Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Chef's Garden, Finishing the carrots

Chef's Garden Finishing the Carrots


Kind of a great and bad time of the year. Great as everything is in and
fresh and great tasting and wonderful! Bad because the tasks for the
gleaning are just starting and gleaning means the end of the fresh
vegetables! So today we examine the cleaning of the carrot rows. This it
the last of the stragglers, ready to be put up for a winters day when we
need a reminder of things to come again next year!

So here they are just pulled

Then I wash them off

Then I top them and they start to look like something you would cook

Then they are peeled in prep for the food processor

This gleaning produced three processor bowls full of carrot slices. I
like to prepare them with a blanching before freezing them. I like to
use a pasta cooker for the task, as just with pasta the pasta cooker has
a unique ability to stack and drain for you

If you have not used your pasta pot in a while better break it out. They
get lonely when left alone in the cabinet or hanging on the rack. This
is part of the Simply Calphalon set. They screwed the set up a few years
back by switching the fry pans to non-stick instead of straight
stainless. I love this pure stainless steel set. It cooks like nothing
else in my opinion. Straight heavy bottom stainless is a fantastic
cooking tool. You can still get the set with the heavy sauce pans and
such, but both fry pans will be coated in teflon. While I think non
stick has its place, I think stainless and copper rule!

Next I vacuum pack the produce for the freezer. Now let talk about
another pet peeve I have, over sizing the portions. There is a tendency
to heap food into the bags willy nilly. I submit that digital scales are
cheap enough now that every single kitchen should have one. And you
should use it to put up your produce. It drives me nuts to see people
putting 2 pounds of vegetables into a freezer bag with only two or three
people living in the household. Weigh it and all the work you put into
the garden will reward you far longer into the winter months. I figure 4
ounces per member of the household. So with my daught at college I am
packaging at 12 ounces. And I use a foodsaver vacuum packer. You can get
them dirt cheap now at jardendirect.com. They also sell the bags in 12
inch and 6 inch rolls 18 and 22 feet continuous respectively. This
allows me to package small amounts for my daughter at college. (Hey if
you ate fresh food you whole life it is a little hard to adjust to
institutional cooking) Vaccum packing is a fantastic way to store
vegetables from the garden.

Then it is off to one of our freezers

Bitter sweet, the carrots are complete, the work is done for the year on
carrots, but no more fresh carrots from the garden till next year!

Til will talk again put a few veggies and fruits up, you will be
rewarded this winter with a reminder of warm times when fresh foods

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Colorado Mountain Winefest Friday evening dinner

This is what we came up with for a menu this year at our Friday night
winemakers dinner.

The Two Rivers Winery and Chateau


An Evening with the Wine Makers


Lamb Kebobs with Two dipping sauces

Tomato Jam sauce

Tzatziki sauce

Featuring Two Rivers Merlot


Smoked Duck bedded on Frisee with a sour cherry vinaigrette

Featuring the introduction or Two Rivers First Syrah

Main Course

Salmon on a garlic spinach bed, small beef tenderloin with roast new potatoes

Two Rivers Winery Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

fourth Course

Cayenne Apple Pie in a Cheddar Crust

Featuring Two Rivers Riesling

Dessert course

Handmade Truffles

Featuring Two Rivers Port

This year was a real nice menu, I ordered in lamb saddles and fabricated the
kabobs out of the saddles. Of course not wanting to waste anything I also
reduced the saddle trimming and built myself a nice gallon of pure clear lamb
stock over the weekend while working on the dinners. It is now frozen and
waiting to perform its magic at a feature date. The kabobs where well received
and cleared out of the house in a hurry. Next of the duck salad. Chef Al roasted
the duck with cherries and other stone fruits. I picked and shredded the duck
for the salad, I took the liberty of creating duck stock out of the trimmings.
And would end up using in the next evening on a combined effort sauce Al and I
put together. We strung and tied the loins and Chef Mike Bate steamed the fish
on spinach. I carved the beef and we all plated the main. Of special interest
was Chef Al’s purple mashers. He was able to control the heat on the potatoes so
they kept the purple color and had a beautiful blue hue to the potatoes. Last
the dessert. Using a handmade grand marnier ganache I formed just over 400
individual truffles, then 1/3 of them became cocoa powder coated, 1/3 I did in a
walnut and candy cane crust and 1/3 I did in a special Pistachio Wasabi JalapeƱo
crust. They were a hit as was the rest of the dinner. The wines were great and
the evening was rated a success.

Til we talk again

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction Colorado

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Colorado Winefest Weekend - Also Soup Kitchen Duty

Colorado Winefest Weekend - Also Soup Kitchen Duty


So the third weekend in September finds the Colorado Mountain Winefest
in full swing. And the weekend presents a great opportunity for money
making in putting on fine dining events. This year we had been planning
for quite some time, Five Courses on Friday night for 125 people, Nine
Courses for Saturday night with strolling strings for entertainment and
finally the 10 AM to 3 PM brunch for Sunday morning. Our third year at
it so we booked solid in three days. In spite of pricing at $104.00, $115
and $85 respectively we sold out in no time.

A problem arises when I realized it is also my weekend to cook at the
local soup kitchen, Catholic Outreach, in Grand Junction. I do not look
at volunteering as something that I do when it is convenient for me. So
when I took this weekend on, I took it on. Last time I had to miss while
at Chimney Park Bistro for the Chef2chef.net Scholarship Fund Raiser, I
had Al fill in for me. The volunteer coordinator appreciates that very
much. It does not dump the problem in her lap. This time Al is part of
the weekend brigade of loony chefs burning the food for all our dinners
for the weekend. What to do? The volunteer coordinator tells me she will
take care of it and do sandwiches. I explain to her that I will take
care of getting the meal out, somehow. Plan one, bring the stuff to my
kitchen and prepare it then send it over to the soup kitchen. Great Al
will help, Mike will help, and we will get it finished in no time.
Problem, ran out of time Wednesday, ran out of time Thursday, Ran out of
time Friday. SOOOOOOooooooooo what is a chef to do! What we always do
hammer it out!

I formulate a plan in the part of my head that still works at 2:30 AM
Saturday, if I am in the soup kitchen at 6 am, I know this time of the
year I am only feeding about 165 or so. I already know I have a load of
hamburger that was donated, a ton of onions coming off the fields and
about 8 cases of mushrooms came in to the stores. I also have corn lots
and lots of corn. And this time of the year fruit is everywhere. So menu
you building while dreaming the answer comes:

Quick to build

Must use Beef, corn, onions, mushrooms, and potato.

Has to be able to be finished without me onsite.

Ah a no brainer from my youth....... Sheppard's Pie!

That and a green and fruit salad should do nicely.

This kitchen contains a device I love to play with, but never have
actually used until early this year when I started volunteering down at
the soup kitchen.

A Tilt Skillet. 30 gallon jobber with electric lift. I have been making
friends with this equipment over time, fajitas, burritos, lasagna almost
anything can be made in quantity in this wonderful piece of equipment.

So ground meat in, browned and drained, onions added, mushrooms added,
seasoned. Ready to go, at the same time potatoes made, and corn heated.
Stack of four inch hotel pans sprayed with release. Shovel in the ground
beef, spread it, corn and other assorted veggies and spread, top with
mashers and spread, place them in the convection at 325 F. Calibrate
thermometer and teach volunteer how to temp the pies. Please pull at 155
F and place into the ovens under the range. I have them set to hold at
150 F. Ok I have to go cook another dinner, thanks for coming in all of
you and I will see you next month!

Out the door I head. Not bad and it is only 8:15 AM plenty of time to
spend getting the nine course together for this evening!

I just wanted to point out with this story that to many times I see
people who volunteer, but really mean "if I have the time I will try and
help out." I don't believe in that thinking, I think if you say you will
do it, short of death you should see it through. Whether that is making
sure you have cover when you can not make it, or setting the alarm early
after a 3 AM arrival home, you get the job done because you gave your
word you would. And the homeless or whomever you are helping out should
not be secondary, they are a priority just like any other customer!

Til will talk again make up a Sheppard's pie and have a classic meal. It
warms up for seconds a day later real well.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado