Saturday, October 27, 2007

Scallops and Shrimp with Chourico

Scallops and Shrimp with Chourico

Special Today!  Scallops and Shrimp with Chourico

Since it is Tuesday here in the grand valley, the fish trucks have arrived
from California.  So it is the best day to purchase seafood.  I
wandered down to the market to take a look at what came in on the trucks. 
I picked a few shrimp up and a smattering of scallops.


Once the are cleaned, I ice them down til it is time to cook them. 
Seafood's most common problem is being over cooked.  If you find yourself
eating seafood with the consistency of window caulking or gum eraser quality,
someone fell a sleep at the switch and cooked the crap out of it.  While
that is on ice, I set up to do the vegetable, since that will take the most
time.  I toss the rice in the rice cooker as soon as I am done with the
seafood prep, so it is already steaming.

Since this years vines produced an incredible about of acorn squash I have
plenty on hand.  I have been on the mission to develop some vegetable
dishes that are useable through the winter.  I have some ideas!!!

I lop the top off and seed the sucker.  Most people split them through
the stem.  I like the presentation of them topped and seeded.  A small
slice off the bottom allows them to sit flat, both for roasting and for plating.

I have selected a little butternut squash, a small amount of Mayan sweet
onion, the acorn squash diced and some craisins.  Still does not seem
balanced to me, need some zip.  I know...........

Chourico sausage, a nice textured, well seasoned Portuguese sausage.  I
get mine shipped in from Gaspar's out of Rhode Island.  This will do nicely
along with a little salt, pepper, and a hint of fennel and cardamom.

Into the Ziploc steamer bag, and 8 minutes later it will be ready for
roasting.  I always steam first and the roast as a second step.  I
like the mouth feel better of roasted vegetables if they have been steamed prior
to roasting.

While that is steaming it is time to choose a wine.  Looking in the wine
cellar I spot a really nice Muller Thurgau, but not from Germany, this one hails
from the Northeast corner of Italy.  Nice light honeysuckle with meyer
lemon on the nose, and a beautiful melon taste with a little lemon on the
finish.  This is a nice drinking white wine!

I open it up and taste it...... yep the chef needs a glass of this now and
with dinner.

Things are getting close so I pull the seafood off the ice and pan it up in
one of my Calphalon gratin pans.  Seasoned with my version of Old Bay, and
add in a little Chourico to tie it all together.

Then I remove the Acorn filled squash from the steam bag and pan it for

Once everything is panned it is into a 350 F oven for the roasting.

And 15 minutes later dinner will be served!  I was very happy with the
outcome.  If you are wondering how it gets done in 15 minutes, I place my
Calphalon gratin pans in the oven when I preheat it, so my pans start hot and
can transfer heat to the food immediately.  Plus I cook with them on top
the pizza stone, the stone hold a lot of heat and can very rapidly replace the
heat being lost to the food.  Now ya know!

And so I set out the table for my single person feast.  Insane, maybe,
enjoyable you bet!

Now with dinner on a toast to all of you who love to cook, keep at it, the
secret to hitting the spectacular dishes is to keep cooking, keep testing and
keep refining it.  I read a lot of cookbooks, I mean read them, when you
read them try to understand what the flavor profile is and how they combine to
create the unique taste.  This is the secret to mapping the mind to produce
excellent results out of your head!

'til we speak again, put a little effort into dinner, even if it is just you
eating, you will find it fun and the dinner is so much better when you put the
effort into it!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA 

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen, GUMBO!

Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen GUMBO

Well another third Saturday and I would be in my usual spot volunteering at
the Catholic Outreach
Soup Kitchen
to create a meal for a few of God's lost souls.  I am
going on my third year doing the soup kitchen cooking.  It is a lot of fun,
like a giant mystery basket contest where you never know what has been donated
and you sure don't have a clue how much help you will have to help. Got a call
from the director Angela on Thursday, Bob all the Red Lobster donations are
building up in the freezer. Would you use it up if I get it all out of the
freezer?  Of course I will that is why I volunteer, to use the weird,
strange and "don't want to try with that" stuff that is just beyond some
people's training.  I would walk into the kitchen.

