Fish & Seafood/cooking cheesy fettuccine with shrimp for 400 people
Hi I am having a Mardi Gras party for a fund raiser for a non-profit for at risk children. I make gumbo, jambalaya and am trying to find a new dish. I am thinking of Cheesy Fettuccine with shrimp. What would be the best way to cook that much Fettuccine, how much fettuccine should I cook, and once I put the sauce and the fettuccine in the oven how to I keep it moist and not dried out. May be you have another great dish to use instead.
I would cook the fettuccine in batches. Find a big pot or pots and fill them with water and some salt, bring it to a boil. Plan on 4-5 quarts of water for a pound of pasta. Stir often - fettuccine especially has a reputation for sticking together. Cook 'til al dente, then drain and rinse with cool water, just until it's cool enough to handle. You can reserve some of the cooking water, some chefs like to add to the sauce if it needs thinning. Once it's fairly cool, you can toss it with a little oil to keep it from sticking - or you can toss it in some of the sauce you are using to keep it from sticking.
Cook off the shrimp in batches in some oil and garlic until just underdone - they'll finish cooking later - set them aside. Pour a little wine (if you like) and bring it to a simmer in the shrimp pan after you've removed the shrimp and you can add it later when you make the sauce.
For cheese sauce, I usually sauté some onions and garlic in butter / oil until soft, add a little bit of flour and cook to make a roux (the flour roux is optional), whisk in heavy cream and cook, stirring often until it comes to a simmer and reduces to thicken slightly - be careful, cream boils up and over in about 5 seconds. Once it reduces, whisk in the wine juice and a lot of grated parmesan cheese. We use 4 lbs. of cheese for 10 gallons of sauce. You can add fresh herbs - basil, parsley if you like, salt and some kind of pepper - white ground, crushed red or even Tabasco. The sauce shouldn't be too thick, the starch of the pasta will thicken it up.
When you are ready to serve, I would bring the sauce up to about 165 degrees, add the pasta and the shrimp to the sauce to heat through, and then place it in serving pans - serve it hot so there shouldn't be a reason to hold it. If you need to hold it, make the sauce slightly thinner and more of it because the pasta will absorb the sauce the longer it sits. If you have to, wrap the pans in foil and hold at 140 degrees (a cambro type container works well) and toss slightly before serving. Have some extra sauce on the side, ready to add if the pasta gets dried out. Garnish the pasta with shaved parmesan and fresh chopped parsley. I would definitely do a dry run with a small batch to work out the kinks.
Alternatively (sorry this is so long winded), since Mardi Gras is the theme, my favorite from New Orleans is Crawfish Monica. I sauté onions and garlic in oil, add white wine, good quality canned chopped tomatoes, heavy cream; bring to a boil, add parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, a little salt and cleaned crawfish tail meat. Heat it through and garnish with chopped green onion and parmesan. Traditionally it's served with rotini, but I use penne pasta - easier to cook (doesn't stick like fettuccine), holds better and is easier to eat.
Good Luck Cheryl. Please let me know if you have further questions and let me know how everything turns out.