Monday, August 17, 2009

But I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won't Do That

Today was meat loaf for lunch, ugh! I am not a fan of meat loaf though I'm willing to eat a bite. Chef broke us into two groups of eight and said each group was to make meat loaf, a pasta dish, two vegetable dishes and a dessert. Family style southern cooking. We were cleaning out the walk in. We all had to cook, no one was allowed to direct and not cook. Bar Code and I immediately took over though I noticed he kind of deferred to me. We didn't have the strongest group: RK, Mayfield, the Sushi boys, Chico and Igor. Bar Code and I had the most experience though. I said it made no sense to have eight people making meat loaf and we should break into subgroups, three doing meat loaf, three doing the pasta and two doing the veggies and dessert. RK said he wanted in on the meat loaf since he's never made it before. Bar Code said find pick two other people. Mayfield and Sushi #1. Bar Code grabbed Chico and Igor and said they would make the starches, pasta and sweet potatoes. We had linguine and Bar Code didn't want to do Alfredo because he was sick of it. I said fine, do a pasta salad with it. Bar Code asked me about doing sweet potato fries. Fine, I don't like them but sounds good to me.

I grabbed Sushi #2 and we headed for the walk in. On our way Chef said someone had donated some pinto beans and it would be good to use them up. Good, we'll do barbecue baked beans. We didn't have much for vegetable selection but we found some yellow squash and thought about a squash casserole. Chef was very pleased, he had hoped someone would decide that. For dessert I suggested short bread dipped in chocolate ganache. Sushi liked the sound of it and it's pretty easy. Thumbs up from Chef.

Dinah and her Mom make a squash casserole and all I knew was that it was squash, soup and crackers on top. I asked Chef if we needed to make our own soup base or could we use canned? Soup? Chef said, "here's how I make squash casserole: blanch the squash, sliced onions, cheese sauce, Worcestershire , mayonnaise, Swiss cheese slices,bread crumbs." OK, we can handle that.

We got the squash sliced up. For some reason the water took forever to boil. Onions were sliced. I had an idea on how to do a cheese sauce but sent Sushi around asking. The book called for making a bechamel sauce first and I was pretty sure we weren't going that route. I confirmed that with Chef. After Sushi got back I poured a quart of heavy cream in a sauce pan, put it over medium heat and had Sushi start blending in some shredded cheddar cheese. He was doing it little bits at a time which made Chef chuckle. Finally Chef had him just dump the whole bag in. Then Chef had him fetch some Gruyere from the freezer. Up until this week I had no idea you could freeze cheese. Makes sense though, I mean it comes on frozen pizzas that way. The class knife wouldn't cut through the frozen cheese but my extra sharp knife with a thicker blade made short work of cutting a huge hunk of the Gruyere into cubes. That took a little longer to melt in and unfortunately we did burn on the bottom of the pan. I heard some whining in the dish washing area about that but strangely I had no problems getting the pan clean. Experience always wins.

When most of the cheese had melted I spiced it up with some dry mustard, ground white pepper, the Worcestershire sauce and added some mayo.

Finally our water was boiling. We blanched the squash until it was fork tender, drained then spread it out over the bottom of a hotel pan. We thought we would give the onions some extra flavor so we sauteed them in olive oil and then spread the sauteed slices over the squash. Next we poured the cheese sauce over the onions and squash. I had ground up some bread crumbs and we were spreading the bread crumbs over the top when Chef stopped us and said the bread crumbs should be mixed into the casserole. That was new to me but no problem. Into the oven it went. I t didn't take long for it to cook and the top got a nice golden brown. We pulled it out and topped the casserole with shredded mozzarella and put the pan in the warmer where the cheese would finish melting.

For the beans I made a batch of my Grandpa's barbecue sauce. This proved a little tricky because with two groups making meat loaf we were running low on ketchup. I just had enough though and the sauce tasted pretty good to me. We mixed in the can of beans and put it all into a half pan and into the oven. When the top of the beans started to brown I pulled the pan out and put it in the warmer.

We were going to make shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate but Bar Code's group finished their pasta early so they jumped on the dessert. It was interesting how every time they hit a speed bump they came running to me: "the other group is making a pasta salad!" Don't worry, just change the flavor. Barbecue and meatloaf is the theme today, try a barabcue pasta salad. There's andouille sausage in the walk-in. It might turn out good. "We don't have enough apples!" Go grab some canned apples and combine the two. I guess I'm the answer man.

Since we were done I went to get some of the dishes caught up. I enjoy running the dishwasher, and I'm pretty good at it. Earlier, Chico, who is absolutely brilliant, started the garbage disposal without looking to see if anything was in it. Immediately there's a sound of metal being ground up. I think it took him a full thirty seconds to process the information and turn the disposal off. Now an hour later, I get ready to run the disposal but I check first. Chico never bothered to remove the measuring spoons he ground up in the disposal. The bastard just turned it off and walked away!!! Unbelievable! I fished them out. They were only bent, no rough or ground edges, so I straightened them out, fished out the ring, reassembled them and ran them through the dishwasher correctly. Like I said, brilliant.

We all had to man the chaffing dishes and serve at lunch. I was shocked that nobody wanted the sweet potato fries. They are a staple down here. I thought they were actually pretty good even though it is not a food that I like. A few people tried our baked beans. I will admit they were quite different, not bad but probably not what people wanted. There was no sweetness to them and I think that turned some people off. They were also a little on the thin side. It was then that it dawned on me that my Grandpa's 50+ year old recipe is more like a buffalo wing sauce than any barbecue sauce. I guess he was ahead of his time. Sushi #2 really liked them though.

No one ate any of the barbecue pasta salad which is a shame because it was pretty good. It was on the sweet side because they put honey in it. They did cook it down too low so the sauce was about the consistency of peanut butter. Like I said, Chico is brilliant. The funny thing was the sauce almost tasted like a peanut sauce, like a satay. It was pretty good on the noodles. I liked it.

There was some green bean casserole with home made french fried onions on top. It was OK. And there was a macaroni and cheese casserole made with bow tie pasta with the soupiest cheese sauce yo ever saw. The meat loafs were meat loaf. What can I say. The desserts were awesome! There was an apple pie that Mouth made and the cherry cobbler that Bar Code made was great. I guess he switched gears at the last minute since they didn't have enough apples.

I have to say that our casserole was the best dish and I'm not saying that because we made it. It really was good. It was pretty cool that we made such a good dish working with only a concept and not a true recipe.

Tuesday was field trip day. We were going to a food show in Gwinnett.

1 comment:

Brook said...

I love squash casserole, and eggplant casserole too. so delicious!