And I would find myself at my favorite part of the day, nothing but sparkling
clean possibilities at this point.  I am usually the only one in except for
Steve this time of the day.  7:30 AM quiet, nothings gone wrong yet, the
plan is perfect.... then we start cooking and you have to adapt and solve
problems.  Many people have asked "what makes a Chef?"  You will hear
lots of answers, but for me it is simple, can you run the ship when its taking
on water, listing at 30 degrees, has limited power and half a crew?  If you
can step up and stand at the helm, handle the crews, and meet the challenge all
while giving direction and seeing the standard for service is met.  You
are, if you can not handle the logistics of what gets used when, if you one
thing is the only thing you can think of or handle thinking of, you are a cook,
maybe a damn good cook, but still a cook.  The five Chefs I work with could
all pull off an entire meal with everyone around them going home.  And so
think of Chef as the Captain of the ship, can you take the crap, the headaches
and most importantly "will people follow you to the goal you are pointing at?" 
If yes, you can do the Chef thing, if no, you will be one of the cooks. 
Nothing wrong with cooks, many many are great, but orchestrating everything is a
different skill than creating a single dish.

As my volunteer crew begins to show up I have decided, due to the mix of
seafood that we will move this ship toward providing 223 souls a fine Creole
meal.  I say Creole and not Cajun, because we are not going to use native
species of Louisiana here, we are going to use whatever, which is what the
Creoles prior to the French refugees showing up in Louisiana.  I put my
first volunteer to work dicing onions.  Of which I only need about 12 cups
or so.

I can handle the 10 cups of celery and the 6 cups of peppers in 20 minutes
tops.  As more volunteers show up they are put to the onions as well. 
Some will also do the carrots.  Don't find carrots in a lot of Gumbo, but
when you are at the soup kitchen and 15 pounds are donated, you learn Creole
Gumbo has carrots.

As more and more trickle in I have the tasks for the entire meal in my head. 
And each is assigned specific tasks I need completed to make service on time at
12 Noon.  And I have never been late on service, and I am not going to
every be late on service.  This whole meal in the head is another Chef
trait.  If you have to "do it yourself" and can not divide the work up
logically, you are not going to make the meal in time.  You have people
with hours, use them to get hours of labor.


Tom's a school teacher, been with me three years, he knows the salad drill,
two fruit salads with as much fresh as we can get, then fill in with canned
fruit.  Two Green Salads with as much fresh vegetables as we have donated,
then fill in with something if we are short on the weight.  He knows the
salads so well, as the volunteers come in I just send half to him and he uses
them where he needs them to meet the salad deadline.

He has them all lined out with two greens and two fruits and gets them done
quickly so we can have the salads in the reefer and the labor back online for
the main course.  Today I also need a dessert for the clients, as we had
almost no cakes and such brought in from the bakeries.  (Someday they sell
it all, others days we get a ton of stuff.)  So Dominic will handle getting
the local apples ready.  I was asked to use the cases of waffle cones
donated before they go bad.  I think a nice apple compote in a waffle cone
with whipped cream should finish a gumbo well.

Onions and veggies are getting close to finished, so I am going to start the
roux.  While the ladies finish chopping the vegetables.

Going to need 2 gallons of oil and 12 pounds of flour.  This will be a
very interesting roux to put together.  I just love this giant tilt skillet
we have here at the soup kitchen.

I am going to take the roux to golden brown, not the normal dark brown you
would do for gumbo.  I know that a lot of the clients don't have the taste
for dark roux.  And I want them to eat well as this is usually there only
meal for the day.  I consider it part of my responsibility to understand
how to create food that the majority will eat when I am the Chef at the soup
kitchen.  I would love to go Dark Dark roux and test the boundaries, but
that could mean several don't eat it.  And so it is a golden roux for the

Now my vegetables are all ready for the pot, so I switch the crew tasks
around.  I pull the seafood that has been donated from Red Lobster for the
past six months and frozen.  I show the crew how I want it prepared and
turn them loose.  The newer ones always want to do the crab.  The
experienced know crap picking sucks so they start cutting fish. And tailing
shrimp.  This gumbo gets a great flavor cause I am using all manner of
stuff, fried scallops, fried fish, grills shrimp, grilled scallops, etc etc. 
I have swordfish today, salmon, tilapia, walleye, etc.  It is amazing how
all the different seasonings come to blend in this 30 gallon vat to create a
very deep, very complex gumbo.

I start by adding the vegetables to the roux while the crew is chopping

I will let them sauté a while sharing there depth with the roux, then I will
season again and bring the liquid levels up to the gumbo stage.  This thing
smells wonderful!

Now I am up to the 28 gallon level.  The roux is fantastic and the
vegetables are just really pretty to look at with all the reds, greens, yellows,
and orange colors flashing around while you stir it.

I make the call for the seafood that is ready.

And boy does the seafood start to fill up the tilt skillet.  Salmon and
swordfish, lobster and crab, scallops and white fish all coming together in this
skillet so that 223 unfortunate souls may find a little peace in the life, even
if only for one hour.

And finally it is all done, all the bags are empty.  All the shells are
cleaned, everything is coming together for the feed.  I had put in three
400 series hotel pans of long grain rice at 9:30 AM so we can serve the gumbo on
rice.  This is what the final product looks like.  I had to pull 15
gallons out because of the amount of seafood we had.  No problem, I called
Monday's cook, yep happy to have it, will heat it up as a soup for Mondays meal. 
Great, I like it when nothing goes to waste.

And so I present the October Creole (except I did put gumbo file in the thing
so I stole just a little Cajun for it.) Mixed Seafood Gumbo.  My 223
clients at 27 gallons of it between 12 Noon and 1 PM.  They loved it, I
mean really really loved it.  You can tell when they do cause they all want
to yell to the Chef from through the dish pit.  Cause they can see me
cleaning the tilt skillet while they are eating.  These people that use
this place, they do realize when someone puts the effort and cooks with passion. 
Gary, one of the clients, always comes to me and talks about how they can tell
out in the front that someone that cares about food is cooking.  Be it home
cook just volunteering, or Chef, they know when someone has the passion to put
out the best that can be done with the ingredients available.

I have heard from many of you that love cooking.  Many of you want to
know how to get to a commercial setting to try your hand at cooking.  Hey,
look up your local soup kitchen, they have the equipment and they could sure use
some people who love to cook.  Don't go for accolades, there are not many
if any, but if you just want the satisfaction of knowing you handled it, you hit
the goal, you spanked that meal, go down and volunteer they would love for you
to do so!

'til we speak again, when you're out shopping this week, pick up extra stuff
for you local soup kitchen, you will be helping without even having to be there! 
And a whole lot of god children will be thankful for your effort.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA 

Friday, October 19, 2007

Homemade Pizza... Anchovy is excellent

Homemade Pizza

Well my wife is back east visiting her parents, my in-laws, for the 10 days. 
So it is Bob alone time!  Which is fun for a few days and then starts to
suck, but I will enjoy the few days prior to boring setting in!  No open
flame allowed while she is gone.  Don't forget to feed the cats, don't
forget to water the indoor plants, the horses need water every third day. 
Keep everything picked up and the dishes done.  (Yep that will happen when
her plane is in the air on the way back, use a little technique I call Clean-Con
level 10 warp speed deep cleaning.)  Don't forget you cook for the
Catholic Outreach
Soup Kitchen
this weekend. yes dear yes dear!!!  Anyway after 22 years
of being trained by this women I know the details!  And I have learned a
lot of words I thought were bad words, are TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.  Unless I
use them!

So what to have for dinner tonight.  My wife does not care for onions,
so when she is gone I am having an onion fest, she does not care for Anchovies,
so they are coming out. Well while making the

Pumpkin Stromboli
I had success two version faster than I thought the proper
balance would be reached.  So I have a few pizza dough left in the reefer. 
So why not through together a pizza?  Sure that will go down well and its

Pizza crust:

3 cups flour, 1 package active dry yeast, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup warm water, 2
tablespoons oil.  Proof the yeast in the warm water with a pinch of sugar. 
If it is good, combine the dry ingredients and mix in the water and oil. 
Stir till stiff, then knead for 5 minutes.  Let rise til double, flour
lightly and knead for 4 minutes, separate into balls and place on floured plate,
cover with plastic wrap and allow to develop in the reefer overnight to no more
than 36 hours.

Take it out the next day and flatten it, do not fold it, and roll or toss to
a 14 inch pizza shell.  Pizza Sauce, Tomato sauce, 1 tbsp oregano, 1/2 tsp
basil, 1 tsp garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste.  Place 1/2 cup in
center of pizza shell, spread to outer edges with a large spoon.  Top with
mozzarella cheese that has been shreaded.

Now we have the fame work for a meal.  But this baby is naked!  We
need to get the emperor some clothes!!  So I have a bunch of sun dried
tomatoes I did with the dehydrate this summer.  4 or 5 of them in the
Kitchen Aid
Chef Chopper
and I have nice sun-dried tomato bits.  Robbed a mess of
the cherry tomatoes off the vine before the freeze a couple days ago.  So
they will go on for sure.

But is still looks naked to me, so I have to dig around a little and get this
pizza up to speed.  Oh yah I made pickled sweet peppers for the Pumpkin
Stromboli.  I can add them, I have some mushrooms that I sliced a while
back they should go well.

But still no SECRET ingredient.  Ah, I know anchovies, the ultimate
pizza topping.  I love them and I owe it all to the United State Marine
Corps.  I was in when we still had barracks and lived 70 men to a bay. 
If you order a pizza it was lucky to make it all the way to you, unless you
order it with extra anchovies, then no one wanted it.  God bless the little
anchovy it kept my pizza safe during communal living conditions!

My wife claims to hate them, but I noticed she never misses a chance to use
the Worcestershire sauce, I guess she does not know?  Any way this will
complete the pizza nicely, salty, yet sweet.  They are fantastic.  And
so it is into the oven with the dinner!  No wait one more thing, I have
some nice chopped hot cherry peppers that will add a little zip.

Then when it has cooked at 500 F on the stone for about 8 minutes it is ready
to come out.

And so there you have it, MAN pizza!  If anyone tells my wife I wrote
this I will deny it and claim a sinister plot to frame me.  It is important
to leave a pizza rest for about 4 minutes or so prior to running the pizza
cutter through it.

Now we come to the part I get asked about a lot.  What wine goes with
pizza?  Everyone wants to know, what wine goes with pizza.  I think
most wines go with pizza sort of, but there is one that I like, chianti is nice
with pizza, but it is not perfect.  Nope for pizza we have to search back
to our youth and remember what was really the perfect match with pizza. 
Pretty girl, of course, but we are talking drink her...... yes the girl could be
one tall cool glass of ........ but I digress, the perfect match to pizza comes
from barley and hops meeting together!


And so it is that I will have a few "pints" with my pizza tonight.  I
have got the call my wife made it to her parents just fine.  So now I don't
have to worry til she is flying back to Colorado.  Yes dear I fed the cats,
yes the horses have water, ah nuts, can't a man just have his pizza and beer in

'Til we talk again, bust out the stuff and make a pizza or two, we always had
fun with it since the kids could each top their own for dinner, it is a real fun
food to bake!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Oxtail Soup, an excellent piece of tail!

Oxtail Soup

It is cool enough here that the fall dishes are well under way.  So
tonight come with me as we explore the wonderful dish that can be OXTAIL! 
That is right, natures fly swatter, the tail end of the bovine, god gave the
animal a buttt cover and when cooked correctly it is a fantastic dish!  And
for you budget minded, oxtail is damn near free compared to other parts of the
bovine.  First a look at the hanging meat that made this oxtail.  My
son raises them, and once they have the dress whites on they are hard to beat
when their body parts hit the heat!

I love looking at our beef hanging in the locker.  Fully inspected, the
shop we use is one of the few that will let me dry age for the length of time I
want to with my own stuff.  The stuff my son sells commercial has a few
modified rules.  And you can see that wonderful oxtail hanging there. 
That is what we are exploring tonight.

Grab oxtail out of the freezer, or next trip to the market purchase some
oxtail, it is cheap.  I let mine slack overnight in the reefer.

While the oxtail is coming up to room temperature, prepare whatever it is you
like for a base with your oxtail.  I am going to do a modified braise in a
nice syrah from Two Rivers Winery
so that means new celery and some Mayan Sweet onions.  If it were February
or March I would use Maui Sweets, but this time of the year it is Mayans. 
I like a nice dice on the background vegetables.

I have also tossed in a little thyme and a hint of cracked fennel.  Plus
salt and pepper.  At this point the oxtail are ready to hit the sauté pan
and get to browning up.  I like to see them seared on all sides just in the
base ingredients, then I will add in the rest of my recipe flavors.

While the oxtail is browning I chopped and dice the garden vegetables I will
be using to accompany the dish.  I had a great crop of Italian green beans
this year as well as excellent carrots.  I did not grow corn this year, but
canned a lot of Olathe sweet when it came in to season.  I can my corn
southwest style.  I lump that into my crock pot that will handle the
cooking while I am gone to work.

While they are resting, I finish my braise preparation,  adding in a
couple cups or so of the Syrah as well as some basil thyme tomatoes I put up. 
This will then braise in the saute for almost two hours while I feed horses and
get ready for work.

After the time in the oven braising I add it to the crock pot on top the
garden vegetables.  And when I get home it will have cooked it then moved
automatically to 142 F hold.  Bake off a French loaf and plate it up. 
Nice now that the weather is cooler.

Enjoy this with a nice deep red wine.  I did a long grain brown rice in
the steamer for the starch.

'Til we talk again, find something the butcher can not sell and make it into
a great dish.  You will eat better and cheaper if you are willing to get
outside the comfort zone and experiment a little with meat cuts.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pumpkin Stromboli

As Chef de Cuisine at the catering company

As Chef de Cuisine at the catering company I get to fill in when the EC is
missing and run the show.  Which is the part I do because I have to, but
the part I love is being asked to develop plates for the seasons.  Last
week I was asked to create a new vegetable dish for the holiday events. The
development of such a recipe demands a lot in the commercial environment. 
I have to analyze the selling prices of the holiday functions, then fit the
prepared dish into the Cost of Goods Sold bracket that is allotted for the
plating.  So I really have to design for costs.  Which creates the
need to use the freshest, but least expensive ingredients available.  The
better I do the item design, the more money left over after everything and
everyone is paid.  This brings me to the latest vegetable I am taking main
stream with a big twist..............


Butternut squash will also be incorporated to create the correct mouth feel
for the dish.  I am taking pumpkin to a strange strange place on this
little journey!

Come we me as we explore PUMPKIN STROMBOLI !!! Follow me as we convert a
traditional dish of the Aeolian Islands of Italy.  And bring to the table a
unique method for service of an inexpensive vegetable that is fresh, plentiful
and cheap this time of the year.

As you look at the finished product of the second test cooking, you can see
the fresh roasted vegetables oozing fantastic depth as they present in a most
unique fashion.

First I cleaned and peeled the section of the pumpkin I wanted, then I diced
it.  I did the same thing to half as much butternut squash.  Little
salt and pepper applied to get the seasoning started.  This was all placed
into one of the large Ziploc steamer bags.  First thing I really need to do
is soften the vegetable and also get rid of a lot of water.  All these
squash type vegetables are mostly water, failure to get rid of it will result in
my pizza crust turning to yeck!!

After the steaming I remove the pumpkin to a colander and let the squash
drain for 30 minutes.  I need all the water out I can get rid of without
hurting the nature of the pumpkin itself.

For spicing I have decide on a fennel hoisin combination.  I adjust salt
and pepper to taste after draining is complete.  The toss the pumpkin into
the sauté pan.  Add in 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce, 2 tsp fennel seed, 1
tsp cardamom and  a little olive oil.  I have prepared a 1/2 cup of
pearl onions which will go into the sauté as well.  I toss them around to
coat everything and spread the spice and seasonings around.  Then into a
350 F oven for a 1 hour roasting.  Uncovered to lose more water.


When it comes out of the oven it should be darker and smell just like earth!

While this is cooling just a little, to help it lose still more moisture. 
And so the pizza dough I made does not turn into a big noodle by being steamed
to death!!  We will prepare the pizza dough crust.  I made the dough
the previous day so the flavor could develop in the reefer overnight.

After I get the pizza dough flattened out I stretch it to shape.  I toss
the pizza (owned a shop for a long time) and then pull it out into a long oval. 
This creates the shape for the Stromboli.  I will paint that with a little
dark sesame oil and then place some crystallized ginger I made a while back. 
I think the ginger under the pumpkin with the dark sesame oil will add a nice
twist to the dish when people are tasting it.

Then I pile on the roasted pumpkin and onions, sorry I forgot to take a
picture of the damn thing prior to closing it up.  But I put 1/4 cub of
dried craisins on the thing.  And finished it with a little pickled sweet
pepper.  Rolled it up and.....

Then I toss it into a 500 F oven on my pizza stone.

In my home oven I have to turn it once so it cooks completely even.  In
the commercial ovens at the kitchen you can just fire them with no turn. 
When done it will be a nice brown color on the outside.

When you cool something like this, condensation is your enemy.  So use a
cake rack or anything that allows air to circulate around the entire product,
including the bottom.  Soggy is not a good mouth feel for a stomboli.

When complete the Stromboli is brushed with a honey, brown sugar glaze and
cut into wide strips and can be eaten like a sandwich.  For my use in the
catering events for the holidays, I am going to make this a little less wide,
and then plate it.  It tastes fantastic and should be a nice profitable
side dish for the holiday season.

And when extracted it will present with a nice color and texture to
complement the main protein and play nicely with the starch.

I hoped you like coming along for the ride.  Developing the side dish,
main dish or any dish with the constraints of costs to manufacture is a lot of
fun.  Creating the best for the least cost, creating the intriguing for the
minimum impact to food costs is what separates the winners in our business from
the also ran.

Til we talk again do something with the fall vegetables, they can be just as
much fun as the summer vegetables, they just need a little more coaxing to get
them there.

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA