Sunday, March 25, 2007

Kitchen Changes For The Weekend: 10 Eye Experience

Kitchen Changes For The Weekend: 10 Eye Experience

is traditionally slow in the month of March here on the western slope of
Colorado. So it is this time when changes can be made and also this time
when I have the time to make a few changes. The old six eye I rescued
when we moved into the kitchen is not really a great appliance. Although
we made plenty of money on the old unit, I purchased an older Garland 10
eye about five years ago. We never did get it built into the old
location so it has sat in my warehouse for a few years and Zane's old
place for a few more. But this Saturday the weather was not so great,
parts did not show up for my truck, so I thought might as well swap out
that 10 eye. Friday was Zane's birthday so he was Unavailable to help!!!
But I figured with the lift gate diesel Isuzu deliver truck and a pallet
jack I could handle most of it and just pest someone to help me for a
few minutes on the moving across the kitchen floor.

It worked, managed not to drop the Garland face first into the dirt.
Zane happened by the kitchen to pick up some birthday prime rib for his
home dinner Saturday night, so he was elected manual labor for an hour.

I had to change the gas plumbing manifold to meet fire code. So the char
is moved to the left on the line. So the 4 eye and the fryer can move
down where my old six eye was, the six eye got loaded on the truck to
possibly get mounted to a trailer should the oil field go nuts. Lots of
work, but lots of fun.

This is the 10 eye in a forward position prior to the gas being plumbed
into the unit.

This old salamander sat above our chargrill. One thing about most resto
equipment, it is generally to small to service catering events. So this
salamander will head to the used equipment store or be scrapped out for

I had to move the 4 eye and the fryer down the line to the other end.
This would allow me to place the 10 eye next to the chargrill. Which is
where Chef Al wanted it so they could watch their stuff cooking while
prepping on the tables behind the 10 eye. This move is also going to
allow me to plumb in the steam kettle, finally, we have only had it for
four years waiting to install. But for this appliance I have to run a
100 amp subpanel first. So it will be a few weeks out for now.

One of the things that is a pain is setting these systems up. This unit
is in excellent shape, but we are at altitude and that means orifice
changes as well as manifold pressure sets. I have the test equipment to
plug into the 1/8 inch pipe tap on the manifold and can measure live
under full load. This allows me to make sure the guys have full BTUs on
the stove even when pumping every burner on it at maximum.

You friendly local bbally installer!

All in all it went well. I love this next picture, it looks like faster,
better, and more profit to me!

Really was a lot of work, but I love the business and like making the
improvements. A few times while wrestling this 10 eyed two ovened beast
I really questioned my sanity, but like most things, when you look back
at what you did accomplish, it was well worth it!

Til we speak again, knock out one of those projects you keep putting
off, the accomplishment of completing it will give you great
satisifaction, and a real good reason to enjoy a cold pint in
celebration of the finish!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen, Doin' St. Paddy's

Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen, Doin' St. Paddy's

So it happened that the third Saturday of March is St. Patrick's Day.
Since my Saturday to volunteer chef services at
Junction's Grand Valley Catholic Outreach
Soup Kitchen is always the
third Saturday, I will be doing St. Paddy's day.

A surprise when I get into the kitchen at the normal 7 AM to start my
prep. for the day's noon meal. Usually they hold all the strange stuff
for me. They know whatever is in the walk-in reefer I will turn into a
meal. But today will be different as a retired Irish Priest has donated
corn beef and the cabbage for the meal.

So for the first time at the soup kitchen I will be working with food
that was not served first somewhere else! This is great! It being spring
break here I have no idea if my normal crew of high school students will
be showing up. So I hammer into the meal prep full speed expecting a lot
of them not to show up.

First I fire up the hoods, ovens, and the tilt skillet! Then start to
pull the corn beef from the packages. They are all point cuts.
Immediately I realize that I will have to carve in advance for the
service line. In the ten years I have been with Zane, I have cut a lot
of beef brisket. Cut correctly it is a wonderful delight, watch someone
cut it wrong and serve it, and it is an absolute nightmare to chew. So
how will I prep? Salt, black pepper, bay, thyme, mustard, and four types
of whole peppercorns, including white, yellow, pink and some type of
gray one I don't really recognize.

Searing the meat first is a must as I will be roasting the meat
separately so I can finish it and slice it whilst the cabbage and taters
are "doing their thing" in the tilt skillet.

This is a fairly large piece of equipment, so I will be doing case and a
half at a time till I get through the 120 pounds of beef. I know I have
mentioned it in the past, but this is one handy piece of equipment.

After I sear the meat I have elected to pan in 4 inch hotels for the
final roasting to temp in our convection oven. Now 8 am and only one
volunteer has arrived. Going to be a tight one today if I don't have my
normal crew. But I am only expecting 188 people based on the last two
days service counts. So not really a problem if I can just get two
others to show up. In the hotel pans I have placed all the beef for
maximum exposure to the heat. Minimizing overlap will help everything
cook at the same rate of temperature gain.

After searing is complete I am going to deglaze the tilt skillet and
bring up an au jus to baste the brisket in for the roasting.

A little water and a balancing of the salt level pulls together a decent
glaze for the brisket in its roasting phase.

Flip the switch and bring the tilt in the air, catch the magic solution
with a large handled sauce pot and we are ready to baste for the oven.

After I get the baste evenly across all five pans they are into the
convection at 350 F till I see 144 F. Then pull for carry over.

Then just as I was about to make a couple phone calls to pull in some
favors for volunteers a husband and wife show up looking to help. Ah 4
of us now, 188 and three hours to service, piece of cake.

Chef thought:

I get asked a lot what makes a chef a chef and a cook a cook and how do
you tell them apart. While the title Chef can be claimed by anyone that
cooks in the USA, I separate the two at the level of total kitchen
management. A Chef, can look at a situation, survey the equipment,
survey the meal, and decide in their head on the fly what needs to be
done, how to get it done, with what equipment, and in what order to
ensure that equipment is fully utilized, all while applying the labor
available, to the tasks that require completion, in the proper order and
places to accomplish the complete mission.

Get to an Executive Sous, Chef de Cuisine or Executive Chef and they can
perform all the above plus also solve problems, understand the costs,
develop the menus with profit margin in mind. Generally, to me, all the
management titled level chefs have a handle on costs in the kitchen,
plus the above skills. They are mindful of the kitchens equipment and
know when it is not acting correctly.

Professional cooks can be relied on to accomplish the production of the
specified menu with minimum supervision. But generally concentrate on
their specific cooking tasks. If you want to work on the Chef skills
volunteer at a soup kitchen, you get to look at the big picture, do the
menus, arrange all of the above and then some. Tons and Tons of fun! At
least for me.

The best position? To me it has to be Chef de Cuisine, all the fun, all
the management, all the menu and food stuff, without the nasty
paperwork, ordering, billing, etc. Chef de Cuisine is about the kitchen
producing professional food and that is the focus you bring to bore on
the days production. At least in the catering kitchen!

Chef thoughts closed!

As the chef, when volunteers start showing up I have things for them to
do, it is all in my head and I am constantly filling in info, where are
you with that?, etc etc. Now in a soup kitchen you don't get a lot of
culinary trained people. So other chefs are rare, professional cooks
even rarer, you do however get some great home cooks, while not at the
level of a professional cook, they can, with a little guidance put out
some amazing things. This couple loves to build and eat salads at home,
and so it would be that they achieve for the day the title "cooks
ensalada!" After a lot of years of cheffing and managing you get used to
doing your tasks and watching over everything else that needs to come
together. Correcting, teaching and/or helping when necessary.

While I turn them to the salads, I hammer out the cabbage. I had my
first volunteer quartering potatoes while I seared the meat. This is all
going to come together so cool! And yes, you really feel that in your
mind, at one point you know everything is on schedule and moving and you
realize, "this is so cool!" Or not, maybe for everyone, but I love what
I do and I love doing it so to me I still get the elation from
realizing, yep hammering this thing out of the park again!

After this potato layer another cabbage layer on top, and all the left
over marinade is then poured over the cabbage. Tilt skillet to 375 F and
lid shut. Let steam do its wonderful magic.

Meanwhile back to the beef. Pull the pans, flip the brisket.

A little further maillard reaction for the other side of the meat. The
searing does most of it, but the roasting adds to it as well.


The complex reaction between reducing sugars and the amine groups of
amino acids along with proteins is called the Maillard reaction. This is
named after the French chemist who discovered it in about 1912. It is
recognized as an important factor in determining the color, aroma, as
well as the nutritional value of many foods. The reaction causes the
condensation of a reducing group of "a carbohydrate and an amino group"
from a protein or amino acid results ultimately in a compound of low
solubility. The double bonds of the products of this reaction (really an
intense series of reactions) account for their brown or yellowish color.
Hey now ya know why steak is brown when seared!

When I first go into the place I noticed no cakes or desserts were in
the donor pantry. So I had to come up with a dessert. What kind of green
dessert? Looking around I found some pistachio pudding. My wife has this
pistachio cake she makes that I love, I call it "the green cake" and it
is just the thing for St. Paddy's day. So while the beef was roasting I
had the early volunteer prep some cake, telling him the instructions
while chopping cabbage. Then had my second volunteers make a nice green
powder sugar and Crisco icing for it. (hey you don't do butter cream at
a soup kitchen, ain't in the budget!)

You can see the plated cakes on the line. This is my line for the day.

Just as I was figuring on some longer clean up, the two main dishwasher
volunteers show up and start to clean everything in sight! I was very
happy to see the dish washers show up. Takes a while to do that end of
it, so they could work on the pots and pans, while I cleaned my cooking
equipment. Tilt skillets are fairly easy to clean, but I like the thing

My first guest would be non other than our benefactor for the day. I
very nice retired priest who wished not to be named, but was happy to
come taste what we created and watch everyone enjoy the meal!

Thank you Father for the donation, it was great to cook for these people
again. And even better that they too could celebrate a little bit of the
Irish, maybe the year will bring them the luck of the Irish as well and
they will find themselves in a better place as the year progresses.

'Til we talk again, find some time to volunteer, the rewards are
excellent. If your a professional chef or cook, you will find your
skills highly valued and you can have the time of your life teaching
people to make good food. Hey they're volunteers, they want to be with

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Colorado Chef and the Garden, A Beautiful Thing!

Colorado Chef and the Garden, A Beautiful Thing!


So it got warm today, not as warm as you nice climate folks, but pretty
nice. So after helping my daughter pack and getting her on the way to
college again, I just had to be outside. I know many of the regular
readers will find it hard to believe I like being outside. Well with my
wife and son visiting my MIL back east, I get bored. I make myself busy
wandering around taking apart the stock tank heaters and putting them
away for the year. Filling the wine barrel fountains as the wood will
need water to fill out and seal. Cleaning horse pens and moving hay for
the week. Filling bird feeders and cleaning the rest of the stock tanks
for the various animals. When I hear the wonderful sound of a diesel
running. My neighbor has rented the backhoe. We take turns renting the
backhoe. He rents the early rental so we can finish the irrigation
inflow ditch and the return water ditches. I rent the late season so we
can clean up all the things we screwed up through the summer. Each of us
always has only half a days work for the machine, so it works out for us
to share the thing when we get it.

So what is a chef to do? Start the garden. I have a lot of globe willow
trees. Which near as I can tell, globe willow, is Latin for makes many
many many sticks in yard! Any I have taken to chipping the limbs and
using the organic material for the garden. Same with the waste from the
steers, etc. Everything gets turned under.

So first we start moving massive amounts of wood chips.

10 loads into the garden. This should bring the organic level up a lot.
It does a lot of good to add this kind of stuff into the truck patch.
For one it will hold a lot of moisture, in the desert you really
understand that and like it.

All the steer crap is scooped up after sitting for a while and placed
into the garden. I don't use all of the stuff, I have to save some for
Big Dog Chef and his gardens. So when I tell you guys I give Al sh1t, I
mean it!

Then I fire up the NAA Ford and start discing it into the soil. As I
make more and more passes the material begins to break up and mix into
the soil.

As you can see off in the distance, just about everyone is out digging,
burning, or cleaning something up.

When the sun sets the ground will rest. After a week I will then til it
under with a moldboard plow. That will put it down deep where it can
compost. And bring up what I put under last year for the roots this

Kind of a short one, but after a few installments you should get a
picture of running a truck patch.

Til we talk again, dig out a few seed catalogs, they hold the promise
that spring is nearly here!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Colorado Lamb For Dinner, Fabricate and Eat!

Colorado Lamb For Dinner, Fabricate and Eat!

Since my daughter is back from visiting her grandmother in New Hampshire
and I took my wife and son to the airport for their week visiting New
Hampshire this morning. We needed to make something for dinner. I think
it was berndy that indicated lamb should be on the menu in one of his

So I got out and slacked what was labeled as a lamb rib rack. However,
sometimes my butcher plays a game on me. Or just screws up in this case.

As I got the wonderful farm raised lamb out of its dress whites I knew
something was wrong. Not with the meat, but the labeling was, shall we
say, a little further forward than the actual cut occupying the package.

This was suppose to be my rib rack. However no bones to French on this
cut. Looked at it and discover the butcher labeled a half saddle (short
loin) as a rib rack. Not to worry, Colorado lamb is still Colorado lamb
we just have a little more work to do with this piece. It was actually
going to work out fine for the daughter and I as I normally get the
saddles whole and fabricate them into a boneless double loin roast. This
would give me a chance to try and fabricate the single.

So I boned it out and ended up with the loin, and the smaller
tenderloin. I center and roll cut the loin and place the tenderloin in
the center.

Then the normal running chain stitch to get it ready for the


Of course the bones do not go to waste, set up the stock pot and since I
was doing the lamb Greek, seasoned up the stock to follow as well.

Then it was out to the

for the sear on the outside, then to the heat smoke side
for a little oven time. The double cooker made by Charbroil is about the
best smaller charcoal cooker I have ever owned. The more I use this
thing the more I really appreciate having that firebox with the grates
as well as the large cooking, smoking chamber.

Anyway out of the charbroil the lamb comes, along with potatoes, peppers
and onions in a black iron skillet and it is ready!

Then to cut and serve

This lamb was pulled at 128 F and allowed to sit for 8 minutes prior to
cutting. I can get away with the sit time on the lamb here because I
surround it with potatoes. The heavy starch potato really holds heat
well and as such keeps the fabricated boneless half loin roast warm
while we get ready to eat.

And what does the college chick think of it?

I am thinking she liked it. We had the lamb with a Penfolds Cabernet
Sauvignon. Which kind of left our Greek theme a little ways, but that is
what we both wanted to drink.

Til we talk again, grab up some lamb at the market. Ask the butcher for
the loin roast or a rib rack, don't let them make loin or rib chops, to
little to handle correctly at home, get it as a roast and cut the chops
tableside, you will be a lot happier with the outcome, and you will find
out why the rest of us rave about lamb!

Slip the cork on some wine!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Saturday, March 3, 2007

New York Cured Smoked Lox Picture Guide For Salmon

New York Cured Smoked Lox Picture Guide For

The name Lox?

Well many different theories are around about its beginning name. Most
come back to the fact German’s made the cured fish in New York in the
early 19th Century and so many feel it was the German name for Salmon
that led to it being called lox Basically the word may have been derived
from the Yiddish lox ("salmon")–which is a cognate of Icelandic (lax),
Swedish (lax), Danish/Norwegian (laks), German (Lachs), and Old English
(læx) so you can take your pick of where you think it came from, but it
always means cured salmon.

Types of Lox?

To smoke or not to smoke? First one must realize why smoking of meats
was done. In the early part of the 19th century refrigeration was none
existent. Smoke is a natural fly repellant and so many many meats were
smoked to keep flies off them during the holding times through the
summer. Because so much additional flavor is imparted on the product
when it is smoked, smoking also became part of the flavor profile for
particular foods. Bacon, Ham, sausage and Salmon being the most common
to carry a smoke flavor component. In the end lox can be smoked or not,
depends on the appetizing-store you grew up visiting with Mom!

Belly Lox: Dry cured in Salt or Cure Salt, and sugar, then lightly cold
smoked, this is a heavy salt salmon

Nova or Nova Scotia Lox: Brine cured either Scot’s style (dry brine) or
wet cured then cold smoked, not nearly as salty as the belly lox and
preferred by many of the next generation Jewish people.

Gravad Lax: Scandinavian, rub cured and will contain spices in the
mixture, usually associated with the presents of dill weed as a spice.
You will hear this referred to as gravlax and is perhaps one of the
oldest methods for curing the salmon.

Last Cure salt, I use cure salt with contains sodium nitrite to
chemically cook the fish. This method was preferred in the area I grew
up in because it will handle pathogens and parasites with vigor.
Rendering a safe product every time.

For the recipe and the steps to making lox. Lox recipes that do not
include the step instructions are incomplete, the steps and times are as
important as the spicing used. First a word on lox recipes, there are as
many recipes for lox as there are colors in the world. So if yours does
not match this one go forward knowing, “it’s ok” you will still make
lox. I am following a recipe and method I learned from a German butcher
in Pennsylvania, I have in turn also changed that a little to suit my
taste. I am using the methodology I learned as a kid helping the
butchers and have also modified that to take into account how I want the
salmon to taste. Along the way I am going to explain how to adjust the
methods to help you understand how to adjust the taste.

So on with the ingredients:

1 tsp cure salt (pink salt 6.25 percent sodium nitrite)

½ cup kosher salt

1 tbsp white pepper

½ cup white sugar (some use brown sugar for the extra molasses flavor)

mix the above into a dry ingredient rub.

2 salmon fillets,

, chilled, and clean.

Pro Tip: Porosity; all meats have porosity, for consistent products we
like to know that the porosity is the same every time. So I always brine
my salmon fillets in ice cold salt water for 30 minutes to insure I
start with the same porosity every time. Fail to do so at your own
peril! (one gallon warm water, stir in all the salt it will take, (til
salt lay on the bottom) and then ice it down to 32 F)

Zest an orange and a lemon and reserve the zest.

Dredge the salmon through the mixture. Spread half of the remaining
cured mixture on the area where the salmon fillets will lay. Then spread
half the orange and lemon zest under the area you will place the salmon.
Now lay the fillets flat in a plastic box on top of the zested cure
area. After fillet placement spread the remaining mixture over the
salmon evenly, then use the remaining zest to coat the top of the

Place a nice size maple board on top of the fillets in the plastic box
and apply 3 pounds of weight to the top of the board. I am using ice in
a Ziploc freezer bag for the weight. Because I want things cold and ice
is a safe food to use as a weight.

Now you will allow this to sit in the reefer for 48 hours. This requires
a modification of my beer refrigerator in the garage. I must remove the
beer from my shelf to make room for the salmon box.

After the 48 hour curing time you will pull the salmon and wash it off.
Then we start the step that most books and people leave out.

Pro Tip: Desalinization is important in all curing and smoking. And it
is the most unspoken of the curing secrets. People offer their recipes,
they offer their smoking methods, but almost none speak of the
desalinization step. Even in the most well written books you will see
this step skipped. It is the “black art” of curing that remains a secret
insuring your cure will never turn out as well as the Pros! Bacon, hams,
sausages, all need to be desalinated to achieve the correct taste.

Here I am going into the ice water desalinization step. I will allow the
lox to sit in the ice water for 90 minutes. In my younger days of curing
I would collect the water sample every 15 minutes and use a specific
gravity bulb to measure the amount of salt removed from the product. Now
I am to the point where I can just taste the water and know how much I
have removed. I use ice water so I know the removal rate is the same.

Once the freshening step is complete it is into the reefer to dry. I use
a large cake cooling rack with paper towel under it to dry the fillets.
I dry for 36 hours.

Once dry we are ready to smoke. The thing that makes lox is the mouth
feel. So lox must be cold smoked. That is to say we take steps to insure
the product never goes above 90 F while smoking. This is referred to as
cold smoking. The nitrite has “cooked” the salmon and is rendered
harmless as a nitrate. So all we are looking for here is: water removal,
shrink the protein enough to tighten it up and during the tightening to
have the protein pull in some smoke! I am smoking here under light smoke
for 4 hours.

Once the smoking is complete I return the lox to the reefer for
chilling. I chill for 24 hours.

I will separate the belly from the dorsal for the first fillet so you
can see the difference in belly lox and what is commonly referred to as
Nova. But realize most Nova was the complete fillet. However in the
early days of commercial food the Dorsal was worth more money to the
restaurants than the belly, so the restos got the dorsal fillets for
meals and the delis got the bellies for lox.

Now that we have prepped we slice and package!

The use of lox is for many purposes, the most common I have included
below. A New York water bagel, schmeared with Phila. Brand cream cheese,
topped with lox and a thin slice of onion, cut in half!

‘Til we speak again, purchase a little lox and some bagels, it is a very
nice way to start the day. And a little more at noon will get you
through the day with energy to spare!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA