Saturday, April 21, 2007

Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen Chicken Bar B Q

Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen Chicken Bar B Q

Well the third Saturday is here again, time to cook for the homeless. 
We have discussed the need to feed those less fortunate in the past, and it was
good to hear from many of you with your stories of committing to stop every
month with food, committing to raising vegetables for the homeless project in
your area.  We have even had one person go all the way to starting up a
soup kitchen in their area after they found it under served!  I applaud
each and everyone of you who took it to heart and made the commitment.

So when I arrive it seems we have all kinds of cooked chicken that can be
used.  A lot of which are whole rotisserie cook chickens.  I like
these as I can do a simple break to eight and feed a lot of people.  And
more important I can teach a volunteer to break to eight in about 15 minutes and
move on to other aspects that require more attention.  So I get my first
young student volunteer to breaking chicken down.

Meanwhile there is a severe lack of bread for today.  However there are a
couple steel cans of corn meal.  And what goes better with a Bar B Q than
good cornbread?  Noth-tin!  So I set out to make three sheet pans of
cornbread.  As one of the few chefs that volunteer they ask that I use up
stuff that the regular volunteers won't use.  So I can turn a bunch of
cream corn into cornbread today!

In no time you can easily whip up a nice cornbread batter with the hobart. 
For this one I am using 10 pounds of corn meal, 10 pounds of  AP flour, 2
pounds of sugar, 1.5 cups of baking powder, 1.5 gallons of buttermilk, 3 pounds
of corn, 3 pounds of cream corn, salt, pepper and a little hint of chicken
bullion.  Dry ingredients first, then add the wet.  To get a nice
cornbread with black Iron I always heat the Lodge skillet first in a 350 F oven. 
Sets a nice bottom and side.  So I do the same for my sheet pans, grease
them and then heat them prior to adding the cornbread batter.

One of the problems I run into is how to make food so more people will like it. 
Some like stuff pretty plain, some really like spice and flavors upfront. 
To help with that at the soup kitchen I cooked the cornbread first plain, than I
chop Jalapenos and drain, toss them on top with some Colby Jack and bake the top
on to the cornbread.  This allows the plain eaters to request no pepper and
cheese and the service line just scrapes off that top layer and instant plain


I need a plate starch for the feed.  This time of the year we get a lot of
potatoes from the storage sheds as they begin the clean out for the new crops. 
But taters are also fed a lot this time of the year, most will mash or roast. 
We will do mustard potato salad.

So boil down 55 pounds of taters and get them cooled out, then set another
volunteer to dicing them up.  This is a mixture of red skin and gold

So we all pull together a three bus tub batch of mustard tater salad. Salt
and pepper finished then into the cooler to meld for a couple hours prior to

Now I need to cook up about 90 pounds of chicken and I need to do it fast
enough that we can still put together the vegetable salad and the fruit salad. 
Both I which I demand on the line to feed these people.  They have enough
things to deal with, I want to know they received a balanced meal with the full
pyramid (upside down or right side up depending on your age) when I am onsite. 
I have the answer in the back of one of our trailers.  Meet my chicken,
beef, pork grilling friend.  This thing can cook some meat and in a hurry.

Never mind the propane bottles, we are a catering in the field deal, so some
of our equipment takes a beating, especially propane bottles.  Zane has no
caterings today requiring the grill so I request its presence at the soup
kitchen.  No problem drag it over there and cook.

And in no time I am grilling chicken about 20 pounds at a time.  Now
this is not going to look like you home grilling experience, I am interested in
grilling, finishing, and panning the things so I can get to work on the
vegetable which still needs to be done.  Here I am in master grill mode!

All in all it went well today, we fed 186 people, and had a good time doing it. 
I had talked Chef Al into making me the Bar B Q sauce in our own kitchen the day
prior so I did not have to sweat the sauce problem.  Things at the kitchen
are interesting and grilling for 186 people requires a concentration and lots of
heat many can not fathom.  But in the catering world it is pretty common. 
We used up all but about 8 pieces of cornbread, and about a dozen chicken pieces
left over.

My service line of volunteers at the opening of the kitchen 12:00 noon exactly
on time as I expect of myself!

During clean up I have a little mission of my own.  Trying to get the
grill loaded and such so I can begin the work on a dish for another blog. 
These are my beef tongues!  And in the very short future we will be
discussing the curing, smoking and recipes using this wonderful overlooked


They are in the smoker for a 12 hour course at this time.  We will be
talking about these soon.

Lucky for me my wife has decided to make dinner tonight, and so I will be
having her signature white clams and linguini and hopefully she will make the
bruschetta!  I have a great Pinot Noir from Australia to drink with this!

'Til we talk again, ask yourself how you can make someone less fortunate a
little better then they were the day before!  You will find great peace in
acting on that idea!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Monday, April 16, 2007

Winefest 2007 Dinner Course Development

Winefest 2007 Dinner Course Development

I spend a lot of time reading, investigating, and cooking test stuff to see
if we can find a way to incorporate it into the genre we offer at the catering
company.  While it may seem strange, catering is different than most other
cooking, you have to learn to prepare and cook stuff so it is presentable when
you are going to serve it after hauling it in Cambros for an hour or so.

We have had several meetings about what will be served at this years
September Colorado Mountain Winefest event.  Zane and I will split up for
the first time in a while and he will handle the Wineries event and I will be
bringing back my popular "Steaks, and Reds, and Radical Jazz!"  As usual
are grand event will be the Saturday night Seven Courses and Smooth Jazz wine
pairing dinner.  We have been talking about the courses and what to do for
the event.  I have been pursuing the development of the rabbit course. 
No easy task I tell you, making edible rabbit easy, making edible rabbit and
locating how I will obtain said rabbit, finding said at prices that fit the
ticket price; now that is a little work!  55 rabbits secured for the event,
so I know I can get the livestock at a good price.  So onto the course
development and a little R&D of my own!

Looking around for rabbit, I spy a potential substitute.  I am sure once
I get the hide off of it no one will know!

The furry pet is safe for now as I happen to have half a dozen rabbits in the
freezer.  But one day this spawn of Satan will hear the oven door close
from the inside!  So with the rabbit slacked off and ready for fabrication
the production (or mess as my spouse refers to it) gets under way.

I first remove the loin from the rabbit on both sides with a boning knife.

Then take the aft part of the left loin and match it to the forward part of the
right loin.  Creating a nice even width of meat the whole length.

Most the hard work is done now.  Little more silver skin to trim, but loins
are out unscathed by my sometimes spastic butcher hands.  But something is
missing in the whole scheme of things.  And I just realized what it is that
is missing.  I have been wanting to contrast this dish with wine instead of
pairing it.  So since I am going way earthy on this course, I am going
bright and fruity on the wine.  Merlot comes to mind.  And I have just
the wine to experiment with, by tasting of course!

Break it out along with a nice Riedel piece of stemware.

Still a small problem here!

Ah that is better, this is a very nice and extremely affordable Napa Valley
Merlot.  This bottle is 2002 vintage and is just a very classic merlot. 
But now that we have paused for refreshment and to recharge for the work ahead
we must forge on with the course!

The loins will be marinated with classic Greek seasoning, but done in a rub
style not a liquid bath style, so rub the spice mixture in and wrap it with
plastic wrap.  (This stuff is culinary duct tape!)

And so we will set that part of the project in the reefer for a couple hours to
do its magic.  Meanwhile I have removed the back hoppers from the rabbit
and set them aside for the experiment.  I grab the oven proof stock pot and
through the carcasses into it, toss it with the root vegetables into the oven at
350F for 45 minutes and start the reduction stock.

I have already taken this down by 50 percent, I am bringing it back up with some
cabernet sauvignon I had in the reefer.

And slowly I reduce the stock, never letting it boil and skim the scum off every
20 minutes or so.  As the stock reduces it becomes necessary to reduce the
pot size it is in to keep the depth such that burning is not going to occur. 
This stock is going all the way down to 2 cups where it will be turned into the
finishing sauce with a little green peppercorns.

Then smaller still for the final reduction.

Meanwhile, I have been messing with the idea of all the rabbit legs I am going
to end of with, are rabbit legs lucky?  Only if you can turn them into more
money from the same product!  I have been messing around with a yeast
method I thought of about three months ago.  I am actually marinating the
legs in brewers yeast and letting it do its magic on the protein.

Then the herbs go in to the mixture

This will go into the cooler so the yeast can work the meat over for a while. 
Ended up being three hours, then I roasted them.  Not ready for prime time
yet, but I am on to something here!  I know it and will pursue it as I
continue to roast bunnies developing the course!

Now it is time to prepare the loins for the finish.  Pull the loins remove
the culinary duct tape, and place on the work board.

I have sliced the proscuitto paper thin and have also chose a piece that has
very little fat.  Three overlayed with allow the wrap I want to cover all
the rabbit loin.

Next 8 sheets of filo sheets

And the layering and buttering continues til all eight are wrapped around the
rabbit loin!


Once it was all wrapped up, into the over 375 F til it hit 147 F, pulled,
rested, sliced in medallions and served.  I have to say it came out great
for the first attempt.  The reduction sauce will need a little less wine in
it, and the proscuitto will need a little more fat on it for my taste, but all
in all not bad for the first time at it.

And that is the start of the making of a course!  More on it as I move it
closer to a prime time real commercial offering!  In case your wondering, I
had this paired up with Butternut Squash and cocktail onions for a start. 
And a very simple rice pilaf under it.  I also made a tzatziki sauce with a
twist, but it is not ready for public discussion yet.  Both went well, but
not WOW.  And I want dishes that go WOW.

'til we talk again, purchase and prepare a meat you would not normally work
with, you will enjoy the learning experience and you may find a new favorite! 
But leave the house cat alone, they would have to be boiled for 20 years if they
are anything like mine!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Grand Junction, Colorado, Doin' Sushi

Grand Junction, Colorado, Doin' Sushi

Every year the pressure is on for the Grand Junction, Wedding Show to do
something new, something no one thinks can be done live at a show.  This
year Chef Mike Bate (Master fish chef and outstanding all round chef and good
guy)  and myself started talking about doing sushi live at the show. 
We talked about five times and decided we would play the sushi game for all it was worth!  I
had taken a class a little over a year prior to the event, and Chef Mike, he is just
one of those guys that can read a book and put it all together.  So we
forged forward to do Sushi live at events as a catering functions.  No prep
reefers in sight, no kitchen, just the two of us on the live station, a lot of
support staff and several Cambros packed with Camcool units.  Our debut
would be a party for one of our most important clients.

This kind of stuff make Zane nuts, and he constantly climbed on us about
"this has got to go right", "we can not screw this up."  You guys have to
be on your game.  Finally relenting and allowing us to do Live Sushi for
one of our largest clients.  But it never stops worrying him when we first
go live with something.  Heck you would think he would be used to it by
now, it was only 8 years ago I asked him if we could plate a five course for the
Colorado Wine Board just to see if we could do it.

So we start to set up our station for the sushi feast.

Chef Mike's lovely wife Becky also lends a hand, she is amazing to watch,
supports Mike in all the things he is trying or wanting to learn.  And
helps all of us set up and preps in the kitchen.

Set up to prepare for the amount of people we would end up serving is pretty
intense, Mike and I had coordinated out efforts so we did not run over each
other.  I was to do maki-zushi and the nori-maki rolls (Thick and thin
rolls) and he would do the nigiri-zushi. (Rice forms topped with Raw or other
fish products.)  And the prepping continues.

One of my jobs for Zane is to find the "STUFF" to do the things we want to do
correctly.  So I had to go out and find the real sushi boats, we have two
of the large boats and one small boat.  While the trend in the USA is to
use Chopsticks for sushi, truly it is a finger food.  In fact eating it
with chopsticks can be considered an insult to the sushi chef.  Finding the
boats in Canada for less than $100 each was cool.  The little boat came in
from California.  Prior to the event I purchased a petty knife for Chef
Mike as a gift to remember our adventure always!

The boat is getting loaded:

Meanwhile I get busy putting my maki-zushi and the nori-maki rolls together
early.  I know when the doors open the rush will come very quickly when
they find out there is sushi IN THE HOUSE!

With both our prep work done we turn toward building the Sushi cave, which is
actually me handing Chef Mike whatever he asks for, as he has the artistic eye
for the set.  And once again he comes through as we build this cave.

But that does not stop him from worrying right to the bitter end, stopping by
during set up for a little pep talk about "how you guys can not screw this up. 
This is very important."  Like somehow overnight we forgot everything we
had worked on and talked about.

All in all it went well, and we would go on to do Sushi live as an event at the
Grand Junction Wedding Show.  I have more fun deciding what to do next,
learning about it, and then getting to see if we really can pull it off. 
It drives us nuts sometimes, but the adventure in catering is in the "how do we
take this restaurant feature and make it work for our clients!

I had a great time, and Chef Mike has gone on to create even more elaborate
Sushi for our company.  And I am happy to call him my friend.  If see
this guy somewhere order the fish, any way you can think of, he can cook it!

And in the end we put on a great show, booked more events with sushi in a live
station, and added sushi to our appetizer buffets.  So it was worth it to
us personally and the company as well.  And we got some cool boats to mess
with from time to time.


Til we talk again, look at a genre of food you like but don't know how to make
and learn it.  The trip to learning it makes the whole thing worthwhile!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA