Cafeteria Food

Posted: February 1, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

One of the ‘perks’ of my job is that I can save money by eating whatever meals I want in the dining hall.  Unfortunately, when cooking a  meal for 400 people in a high school cafeteria, quality has a tendency to go out the window.  The other day for lunch, the menu said that they were serving grilled chicken and penne in a creamy roasted red pepper and smoked gouda sauce.  Sounds really good right?…sadly, no.   There was one tiny little chink of chicken on my plate with watery sauce, over cooked pasta, and garnished with cherry tomatoes.  Not cooked cherry tomatoes which might have made sense, but raw, cold cherry tomatoes from the salad bar.  I can’t not think of anything more disappointed than a meal that sounds fantastic and tastes like crap.  I was convinced that I could do better, so this weekend I planned it out and tried to execute.  Needless to say (hopefully) mine was way better than the institutional cafeteria version.

The first thing that I did was roast a red pepper, which required putting a red pepper in the over and rotating it every 5 minutes until it is black on all sides, then taking it out of the oven and covering it with a towel until it cools and collapses a little.  Once you can handle it, peel all the skin off and cut it into bite sized pieces.

While the pepper is roasting, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and sautee with some butter, salt and pepper until it is golden brown.  Set the chicken aside and throw some mushrooms, onions, and asparagus into the sautee pan and cook until they are tender.

Put a pound of pasta (I used angel hair, but use whatever you want) into boiling water, and while that cooks, you can start the sauce.  Its a basic white sauce, so I started with 3Tbsp of butter and 3Tbsp of flour to make my roux, then added 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of chicken stock.  Once it thickens add grated smoked gouda to taste.  I used a combo of smoked gouda and regular gouda because my stupendous grocery store only had one block of smoked gouda.  Add the chicken, peppers and veggies, then salt and pepper to taste.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce.  Toss to coat.

Thankfully, this turned out beautifully.  More importantly, it turned out WAY better than the dining hall version.

Pasta with creamy smoked gouda sauce

Hope you enjoy!

Grilled chicken and penne
pasta in a creamy roasted
red pepper and smoked
gouda saucGrilled chicken and penne
pasta in a creamy roasted
red pepper and smoked
gouda sauceGrilled chicken and penne pasta in a creamy roasted red pepper and smoked gouda sauce

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

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Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.