean
nothing is left holding onto the bone.

Strain into another stock pot, cool the strainings and pick out all dark
meat. In the strained stock pot add julienne red and green bell peppers,
julienne onions and chopped celery, (one of the TV guys refers to this
as Trinity, it is actually just another mirepoix), chopped tomatoes,
salt pepper, sage, bay leaf and crinkle sliced carrots and Italian green
beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add in a couple cans of
large white lima beans and allow to come to temp again. Kill the heat
and eat or kill the heat and prepare to store the stuff.

Flight end of the carcass rendering:

Using an expanded mirepoix in the bottom of the flight end of the turkey
stock. So we have celery, carrots, onion, and potato sweated out, add
the other half of the pan drippings and any left over gravy you made.
Cover in water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer covered. Add,
salt pepper, sage, bay leaf, Spanish paprika, basil, parsley, and reduce
until bones are empty. Strain into stock pot, pick light meat out of
strainings and chop. Add to strained stock, bring to boil, add in salt
and pepper to taste, more paprika and a little red pepper. When boiling
reduce to a simmer, add peas, baby lima beans and cubed carrots. As soon
as the vegetables are in add in flat large egg noodles. Homemade is
better than store bought, but either will work. Bring back to a boil and
cook the noodle, as the noodles near finish add in one cup of corn meal
and stir, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and then add
in 2 cups of parmesan gratings. Stir in, remove from heat and serve.

The difference between these two is the dark one amplifies the meat and
the taste of the dark meat. The lighter one is made to offer the
background taste of turkey but the noodles and stock are the stars of
this show!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Return From Denver, great time

Return From Denver; great time


The wife worked hard on the trip to Denver. We had tickets to see The
Phantom of The Opera at the
Buell Theatre located in the
Performing Arts Complex
in LODO.

But that was the end of the evening. We started by driving over to
Denver, no real problems, I can practically do it on autopilot as often
as I drive it. Dropped down to the
Park Meadows Mall, I love to watch
all the people at this time of the year. And I really like watching how
the engineers designed the place to handle those people and the traffic
flow they use to move then around. Over to Crate and Barrel for me, no
platters to use for this years contests and shows, no, none nada! In and
out of quite a few other places looking for platters and such to display
food on for shows and contests in the coming year.

Struck out on the platters and plates, but the kids and the wife managed
to drop some bucks on things they found.

Next we had reservations at Vesta Dipping Grill in LODO. Arrived a
little early at 5:30 PM, but they were ready to seat anyway. This place
is one of my favorite Denver Restaurants. Great food, good bar and
always packed with energy. We all had Steak this evening, a cheese plate
and wine. Total bill for the four of us was $143.00 with the tip came to
$181.00, so it ain't cheap to eat there, but damn it was just great as

Onto the play, the Buell is a real nice set up. And the bar is right
there to greet you as you enter. Wonderful time waiting for the house to
open, Bourbon is an excellent way to pass the time. Play was really well
done, I had not seen the play since seeing it in Manhattan almost 20
years ago. Really great play. If you are in the Denver area you can do a
lot worse than Vesta Dipping Grill and this play.

Back home and now working on making the left over turkey into something
edible for this evening. Stock is completed so the soup will go on after
tonight's dig into the carcass.

Hams coming out of the pickle tomorrow evening!!!!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving Day


Another Thanksgiving is in the history books, with the exception of
leftovers, and we now start to look toward Christmas. No one visiting
this year except immediate family. My daughter came home from college
and was able to help me taste the wines this year. We did get the
Boulder Creek Riesling and used it with the meal, went real nicely. We
started with a Zardetto Prosecco NV. This was very nice and I added a
twist of orange to each glass before the pour.

Got to use to new kitchen toys, first I have a new soda siphon, this
thing allows all types of things to be done. Like making any wine you
like into a sparkling wine to try it that way. Riesling is really neat
when its been sparkled. Of course if this habit continues I will need
more than one siphon and a truckload of those CO2 canisters.

Also received a Whip Cream whippier with the N02 cartridge and all. Nice
unit and makes real nice whip cream. Of course part of that is the fact
we still have a dairy or two here and one of them sells me the separated
cream before its pasteurized. This stuff really stands up when whipped
and what depth it has!

Nothing unusual for Thanksgiving, just the normal triple starch; bread,
potatoes and filling, plus double vegetable, Italian green beans and
Asparagus. Jellied Cranberry and pumpkin pie. Roasted the turkey
straight forward method.

Had 7 selected cheeses on my cheese board this year, all four of us
cleaned that up. Most interesting cheeses were Smoked Maple Vermont
cheddar and a really neat White Aged Cheddar that was sage infused. I
saved about 1/2 pound of this to do some twice baked potatoes with

Rode the horses for a while and just relaxed.

Over to Denver today for The Phantom of The Opera performance and a
dinner at Vesta Dipping Grill.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hams Update

Hams Update


Well they got in a day late. Said we missed cut off. But real nice hide
on fresh ham legs. Majestic cuts these for us if anyone is interested.

Mixed the honey and the brown sugar, dropped in a little ground nutmeg,
ground up some clove and a little ginger shredded in to balance things
out. Salt, pink salt and dextrose and mix that in 5 gallons. Stitch
pumped the hams along the bones and in the joint area. Then into my
Teflon cure tubes and pour the rest of the pickle over the top. Lid the
thing in the walk-in and see you at 5 pm to haul over once. Then again on
Friday for a haul over.

I really like working in the kitchen early in the morning. None of the
normal background noise of caterings getting ready and stuff being
packaged. Just some coffee and time to think about putting together the
perfect product for this years Christmas Hams. hope the brown sugar will
bring just a hint of molasses under the clove to really excite the outer
edges of the tongue and the tip when they are being tasted. Funny when
the hams are in the pickle there is nothing you can do at that point to
change things. Your product has to be thought through before you mix the
first ingredient. If not at the end of the five day cure period you may
have just made pork into something inedible.

Have a great Thanksgiving and take the time to really think about what
you have to be Thankful for, it will make you appreciate the holiday
that much more!

Me, I am doing the normal Turkey thing tomorrow, but Friday I am taking
the kids and my wife to Denver to see The Phantom of The Opera. I had my
wife to it opening week in New York years ago. Of course Mama Leone's
was still open then so the meal was great as well as the play. This year
I think the Vesta Dipping grill will get the meal duty in Denver and the
play I am sure will be great!

Take it easy!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Today Starts Christmas Hams

Today Starts the Christmas Hams


This morning I will start the December Ritual of curing the whole leg,
hide on, Christmas Hams. The first four legs should arrive this morning
if Sysco does its job. (which is not a given) This was one of the more
profitable recipes I have ever developed for the catering company. Fresh
Pork leg with the hide on (but hair removed) come it the day after the
kill floor had them. Wash them and mix up the Honey Maple Cure, pump the
meat at 15 percent by weight and then cover in the cure in the walk in
for the correct amount of days. Hauling over once per day until the
final day the go out to the smoker for a relax vacation in heavy smoke
for the better part of a day. It sure does come out nice and it
impresses the companies that hire us when they see that big whole leg
sitting on the meat spike and being carved live. The price of cured ham
is still up pretty high compared to pork, it allows us that extra margin
of profit that our competitors can not find in their menus. Every time we
sell a couple of them I can not help but think, this gets us one step
closer to buying our competitors stuff at the bankruptcy auction. Going
to end up doing about 16 between now and Christmas and another 12 before
the end of the winter season here. Making money with food is about the
value added, by backward integrating the curing process we bring the
cured meat margin into our own bank accounts.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Monday, November 21, 2005

Boulder Creek Riesling

 Boulder Creek Riesling


Well preparations are well on there way for the Thanksgiving feast at
home. This year is a little unusual as my daughter has been away at
college. With her gone I am missing my taster commentator person for the
things I am making. My son and wife are not adventurous when it comes to
trying new stuff.

So with Rachel back this weekend for the Thanksgiving break from college
we have been rolling through the tastings to see what can be made and
will be edible. This weekend was appies and wine.

We have decided on the Riesling from Boulder Creek Winery.
this really surprised me as in
blind test after blind test I always pick the Riesling from Parker
Carlson's Carlson's Vineyard. This year the nose and taste of the
Boulder Creek Riesling was just a little brighter than the traditional

Tonight we are testing a new potato stuffing for the bird this week.

Chef Bob Ballantyne  

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Mexican Grits

Mexican Grits

Been trying to find a unique starch to serve in the oil fields when we
do breakfast. Sometimes we feed the crews several days in a row or
several times during a month. First try was Mexican Grits. 12 batches
and 1 1/2 Months later we have arrived at Cheesy Chorizo Grits! And I
think we have a winner here. We will test it out in bulk in December.

Several things that constrain menu development for Caterings is the need
to be able to hold food and the constant strive to find food that can be
pre-prepped then finished quickly early in the morning and hold all the
way to the site:

Ladies and Gentleman I present for you tasting pleasure Cheesy Chorizo
Grits scaled down for home use.

1.5 cups grits quick or regular

6 cups water

1 pound Monterey jack

3 eggs (beaten in bowl)

1 cup chopped roasted green chilies

Salt Pepper

1/2 pound (or more) Chorizo sausage. (browned and drained)

Boil water, add grits, cook grits til finished, salt and pepper to taste

To hot grits at 1/2 Pound of Monterey jack, browned Chorizo, chopped
chilies, and the eggs. Fold together and spread into a 9 X 14 inch pan.
Place remaining cheese on top but in from the edges of the pan, bake at
325 till cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. (Temp to go to 152

Pull let it sit for 10 minutes, Serve straight.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Trout Real People Love it!

Trout real people love it!


So the trout was plated up by Big Dog Chef for the event tonight. People
loved the stuff. I still think it was a little to salty, but I will
control that with time in the cure box.

Nice event tonight, 560 people or so, five food stations. The event was
held in the Museum of Western Colorado. Lots and lots of people and lots
and lots of happy clients.

We cooked a hell of a lot of food! Great day, great job, and Mary Lou
booked a few more caterings off of this job. The owner of the real
estate company putting the party on came over and told me, we won't be
using anyone else for our events every again. They had hired a utility
caterer to do an interim job (on price we don't go low) people
complained and complained about the food when we did not do it. So we
are in!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Trout Two Its Working

Trout Two its working


Well had the trout pulled from the smoker and cooled. Dropped down at
lunch to test taste the thing. Chunk in mouth, eyes closed, what is it,
salt, smoke, little lemon, just dill....... ahhhh crap its still
wait there it is the spring water taste and man its just come through
carrying on and on and on and on. So it is still just a little heavier
than I want it on the salt. But the spring water taste is there, I am
going to reduce the cure time by 1.5 hours on the next batch and that
should do it! And those beautiful Golden trout sure look pretty with the
slight smoke covering. Can wait to see what the people do with the 40
pounds. Hope they devourer it all!!!!


Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA