Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving for 150

We held class on Tuesday at the normal time, around 3:15. Only one student showed up on time -- after loading in 100s of lbs of food only minutes before, it sent a chill down my spine. Will all the labor of setting up a meal for 150 fall on my shoulders? Fortunately, 3 were outside smoking, and 2 more showed up late due to a conflicting class trip.

Tuesday was all about prep and cooking off what could be held. The mac n' cheese was made, but not baked. I had never held an unbaked mac n' cheese before. We saved the topping of the bread crumbs for the next day, too. Yams were scrubbed, forked and wrapped in foil, then put on the shelf. White potatoes were peeled, chopped, and put in acidulated water. Sausage was cooked off, stuffing was assembled, then refrigerated without the final baking.

The only things that were 99% cooked and ready to go were the drinks, but even that I held back. A whole case of lemons were squeezed with a rotating Kitchen Aid mixer attachment. Pots of syrup were made, one infused with mint. A gallon of strong tea was infused. I left them with out a lot of additional water, left them strong, because....they took up so much damn space! Watering them down with cold water to taste right before service made sense.

Smoked turkey necks came whole, so they had to be hacked apart. Placed in water and boiled to make a nice stock, but not enough time to cook off collards, so the whole pot was placed in the fridge along with bowls full of sliced up greens.

Before class, I took the two turkeys, stripped them of packaging, giblet bags, necks and plastic doohickies, and dropped them into large containers full of salt solution and got them in the walk-in. At the end of class, I had students remove them, pat them down and place them back in the fridge. The glaze for the hams were made and placed into large bags with the hams, then into the chilly walk in. Fresh pineapples were demoed then hacked up.

We were cleaned up by 8pm, and eating some pumpkin pie, cornbread and strong sweet tea. It flew by, everyone was busy. The potatoes were a lot of labor, but everything went smoothly.

I was back in the kitchen by 6:30am, cooking off yams. The first student joined me at 7am, and I had her doing fun stuff, like making additional cinnamon butter and making dessert arrangements. Some things were simple -- get the stuffings and mac n' cheeses in the oven, out, cover in foil, hold in a warm oven or above the ovens until service. The white potatoes were boiled off, then run through a food mill and folded into hot cream and butter and salt. The turkeys were rubbed down with butter, stuffed with chopped mire poix and fresh herbs, stabbed with an electronic thermometer, then off to the races. The hams were studded with cloves and pineapple, then placed in the oven to heat through -- being a smoked meat, it's already cooked. Cinnamon butter plated, drinks watered down to taste then bottled. Collards boiled in the turkey neck stock, spooned out and slathered in chicken fat.

Service was at 12:30, and everything except the turkey was locked and loaded by noon.
The only thing I was really unhappy with was the turkey -- I've never actually roasted a turkey before (because, well, I don't like turkey and we roasted plenty of other meats in c-school) and I now know why it has such a bad rep. I don't mean bad rep, like evil factory farms, animals bred into unwalking, unhappy mutants or unhealthy hormones, antibiotics and chemicals stuffed into these poor birds. I mean it's REALLY difficult to roast a bird this size AND have it all come out good. If you get the center of the meat to 165˚, the outside is gonna overcook, period. Brining only got us so far. Looking at the pic above, yes, it's a nice color and yes, the butter basting let the skin come out nice n' crackly, but about 1/4 of the dark meat and 1/3 of the white was dry and tough, despite me following every method and maxim drawn from my experience.

If I were to do the bird again, I would either a) forgo roasting the bird all together and fry the mother or b) choose 3 smaller birds instead of 2 large, brine for 8 hours instead of 4 and baste twice as much. Oh well.

Speeches of thankfulness were given, then the food rolled out finally by 1pm. It was pretty organized -- 5 big tables of about 20 people each, so each dish was either baked in or divided into 5 big portions. The amounts were pretty spot-on except for two dishes -- I should have doubled up on the mac n' cheese, and I should have done a different yam recipe, as they were nearly untouched. I think this population was used to a mashed, very sweetened yam preparation, and a simple baked yam with butter (albeit sweet, jazzed up butter) was a step too far to take with them. And by 1:30, it was over!

Only three more classes left: next week is meat, then pizza, then students' choice....



Yield: 30 servings
Elbow macaroni 4 lbs
Butter 1 ½ cups
Flour 1 ½ cups
Whole milk 1 ¼ gallon
Salt & pepper to taste
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Cheddar, cubed 1 ½ lb
Mozzarella, cubed 1 ½ lb
Monterey jack, cubed 1 ½ lb
Bread Crumbs 10 cups
1. Preheat oven to 350˚. Warm milk, but do not boil. Grease 5 large aluminum pans. Bring enough salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cook until very al dente – 2 minutes shorter than package suggestion.
2. Melt butter and stir in flour to make a roux. Whisk in warm milk a ladle at a time to make white sauce. BTB RTS. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Remove sauce from heat, stir in three cheeses. Combine with pasta and stir well. Pour into 5 baking dishes.
4. Sprinkle tops with breadcrumbs to coat.
5. Bake 45-60 minutes, or until top is desired crispiness. Rest.



Yield: 100 servings
Sausage, casing removed, crumbled 10 lbs
Onion, finely chopped 8 each
Celery, finely chopped 2 head
Salt & pepper to taste
Cornbread, cubed 10 lbs
Fresh sage, minced 10 oz
Eggs, lightly beaten 30 each
Chicken stock 10 to 12 cups
1. Brown sausage in large pot until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
2. Add onion and celery to pot with hot fat in it. Cook until vegetables soften. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Toss sausage and vegetables with cornbread in a large bowl. Moisten with stock until correct texture is achieved. Divide into 5 baking dishes.
4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake – 350˚ for 45-60 minutes until top crust is achieved.


Yield: 50 servings

Smoked turkey necks, chopped 5 lbs
Collard greens, chiffonade 5 bushels
Salt to taste
White vinegar to taste
Chicken fat 1 cup
1. Cover necks in cold water. BTB RTS
2. Add greens, fat, salt and vinegar.
3. Simmer until greens are soft, 45-60 minutes.
4. Strain, refrigerate until service.
5. Before service, reheat in pans with chicken fat.


Yield: 100 servings
Russet Potatoes 40 lbs
Butter, room temperature 8-10 cup
Milk, hot 1 g
Heavy cream, hot 1 g
Ground black pepper to taste
1. Scrub, peel and cut potatoes into large pieces.
2. Boil or steam until tender.
3. Drain and dry over low heat or on a sheet pan in a 300˚ oven until no steam rises from them.
4. While hot, puree potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer into a heated bowl.
5. Add butter and mix into potatoes by hand or with the paddle or whip attachment of an electric mixer until just incorporated. Add milk, cream, salt, pepper by hand until smooth and light
6. Spoon potatoes onto heated plates or transfer to a piping bag and pipe into desired shapes.


Yield: 100 servings
Yams 100 each
1. Wash and scrub each potato. Fork each several times. Wrap in foil.
2. Bake 1 hour at 400˚
3. Test with fork – if fork meets no resistance, it is done.
4. Can be held, uncovered, for one hour. Serve with sweet cinnamon butter.


Yield: 5 gallons
Sugar 10 lbs
Cold water 3 quart
Loose black tea 1 lb
Hot water 2.5 gallon
Room temp water 2.5 gallon
1. Combine sugar and cold water. Bring to a boil. Allow to cool.
2. Infuse loose tea into hot water for 4 to 5 minutes. Strain into room temperature water.
3. Sweeten tea with simple syrup.


Yield: 5 gallons
Sugar 10 lbs
Cold water 3 quart
Mint 10 bunches
Lemon juice 1 gallon
Cold water 4 gallon
Salt to taste
1. Combine sugar and cold water. Bring to a boil. Add whole mint, stems removed. Simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool.
2. Combine lemon juice, mint syrup and cold water. Season.
3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.



Yield: 100 servings
Smoke ham 2 each
Pineapple juice 1 g
Cherry juice 1 g
Mango juice 1 g
Lemon juice .5 g
Smoked hams 4 each
Salt & pepper to taste
Brown sugar 4 lbs
Fresh pineapple, sliced 4 each
1. Boil juices until reduced to syrup
2. Place hams in high-walled pans. Rub with brown sugar, salt and pepper.
3. Place hams in plastic bags. Fill with syrup. Refrigerate overnight.
4. Remove from bags, place excess syrup in pans. Place pineapple slices around the ham.
5. Bake until heated through, occasionally basting with syrup.
6. Rest 30 minutes, then slice and serve.


Yield: 1 turkey
Turkey 1 each
Salt 1 cup per gallon of water
Onion, chopped 3 medium
Carrots, chopped 7 each
Celery 5 ribs
Thyme, fresh 4 sprigs
Butter, melted 6 tablespoons
1. Remove giblets and neck from cavity. Prepare bringing solution of 1 gallon of water to 1 cup salt and cover turkey in non-reactive container. Refrigerate minimum 4 hours.
2. Remove from solution, rinse turkey in fresh water. Pat dry, place on pan and allow drying in refrigerator overnight/8 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 400˚.
4. Coat vegetables and thyme with melted butter, reserve some butter for brushing turkey. Place in cavity of turkey. Bind legs, wings and body of bird with cooking twine.
5. Place bird, breast side down, on wire rack in roasting pan. Brush back of turkey with butter. Pour 2 cups of water in pan. Place in preheated oven.
6. At 45 minutes, baste.
7. At 1 hr, 15 minutes, turn over and baste.
8. At 1 hr 45 minutes, check temp with thermometer. Breast should be 165˚, deepest part of the thigh 175˚
9. Rest turkey for a MINIMUM of 30 minutes. Carve and serve.