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By: Mark M. DeNittis - 10/2005
Since the summer of 2004, because of being named interim Executive Chef at the famed Stanley Hotel, my wheeling and camping had been limited. The surroundings of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are extraordinary, but when you are a Chef, there is barely any time to enjoy all that splendor. That summer I lived in the Stanley Hotel and watched the movie The Shining that played continuously on channel 60 in my room, every night for 2 1/2 months. I got my shine on... redrum REDRUM! My focus this summer was to get in as much trail time as possible.
The usual summer kickoff I have come to expect each year... Jeep breakage! Finally, after the third blown rear Dana 35, I had a Ford 8.8" rear axle installed, which, incidentally, is turned by my new transmission. The NV4500 was installed after my stock transmission blew for the third time last summer. Third time’s a charm indeed! Now as things go, I anticipate... although with hesitancy by my loving wife... the 4 hamsters will die next summer. Gee, I wonder what will go in its place with such a stout drive train... something along the lines of a famed Tomato Vegetable juice beverage perhaps? "... could have had a V8." Anyway, on to the trail and grub reports.
Jeep Date Log 2005-07-23: Pickle Gulch to Kingston Peak
An outstanding basic and scenic trail with fun mild obstacles and lots of high elevation mountain views.
All those in attendance were from a new local Denver shop's, Crawler Tech 4x4, meet and greet trail ride and camp out. I hosted a great breakfast for everyone in attendance: Colorado’s Best Beef Coffee Dusted Skillet Steaks, Scrambled Eggs served with Three Onion Potato Hash, and steeping hot Yerggechef Cup o’ Joe from local Aurora, Colorado’s small batch Coffea Rostir. His award winning coffee makes for great cool morning camp conversations with the camp chef while he makes breakfast. The Coffee seasoning on the skillet steaks may sound odd, but I’ll tell you it has a blend of other ingredients that lends to a sweet and savory addition to beef, especially for breakfast.
Coffee Dusted Skillet Steaks, Scrambled Eggs served with Three Onion Potato Hash
Skillet Steaks: Serves 10. 10-8oz (5lbs) Colorado’s Best Beef All Natural 14 Day Dry Aged Shoulder Tender Steaks. Any steak will do, although this is typically a little cheaper and makes for a great skillet steak. An incredibly tasty and even more tender cut from the shoulder is 'top blade' or more commonly known as a 'Flat Iron'.
Tablespoon Coffee Seasoning (Cattleman’s Grill from Montana)
Season the Steaks with the seasoning blend and sear on both sides to desired temp (I like mine 'moo' rare).
Three Potato Hash:
- 3 Tbsp Salad Oil or Crisco (bacon dripping can also be used)
- 1 Bag Frozen Shredded Potatoes
- 1 Bunch (8 each) Green Onions (pre sliced at home)
- 1 Small Yellow Onion (pre diced at home)
- 1 Small Red Onion (pre diced at home)
In a skillet: Heat the oil and add in all the ingredients. Try not to stir too much as to allow the potatoes to brown and crisp.
10 Each Extra Large Eggs. Crack and mix, in a non stick or seasoned cast iron skillet.
Jeep Date Log 2005-07-30: Bill Moore Lake Family Weekend
Just after leaving the I-70 corridor is the quaint blink-and-you-might-pass-it town of Empire, Colorado. Take a right in the center of town and you switchback up to some varying levels of scenic off-roading and camping on the eastern slope of the Continental Divide.
Heading to the top by Bill Moore Lake trail you can find loose gravel steep hill climbs. Be alert and respectful to the mud pit being closed due to trail abuse. The Empire Loop Trail is moderate, tight in the trees in some spots and has challenging terrain for stock or mildly modified vehicles. Another direction leads to Red Elephant Hill, a scenic decent that gets challenging in two spots, both steep, off-camber with a drop off to one side. Needed is a strong sense of confidence, carefully chosen lines, light pedal work and low gears. Other than the two obstacles this can be considered a moderate trail for some and terrifying trail for others. Going down is challenging and going up would certainly be more difficult. The trail, if heading down brings you back to I-70 just east of the Empire exit. The beauty of the whole area, besides being alongside the Continental Divide, is the trail system diversity and close proximity of them all. Explore from a base camp over a weekend or put in a day trip of wheeling within an hours drive from Denver. A friend from the Rocky Mountain X-terra Club joined us for a quick day trip of wheeling the area. He had only been up the lake trail previously, so exploring the two others made for a great day.
