October Creole Gumbo Catholic Outreach Soup Kitche
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Well another third Saturday and I would be in my usual spot volunteering at the Catholic Outreach Soup Kitchen to create a meal for a few of God's lost souls. I am going on my third year doing the soup kitchen cooking. It is a lot of fun, like a giant mystery basket contest where you never know what has been donated and you sure don't have a clue how much help you will have to help. Got a call from the director Angela on Thursday, Bob all the Red Lobster donations are building up in the freezer. Would you use it up if I get it all out of the freezer? Of course I will that is why I volunteer, to use the weird, strange and "don't want to try with that" stuff that is just beyond some people's training. I would walk into the kitchen.

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And I would find myself at my favorite part of the day, nothing but sparkling clean possibilities at this point. I am usually the only one in except for Steve this time of the day. 7:30 AM quiet, nothings gone wrong yet, the plan is perfect.... then we start cooking and you have to adapt and solve problems. Many people have asked "what makes a Chef?" You will hear lots of answers, but for me it is simple, can you run the ***** when its taking on water, listing at 30 degrees, has limited power and half a crew? If you can step up, and stand at the helm, handle the crews, and meet the challenge all while giving direction and seeing the standard for service is met. You are, if you can not handle the logistics of what gets used when, if you one thing is the only thing you can think of or handle thinking of, you are a cook, maybe a darn good cook, but still a cook. The five Chefs I work with could all pull off an entire meal with everyone around them going home. And so
think of Chef as the Captain of the *****, can you take the crap, the headaches and most importantly, will people follow you to the goal you are pointing at? If yes, you can do the Chef thing, if no, you will be one of the cooks.
Nothing wrong with cooks, many many are great, but orchestrating everything is a different skill than creating a single dish.

As my volunteer crew begins to show up I have decided, due to the mix of seafood that we will move this ***** toward providing 223 souls a fine Creole meal. I say Creole and not Cajun, because we are not going to use native species of Louisiana here, we are going to use whatever, which is what the Creoles prior to the French refugees showing up in Louisiana. I put my first volunteer to work dicing onions. Of which I only need about 12 cups or so.

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I can handle the 10 cups of celery and the 6 cups of peppers in 20 minutes tops. As more volunteers show up they are put to the onions as well. Some will also do the carrots. Don't find carrots in a lot of Gumbo, but when you are at the soup kitchen and 15 pounds are donated, you learn Creole Gumbo has carrots.

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As more and more trickle in I have the tasks for the entire meal in my head. And each is assigned specific tasks I need completed to make service on time at 12 Noon. And I have never been late on service, and I am not going to every be late on service. This whole meal in the head is another Chef trait. If you have to do it yourself and can not divide the work up logically, you are not going to make the meal in time. You have people with hours, use them to get hours of labor.

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Tom's a school teacher, been with me three years, he knows the salad drill, two fruit salads with as much fresh as we can get, then fill in with canned fruit. Two Green Salads with as much fresh vegetables as we have donated, then fill in with something if we are short on the weight. He knows the salads so well, as the volunteers come in I just send half to him and he uses them where he needs them to meet the salad deadline.

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He has them all lined out with two greens and two fruits and gets them done quickly so we can have the salads in the reefer and the labor back online for the main course. Today I also need a dessert for the clients, as we had almost no cakes and such brought in from the bakeries. (Someday they sell it all, others days we get a ton of stuff.) So Dominic will handle getting the local apples ready. I was asked to use the cases of waffle cones donated before they go bad. I think a nice apple compote in a waffle cone with whipped cream should finish a gumbo well.

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Onions and veggies are getting close to finished, so I am going to start the roux. While the ladies finish chopping the vegetables.

Going to need 2 gallons of oil and 12 pounds of flour. This will be a very interesting roux to put together. I just love this giant tilt skillet we have here at the soup kitchen.

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I am going to take the roux to golden brown, not the normal dark brown you would do for gumbo. I know that a lot of the clients don't have the taste for dark roux. And I want them to eat well as this is usually there only meal for the day. I consider it part of my responsibility to understand how to create food that the majority will eat when I am the Chef at the soup kitchen. I would love to go Dark Dark roux and test the boundaries, but that could mean several don't eat it. And so it is a golden roux for the gumbo.

Now my vegetables are all ready for the pot, so I switch the crew tasks around. I pull the seafood that has been donated from Red Lobster for the past six months and frozen. I show the crew how I want it prepared and turn them loose. The newer ones always want to do the crab. The
experienced know crap picking sucks so they start cutting fish. And tailing shrimp. This gumbo gets a great flavor cause I am using all manner of stuff, fried scallops, fried fish, grills shrimp, grilled scallops, etc etc. I have swordfish today, salmon, tilapia, walleye, etc. It is amazing how all the different seasonings come to blend in this 30 gallon vat to create a very deep, very complex gumbo.

I start by adding the vegetables to the roux while the crew is chopping seafood.

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I will let them sauté a while sharing there depth with the roux, then I will season again and bring the liquid levels up to the gumbo stage. This thing smells wonderful!

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Now I am up to the 28 gallon level. The roux is fantastic and the vegetables are just really pretty to look at with all the reds, greens, yellows, and orange colors flashing around while you stir it. I make the call for the seafood that is ready.

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And boy does the seafood start to fill up the tilt skillet. Salmon and swordfish, lobster and crab, scallops and white fish all coming together in this skillet so that 223 unfortunate souls may find a little peace in the life, even
if only for one hour.

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And finally it is all done, all the bags are empty. All the shells are cleaned, everything is coming together for the feed.  I had put in three 400 series hotel pans of long grain rice at 9:30 AM so we can serve the gumbo on
rice. This is what the final product looks like. I had to pull 15 gallons out because of the amount of seafood we had. No problem, I called Monday's cook, yep happy to have it, will heat it up as a soup for Mondays meal. Great, I like it when nothing goes to waste.

And so I present the October Creole (except I did put gumbo file in the thing so I stole just a little Cajun for it.) Mixed Seafood Gumbo. My 223 clients at 27 gallons of it between 12 Noon and 1 PM. They loved it, I mean really really loved it. You can tell when they do cause they all want to yell to the Chef from through the dish pit. Cause they can see me cleaning the tilt skillet while they are eating. These people that use this place, they do realize when someone puts the effort and cooks with passion. Gary, one of the clients, always comes to me and talks about how they can tell out in the front that someone that cares about food is cooking. Be it home cook just volunteering, or Chef, they know when someone has the passion to put
out the best that can be done with the ingredients available.

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I have heard from many of you that love cooking. Many of you want to know how to get to a commercial setting to try your hand at cooking. Hey, look up your local soup kitchen, they have the equipment and they could sure use some people who love to cook. Don't go for accolades, there are not many if any, but if you just want the satisfaction of knowing you handled it, you hit the goal, you spanked that meal, go down and volunteer they would love for you to do so!

'til we speak again, when you're out shopping this week, pick up extra stuff for you local soup kitchen, you will be helping without even having to be there! And a whole lot of god children will be thankful for your effort.

Chef Bob Ballantyne
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering
Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
Chef de Cuisine
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

USMC Sgt 1979-1985
  Re: October Creole Gumbo Catholic Outreach Soup Kitche by bbally (Well another third S...)
Hmmm....Catholic Gumbo...

...must be Purgatory.
If blueberry muffins have blueberries in them, what do vegan muffins have?
  Re: October Creole Gumbo Catholic Outreach Soup Kitche by bbally (Well another third S...)
On a much smaller scale our Methodist Church does a gumbo fund raiser. I was in charge of rice and had five roasters going on our limited circuitry--an electrician was constantly working with the brakers-(rice does not like interruption)-- we always made it and served some 300 people. Another thing-- I was a major duck hunter-- I boned and boiled 5 0r 6 ducks for stock and pulled some meat before it was over cooked for the gumbo and added the stock . Duck stock adds so much to the brew--if you have a hunter inyour group he will help and I know you know how rich wild duck stock is.The meat is lost in the gumbo, but still there. God bless you.
"He who sups with the devil should have a. long spoon".
  Re: Re: October Creole Gumbo Catholic Outreach Soup Kitche by Old Bay (On a much smaller sc...)
Sounds like a great event. I also hunt and love wild duck and wild goose!
Chef de Cuisine
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

USMC Sgt 1979-1985

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