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Alfredo for 350?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

OK, allow me to preface my question with a little information. I'm the director of the Hospitality Ministry (which at our church means the kitchen) at a fairly large church in Arkansas. We have a couple thousand members. I have no formal training in the culinary arts, but I’ve been directing the kitchen for about 5 years. We often prepare meals for groups of 20 – 350 sometimes more, using mostly institutional food items from a local vendor, i.e., foods of the frozen bake variety. But, we do actually cook some of the meals we serve using 4 Duke convection ovens and a 6 burner professional range. We have three proofer/warmers and a 4 hole steam table. I would love to serve an upcoming meal for a “dinner theater” production our Drama Ministry is planning for 350 people consisting of chicken fettuccini alfredo with salad, garlic bread and dessert. How this would work is that the guests arrive all at once, about 30 to 45 minutes before performance time, then the meal is handed out and they all eat in the this short period before the performance starts. My biggest concern is preparing and holding the sauce. I realize that this is an ambitious idea. But, what advice can you offer (besides the obvious advice not to try it)?

post #2 of 21

okay. I'll go first. With a bit of planning, this should be no more difficult than anything else.  Everything can be cooked ahead of time.
Sheet pan the breasts, cook the pasta, butter and garlic the bread. Figure out how much sauce you will need  (Example: 4 ounces per serving times 350 servings= approximately 11 gallons.)  So you could use two five gallon pots. About an hour before service begin heating your heavy cream or sauce base. make sure it does not scorch.  When it's hot whisk in butter and parmesan. shut off heat, use the bain maries in steam table to keep warm during dish, replenishing the pan as dish up progresses. 

Use a large pan of water on the stove for reheating the pasta, one oven for toasting the garlic bread. 

With five years of experience feeding these large groups and a few volunteers, you should have no problem with the rest of it. 

Did I miss anything?

post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Cosner View Post

 My biggest concern is preparing and holding the sauce.

What are your concerns over preparing and holding the sauce?

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #4 of 21

I think you pretty much covered it Writer, that's basically how Ive done it for 250.

You're not gonna have to hold it for too long, important thing is, as above, don't scorch

the sauce. Once done I think your steam table will hold fine for the duration you need...

IF you need it.

Also, how easy and smooth (and fast) this goes depends a lot on how many people

you have helping you, "rotating out" etc to get everyone served quickly.

 

Quote:

 then the meal is handed out

 

Assuming you mean a buffet-line, (quickest) if done properly with enough people and punch-out stations

you should be able to serve the mob within 15 minutes. 

Trying to do it all from one point-of-origin..... not so much.

post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Writer, that pretty much covers it. We have a 16 Ft. grill trailer that can cook 150 slabs of ribs at once. And, we may grill the chicken with it. Haven't decided yet.

post #6 of 21

Define "Alfredo sauce."  If you mean what I think you mean -- which is a parmesan/cream sauce -- you shouldn't have too many problems holding it as long as you keep stirring it after its cooked, especially if you structure the sauce with a little bit of roux.  Cheese sauces aren't much of a challenge unless you permit them to break or seize.

 

Either allow your guests to sauce their own noodles on the buffet line, or sauce at the last possible second.

 

Finally, don't use fettuccine, linguini, spaghetti, or anything long and thin.  Use something short and sturdy like fusili, after cooking them butter them generously -- butter isn't going to hurt your "Alfredo" any.   

 

BDL

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 

Layne, one of my biggest pet peeves regarding food is to go to a buffet and get food that isn't warm enough. So, I always work hard to avoid this problem with meals we serve at the church. Our new steam table has heated plate lowraters and I've sometimes used our warmers to preheat our plates. I am guessing that we'll have to cook the sauce in batches and I don't want the sauce that is holding to get too cool.


Edited by Tom Cosner - 12/22/12 at 9:28am
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 

Meezenplaz, in the past we've set up a buffet line using 8' rectangular tables (where we fill the plates, no self serve) just outside the dining area, most often in hall just outside the sanctuary (the hall is about 8' wide), that has been set up with 8' round tables. We've also taken the plates to the table for all the guests. We have about 50 members who volunteer in the Hospitality Ministry. For a meal such as this, we'll probably have about 20 cook/servers (including a number of helpers from our Student Ministry, our teens) and our Pastor has said that he wants to bring the plates to the tables. It gets very hectic at serving time! smile.gif 

 

Please excuse my ignorance. I don't know what a "punch-out station" is?


Edited by Tom Cosner - 12/22/12 at 9:23am
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 

My alfredo is made with butter, heavy cream (no milk, I'm not a big fan of the popular "cook healthy" fad that seems to prevail right now), garlic, freshly grated parmesan and romano, with chopped parsley for a little color, and considering adding a garnish of fresh parsley and sun-dried tomato. I've never made it using a roux. But, I'd be interested in hearing how it would be done? Why not use fettuccini? Isn't that the classic dish that everyone is so familiar with? I had been thinking of using a spinach fettuccini. Unfortunately, we're not equipped to make our own fresh pasta, so whatever we use it will  have to be a dried pasta (We don't serve pasta dishes often enough to justify the cost of a restaurant grade pasta machine). What do you think of using penne?

 

Thanks so much to everyone for your comments and advice! 


Edited by Tom Cosner - 12/22/12 at 9:31am
post #10 of 21

Tom, 

I'll take a leap here and say that BDL is recommending using a different pasta for ease of service and ability to hold heat. Long strands of pasta can be problematic during dish up. 

However, I think a bit of prior planning can overcome those difficulties. 

you didn't mention the grill trailer. That's great. If you have enough refrigeration, you could still grill the chicken well in advance for the grill marks and flavor, (even the day before) then re heat it in the oven just before service. 

Sounds like you have plenty of volunteers. So because of that, I would mimic a hotel dish up. 

Set up as many stations as you can, each equipped with a stack of warm plates, and three people each, one for pasta, one for chicken and one for sauce. A little practice session ahead of time to work out any kinks. Each station gets equal amount of each item (a gallon of sauce, hotel pan of chicken, pot of pasta). Each person on the station puts their item on the plate in appropriate order, all working very quickly. As each plate is loaded, another volunteer pulls the plate. The full plate is handed off to a tray station or to the delivery person. As the supply of food at each station runs down, other volunteers are standing by, ready to replenish the needed item from the kitchen volunteers to keep the line going. This is all done very rapidly of course. 

As BDL suggested, buttering the pasta should make it easier to work with, easier to plate. Perhaps twirling it as it's plated if you go with fettucine. 

Anyway, with prior planning and plenty of volunteers, you will minimize time spent between plating and eating. So if the food and plates are hot at dish up, serving it hot should be no problem. 

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 

Writer, if I've learned one thing, it is that advance preparation and planning are paramount in these large group situations. All of the posts here confirm that lesson. The vast majority of the time, the meal is secondary to the event, be it a "dinner theater" celebrating Christmas, a marriage conference, a men's outreach bringing in many men from the surrounding communities, or a Valentine Banquet featuring speakers and music, all of which, of course, are presented with a Christian message.

 

Refrigeration isn't a problem, we have a new 47 cu ft reach-in cooler and our "old" cooler is an 8' X 12' walk-in. We also have an old chest type freezer and a new matching freezer with the new reach-in cooler. So, grilling the chicken the day before and reheating won't be a problem either. I wonder, should we place the whole breast on the pasta, cut into chunks and place on top, or cut into chunks and toss with the pasta and sauce?

 

And, we're familiar with the work groups approach for plating and serving. We've done it whenever we carried the plates to the table in the past. We use the teens from our Student Ministry because they are enthusiastic, energetic and motivated, and because it trains them up for service in the Hospitality Ministry, as well as other ministries, when they get a little older. We can serve the meal and mentor the youngsters at the same time.smile.gif

 

We'll be doing a salad and dessert. But, they'll be preplated and positioned on the tables shortly before serving time. Taking into consideration the audience, we will offer a selection of dressings rather than Italian only (knowing our members, most will opt for ranch. They always do). The only time we didn't offer that choice was when we did a spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It's been a while and it may have also had sliced almonds.

 

We have a Shutterfly photo page for our Hospitality Ministry at http://familychurchhospitalityministry.shutterfly.com/pictures if you'd be interested in seeing how we do it most of the time. Some of the pics make it seem that there is complete chaos. But, it isn't as bad as it looks and we have 2 team leaders, 2 leader interns, and my wife and myself to supervise.


Edited by Tom Cosner - 12/22/12 at 1:55pm
post #12 of 21

Wow. After seeing the pictures, I'd have to say that despite the lack of formal training, you've certainly got the experience. That's quite an operation. I've worked in restaurant kitchens that were not as well equipped. 

To answer you're question. As long as you are cooking the chicken well in advance, I would cook it, chill it. Then take it out, cut each breast in slices but keep them together. A few volunteers should be able to knock that job off in no time. Back on sheet pans. Then reheating is quicker and each guest gets a nicely cut up portion. 

Otherwise, I think you are selling yourself a little short. Alfredo or anything else you decide to do in the future should be no more difficult than anything else you've done. Pick a menu and plan it out. As you must know, you don't learn by staying within your comfort zone and things are only uncertain because you haven't done them before. You have the volunteers and equipment to pull off just about anything. Every menu has unique challenges but advance planning will take care of that. 

I'll be waiting to hear about a more difficult challenge for your next event. 

post #13 of 21

Agreed, you have a workspace there that many chefs would give their....best knife, to have.

 

Chefwriter's got ya covered pretty well so I'll only add this whilst the subject of pasta handling

has beeen breached. When using full length dry pasta I have always broken it in half before cooking.

Only takes a sec, chronic twirlers still get their twirl-fix, but it makes tonging/handling much easier

during a busy serve.

You have an army helping you, I see no other problems here. smile.gif

post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks, guys! Your advice has been invaluable. God bless y'all!

post #15 of 21

You mentioned 'authentic' Alfredo... that is what I first saw and then wanted to rant about. 

 

It's also what BDL was getting at...aside from the pasta 

 

You are making "American Alfredo" probably better called "restaurant Alfredo" as even most European places serve the same.

 

The real dish doesn't hold at all... it is preparred table side  and has no cream... cream was added in order to 'hold' the sauce on the line.

 

Here is a link to a great read about the dish... the dish as originally made by.... (ya... the guy who invented it!)  

 

http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=210

 

Now don't get me wrong - what you are serving is absolutely perfect.   Please don't change a thing.

 

Just don't call it 'authentic alfredo' or myself and some nuts who don't always fit in will have something to say about it.

 

You - by the way seem to have it dialed in right.  Education or not you have it figured out and are putting out the food.

Congrats and good luck with this next event!

 

o7

 

(PS and don't be a stranger... i'd love to hear how this goes and also what you are doing in the futre!   Every detail helps)

----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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----

 


"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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post #16 of 21

Anyone in the caatering or banquet business will tell you when you are plating up for 350 the last thing you want to do is noodle strand or spaghetti type pasta.. Most of us would prefer Penne. Rigatonni, Moscatelli, Raddittore or some other heavier pasta. Its so much easier to plate up and does not get soggy or gummy. 

And yes, for banquet service sometime a Berchamel is used in an Alfreddo. Most time half Bechamel and half cream. Depends what kind of place your in and who you are catering to. To try and do spaghetti type items fpr 350 is almost a fiasco.  If for KIDS  and it lays in chaffers or steam table pans thats different. Trying to TWIRL pasta for 350  is a pain in the butt I don't care how many volunteers you have.  For 350 you should have at least 2  if not more plating stations for speed of service.

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...

Reply
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelGA View Post

You mentioned 'authentic' Alfredo... that is what I first saw and then wanted to rant about. 

 

It's also what BDL was getting at...aside from the pasta 

 

You are making "American Alfredo" probably better called "restaurant Alfredo" as even most European places serve the same.

 

The real dish doesn't hold at all... it is preparred table side  and has no cream... cream was added in order to 'hold' the sauce on the line.

 

Here is a link to a great read about the dish... the dish as originally made by.... (ya... the guy who invented it!)  

 

http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=210

 

Now don't get me wrong - what you are serving is absolutely perfect.   Please don't change a thing.

 

Just don't call it 'authentic alfredo' or myself and some nuts who don't always fit in will have something to say about it.

 

You - by the way seem to have it dialed in right.  Education or not you have it figured out and are putting out the food.

Congrats and good luck with this next event!

 

o7

 

(PS and don't be a stranger... i'd love to hear how this goes and also what you are doing in the futre!   Every detail helps)

Agreed.........but while reading most articles about the dish, most of them include garlic and or cream of some kind. I have never had the dish as described in the article. Just thinking about it makes my blood thicken and my arteries clog. 

Oh and Tom......sounds like you've got it all figured now....good luck.

post #18 of 21

Along this same line, what about doing pasta somewhere where there is no kitchen and I am bringing everything in hot in cambros?  Is there a way to do this successfully for anything other than a baked pasta dish (i.e. lasagna, baked stuffed shells, baked rigatoni)?  Also, as we are getting more and more into dinner catering as we started out doing lots of hors d'oeuvres for parties and weddings, can you share the secret for reheating pasta noodles? Par boil?

 

 

thanks!

Holly

post #19 of 21

Hello Holly,

You might want to start by reading through this thread:

 

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/72886/how-to-serve-pasta-through-out-the-day

 

as we tossed that very thing back and forth a bit.

 

As a caterer my philosophy is to be as self-contained as possible, but also a lot depends on

what you can or  cant do at the particular event, like cooking on a portable burner, on-premises

oven/stove access etc.

And whether or not you WANT to use cambros depends a lot (to me) on how much holding time

you need-- 30 minutes to an hour is fine for most anything already Cambroable, while 2 hours +

gets into "eeksville". I personally prefer to do as much prep and cooking on the event site as possible.

But events logistics can vary....WIDELY.

post #20 of 21

Thanks for pointing me in that direction....I will check out the kitchen and see what they have to offer.  No customers really thinks about logistics

when requesting a catering menu--it's a whole different ballgame from restaurant cooking!
 

post #21 of 21
Quote:

No customers really thinks about logistics when requesting a catering menu--

it's a whole different ballgame from restaurant cooking!

Amen to that. However as caterers we inevitably learn to serve-on-water if we have to. wink.gif

Let us know if we can be of futher help!

 

-Meez

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