I'm sorry I didn't write you sooner. I've been very busy preparing all the food for Easter at my restaurant.
"Ok," as far as oiling potato skins you can, but it is not necesseary. If you do, you can use olive oil, butter, or lard; any one of these will give the potato some type of flavor. I personally just take a knife and poke it at each end, three times on the front and three times on the back. This allows the moisture to come out of the potato, your goal is to draw out just enough moisture during the cooking, this will leave you with a life fluffy potato on the inside. A good way to check potatoes to see if they're done is to take a towel or oven mitt and squeeze them lightly, if they give slightly and feel soft they're done.
Question No. 2: (Mashed Potatoes; the best way to hold them.)
First I need to know what type of business you're running, is it a sit down restaurant or buffet style? How many people are you serving from 4 to 8? Although it sounds like your steam table is up too high. If you have a large volume of people, either at a buffet or in a sit down restaurant, then you can use a full pan in the steam table. Remember that if you have a buffet you must have someone stationed at the buffet at all times to see what you're running out of and making sure every thing is fresh.
That is the most important thing about running a buffet. You can have an excellent salad bar, main course, and dessert, but if you don't have someone keeping an eye on it at all times, it will completely destroy the excellent quality of the food you have just prepared. Try to size the pan to the volume of people you're serving per hour. I myself only hold mashed potatoes not any longer than a hour in a restaurant situation. The trick that I use is, I make enough for the four hours, I put in the steam table the amount that I need to start out with, cool down the rest and put each proportion it the refrigerator that I think I will use per hour. I store the proportions in plastic bags and make sure I get all the air out of the bag before I seal it. I found out that by not letting any air at them they willl not dry out. If you have a microwave you can put the bag in the microwave to warm it up a little. Put it in the steam table pan, whip it up, and put it in the steam table and it's good to go.
In the restaurant industry waste is a big issue. Most establishments are happy with a 21% waste factor. I feel that with the right control you can bring it down to an 18% waste factor; by monitoring it properly. A 21% waste factor is excellent, and an 18% waste factor is considered perfect! Although it is a goal to get your waste factor at a lower rate, "don't," think for one minute of sacrificing the quality of food you're serving to your costomers to reach this goal. Sometimes you have to waste food to assure that you're serving the freshest quality; it all works out in the long run,don't throw out the mashed potatoes each hour, save them, they might be too dry for mashed potatoes, but you can use them for other things. Such as soup, potato/cheese filled pierogi, potato lefse, and cheese or spinach Gnocchi. I could give you 15 more off the top of my head, the point is any leftovers can be put to good use to cut down your waste. If you have anymore questions feel free to ask, this is my e-mail address: MODERNCONCEPTS2K@cs.com
. The only thing is include your e-mail address, I answer a lot of e-mail, so I use Dragon Naturally Speaking and it works best by going directly from my e-mail to your e-mail address.
Chef: Alfonzo Calia