Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Dinner in Grand Jct, You Follow Along

Christmas Dinner in Grand Jct, You Follow Along


I thought it would be cool to kind of take you through the Christmas Day
with my family. I love to cook and love to cook special occasions.
Spend a lot of time thinking about things I can do to make it special or
make it different. So come with me if you care, through the day from
prep to dinner's end.

First thing we do is decorate the table. Since the children have been
little they have been allowed to help with the table set. First I hope
it will build a tradition for them that they will create their own
Christmas dinner, even when it is just them and whatever family they
create. So we start by pulling the table leaf and installing them. Then
my wife drapes the table with the new linens.

Then the chargers and depression glass dishes are removed from the 19th
century bowed glass hutch. And the table set is started.

Even though it is just us, we like to set the table for the holiday
meal. And so my wife and daughter have set a very nice table this year.

The selected wines are placed in the proper area for service. And this
year we have some interesting selections. Zardetto Prosecco is our
sparkling. I have found this to be a fantastic sparkling wine and for
the money I think it is absolutely the best. This will be offered along
with a very nice Donati 2003 Chardonnay hailing from San Benito County,
California. The red choice will be a deep Penfolds BIN 389 Cabernet
Shiraz. Hailing from Australia this bold red can take on the smoke I
plan on adding to the Pork Prime Rib.

And so the table is set for the festive occasion. Of course the Zardetto
is blocking the center piece for the year. A table looks so much more
festive with a nice center piece. And so it time to begin preparing the

First we will prepare the pork prime rib. I had taken the liberty of
ordering the rack whole and cutting it in half since their is only four
of us this year. Vacuum packing one the night before for the freezer and
seasoning one with Salt, Pepper and dry garlic in olive oil and vacuum
packing it for the reefer overnight to let the magic begin!

Now before we get into the meat prep and such, lets talk about the
atmosphere of the house. First we need the table decorated. We also need
music. My son got me a nice Jazz CD for Christmas that will be the
background. Lets face it we have heard a lot Christmas carols all month
long. So a little more normal music is a nice change. The CD mixer will
add in other Jazz from other CDs as well.

And you might as well see my brothers gift to Terry and I this year. A
nightlight that fits the season.

He always finds something interesting, last year it was a talking
Napoleon Dynamite doll.

The meat needs a little prep. This piece came in from my Sysco rep and
is very nice. But I have to prep it a little more as some of the
side chain is still hooked to it.

So we will clean it up and french it off prior to starting the roasting.
The yellow you see it the olive oil it marinated in overnight.

Here it is frenched, ready for the cooking seasoning step and then into
the fire!

So since I am trying to cook the dinner naked (minimal spicing) I am
using Salt, Pepper, Garlic and olive oil. But my brain intercedes when I
notice a little Prosecco in the bottle from Christmas Eve. So a lemon
and orange zest, Prosecco reduction will be nice to the pork!

After the reduction is ready and brushed onto the pork it is time to pan
the pork for its trip to the

Char-Broil grill.

Now we don't want to be outdoors all day watching this thing so we will
use a nice remote thermometer I received several years ago. But to do it
correctly we must bring the outside of the pork up to 165 F for 15
seconds, then we can pierce the meat with a probe and still meat the
safety standard to pull at medium. Piercing the roast prior to bring the
outside up to temp and the requirement goes to 165 to pull the meat.
Which makes a very tough pork roast.

Once the outside has reached the temp, I add in the remote temp probe so
I can monitor the roast from the comfort of the house and wine! Those of
you who read regularly will remember that in the modification of the

Char-Broil grill
I add a hole to allow a remote temp probe to pass
through the side and into the cooking chamber. We use that here to
achieve our objective!

And so now from the comfort of the house, I can monitor the progress of
the roast. This picture of the monitor was taken a little later in the
day. Like about 2 hours later. Pay no attention to the "done"
temperature at the top. You have to learn to ignore the old fashioned
rules for pork roasts. The new rules allow for a medium pull. I will
pull at 148 F for the final product. So with the woodstove going and the
gas fireplace fired up I return to the house to finish the dinner.

Very early on I start to proof out the rolls and get them ready for the
oven. Here I am proofing out the yeast raised ranch rolls.

I will bake the rolls off and set them aside for service. They will be
added to the oven just prior to bring them back up to temp. But I need
the oven space so they will cook first and hang around.

So today will be the day I break out my new

Calphalon Stainless Steel Tapa pans
to do the au gratin taters.

These little six inch pans will hold my version of the au gratin taters
this year. I was picking these up on eBay when they first came out. I
hauled off six of them for about $9 less than retail per set of two. I
think they are really cool. They are very heavy so they can handle stove
top and oven.

My twist on Au Gratin taters have two tricks to it. First the cheese is
true parmesan regiano. Many home cooks wonder why they never achieve
the results they taste in a restaurant or at a catering. It is because
many get to looking at pricing of certain items and cheap out on the
ingredient. If the ingredient is part of the main flavor profile you can
not skip or substitute it!

This is the real stuff! To prep the taters I will call on the trusty
kitchen appliance my

Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus
with the 6 mm slicing blade. As you push in
the kitchen learn how to use these processors and you will save a lot of

In no time at all you have the taters slice and ready for panning.

And then into the pan with the newest twist I am using for the taters.
This Au Gratin dish will feature an interesting background, I am using
Goats Milk to prepare the dish. I love the depth the goats milk adds to
the tater dish.

Here again I am keeping the taters as naked as possible. Using salt,
pepper, oil and letting the Goats milk and cheese do their magic. I can
not resist making the salt special, from my

Chef Stefan
salts of the world collection I will use the Australian
pink salt for just a little more mineral background. I am getting close
to blowing the goal of naked food!

Next up the root vegetables. I have decided on carrots with zucchini in
a brown sugar reduction and a nice sweet beet hash done with batons.

If you handle you garden correctly you should still have root vegetables
out in the thing. Beets, parsnips are among the roots that sweeten up
with freezing. And you must take advantage of this if you never have
before. So go kick up up some frozen beets and lets make some cool

Again I will press the

Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus
into service, this time with the 6 X 6 mm
julienne disk. This once again saves a lot of time.

In the mean time lots of joy and merriment is going on, including the
monitoring of Chef2chef for last minute questions from anyone. And
reading it to catch up on other blogs and such.

Next up our carrot and zucchini are prepped and ovened to get everything
underway for the final dinner. The carrots are from the garden which I
did a

blog about
a few months back when gleaning the carrot patch. So the
sides are now prepped and cooking. The last thing is to do the dessert.

Now we are using a char grill to smoke roast, and an oven to roast, and
we have to also do a Crème Brule for dessert. Another oven is required.
When I replaced my microwave a few years back I purchased a

GE Profile Convection/Nuker combo
offering me the speed of microwave
and an additional convection oven in one foot print. I have put this
thing through its paces and love it.

So we start the prep in the double boiler, Bain marie or whatever you
want to call it. Truth is many home cooks don't use it. So find out who
is watering the cats with it and get it cleaned and put back with the
cookware. It is a very useful piece of cooking apparatus.

There are a million Brule recipes out there. Pick one and cook it. I am
doing an infused Brule featuring Frangelica as the background. Remember
to water bath these for the finish.

Ok time for the push to get it all on the table. So I pull the Au Gratin
taters as they are ready. In there place goes the rolls for a little

And the temperature monitor says it is time to pull the pork, it needs
to rest about 15 minutes so it is pulled. Then the beets are pulled and

Finally the roast is carved and the dinner is served! Wine is flowing
and food is being consumed, what a nice dinner today!

Plating out we have a very full plate. Consisting of Roasted and smoked
prime rib of pork, goats milk au gratin taters, roasted beets, reduced
and roasted carrots with zucchini, Country apple sauce which I did not
show cause I was enjoying wine and took not one picture of the apple
sauce, herbed bread filling which also did not make the picture scene,
fresh rolls, and great wine!

Everyone was having fun! The daughter really liked the Prosecco!

Done for the picture, but you get the idea of the time we had, just the
four of us, because we took the time to all get involved and make it a
special occasion! I leave you with the image that says it all to me

I have to say this was fun, I hoped you enjoyed coming along for the

Til we speak again, set the table to the nines and even if it is only
two of you, make it fun to see what each of you can add to the event!
You won't regret it!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering, LLC

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Clam Chowder, New England Style

Christmas Clam Chowder, New England Style


And so it was that my cell would ring! "Bob, I forgot to order my
Christmas Clam Chowder from you guys." "It is a tradition and I have
invited everyone over, I don't know what I am going to do? Can you help

A elderly client of ours has ordered my New England Clam Chowder for
years now. I had just figured they were moving onto something else this
year when the order never came in for the stuff. Turns out life as a 78
year old had got her out of sync this year. A fall in November had
broken her hip, she had just had surgery a week ago to remove the pins
from the hip. This all combined to keep other things at the top of her
mind and Chowder was not one of them.

Could I help her? I was reminded of an event last year I

blogged about at Christmas
where a simple yes changed a couples
entire evening. And so it was that I would somehow squeeze in a prep and
finish for an old client to see that her tradition was kept alive!

Christmas Clam Chowder, New England Style!

Having lived in New England for a long time I learned a lot of cool
dishes from the area. This recipe was adapted to offer the Christmas
mosaic in its presentation.

Since I get a lot of e-mails for recipes, here is the recipe upfront,
reduced from food service levels to home serving levels.

Christmas Clam Chowder:

2 Tbsp spoons butter or olive oil

1/4 cup flour

2 bacon strips

4 clove garlic minced

1 onion diced

2 carrots diced

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

2 celery stalks diced

3 cups diced potato

4 cups clam broth or stock

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup half and half

1 cup heavy cream

1 pound chopped clam meat

salt, white pepper, and parsley for seasoning and finishing.

Ok a word about salt pepper and such, I don't do amounts, season and
taste, season and taste. Just learning to do this will improve your food
so much!

So render down the bacon in the pot you are going to do the chowder in.
At the same time take a small sauté and make a blond roux.

The old six eye friend does it well, but your home range will do a great
job as well. When the roux is completed set it aside for later use.

Next take all the vegetables, save the celery, and place it down in the
bacon fat in the bottom of you stock or chowder pot.

Get the veggies sweating out in olive oil or a little butter. Then stir
them around. Here is a good time to start seasoning your product!

Folks, we are doing this to remove water, and soften the vegetables. So
move this trinity around and get everything coated and softening. In the
mean time grab up the box chardonnay, a sauté and the celery to prepare
the secret that makes the chowder special!

First pour in two cups Chardonnay, reduce by 1/3 and then add in the
celery and one more cup of chardonnay and reduce by half. You may
thicken with a little corn starch and water and then set it aside for
later use.

Small Rant Time

A Chef's rant about the box wine:

You will notice I am using boxed wine here to cook with, you may hear
from "the wine snob" set that you should only cook with wine you would
drink. And many won't drink boxed wine, so what they imply is "don't
cook with boxed wine." The people making a statement like this are
IDIOTS, run away from them and their advice. They would actually have
you believe they would take a 2001 Cakebread Reserve Napa Chard
and scald it in a saute pan? To even make this statement they either
have to be fools, or have "parrot syndrome" and a very poor
understanding of cooking. Parrot syndrome like lemming syndrome, are the
same, I heard so and so say it, so I say it, but don't know why! Hey
heating destroys all that wine is.....! (that is why we store wine in
temp controlled cellars) So use the box stuff, use leftover stuff that
you opened and sat around to long before finishing. It is great to cook
with anytime. And if you get the snob type harping on you, challenge
them, I personally bet them, I hold that I will make six bowls or
dishes, some with the expensive wine you suggest (and provide) cooking
with and some with box wine of the same varietal. There is a thousand
dollars in it for you if you can pick them out correctly. Not one ever
takes me up on it or ever will, cooking destroys what a wine was and
makes it nothing more than a background depth for your dish! So move
forward realizing that box wines are good to cook with and expensive
bottles of wine were made to be drank and enjoyed by people, not ruined
by some lunatic with a sauté pan! And I have noticed it is usually
people who could not afford a 2001 Penfolds Grange that want you
to burn it instead of drinking it! Shear stupidity!

My name is Chef Bob Ballantyne and I use Box Wines!

Ok I feel better now!

Next we add in the clams, I like a pound of clams per gallon of finished
product. I use chopped clam meat no bellies.

Then you need to fold this together with the trinity and bring it back
to temp.

Once you get the clams up to temperature then you fold in the blond roux
you made earlier. Get this mixed into and dispersed well.

Now add the wet products, so the buttermilk, half and half, and the
heavy cream. And stir till up to temperature. I like to bring mine up to
185 degrees F at this point. I don't want to break the milks by allowing
out of control heating.

Last we add in the Chardonnay reduction and the celery. Bring back to
temp and if the roux did not do its job completely you can thicken
however you like, reduction (a favorite but time consuming), Signature
Secrets, Flour and Water, or my personal favorite egg yokes. Take two
egg yokes and stir them, temper them with some of the hot chowder and
add to the main pot. Mix and heat until thickened. Serve this up with
chowder crackers, celery and carrot sticks.

Just wanted to post a pic of a real nice gift of cheese this year, I
received from my boss.

I hope each of you will reflect on how you positively affected someone's
life this holiday season, if you can not come up with a name, lets work
on that in 2007 starting today!

Til we talk again, Have a very merry Christmas!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA