Read an Excerpt
the ONE PAN galley gourmet
simple cooking on boats
By Don Jacobson, John Roberts
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2004 International Marine
All rights reserved.
a Philosophy of Cooking
It seems there are two approaches to eating on a small cruising boat (by "small," we mean any boat measuring from about 18 to about 40 feet). The first approach is represented by advocates of keeping everything simple, which more often than not means eating largely out of cans or packages. The other is the "hot-food-at-every-meal" philosophy, regardless of weather or sea conditions.
Frankly, we find neither one of these approaches appealing. The notion of eating out of cans is OK if there's no other choice (in the midst of a gale, for example). But going to sea armed with a can opener and a spoon is simply unacceptable under normal cruising conditions as far as we're concerned. And that holds whether we're cruising for a weekend, a week, or a year.
The proponents of keeping it simple say that the cook should spend as little time in the galley as possible. And we can understand that. After all, the gastronomic pleasures from eating Beefaroni and canned green beans aren't worth much time spent in the galley. On the other hand, the mouthwatering enjoyment of dining on Beefy, Cheesy Elbows (see recipe on page 116) is worth every bit of the 20 to 30 minutes it takes in the galley to prepare it.
As for the "hot-food-at-every-meal" ideal, it strikes us that stories we've heard or read of hardy seagoing cooks who produce hearty, hot, three-course belly-busters as their 38-foot sloops race through a gale with a triple-reefed main and a storm jib are simply that—sea stories.
Moreover, from a practical perspective, trying to turn out a hot meal under adverse sea conditions—even including lying to anchor in a choppy, windswept anchorage—is not at all appealing. With the boat being tossed, rolled, and slapped by waves, trying to cook and serve hot food—not to mention trying to eat it—can be downright dangerous. And we've got the burn scars to prove it.
So we need to look at galley cooking another way.
This epicurean philosophy starts with the fact that we like to eat good food—food that earns the cook compliments and, as suggested previously, food that is so delicious to eat that the pleasure it gives makes every minute spent in its preparation worthwhile.
It also means using fresh food whenever possible. Added to that is a preference for keeping cleanup easy, which most often means using only one pot (or pan).
Our preference for fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits on board is not as unrealistic as it may appear at first glance. Most people spend a major part of their cruising time either at anchor within dinghy distance of a grocery store or in a marina, where transportation to the store is readily available.
Moreover, when we're away from a source of fresh foods, usually it is for only a few days to a week—in other words, a short enough time that we can usually stock up on fresh foods to carry us through those days. If, in the end, we need to dip into our canned reserves, that's fine. But even then a little creativity and planning ahead will enable us to do a lot better than eating straight from a can.
DIET AT HOME ... EAT ON YOUR BOAT
You need calories when you are on the water. Think about it for a minute. The boat is always moving—maybe only a little, but it is moving. And every time the boat moves, your body moves to adjust for the boat's motion. Your muscles are in action constantly. Which means that you are working constantly—even when you're just sitting there. And even when you're sleeping. That's one reason people usually find that their appetites seem larger on the water.
This means that you should plan for three hearty meals a day plus plenty of snacks. A good breakfast will get you up and going faster than any splash of seawater and will keep you going longer. Lunch can be a little lighter if you want, but try to hit the four basic food groups.
Fruit can have a special role. Apples, pears, and peaches are Mother Nature's no-need-to-cook, ready-to-eat, tasty convenience foods. They're also healthy, something you can't say for most prepackaged snacks. If you'll be away from civilization for too long to keep the fruit fresh, dried apricots, peaches, apples, and plums (we used to call them prunes!) make great snacks as long as you don't eat them all in one day.
Then there's dinner. The end of the day. Watching the sun set from your cockpit while dining alfresco.
Fill the crew's plates—and thus their stomachs—with deliciously prepared fresh food, and the planets will align and the music of the heavenly spheres will accompany the setting sun.
Cooking for nourishment, though, can and should be fun. Time spent in the galley should be just as rewarding as time spent in the cockpit, at the helm, or in any other activity on the boat. And a major part of galley time ought to involve food preparation. As far as we're concerned, it's not drudgery to add freshly sliced veggies to a broth simmering around a couple of succulent chops. In fact we savor those moments as much as a scenic anchorage graced by the widespread wings of a heron.
Moreover, you need not be bent over the stove continuously for two or three hours. Good food should be left to itself, to blend its flavors and to work its magic in secret. With the prep work out of the way and the food in the pot, pan, or oven, there is time to take a few minutes to get organized for dinner. To clean up. Read. Enjoy a refreshing drink in the cockpit. Or grab your camera to capture the sights around you.
And when the kitchen timer goes off to tell you that your creation has finished cooking, you can sit down to your dinner and eat the way the French do—taking your time, digging into something that is really worth enjoying, and appreciating the fact that you cooked it. What you are doing, of course, is paying yourself the ultimate compliment: that you do deserve to live well.
the Cruising Galley
With fresh, clean air filling your nostrils and a rich blue sky dotted with white puffballs or wispy horsetails above your anchorage, you should be able to enjoy the aromas and tastes of your creations in a galley environment that is as relaxing as the surroundings.
That means that you—the cruising chef as opposed to the ship's cook—need a galley that lets you pursue your culinary quests without frustration or long hours down below while others are relaxing in the cockpit or cooling off with a quick dip. That also means having the right equipment in your galley.
If your boat is equipped with a full galley—defined here as one with a refrigerator or icebox, a two- or three-burner stove with oven, and stowage space for pots, pans, dishes, glassware, etc.—you can enjoy the luxury of having a full range of kitchenware on your boat. Then, after your first season of following the one-pan cooking philosophy, you can have the even greater pleasure of taking all the utensils and cooking equipment that you haven't used that year off the boat.
If, however, your boat is more modest, you are equally blessed because you really need only one frying pan and/or a one- or two-quart pot to enjoy roughly two-thirds of the recipes in this gourmet cookbook. Moreover, if you want an oven, you can have a stovetop oven simply by carrying one more item roughly the size of your frying pan or, at worst, the size of a large pot.
Finally, if you plan the menu for your cruise ahead of time, you need to take cooking gear for only the meals you've planned. It can be all frying pan, all pot, all stovetop oven, or any combination of the three.
THE GALLEY STOVE
Boat stoves range from one-burner units to two- or three-burner gimballed stoves with a built-in oven. Fuel for the stove can be butane, propane, alcohol, or kerosene. We've seen (but not tried) stovetop units with both electric heating elements for use with shore power at the marina and alcohol burners for when you're under way or at anchor.
Any of these stoves will cook your food, but we vote for butane or propane as a first choice because they have an instant and clean hot flame. If you have a pressure-alcohol stove, we suggest replacing it for safety reasons. Too many galley fires have been started when things went awry while trying to preheat the stove's burners.
If you want to stay with alcohol, a nonpressurized alcohol stove such as the Origo one- or two-burner stove is infinitely safer than the pressurized alcohol systems of old. But if you're going to replace that old stove, consider switching to propane or butane. The alcohol flame is not nearly as hot as a gas flame, so everything takes longer to cook. And that, of course, means more time you have to spend in the galley.
Kerosene is a completely different animal. John's boat, Sea Sparrow, has a two-burner pressure-kerosene stove and oven that has done yeoman's service for more than twenty years and well over thirty thousand cruising miles, both inshore and offshore. The safety issue of preheating the kerosene burners is eliminated by using a wick to contain the alcohol in the preheating cup, but few people want the extra work involved. And besides, propane and butane are much easier and cleaner to use.
You can enjoy the mouthwatering food cooked in an oven even if your stove does not have a built-in unit. How? By using a stovetop oven.
Stovetop ovens work just as well as built-in ovens, but they do have limitations. For example, you can't cook a standing rib roast in a stovetop oven. But then again, you can't cook one in most of the ovens built into the stoves on small boats, either; they're far too little. So compared with most small-boat ovens, the limitations are modest.
One stovetop oven that a cruiser can borrow from the world of camping is the Outback Oven (call Backpackers Pantry at 303-581-0518 or go to www.backpackerspantry.com). It consists of (1) a bottom metal plate designed to radiate heat from the stove's burner into the "oven" and to diffuse the heat evenly over the bottom of the pan; (2) a low ring-stand whose three legs fit into a bottom plate to support the oven about 1/2 inch above the plate; (3) a nonstick 10-inch frying pan with a domed lid and without a handle; (4) a thermometer that is screwed onto the top of the lid; and (5) a collapsible "tent" made of a heavy, tightly woven fiberglass fabric that is aluminized on the inside to reflect heat back toward the pan.
In essence, the covered pan is the cooking dish. The fiberglass hood serves as the sides and top of the "oven," so the covered pan is heated from all sides. The entire unit stows in a box measuring 3 inches high and about 10 inches square. Assembled, the top of the pan's lid is barely 4 inches above the burner. The thermostat and reflective dome add 2 inches of height.
There is one accessory to the Outback Oven that is a necessity. It's a pair of potgrabs, or hot-pot tongs. Potgrabs consist of right-angle clamps that you can use to pick up a pot that doesn't have a handle. The thermostat serves as a handle for the lid.
At first glance, it might look like the Outback Oven could slide off the burner if the boat rolls, which would be a risk if in a seaway or if the boat rolled violently. But the base plate and the aluminum frying pan are surprisingly skid resistant and the center of gravity is low, so the oven should be as safe to use in a reasonably quiet anchorage as any pot. If your stove is gimballed and/or has sea rails and pot clamps that fasten to the sea rails, there's an even greater safety factor.
But even without sea rails and pot clamps, you should be able to steady the oven by gripping it briefly with the fiberglass dome if a rude boater comes through the anchorage throwing a big wake. The outside of the dome should not be hot enough to burn your hands.
An alternative to the Outback Oven that works well as a stovetop oven is one with which you've probably had some practice: a pressure cooker. Yes, a pressure cooker—but without the pressure.
You can convert your conventional pressure cooker into an oven by removing both the rubber gasket and the rubber safety valve from the lid. Then place the baking pan on the metal rack in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Then lock the lid in place (it will be a loose fit without the gasket) and put the cooker on the burner. Bread can be baked by putting the dough directly into the cooker without the rack, but the bottom and sides of the pressure cooker should be oiled and coated liberally with either oatmeal or cornmeal on the bottom and sides as an insulating layer to keep the bread from scorching.
In practice, most people use the pressure cooker "oven" with a flame tamer (see opposite), starting with a fairly high heat for the first 10 minutes or so, then reducing the flame to a low-to-moderate level and letting things bake for another 20 minutes before cracking the lid to see how the dish is doing. If you find there is too much heat escaping through the hole in the lid created by removing the rubber safety valve, a wood plug in the hole will take care of that.
In any case, you'll need to be patient. The food in a pressure-cooker oven bakes mostly from the bottom up (the lid likely will never get too hot for you to touch). As a result, it takes longer for food to bake than in your oven at home or even in the Outback Oven. Trying to hurry it by turning up the flame will result in burning the bottom of your dinner. Coating the bottom of your baking dish with oil and cornmeal or oatmeal, as suggested previously for baking bread, will also protect the bottom of your creation from scorching.
* FLAME TAMER
Flame tamers are also called flame spreaders, heat diffusers, or simmering rings, but they all do the same thing. They spread the heat from a gas, alcohol, or kerosene burner evenly across the bottom of your frying pan or pot, thereby eliminating the problem of hot spots. This process helps prevent scorching.
Depending on the age and features on your stove, a flame tamer can also fill an important safety function on a boat. Because it is most often used when you are cooking over low heat, the flame tamer lets you keep a flame on the burner that is strong enough so you don't have to worry about an errant breeze blowing out the flame and allowing your pressurized fuel to escape into the boat's cabin.
We've seen two designs. The one we prefer is inexpensive (generally about $5) and is sold in the kitchen sections of some discount stores and at many hardware stores. If you have trouble finding one, your nearest Ace hardware store can order one for you; just ask for the "simmering ring/heat diffuser," part number 331-777. Or go to www.acehardware.com and search for "simmer plate."
Our flame tamer consists of two metal skins held about ¼ inch apart and peppered with hundreds of small holes. It's round, about 9 inches in diameter, and has a wooden handle so that you can pick it up when it's hot.
To use a flame tamer, place it on the burner after lighting the flame, and put the pan, pot, or pressure-cooker oven on it. It's perfect for cooking something like rice, which needs a low heat to cook away the water without scorching the rice—difficult at best with a gas burner. Using a flame tamer means you need a slightly higher flame, and yes, a little more fuel consumption, but it's worth it.
* POTS AND PANS
In an ideal world, you'd have room for two frying pans. One would be a relatively small (10 inches) sauté pan with a nonstick or anodized surface. Preferably, it should be a heavyweight, thick-bottom pan, such as Calphalon, to help distribute the heat evenly and prevent the hot spots that typically form when cooking with a flame. You shouldn't need to use your flame tamer for everything! This frying pan is ideally suited for cooking eggs and other foods that you want to slide out of the pan in one piece.
The second frying pan would be up to 12 inches in diameter and have relatively high, straight sides. It would have a nonstick surface and a thick bottom, too, but a stainless steel pan with a thick-clad bottom also would work well. If it has a lid, all the better. This pan would be well suited to frying foods and to preparing larger meals. If, however, you don't have space to carry this second frying pan, you can use a 2-quart pot in its place.
Speaking of going to pot(s), although a 1-quart pot will do for most of the recipes here, a 2-quart pot gives you more flexibility. Again, we suggest a thick bottom and a nonstick surface or stainless steel.
* PRESSURE COOKERS
If you've got the space, a pressure cooker is a great seagoing pot, whether or not you want it for a stovetop oven. It's a pot that some of us haven't seen used since our mothers or grandmothers were cooking for us, but many cruisers have found them to be very useful additions to their galley. Plus, there's nothing better for cooking dried beans (don't forget the garlic!).
If you don't already have a pressure cooker, take a ruler or tape measure along when you go shopping. We suggest looking for one with an inside diameter of 10 inches—big enough for a 9-inch cake pan to fit loosely (make sure your cake pan doesn't have "handles" that add an inch or so to its size!). At the least, you'll want it to fit an 8-inch cake pan comfortably.
Your new pressure cooker will come with an instruction book, which you should read and carry with you. Along with instructions for using your pressure cooker safely and tables of suggested cooking times for different foods, it will have a number of recipes you can try.
The cooking times provided in the manual for John and Susan's Presto pressure cooker (plus a few additions) are shown in the tables (see pages 14–19) and can be used as guides, but they may differ slightly from the recommendations for your cooker. You can use these tables to estimate pressure-cooking times for many of the recipes in the Pot chapter. The fresh vegetable table gives you time guidelines according to size. In general, soups will cook in about 15 minutes (start timing when the pressure regulator begins to rock), with added time for the cooldown. Stews made with bite-size pieces of meat, potatoes, etc., will take about 6 to 7 minutes if you let the cooker cool down by itself, or 8 minutes if you depressurize it immediately. Note that the time it takes the pressure cooker to come to pressure will differ according the type and quantity of food you're cooking, but once it's at pressure—the regulator is rocking—the cooking time will be the same. See the cooking timetables below for more information.
Excerpted from the ONE PAN galley gourmet by Don Jacobson. Copyright © 2004 by International Marine. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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