Like a lot of people in the foodservice industry, I didn’t intend on ending up here. Also, like a lot of people in the foodservice industry, I didn’t intend on still being here over a decade later. One of the many reasons I still am, however, is the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Child Nutrition the entire time. There’s truly not a better collection of warm and caring individuals in this world and I am proud to be a part of their family. And what I am most proud of is when my other family, Winston Industries, provides the Equipment Grant Award. Well, that and keeping me employed…
Every year through a competitive grant process at SNF, our company gives away 10 pieces of equipment (of the winner’s choosing) in our holding cabinet or oven line. That amount of free equipment could represent a monumental change for anybody, much less a district in extreme need! Covering the Southeast, I’ve been lucky enough to work directly with three of these grant winners, as well as a district in my home state of Mississippi who we helped post-Katrina. This year lightning struck again and I got my fourth winner, Hernando County Public Schools in Brooksville, Fla.
Hernando County has about 25 schools and Food & Nutrition Services Director, Lori Drenth, designated nine sites to receive the seven Holding Cabinets and three Thermalizer Ovens she chose after winning. Along with helping to feed an increasing number of students in older kitchens, this equipment will allow her staff to be able to truly do batch cooking and serve food at its highest quality. And as she said, “it’s like Christmas when a kitchen gets new equipment and it instills a sense of pride in the employees knowing their school is getting that investment.” It gives me that same sense of pride to work with these people and a company that makes money selling equipment, but also gives some away for a good cause!
You can apply for next year’s grant starting on January 10, 2017. Learn more here!
I was recently scheduled to do a demo on one of our CVap Thermalizer Ovens at the Tift County School District in Georgia. I was looking at their menus for that day to see what we would be cooking when I saw the words: NO SCHOOL/PARENT/TEACHER CONFERENCE. A frightening thought entered my mind – that no staff would be there and we would need to reschedule. Actually, my first thought was, YES! No School!, a juvenile reflex, I guess. So I sent a note to Kogi, one of the Assistants to the Director, and asked if they would be in that day. “Yes,” she said, “it’s a student holiday, but still a work day.” Awesome, not only will they be in, but I’ll have their complete attention while doing my demo. But will they be in a bad mood? Not these lunch ladies!
When I walked in the kitchen, it was humming. Every staff member was busy cleaning and organizing. I announced my arrival to the manager, and she gathered her flock around the CVap Thermalizer Oven for my demo. And just as I had thought, I held their complete attention. They were engaged, asking questions, even had smiles on their faces. We cooked our frozen pizzas on Channel 3 for about 12 minutes and they came out great. The ladies ate and we talked some more, but then they went right back to the deep clean, smiles still on their faces. I was borderline astonished. Not only are these ladies doing the job most people hate (imagine deep cleaning your kitchen and multiply it by 10), but they also have to listen to me, the company gasbag, trying to tell them how to cook in our oven. But, not these lunch ladies!
A little background on what lunchroom staffs do each day. Nationwide, these workers prepare and serve over 30 million lunches and 14 million breakfasts daily. Some even provide meals at night and through the summer for their communities. They greet rambunctious kids with a smile and perhaps the only nourishment they will receive that day. Then they clean and scrub and, for a lot of them, it’s off to the next job. Let’s face it, it’s not the most glamorous in the world and it’s certainly not the highest paying. Many of them have a second occupation and they are most likely the ones cooking and cleaning at home. It’s a thankless job and it would’ve been so easy for the staff at 8th Street Middle School to mail it in and be crabby, thinking about what they could’ve been doing had they not been at work. But, not today. Not these lunch ladies!
Remember to tell your lunch staff thanks for the delicious food they prepare and all the hard work they do for you each day. Trust me, they will appreciate it more than you know!
Summer is by far my favorite time of year. It is an escape from winter. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming. Millions upon millions of people leave their dens of hibernation for the great outdoors. But to me, there are three things that truly signal the beginning of spring: baseball, beer, and BBQ. Today we will be focusing on the king of grill toppers, ribs!
My normal procedure for baby backs would be 225°F on my smoker for 4-5 hours. But that limits me to only cooking and eating ribs on the weekends and I’m way too greedy for that. Luckily, I have a CVap Cook & Hold! This technology allows me to cook the ribs beforehand in the oven and have them holding until I get off work. I can then finish them off on the grill at my convenience.
1 slab baby back ribs
3 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons cup garlic powder
1 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
1 tablespoons onion powder
1 teaspoon rosemary powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
BBQ Sauce of your choice
1. Remove membrane and sprinkle salt on both sides of the ribs and allow them to dry brine overnight.
2. Mix together all dry ingredients in a bowl to create your dry rub.
3. Rub a thin layer of vegetable oil on the ribs and then coat with dry rub.
4. Place ribs on half size sheet pan and put them into the Cook and Hold oven.
High Yield Mode: ON
Time: 5 hours
At this setting, the ribs will hold at 135°F for six hours
Finally, fire up your grill and baste ribs in your favorite BBQ sauce. When the grill is at its hottest, place ribs directly over heat to allow the sauce to caramelize and get some texture on the outside. Slice ribs and serve!
I love food! And I mean all types of food. My absolute favorite style of cuisine is Hispanic – more specifically, Mexican, with its wealth of tradition and depth of flavors. What’s not to like?! I have a group of friends I meet every Sunday at our local South of the Border establishment for lunch and a margarita or three. (If I’m being honest, the food is decent, but the margaritas are the real draw!) I decided to mix it up one Sunday and order one of my favorite traditional Mexican dishes: carnitas. They were less than spectacular, and I asked my friend Sergio why he thought they weren’t very good. He replied that too many people really only want fajitas on the hot plate, and this restaurant’s preparation just wasn’t traditional. To be fair, one look around the room proved that he was right. It looked like a sauna with the steam rising from every table. I was a victim of demand.
I wasn’t about to settle for this disappointment, however. Carnitas is a staple of Mexican cuisine and I mean, c’mon, it’s PORK! I decided to take matters into my own hands. There are many ways to prepare carnitas, but traditionally it is shoulder meat (or leftover parts of a butchered hog) slow braised for several hours in pork lard confit style. Once the pork has been broken down enough, it is taken out and either pulled apart or cut into cubes. It then goes back into the lard with the heat turned up, and it is fried to add texture. Now, there are many twists and variations of this dish, and the part of the country you are from usually defines what ingredients and flavors your carnitas might have. For this recipe, I’m combining the old with the new and adding a splash of CVap.
2 Lbs. pork shoulder, cut into 1″ cubes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
2 small bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
½ medium onion
½ Mexican beer, preferably dark
2 Lbs. Lard or Cooking Oil
In a large vacuum or re-sealable bag, combine all ingredients.
Place bag in CVap Cook and Hold oven at the settings below. Drink the other ½ of your Mexican beer!
CVap Cook and Hold Settings:
High Yield Mode: OFF
Time: 8 hours
Once the timer goes off, pull the bag out of the CVap and separate the pork cubes from the other ingredients.
Place lard or oil in a fryer or large pot on the stove and set to 350 degrees or medium-high heat. Drop the cubes into the oil and let fry until golden brown, about 1 minute.
Now comes the easy part: eat the carnitas! I usually enjoy them over a bed of rice and beans with a little salsa on top. I also like them in a corn tortilla with diced onions, cilantro, and freshly squeezed lime. Then again, sometimes I just eat them right out of the pot because it’s fried pork and I’m impatient. There is no right or wrong here, just enjoy!