Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blue and Gold Dinner 2012

Last night our Cub Scout pack hosted its annual Blue and Gold Dinner.  Officially we were feeding 108 guests, and that number was climbing as late as noon yesterday--but I'm pretty sure some extra Boy Scouts showed up.  It wasn't a problem; they were most welcome and we had plenty of ziti and meatballs to go around.  People must have been on a health kick this year, though, because we completely ran out of salad before the last 15 people got through the line.  (What can I say--I make a mean salad.  Open bag of salad, dump in a bowl, add sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes.  It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.)

I made 225 meatballs this year, with just under 14 pounds of meat.  22 were left, so I'm happy with that; it means my estimate was right on the money.

Here's the staging area before I started making the sauce.  I just love our parish kitchen:  12 stove burners on 2 industrial stoves, a HUGE stainless-steel prep table, triple sink, 2 smaller sinks, and an equipment room that is nearly as big as my entire home kitchen.

Spaghetti sauce for 225:  use 3 18-quart roaster ovens and split ingredients among them.
1 111-oz can of tomato paste
9 28-oz cans tomato puree
9 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/3 to 1/2 can of water for each can of anything
seasoning:  3 bay leaves
3 handfuls parsley flakes
3 handfuls basil
3 handfuls oregano
3 handfuls garlic powder
3 smaller handfuls onion powder
drizzle of olive oil
6 tsp sugar
6 tsp salt
3 tsp crushed red pepper

I wasn't speeding along, and everything got done in plenty of time.  I set up to make the sauce at 1:30 and the roasters were all cooking by 2:30 (there were 19 cans to open...)

And here's what I call the Roaster Parade.  I placed each one on a huge baking tray.  This way the heat didn't melt the plastic tablecloth, and we had a place to set the serving spoons down.

There's nothing like a roaster oven to get a job like this done.  You can set them at 350 to get them good and hot when you first fill them, then turn the temperature down to 200 or so and let the sauce simmer all afternoon.  They cooked the sauce right there at the serving table, so there was no moving hot pots of sauce around.  There was also no mess of spaghetti-sauce spatters all over the stove (so much less to clean up later!)

When it was time to serve dinner, we just opened one roaster at a time and served meatballs and sauce until it was empty; then we moved on to the next one.  Each roaster held 75 meatballs but I have fit up to 100 in roasters that size.

We cooked 18 pounds of pasta (and had 4 more boxes at the ready) but only needed 16.  2 pounds of pasta went into each of the big pots shown here.  We cooked 3 pots at a time.  Each 2 pounds of cooked pasta went into a shallow steam-table dish.  After drizzling it with olive oil and stirring to coat the pasta (so it wouldn't stick together) we covered the dish with foil and placed in a warm oven until it was time to serve the food.

I started that a little earlier yesterday and probably shouldn't have.  1 hour and 15 minutes before serving is plenty.  The first pan or 2 of pasta that was cooked got a little mushy from sitting around so long.  Also, it's important to remember to serve the pasta in the same order that it's cooked so that it doesn't sit around too long!

If I were a little taller (OK, a lot taller) I could have used this pot. It holds 58 quarts, according to the etching on the inside.  But I'm too short to see over the rim.

Behind the stove they have the most fabulous thing ever:  a special hose with hot and cold water taps so you can fill the pots right there at the stove!  I love this.  The hose stretches far enough that I could roll up a cart with the coffeepots and 5-gallon drink jugs and fill them as well (did that before we turned on the stove to cook the pasta).

Here's last year's shopping and equipment list.  This year I used the quantities of pasta and sauce listed above, 1 gallon of Boost, 1 can decaf coffee (11 oz), 1 1/2 cans regular coffee (11 oz), 3 quarts half and half, enough iced-tea mix to make 4 gallons (16 quarts), 10 bags of salad (and they're less than a pound now, which is probably where I went wrong), 3 cucumbers, 3 boxes grape tomatoes, 4 pints salad dressing, 4 regular-size bags croutons.  I got 4 flavors of dressing:  Ranch, Italian, Caesar and Catalina.  All had a little left; only the Catalina had more than 1/4 of a bottle left.

I cannot say enough good about 3 of the Boy Scouts.  They're Middle Sister's friends and I've known these guys for years.  Yesterday they showed me that they are growing up into wonderful young men.  Before dinner, they sought me out to ask how they could help.  They agreed that they'd help with scrubbing the pots after dinner.  Those guys showed up as soon as the Scout ceremony was over and got right to work.  All I had to do was put the clean items where they belonged.  They wiped down the sink and the work table after the dishes were done, without being reminded.  They left that kitchen much cleaner than I found it when I walked in yesterday afternoon (I had to scrub the 3 pasta pots before I could use them.)  All the while, they chatted with one of their leaders about ideas for their Eagle Scout projects and other personal ambitions they have.  They were friendly, respectful, amazingly helpful and kind.  I made sure to praise them, in front of them, to more than one Scout leader.  Because of their hard work, the Cub Scout parents had the chance to enjoy family time with their children and social time with other Scout families after dinner.

This morning, my shoulders and upper back are really feeling it from all that lifting, but it was a good day and a good dinner and I was proud to be able to do this for our Cub Scouts.

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