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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Art of the Chuckwagon Cooking

Omar Alvarez

Omar Alvarez enjoys cooking whether it's a BBQ competition, Chili Cook-Off or just grilling at home. Although, several years ago, he discovered Dutch Oven cooking with the International Society of Dutch Ovens. His cooking passion lead him to become the International Dutch Oven Society (IDOS) Grand Champion is 2008.  Cast iron skillets and dutch ovens was something he once grew up with as a child remembering the way his many relatives cooked out on the King Ranch. 

In 2012, he returned to visit his childhood stomping grounds of Kingvilles,  Texas and join some new friends which gave him his first opportunity to cook working from a chuckwagon. His passion for cast iron dutch ovens extended further becoming hooked joining the cowboys he grew up with down in south Texas.  

When the opportunity to team up with a team competing in a Chuckwagon Cook Off held at Stevenville, Montana during the Western heritage Days on June 21st and 22nd, he jumped at the opportunity.  Here's his story.   

"The Art of the Chuckwagon Cooking"
 by Omar Alvarez                                

Being an established Dutch Oven cook when I saw a request for volunteer help at a Chuckwagon cook-off by one of the Teams, I said I can do that !

I contacted Dan an Carol Chaffee of Montana and offered my help ,their reply “Come on down!” We will use you ! Little did I know I was in for a great experience……Where are the Briquettes? Where are the cooking tables? What’s that half cord of wood for? What is that water trough doing here? As the saying goes  “Live an Learn”

Oh, okay we are cooking over an open fire , and then using the embers from the fire on the ground then setting the pots on top of the embers , hard to count embers to get the right temperature (as I do with briquettes) oh, I see hold my hand over the embers 2” above them , wow! That is hot! Yup, they are ready to cook that 15lbs, of beef!! Give me that 14” pot, we will use that for the Cobbler (same method used) Hand me that pot of Beans we soaked overnight. Yup that goes on the ground as well on the hot embers, Omar grab that shovel and stir the fire we need more hot embers for the Meat …………..and so it goes for a couple of hours till the Judge walks by and says turn-ins in half an hour!!

Omar where are those foam trays you gave me the one labeled Beans I want the one for the Cornbread!!…….Okay all five trays are ready to take to the Judges Table right over there, walk over person at the table says what do you want?? I am here to give you our turn-in trays for the Judges, weird look on her face and say “say what?” Not here buddy. ………Feeling bewildered, I look around and see teams walking with their trays heading down the street in the opposite direction!!!!!!

Wow, what an event, but going back a little let me explain to get to this point.  Potatoes needed peeling, dough had to be prepped for the Cobbler, Cornbread had to be mixed from scratch, the Beans soaked throughout the night and spiced up, then the Meat sliced up for our main dish.  Oh, and yes don’t forget washing of the dishes, pots and utensils we used as we went along. Also grab the axe and split up some of those logs and put them in the fire as we are getting low ………

To set the record straight, we had a lot of help. Dan and Carol McCaffree, who own the 1895 Moline “Rocky Mountain Special” known as the Musselshell Chuckwagon Team where assisted by friends Chris & Julie, Carol’s three grandchildren and myself. It was a total team effort which truly Paid off.

1st Place Meat category
2nd Place Bean category
    3rd Place  Dessert category

Will I be going to Dayton, Washington next month to help them out?  YOU BETCHA!!!!!!!!!
 Look for Omar assisting Dan and Carrol McCaffree with team Musselshell Wagon during Mule Mania July 13th and 14th in Dayton, Washington.

Musselshell Wagon owned by Dan and Carol McCaffree: pictures provided by Omar Alvarez

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