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Wedding Reception

I was contracted to provide three, heat and serve entree items a for a small, 120 person reception buffet this past weekend. Hors d'oeuvres and salads were provided by friends and family. Because I needed to feed 120 people I wanted at least 120 pieces of each item. To guarantee everyone some of everything and possible seconds, I prepared 140 pieces of the following three items which required a 48 hours of musical freezer, refrigerator thaw, marinate, refrigerator, oven, grill, refrigerator, pan this up and get it outta here games. To be honest, it wasn't all work. Now, I didn't do everything in one or two days my friends. I spent the last 3-4 weeks filling my chest freezer with the chicken and pork. I have a great musical play list with thousands of songs in many genera, and I listen to it all the time when I'm in the kitchen. I also enjoyed a lovely brew or a glass of wine or two while working. But I digress. So...

Country Style Ribs

I purchased 12 packages of 6 country style pork ribs and cut them in half which provided 144 portions of nice 5-6 oz. rib-lets.

I use a dry rub consisting of Jerk Seasoning and brown sugar.


¼ cup seasoning

6 cup light brown sugar.

More or less, depending on how spicy you want your ribs to be.

I tossed mine into three, 4 inch deep hotel pans divided the rub between the three, gave them a toss and threw them into a 360° for 45 min. gave them a stir and back in for another 45 min.

Then I poured enough fresh water over them to cover them ½ way, covered with foil and returned to the oven for another 45min. Gave them another stir and back for another 45 min in the oven.

If you take a fork or a pair of tongs and can tear off a piece of meat they're tender enough. Be sure to check the ones underneath to see if they're tender as well.

Out of the oven, drain and strain the stock, and into the fridge to cool.

For the sauce I used,

2 quarts of reserved stock

1 quart Chiavettas barbeque and marinade

60 oz. (about a squeeze bottle and a half) of ketchup

1 and ½ pounds of light brown sugar

Combine all into a lager sauce pan and simmer till slightly thick or, a glazing consistency. The next morning, after the ribs were cool I threw those bad boys on the grill and started glazing them with the sauce. Once I had them nicely glazed it was back to the fridge to cool and set.

I didn't use all the sauce to glaze. What was left I added to the pans to enhance the flavor and moisture profile during reheating and came up about ¼ the way on the panned ribs. I ended up fitting 140 pieces into two, 4 inch hotel pans.

Grilled Brined Chicken

I purchased 18 young, whole, (supposedly) never frozen, (have you ever noticed when you purchase “never frozen” chicken, they're almost always at least partially frozen) chickens, NOT ROASTERS, from Wegmans Grocery. Sam's club chickens are all way too big. Fine for a roast chicken but too big for a grilled or sauteed chicken. Don't get me started on chicken. I could go on for hours about the evolution of the chicken since the 60's and 70's. Anyway, I partially, de-boned and cut the whole chickens into 8 pieces. 2 thighs, 2 legs, and I cut the breast in half leaving what's known in the business as a semi boneless, airport breast and a breast with tender or, bottom part of the breast with the 'chicken tender' attached.

I doubled the recipe for the brine from the BBQ Pit Boys. This is a very easy and, very good recipe for both chicken and pork. I've used it several times. If you're cooking for 1 or 2, I suggest cutting the recipe in half. It's what I normally do.

After the chicken was mostly thawed, I divided the chicken and the brine between three, 4 inch chafing or hotel pans. Gave them a good toss to ensure the marinade covered them.

Brine (original recipe)

½ tsp. Thyme

2 tsp. Cayenne

1 Tblsp. Dried garlic

1 Tblsp. Dried onion

1 Tblsp. Black pepper

¼ cup salt

½ cup sugar

8 cups water

Mix all this together and let the chicken marinate for 2 to 4 hours. Don't let it marinate too long or your chicken will start to dry out and become more cured than marinated.

Then on to the grill it went, till it reached an internal temperature of 165°. Then back into the fridge to cool.

While the chicken was cooling I made the corn relish with frozen corn, some chopped red and green peppers, black beans, cilantro, sliced almonds, salt, pepper and lime juice.

Since I always use whole chickens I always have an abundance of fresh chicken stock. I made a jus lié, a slightly thickened meat stock or juices using a slurry based on cornstarch or arrowroot and seasoned it, with salt and pepper and panned it up into three 4 inch deep hotel pans.

Last, but not least and, from what I understand was the hit of the buffet.

Vegetable Lasagna

I don't remember how I happened to stumble across this recipe but do remember making it for the first time in a restaurant and reading the recipe from the inside of a Philly Cream Cheese package. There was no “internet” in the early to mid 80's. Since then I've plagiarized, bastardized and modified it till it's pretty much, MINE! Over the years it's become pretty standard and favorite fare wherever I'm cooking. However, since I no longer work for a sole proprietorship, to do this recipe for this many people, was a little tricky. I used my contacts in the food service industry to order 2 cases of cooked, frozen lasagna sheets, 40 sheets per case and a case of twelve 3 pound packages of chopped frozen spinach. I used.

47 lasagna sheets

12 pounds of cream cheese. Softened and beaten.

24 pounds of frozen chopped spinach. Thawed, drained and squeezed almost dry

4 large sweet onions diced. Sauteed. Cooled.

4 pounds carrots julienne. Blanched in boiling water. Cooled and drained well.

Mix all that together.

I have two 6.5 quart kitchen aid mixers and it still required three batches.

Ordinarily you would use 2 lasagna sheets to cover the bottom of a full hotel pan, add your filling and repeat. I like to roll my lasagna. If using the single store bought type of lasagna noodle you'd take one noodle, spread some filling onto it, and roll it into what eventually be one serving. Using the lasagna sheets you're able to get three portions from one sheet by rolling and then cutting into thirds. Since this was for a buffet I added ½ pound of filling to each lasagna sheet before rolling and cutting it. I ended up needing 7 and 1/2 hotel pans for the 140 portions. If I were serving this as a plated entree I would almost double the amount of filling per sheet.

Here's the link to the original recipe.

The Sauce Variable

In my opinion, it's the sauce that makes this dish as popular as it is. Sure, you can use a canned or bottled pasta sauce. Or you can use your Nana's sauce that she cooks for a week. Here's the tomato sauce that I use a lot as is. But I frequently use it as a base for “small” sauces like Caponata or Bolognaise as well.

I have no formal recipe. It's something I came up with on the fly, at a time when I was deep in the weeds in a particular kitchen I was working part time in. The restaurant shall remain nameless but, a product offered on the menu wasn't in inventory.

Now, I make it in much larger batches than most households, so I'll tell you what I used and then I'll give you a semi-conversion recipe.

I used

¾ pound fresh garlic cloves (sliced thin) I used the attachment for my mixer to slice it. Most food processors have a blade that will do the trick likitysplit.

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

9 twenty eight oz. cans of diced tomatoes in juice.

Sautee the garlic in the olive oil till translucent, even a little brown (but not too much). Add your tomatoes to slow down the cooking and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. A little salt and fresh cracked black pepper and voila!

One Can Conversion

½ to ¾ cup sliced garlic. You can never have too much garlic. It's my opinion that sliced garlic has a much smoother flavor than chopped. But then again, I may be totally wack!

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil. A good olive oil can pretty much stand alone as a sauce so don't be afraid to use this at your discretion.

1 (one) 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice.

Saute your garlic, add your tomatoes, salt and pepper and again. Voila!

Again, you can add fresh basil if you like, or even a little pesto if you have that. Some spicy Italian sausage cooked, NOT drained. Throw a little of this sauce. Some blanched julienne carrots and, some heavy cream. Reduce. Man you've got one hell of a Bolognaise.

Eat well and live large my friends,

Chef Tim

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