Taped to the wall Saturday was the game plan: Prepare a buffet dinner for 200.
Everybody had a job, from Dave Brannon, in charge of the Pasta Con Broccoli, to Paul Sutherland and Jack Snyder, who were creating the Rich and Charlie's Salad.
"We're ahead of schedule," said Dave Hoffmann, who was moving sheets of chicken breasts in and out of the oven. He was one of a baker's dozen of men working in the kitchen at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Belleville. Calling themselves the St. Paul Men's Culinaires, they have for two years delved into becoming better cooks and learning more about food.
"We're a bunch of guys who like to cook," said Dave, who along with Ken Nettleton, brought about 20 men who are members of the church together to occasionally cook at each other's homes and handle some special events at the church.
"There aren't many things guys can gather around and there's a big interest here," he added. "We wanted to bring community back into the church."
On Saturday, they created their biggest meal for a Valentine's Day celebration and concert at the church that night.
"We've always catered the event," said Pastor Drew Kramer, who was chopping parsley. "But they came to the church and asked to do it. I think it's a selling point."
Nobody was standing still, but everybody couldn't help but admire the sparkling new 18-burner stovetop with three ovens, plus the stacked double convection ovens the church just bought.
"We're raising funds for it," said Dave, 64. "The stove we'd had was 45 years old."
It made cooking so much easier.
The menu consisted of Rich and Charlie's Salad, Chicken Florentine, Pasta Con Broccoli, pork tenderloin with rice pilaf and chocolate-covered strawberries. Plus, they made an appetizer and punch.
And did the cleanup.
Here are three of the recipes served Saturday.
Rich & Charlie's Salad
1 head iceberg lettuce
1 head Romaine lettuce
1 (4-ounce) jar pimientos
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 package dry Lowry's Italian dressing
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
In a large bowl, tear up lettuce into bite-size pieces and mix.
Drain pimientos and add to lettuce.
Slice red onion as thin as possible. Add to lettuce along with artichoke hearts.
Sprinkle cheese over lettuce. Mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Right before serving, mix dressing according to directions; add to salad.
Pasta Con Broccoli
16 ounces penne pasta
2 cups heavy cream
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups Parmigiao-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Cayenne pepper, optional
Finely chopped parsley
1 pound broccoli
Cook pasta according to directions on the box.
Cut florets from broccoli stems and blanch. Drain well.
Heat lemon juice on low heat. Stir in cream. When mixed, add butter slices and stir slowly until it is melted. Do not let mixture come to a boil at any time. Add pepper to taste. Add small amounts of cheese at a time until melted. Remove from heat and add blanched broccoli.
Breast of Chicken Florentine
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
6 chicken breast halves, boned and skinned
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 pound fresh spinach
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Mix flour, salt and pepper; dredge chicken through the mixture. Dip egg; coat with cheese and bread crumbs. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Heat 1/2 cup butter in large skillet; brown chicken on each side. Lower heat; cover. Simmer 25 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken from skillet.
Add mushrooms and parsley to drippings; stir over heat 3 minutes.
Blanch spinach until wilted; drain well. Season with 1/4 cup butter, lemon juice, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Serve chicken on a bed of spinach; top with mushrooms. Serves 6.
Note: Chicken can be cooked in advance and reheated. Also, some white wine and lemon juice can be added to the mushrooms when cooking.