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Cooking for 20 - 25

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I'm in school to become a teacher and next week I want to cook for my class, a total of approximately twenty. I've always loved cooking and enjoy pretending to be good at it :) (This will be relevent later)

My menu is Greek themed with a Chicken in Lemon garlic veloute sauce, pasticcio, spanikopita for the vegetarians, and a cucumber feta salad. I will make the spanikopita and pasticio directly in the serving dishes but I'm torn on the chicken preparation.

My first question is about the cut of chicken to use. In my test menu that I made for my family, I used a whole chicken cut into 8 parts (2 each breasts, thighs, wings, and legs). Although I liked the skin-on presentation I dont think the bone in chicken would suit the setting of my catered dinner well. That being said, boneless/skinless breasts are considerably more expensive. I'm looking for opinions and options. I cannot recall if I've ever seen bonless skin-on breasts before. I believe large breasts can be cut into two servings. What considerations have I not thought of with respect to the meat cut?

My second question is with the sauce. When I made the sauce the other night I made three versions - stock thickened with roux, stock thickened with egg liason, and stock thickened with both. The last was rich, creamy, and had almost layered flavors - a truly decedant sauce indeed. The question is about how to serve it. If this was a meal I'd be plating myself I would put a piece of meat in a small puddle of it already on the plate with a bit more drizzled over the top. I dont think I should have it on the meat prior to serving should I? Should it be seperate like in a gravy boat?

My last question is how long food can hold in these serving dishes with sterno warmers? I have to have everything cooked before I leave for class (4:00p), travel (4:20p) and set up, and sit through one class (6:45p) before we eat dinner. I believe that my food choices are ok for not coming apart or being rewarmed (the salad will be on ice). Any advice on serving / keeping / and rewarming is appreciated as I've never done this. The meals will all be cooked in thier dishes which fit into a larger buffet with water over a sterno.

Thanks in advance,
post #2 of 10
Randy -

with a sharp knife (a boning knife is a good choice if you have one, othewise a 6-8 inch slicer works fine) you can de-bone a whole chicken in 4-5 minutes (with practice) I rarely buy anything but a whole chicken, my wife prefers skinless, I like the crunchy skin, so one side gets skinned the other doesn't.

you can also de-bone the legs/thighs - make a cut down the "inside" and aorund the "ankle" - use the knife to peel the chicken off the bone. leave it with or without skin. takes a little practice but it's not hard.

two links:
How to Debone a Whole Chicken | Expert Village Videos
(this one is more a "disassembly" video)
How To Debone A Chicken - Brightcove

the second video shows deboning the thighs/leg
post #3 of 10
Welcome to the forums. I like your menu and I am no stranger to it. Almost everything you are making will hold up really nicely for a buffet, but you could run into some problems with the chicken.

Chicken Lemonato is a very traditional greek dish served in greek homes nearly weekly. The problem is that when it sits too long the beautiful sauces congeal. So although your intention is good you might find problems with the execution. I've never seen boneless chicken breast skin on so you may have to abandon that search. Going this route holds the potential of serving dry chicken breast with congealed goo. Here's my suggestion. Make chicken souvlakia using boneless skinless thighs (cheaper and they stay moist). Then make your lemon garlic sauce seperately, warm up and sauce your souvlakia right before serving. That way you have all the flavors you're trying to depict without the yucky congealed mess. On the same token soulvakia are easier to eat in a buffet style setting.

Another to do this is to cook your chicken with sauce and potatoes in parchment - individual servings. It will stay warm longer and won't cause as much of a problem with congealing sauce. Easier to serve to but can be quite messy to eat.

Don't forget the oregano.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks all for the responses; I appreciate so much quick support.

As for the chicken cuts, I've been practicing with getting the cuts but never have tried deboning. I'll attempt this tonight.

And for the sauce, my understanding of why a sauce breaks is because I've attempted an emulsion of the egg and butter which is now separating into its seperate parts, or because the egg proteins have bonded to themselves instead of the cream from quick or excessive heating. Since, in theory, my butter fat has already bonded with the starch of the roux it isnt emulsifying with the egg, and the egg protiens are being stabalized by the heavy cream of the liaison so as not to bond to itself. As long as I keep it betwen under 175F I think I should be ok with separation.

Still, I'm interested in everything people have for me. Thanks!! :)
post #5 of 10
from a food safety standpoint.....3.5 hours.....I'm unclear about what you are transporting the cooked food in, whether there is an oven at the school to "rewarm"....

Are you using cambros? refrig? ovens? or pulling from the oven at 3:45, putting in the back of your car and driving to school....setting up 45 minutes later on chaffing dishes with sterno for 2.5 hours....? really unclear.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
there are no ovens to rewarm - its going from oven to car to sterno for 2.5 hours. Will that not hold temp over 145?

Edit: Investigating the Sterno site says that it will hold temps above the critical 140 threshold.
post #7 of 10
If its price you are looking for , you can buy boneless thighs and pound them flat, they retain moisture content better then breast anyway. Today dark meat on a chicken is almost white due to their diets. As far as breast skin on. You can buy them, both sides simply attached by the breast bone and rib bones they are easy to bone out leaving skin on. I would not make a laison with the veloute simply because I would be afraid of temperature holding low and or to high. Possibly the school has some sought of heater cabinet(cambro you could borrow to keep food at proper temp. Good Luck :):)

In answer to sauce breaking. The primary reason in your case in my opinion is excess or prolonged exposure to heat. Even a bechamel or veloute will break sitting in heat to long. Sometime the acids from other foods will curdle it. Example a cream soup in a steamtable. A starch based soup or sauce will also break more-so when wine or alcohol is used in prep, or any acid juice. Compound sauces will also break from to much heat.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
The school actually has some stupid rule about classes bringing in outside food of any type. The cafeteria is supplemented by the building and they count on student revenue to keep it in the building. I've gotten special permission to bring in dinner for the class on this one night, but I'm going to get no help from the kitchen staff or supplies since I'm costing them approximately $150-$200 in kitchen sales.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Last night's dinner went swimmingly.

My local supermarket had bone-in breasts on sale for only 1.49 / lb so I went that way and deboned them myself. I used 20 6-8 oz breasts, knowing I had several vegetarians in the mix and went home with 5 left over still.

I took the advice from this board and skipped the egg liaison. I kept my veloute warmed and it didn't break, which, from comments left here, I was very nervous about.

My spanakopita failed. OK, no, it didnt. It went well. But I failed it. After they (mostly)cooled, I put it in a foil tray with the lid and didnt think about it until I took the lid off some hours later that the remaining moisture would make them soggy. They weren't horrible but man, they were good and crispy when they came out of the oven and I wish they presented that way at dinner. Any advice from caterers on how they transport something like this?

The pastisio went well, although the recipe I used had too many noodles for the noodle/meat ratio. Its something that didnt take away from the meal but would certainly be improved next time. IIRC, 1.5 lbs macaroni to 1.5lbs meat. I think I'd do 1.0:1.5 next time. I used a straight bechemel with this and added a little nutmeg. Again, it was ok but kinda flat. Texture was right but I was looking for more "zing". Any pastisio fantatics that could chime in?

I know this is a long post already but really this is a good story that I shared with my class. Obviously with my greek menu I was going to be using a good quantity of feta. I bought my first batch at the supermarket because it was on sale, approximately equivelent to 4.50/lb. After a test run of dinner though, I needed more. I've been to, but never bought anything from a local specialty deli (read: many European ethnic foods), but I knew they had feta.

I asked the lady behind the counter for 1 lb feta. She told me she didnt speak English and dissappeared in the back. The lady that returned was at least 150 years old, fiery, and stood all of 4 feet tall. She could barely see me over the counter and in her broken English asked "What you want?"
"Feta, please", I replied.
"What kind?"
Confused, I asked cautiously "what do you mean?"
"You come here" she responded, and gestured that I should come around to her. When I arrived she opened the counter pinched off a piece of cheese and handed it to me. "Israeli feta".
I tasted it and nearly gagged. It tasted like I was eating a metal spoon - totally aweful.
"Thank you, but not that one," I said.
She appeared with another pinch "Bulgarian feta".
I was apprehensive this time but took it. It was creamy and melty and salty and holy cow (or maybe goat, I dont really know) good!
"This is good, yes".
"No, one more. Try this." She didnt tell me what "this" was. It looked like feta but tasted bland in comparison to the party I just had in my mouth, and felt somewhat chalky, although familiar.
"Domestic feta" she finally said.
That's it! That's why I knew it, because this was the feta I've been eating my whole life. It was the same as the supermarket feta. I guess I never really paid attention to the specifics previously because I didnt know any better. But since the Bulgarian feta, I dont think I could ever go back. And to boot, the Bulgarian feta had a regular price of only 3.99 / lb!
post #10 of 10
French and Bulgarian Fetas are creamy and well nuianced.....and they are total night and day from the domestic version. So, cool to have an aha moment with food. Great that you found a store to explore, I'd be doing a bunch of my shopping there.

As to spanakopita, you got it....don't cover when hot, either let it cool totally then cover or just baby it til you get where you are going. Normally I cook the individual ones at the party site, the larger tray takes about 40 minutes to cook, probably the same time to cool.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
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