I often will make everything, when camping out, for us to eat however we always set aside room for a Hot Dog at Jenny’s in the center of town. They have this huge Hot Dog on a huge bun with (well my favorite) mile high pile of sauerkraut. *Warning: I recommend eating this on the way back down from a weekend of camping as sauerkraut has the potential effect to make for a yellow or red warning on the bio-terror alert scale. It may trigger biological warfare sensors from NORAD in Colorado Springs. If so travel with doors off the Jeep to allow any 'fumes' to be adequately dispersed.
I did catch and cook up some fresh caught trout from Mill Creek at the northern section of the Empire Loop Trail.
Cajun Skillet Trout a la Daddy-O
- 2 Each Fresh Caught Trout
- Cajun Seasoning - To Your Taste
- 3 Tbsp Butter or Crisco
Clean the innards from the stomach and cut off the heads. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
Season the Trout. In a cast iron skillet heat the butter or Crisco. Place the seasoned trout and let cook 8-10 minutes over medium heat on each side.
Cooking time of course would depend on how thick or big the trout is. It may be easier to cut the trout into fillets for quicker cooking time.
We didn't think we were going to stay an extra night so I didn’t plan dinner as part of the trip. We served a magnificent old staple as a side dish... Ramen noodles acquired from the Empire Gas Station. It made for an excellent dinner.
Jeep Date Log 2005-08-19: Holy Cross Halfway!?
One of the last weekends before summers end was a grand trip to the challenging trail of the Holy Cross south of Vail. For starters, of the family oriented entourage were some folks from the local Denver shop scene: Crawler Tech 4x4 and RMHS Manufacturing testing a freshly powder coated Chevy Engine run buggy. Also along were some other local folks and from afar a member of the Advance Adapters team. A good time was planned and instead a great time was had. Even better and much to my surprise, after a tough section of trail, my wife suggested it best I acquire lockers to put in finally after all these years. No she is not eligible and will not attempt an appearance on the reality show where you swap families.
We made it to the first major obstacle French Creek with little trouble. It was like the I-25 T-Rex project at rush hour, at least 30 vehicles deep. We decided to turn and head back down as what normally would take 1 1/2 hours to run would’ve turned into a real late evening on the trail. Some of the food for the weekend was obtained from a local Littleton new meal concept place called Dinners a la Carte. They put together vittles for our excursion. You could easily plan a weekends worth of meals including meals for when you get back home for about $2.60-3.00 a serving.
Check out their Chef Inspired Menus at Dinners a la Carte. This concept lends itself extremely well to planning and carrying out camp cooking duties. Everything is pre-diced, sliced and portioned out. All you have to do is cook by following the instructions.
The most exhilarating part of the weekend was the night run we all did up the trail after dinner. Mitch from RMHS brought along some juicy steaks as well. Dinner that evening was a smorgasbord of Steaks, Chicken, Fire Baked Potatoes and Rice.
Ginger Lime Cilantro Chicken with Steamed Rice
Dinners a la Carte, Littleton, Colorado
Best made a day or two in advance. Great thing about this is it can be prepared ahead of time while at home or visit Dinners a la Carte and put your meal(s) together for a whole weekend or week. Serves 6.
- 4 each Limes Juiced
- 2 Tbsp Cilantro
- 2 Tbsp Ginger Chopped Fine
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Chopped
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Throw marinated chicken on hot grill and cook until an internal temperature of 165 is reached. No red blood (chicken is not good rare or medium rare), just clear juices.
Mississippi BBQ Pork Sandwiches
Dinners a la Carte, Littleton, Colorado
Best made a day or two in advance.
1/4 cup Spice Rub:
- 6 Tbsp Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne
- 1/2 tsp Cumin
- 1/4 tsp Oregano
- 1/4 tsp Thyme
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Pepper
1 1/2 lb. Boneless Pork Shoulder, or Boneless Pork Country Style Ribs.
Rub the spice blend into the pork and allow to sit in refrigeration two hours prior to cooking.
In a large saucepot heat a small bit of oil. Sear the seasoned pork on all sides.
Add in to cover the pork:
- 2 cup Your Favorite barbeque sauce
- 1 can Your Favorite Beer
- 1 cup Orange juice
- 1/2 cup Onion
- 2-3 Tbsp White or Apple Cider Vinegar
Allow the pork to simmer covered over low heat for 2 hours until the pork is fork tender. Shred the pork with two forks and cool quickly to put in a container for ease of transport to the trail. If there is extra sauce bring along as a option for folks to add more.
Serve atop your favorite buns with chopped onion and pickles. Yellow mustard goes well with this as does cheese slices. Prior to leaving our camp I made the sandwiches and wrapped them in aluminum foil. During the Holy Cross traffic jam I placed the foil wrapped sandwiches on the engine block for ten minutes to heat up.
Serve with my wife’s Cole Slaw and yee haw yum!
- 2 Cups Cabbage
- 1 Carrot Grated
- 1 Small Red Onion Diced Fine
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- 1 oz. White Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tsp Sugar
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together and dig in. Might refer to *Warning above due to effects of cabbage.
Jeep Date Log 2005-08-27: One Saturday for Charity
August 27th I collaborated with ORI of Centennial for the day. Shop owners Paula and Chris hosted a meeting and poker run to benefit Christmas Caravan for Kids, a Toys for Tots fundraiser through Heritage Foundation. I hosted a portion of the food for the day, and served Bratwurst Patties from Carmine Lonardo's Italian Meat Market and Deli with locations in Lakewood and Aurora along with Colorado's Best Beef Burgers. We also made a quick batch of Beer Braised Sauerkraut and Onions. Tyler Hagan a member of the Rocky Mountain X-terra Club and former student of mine assisted me for the day. He brought a smoker to add a unique twist to some of the burgers and brats. There were about 20 people in attendance overall, which will be dwarfed by comparison for the big event on December 3rd at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. Caravans of Jeeps and other rigs from all over Colorado will converge on this destination to drop toys off to the United States Marine Corps who will stockpile and ultimately distribute those toys to people in need. We are anticipating up to 700 people in attendance for the day. We again plan on serving those 700 people a great selection of food as well.
For more specific details or information on how you can participate, contact Chris and Paula Andolsek at Off Road Innovations of Centennial. (303) 680-9077
We are looking for volunteers and shops/vendors to participate at all levels. There will be a vendor display area and raffle of parts at the end of the day. It will be a day for the Colorado off road community as a whole to join and do something great.
Any foodies, purveyors, chefs, or restaurants wanting to donate food or volunteers please contact me. I am hoping to also tap into a volunteer pool of some of my ambitious culinary students from Johnson & Wales University in Denver.
Beer Braised Sauerkraut and Onions
- 1/2 Can or Bottle of Beer (the other half can be for the chef)
- 1 Small Onion, Peeled and cut Julienne (fancy term for cut into thin strips)
- 16 Oz. Favorite Sauerkraut brand
In a non-reactive pot (stainless steel) place all of the ingredients. Let simmer over low-medium heat for 30 minutes. For a twist you could caramelize the onions first before adding the other ingredients. Serves 8-10.
Summer was great minus chasing a sensor gremlin under the hood of my Jeep yielding me 7.5 miles to the ever-loving gallon of petroleum. I think I finally caught the little bugger and I look forward to getting back my normal whopping 15 miles to the gallon.
I enjoyed the challenging new lines I was able to attempt with the stout presence afforded by new Ford 8.8 in the back. I am looking forward to October, and this year's hunting season as well. Until then... Live Well... Wheel Well... and have a Put-it-in-4-Lo attitude... responsibly of course!
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