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How do you "hold" sauces?

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 

My concept restaurant will have a lot of pastas.  I'm trying to determine the best method for holding my sauces.

 

For tomato based sauces, I could hold them warm in a steam table, cold in a pizza/sandwich table, or (in theory) room temperature.  I had it all planned out in my head until I saw how a local Italian restaurant does it.  They use a steam table and just put the heated sauce over the pasta.  I had been planning to hold the sauce refrigerated, toss in some cooked pasta and the sauce into a saute pan and give it a minute or so on heat.  Please share your thoughts on red sauces.

 

Now comes the dreaded "how to hold alfredo" question.  Do I hold it cold and then heat with the pasta as I had planned to do with the red sauce or is there another method?

post #2 of 41

My current work holds its sauces in a bain marie for during dinner service. Rest of the day it's kept in the fridge to be heated to order. Alfredo is also kept in the bain marie and usually keeps well, just make sure to keep it covered and stir occasionally.

post #3 of 41

If your "Alfredo" is really a Mornay by another name, you can hold it in a bain marie set in a steam table.  If it's "real" Alfredo, which is to say a highly emulsified version of al burro, you can hold it in the fridge but you'll want to beat it soft again before using so it holds the emulsion when it melts. 

 

Personally, I think your original idea was far better than what the "local Italian restaurant" is getting up to.  You're definitely  better holding most of your other sauces cold; heating them a minute in a skillet, then tossing the cooked, al dente pasta in the sauce until all is as it should be. 

 

Ladling red sauce on naked pasta is prevalent here in the US of A, but it's kind of barbaric when you think about it.  In any case, it's not the best way to serve pasta.

 

BDL

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post #4 of 41

Amen to BDL's post.....

 

If you're paying upwards of $10.00 for a plate of pasta, it should be be heated a'la minute and tossed with a decent, al dente cooked pasta.  No "funny business" with putting oil in the cooking water, just 10 parts of rolling boiling salted water to 1 part pasta.  Portion the cooked pasta out in take-away soup containers, and heat up in water a'la minute and toss with the sauce.  Many places saute off a garnish in the pan first (onions, chorizo, pancetta, chicken, garlic, etc) then add in the cold sauce, bring to a boil, then add in the drained hot pasta and toss.

 

High volume places will keep their sauces in a steam table.  However anything kept in a steam table will eventually suffer steam table damage, 

 

Dececco and Barilla rank as pretty good pastas, with Barilla ranking as #1 in Italy due to "bragging rights" about using  solid 24 ct gold extruding dies in the factory.*  Good pastas will use a bronze die in the extruding machine which gives the pasta a slightly rougher texture and helps the sauce cling on to it better, as well as some kind of "grandmother's secret process" of drying the pasta prior to packaging.  Cheap pastas use cheap softer wheat, nylon dies, and high volume fans--nursing home pasta....

 

Believe it or not most of Italy's best pasta comes from Canadian wheat, and most of France's best mustard--comes from Canadian mustard seeds.....

 

*Never been to the factory, and won't believe it untill I see it.......

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post #5 of 41

OK, how long does it really take to heat a pasta sauce, or for that matter, make it from scratch?

 

6-7 minutes?

 

How long does it take to cook the pasta al dente? 3-11 minutes, depending on the pasta.

 

So, what's the question?

 

Why bother holding "hot sauces" when all they do is degrade and à la minute matches the pasta cooking time?

 

And I do NOT substitute a "mornay sauce" for Alfredo, thank you very much!

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post #6 of 41

okay, pete and bdl, pleae don't get your knickers in a twist about the dif between alfredo and mornay..you are both kinda right...pete, i think that eveyone thinks of alfredo with fettuccine, as in 'fettuccine alfredo'...lots of cream, parm, stock, more cream,and a boat load of garlic...mornay, is also a basic bechamel sauce with the addition of a cheese..usually swiss,not parm, which to me is the queintestiental difference alfredo and mornay...a good parm adds the perfect blend of saltiness to  alfredo... for  mornay, cheese may be swiss or gruyere......i think the  big difference is that the french don't pair their alfredo/mornay with a pasta, like the italians do, but more commonly with fish.... personal note, i love love love alfredo sauce...i could just eat it as a soup sometimes, with a reall good epi loaf...big question in my head, i ALWAYS.ALWAYS, ALWAYS add nutmeg to my alfredo sauce......what is the spice added to mornay that would put it apart from the basic bechamel...thyme?...ah the french! do you think they stole the credit for alfredo...no, not the french,, they simply rename it for their own..mornay

as for the sauces added to the dishes, when i have an order for pasta, i heat up a saute pan with water, add the noodle of choice , than add the sauce, meatballs or sausage of choice with fresh basil, garlic, splash  of red wine or wine or marsala to finish the dish..kinda turn into a saute of sorts...not just heating up noodles  in a pasta warmer and just plopping on the sauces...depends on how big your op is, but you gotta trust me on this...its the little extra special touches that make the difference...shaved parm over shredded or grated is HUGE...all over the rim of the plate...people feel special, as they should be...okay,well just my little voice

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #7 of 41

Ah Alfredo....there are more ideas of how it should be made then Dones has pills.

There is no garlic in Alfredo sauce no matter how much Americans want it in there.

It is simply a reduction of cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese.

Very simple, easily prepared, no holding necessary. Made a la minute. Period.

post #8 of 41

i work in an italian restuarant some of the sauces we hold is our tomato(go through alot of it), bechemel for crepes, stocks (fish and veal)and pepercorn in a steam table. alfredo is not really hard to amke some butter and cream and reduce, that can be made ala minute in my opinion and we make it to order. parm is a must and maybe some pecorino. make it simple and delicious, that is key to italian food. pasta is the main event and other things are just condiments. oh dont forget some good pesto i know its not a sauce but when added to a tomato, velute and even alfredo it just takes it to another level

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post #9 of 41
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice guys.  One of the important aspects of running a restaurant is to understand your clientele.  In my case, "Olive Garden" equals "good Italian food".  Don't even start screaming at me -- I understand completely.  However, I'm in a rural, mostly blue-collar community.  Using half and half to extend the alfredo sauce is an unfortunate requirement; at least I'm not using milk and corn starch.  Cost IS a deciding factor unfortunately. 

 

I would love nothing more than to serve fresh pasta cooked to order, but a $2k pasta machine is only going to give me sheeted pastas, not pretty tubes and spirals. 

 

Also, please explain about not using oil in the pasta water.  I use enough to create some surface tension to avoid the boiling over that often happens with pasta.  The oil helps avoid the "foaming" and thus the boil over, but doesn't really "lube" the pasta.  The sauce still sticks to the pasta nicely.  Is there something else I need to be aware of?

 

Also, I absolutely hate "al dente".  There's no good definition of it that I've found.  Every time I hear it described, it's cooked long enough that it's soft, but still has "mouth feel".  Well, wait just a second... do you mean a slight crunch in the center, a slight hardness in the center, or just not cooked until absolute mush?  It's one of those things I'm afraid I'll have to "taste" when cooked by someone who I trust to actually know what the phrase means vs being stuck like me in making WAGs. 

post #10 of 41

The schools of the oil and salt factor.  The only thing the oil does when cooking pasta is to act as an anti foaming agent, it does not lubricate or stop from sticking . Since oil floats on water how could it. Putting cooled down pasta in oil is another thing that there are 2 thoughts. 1. is that coating the pasta later retards the adhesion of the sauce to it. Other says it stops it from sticking together. I cook mine , chill it down weigh it off into portions and plastic bag it. This way everyone gives the same size portion and it is always considered wrapped for health dept. I do not oil it as I have found that when I drop it back into boiling water it comes apart anyway. I salt my water for a bit of flavor, not to make the water hotter because it really doesn't. The above is the way I do it others have other ways, but for me this works. Most of my pasta dishes are a la minute. Only sauce I have in S T is meat sauce and marinara, I use heavy cream for many.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #11 of 41

We're talking three different kinds of Alfredo.  The one invented by Alfredo and served by him at Alfredo's, his restaurant in Rome, made famous by Mary Pickford and Doug Fairbanks after they ate their frequently on their on their (extremely well-documented) honeymoon, and which started the whole Alfredo sauce thing in the US doesn't have cream nor is it thickened in any way.  Take a look.

 

It's not necessarily better than the way you make yours, it is what it is.  Just sayin', so my comments about holding cold and beating soft before service make sense.

 

IMO you could make a mint selling the real deal.  It's all the good and none of the gooey.

 

BDL

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post #12 of 41
Thread Starter 

I took a look. I made it, I loved it.  Okay, I made it and screwed it up a little.  I heated the mixture with the pasta, which isn't what you said to do.  It separated on me when it cooled down on the plate.  I beat it senseless too.  Although 8 ounces of butter and 8 ounces of parm/romano in a big kitchenaid mixer meant a lot of scraping down, so perhaps I still didn't beat it enough.  My food cost is nuts though.  Of course, I'm using grocery store pricing for ingredients at this point.  I'm even getting the sheeps milk cheese imported from Italy (supposed to be aged longer with a lower salinity).  I'll have to look at the label.  It's the "real" stuff, parm reggiano (I think), though not a primo brand or anything.  

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

We're talking three different kinds of Alfredo.  The one invented by Alfredo and served by him at Alfredo's, his restaurant in Rome, made famous by Mary Pickford and Doug Fairbanks after they ate their frequently on their on their (extremely well-documented) honeymoon, and which started the whole Alfredo sauce thing in the US doesn't have cream nor is it thickened in any way.  Take a look.

 

It's not necessarily better than the way you make yours, it is what it is.  Just sayin', so my comments about holding cold and beating soft before service make sense.

 

IMO you could make a mint selling the real deal.  It's all the good and none of the gooey.

 

BDL

post #13 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post

Ah Alfredo....there are more ideas of how it should be made then Dones has pills.

There is no garlic in Alfredo sauce no matter how much Americans want it in there.

It is simply a reduction of cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese.

Very simple, easily prepared, no holding necessary. Made a la minute. Period

 

 

yeah, i know 'besciamellia', traditionally has no garlic, but i really just can't help myself!!!!...also, GG,  how i would describe al dente  pasta is tender, but firm...there almost is no greater sin in italian cooking than overcooking pasta! and so very easy to avoid..there is an italian saying, 'that pasta does not wait for anyone!!!'.......as comparision, have you ever had overcooked rice?.....mushy, tasteless....whereas in perfectly cooked rice, you can taste each separate grain.....also, if you are making pasta ahead to reheat to order, i would definately undercook the pasta to begin with as you will be further cooking it on the reheat....

 

bdl.. thanks for the alfredo story on cookfoodgood......lovely story...didn't see the posts on this thread however before i answered there....

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #14 of 41

p.s.

 yeah, i agree with you bdl on the sacrilege of just ladling sauce on pasta.....ideally, the fresh cooked, unrinsed pasta should be 'tossed' with your sauce of choice..and additional sauce served alongside...always with fresh parm...

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #15 of 41
Thread Starter 

Okay, I'm back for more...

 

I made another batch of alfredo (I'm using Pecorino Romano for the cheese).  Someday, I'll look up the big differences, but if I'm making a huge mistake, please let me know.

 

I used the food processor this time, using the chopping blade.  I didn't quite make it to powdered cheese, but fairly close.  I beat the butter into submission, and the taste was great.  I took off a few tablespoons of the sauce and tossed in a ziplock bag in the fridge (to simulate "holding" refrigerated).  I know this is going to be a "duh" moment, but it solidified (I was hoping that the whipping would make it a softer texture, like "whipped margarine", which didn't happen).  Now I'm back to how to portion and serve.  It almost seems like creating a large batch and using a scoop/baller would be the best method and then toss in a saute' pan to melt, add the pasta, and mix to serve.  Am I missing something?

post #16 of 41

Most quality upscale places make Alfredo to order, so there is no need to hold. I have even done it to order for large banquets, I used a large pro. wok. Many places simply make a Bechamel and add cheese, we don't.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #17 of 41

Gobbly,

 

You can portion with a scoop and hold cold, but you'll have to cream it again before using.  It's got to be very smooth and temped before going on the pasta.  You can re-cream smaller portions easily with an electric hand mixer, and that will temp it as well.

 

BDL

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post #18 of 41

Maybe if you're doing a high volume of pastas it might make sense to keep hot sauces in a steam table.  But where I work we only have 3 pastas on our menu, a spicy marinara, an alfredo, and a creamy pesto.  So for us it makes more sense to keep the sauces cold & then heat them up per order.  We also cook the pasta seperately in hot water & then toss it in the cooked sauce.  To me it doesn't make sense to cook the pasta in the sauce.  Even though they take roughly the same time, sometimes the timing isn't perfect and you could end up with either the sauce or pasta overcooked or undercooked.  The only thing about keeping the sauces hot in a well is you have to make sure the thickness & seasoning of the sauce is correct for each order.  

post #19 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by A_mak View Post

Maybe if you're doing a high volume of pastas it might make sense to keep hot sauces in a steam table.  But where I work we only have 3 pastas on our menu, a spicy marinara, an alfredo, and a creamy pesto.  So for us it makes more sense to keep the sauces cold & then heat them up per order.  We also cook the pasta seperately in hot water & then toss it in the cooked sauce.  To me it doesn't make sense to cook the pasta in the sauce.  Even though they take roughly the same time, sometimes the timing isn't perfect and you could end up with either the sauce or pasta overcooked or undercooked.  The only thing about keeping the sauces hot in a well is you have to make sure the thickness & seasoning of the sauce is correct for each order.  


but that's why we get paid the big bucks.....to make sure we DON'T overcook the pasta, the sauce, or anything else for that matter...besides timing, its about patience...holding cream sauces will not only break them down, but change the color i.e. creamy basil pesto, texture (anything with cheese), and ultimately the taste, which is why everyone is there in the first place!

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #20 of 41

A_Mak,

 

Besides agreeing with Durangojo, I wonder if there isn't a basic misunderstanding going on here.  You wrote,

To me it doesn't make sense to cook the pasta in the sauce.

We may be on wildly different pages.  You seem to be thinking we actually cook the pasta entirely in the sauce.  No, no.  We're not quite that pazzo.

 

We're talking about a technique in which the pasta is cooked in water, removed and drained when it's barely al dente, added to a skillet on the flame with some sauce in it, where both are tossed together.  The sauced pasta is then turned out, plated and served.  That's the generic, Italian way to handle most pasta and sauce combinations. 

 

Some are are so delicate to require special handling.  For a few things you want to stay entirely off the flame and rely on the residual heat from the pasta, plus a little pasta water.  They're areall the heat necessary to cook an egg sauce like a traditional Carbonera or melt an al burro like "real" Alfredo* to velvet.  Anymore would curdle one and break the other. 

 

But, by and large, Plan A is a brief heat on the flame, tossing the pasta and sauce.  For a home cook, it can be difficult to explain to one's spouse why you need to get another pan dirty if you're only going to use it for 30 seconds, her (or his) mom doesn't do it, if you like Mario Batali so much why don't you marry him, etc., etc.  However in a restaurant environment it should be SOP and a non-issue.    

 

BDL 

 

* We probably mean different things by Alfredo.  The version I'm talking about is butter and cheese only -- creamed to emulsification.  It doesn't call for additional cream and doesn't get any thickening whether from egg, flour or reduction.  


Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/3/10 at 10:40am
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post #21 of 41
Thread Starter 


Even for the home cook, I'm not seeing how an extra pan is required.  Even if you're using sauce from a can/jar, you still have to heat it somehow.  Cook the pasta, drain, put the saucepan back on the stove, dump in your sauce in, heat, when nice and hot, toss in the pasta and finish cooking.  If you're cooking for more than one person, you're probably using a wide-based saucepot anyway (to have lots of hot water to cook a reasonably small pasta order in).  You still get most of the surface area of a saute' pan.  I'm just having an issue grasping how an extra pan is required in a home kitchen. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post


But, by and large, Plan A is a brief heat on the flame, tossing the pasta and sauce.  For a home cook, it can be difficult to explain to one's spouse why you need to get another pan dirty if you're only going to use it for 30 seconds, her (or his) mom doesn't do it, if you like Mario Batali so much why don't you marry him, etc., etc.  However in a restaurant environment it should be SOP and a non-issue.    

 

post #22 of 41

Sadly, Gobbly, not everyone is you.

 

Some people just pour the sauce on the pasta straight from the jar or heat it in the microwave.  Just like some restaurants hold sauces in a bain marie and ladle it over the pasta in a bowl and mix it off the heat, or just ladle it over the top of already plated pasta.

 

BDL

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post #23 of 41
Thread Starter 

I guess where my disconnect is, is with taking COLD butter and creaming it.  Perhaps my logic is flawed since I've never worked on a "cook to order" line that involved multiple dishes (my background is fast food and pizza joints).  I would expect that an order comes in, I drop the pasta to finish it (par cooked if dry, from "raw" if fresh) for a minute or two.  During that time, I need to get my sauce ready.  Creaming to order, using BDL's prep method from "raw" would require 6-10 minutes in a mixer.  I've just doubled or tripled my "time to window" for that dish.  Even if I can find a nice small food processor to be able to deal with a single serving of sauce, from chilled pre-made state, that's still a couple of minutes in the food processor -- not impossible, but a little more "manual" of a process to load, whip, unload, put back together, etc for working on a line.  I'm also concerned about having such a piece of equipment on a hot serving line.  I can't think of a good location for such a device that would be out of the way, but not out of reach.  A hand mixer just simply requires constant attention (whereas a stand mixer wouldn't). 

 

What bothers me the most, is that for standard service, rush should be 5:30-8:00pm in most cases.  2.5 hours is WELL within the "4 hour window", but if the health dept caught me "holding" alfredo at room temp, I'm figuring they'd have a fit. Sometimes, 40 is too cold and 140 is too hot.  That brings me to a pet peeve.  Why is it that a cook is scared to hold tomato sauce at room temp (health dept), yet the bottles of ketchup can sit on the table all day?  Both are safe, due to the acid content, but how do you explain that to the guy with the scorecard?
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post
You can portion with a scoop and hold cold, but you'll have to cream it again before using.  It's got to be very smooth and temped before going on the pasta.  You can re-cream smaller portions easily with an electric hand mixer, and that will temp it as well.
post #24 of 41

Gobbly,

 

Check your PM box. 

 

BDL

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post #25 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

Gobbly,

 

You can portion with a scoop and hold cold, but you'll have to cream it again before using.  It's got to be very smooth and temped before going on the pasta.  You can re-cream smaller portions easily with an electric hand mixer, and that will temp it as well.

 

BDL


can you sub an immersion blender for the hand mixer? just seems easier to handle/manage......a whisk would be the handiest for me

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #26 of 41

I think the orginal Alfredo used a wooden spoon.

 

Whisk -- especially a "French whisk" (i.e., real thick wires) -- is best, all the way through; but doesn't work great with cold butter.

 

Stand mixer with the wire whip (not the beater blade), or hand mixer with the whire whips -- fine. 

 

Don't know about an immersion blender, wouldn't think so.

 

Going on order, start to finish, by hand is best.  But gobbly doesn't have the manpower, so we're trying to work out a comprompise solution that doesn't give up too many of the qualities Alfredo's Alfredo has -- so much smoother, richer, better mouthfeel, and yes creameir than the cooked-cream versions. 

 

Perhaps the best way to deal with a hold-cold situation is to make your own very soft, very whipped not-quite-butter, combining the cheese in the process.  That way, the al burro never gets hard enough to be a problem.  If you get it just right, it will hold the emulsion -- maybe better, in fact.  I've done it that way for catering.  It might be revealing too much, but it's also an arrow in the quiver of my cooking for seduction schtick -- and has been since my twenties.  Both of those are tough scrutinty. 

 

By the way, the DIY whipped cream to proto-butter version also works well for tableside presentation.  Any good Alfredo loves tableside and vice versa. 

 

BDL

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post #27 of 41


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

A_Mak,

 

Besides agreeing with Durangojo, I wonder if there isn't a basic misunderstanding going on here.  You wrote,

We may be on wildly different pages.  You seem to be thinking we actually cook the pasta entirely in the sauce.  No, no.  We're not quite that pazzo.

 

We're talking about a technique in which the pasta is cooked in water, removed and drained when it's barely al dente, added to a skillet on the flame with some sauce in it, where both are tossed together.  The sauced pasta is then turned out, plated and served.  That's the generic, Italian way to handle most pasta and sauce combinations. 

 

I guess I did misunderstand because this is what I was talking about.  

 

 

* We probably mean different things by Alfredo.  The version I'm talking about is butter and cheese only -- creamed to emulsification.  It doesn't call for additional cream and doesn't get any thickening whether from egg, flour or reduction.  

 

If that's the case then we do false Alfredo.  Ours is heavy cream reduced until almost thick & then at the end we add in a little butter & parmesan & then quickly stir to emulsify.  We tried briefly keeping the cream in the hot well but it discolors & turns ugly.  Actually, whenever we make sauces that use cream or butter & break with too much heat we usually put the sauce in the pan & then that pan in another pan which goes in the well.  This reminds me, I used to work graveyard at a cafe/diner that served Eggs Benedict and I hate to say that we kept our Hollandaise at room temp for a whole 6 hour shift.  And if you think that's bad, at least I made a fresh batch when I worked that station.  Some of the other cooks, the regulars, often used the same batch that was sitting there when they came on shift.  It could've been made during the previous shift (Swing), but who knows, it could have also been made during the day shift.  If you ask why we did this, I don't know I wasn't in charge.  And if you ask did anyone ever get sick & where was the health dept, no as far as I know & the health dept doesn't come in after midnight.  


 

post #28 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by A_mak View Post


 


 


That does not "make it right!"

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post #29 of 41

I sayyyaa Amen to that brotha

post #30 of 41

I prefer Ala Minute  since I mix my pasta and sauce and toss it anyway. Simply putting sauce on top might have been good for spaghetti and meatballs years ago but not today, although it is still done in some peoples HOMES.

Putting in steam table  thickens, darkens and breaks down the various components of any preparation. As far as Al Dente which means To The Teeth I believe it is saying pasta should be slightly chewable and not overcooked or mushy. Putting oil or salt in water is at your option some do some don't it does not make water that much hotter and does not lubricate the pasta. The oil however as stated above does act like an anti-foaming agent in the water.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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