Good Eats: André House of Hospitality

Submitted by: Elizabeth Diedrich, André House volunteer

I have always enjoyed cooking and entertaining for friends and family. I enjoy finding new recipes, setting the table, and welcoming friends into my home. The laughter and conversation that happens when friends gather around a table and break bread together is truly a moment of grace.

André House volunteers work hard to make spaghetti.

In that way my transition into the kitchen of André House was very natural. On the other hand, cooking for 600 is a little different than cooking for six. André House is a hospitality center in downtown Phoenix. At André House, we provide basic need services to the homeless population. This includes clothing, showers, laundry, hygiene products, blankets, phone calls, Bibles and rosaries, backpacks, and sleeping bags. Our largest service each day is dinner where we average 600 trays of food per day.

In many ways 600 trays of food is very impersonal; each person and each tray becomes a number. Yet, at André House we try work hard at creating a welcoming and personal atmosphere in the same way we would for a family dinner. The people we serve are truly our guests, our neighbors, and our friends.
We start each meal from scratch. Fresh vegetables picked up from the food bank, fresh bread donated from a bakery, and 40 pounds of frozen ground beef serves as the base for each meal. Each day we serve a fresh lettuce salad and many days we have a fruit salad as well. Anywhere from 20-40 volunteers come each day to chop 50 pounds of onions, slice 1200 slices of bread, wash lots of dishes, and stir the 30 gallon pots.

As you can imagine, there are many opportunities for things to go wrong. On Easter a few years ago we basted the Easter hams with hot chocolate instead of ham juice. It just gave the ham a little extra sweetness. About a month ago, I lit my hair on fire while attempting to light the large, gas burners. Luckily volunteers were nearby to help before the problem was out of hand. We also have our fair share of messes. Have you ever spilled 15 gallons of cooked oatmeal? It is a hot, sticky, runny mess.
Yet, everyday the blessings outweigh the stressors. I remember one night when a guest showed up late to dinner and we were not able to serve him. Rather, another guest who had a tray of food asked for an empty tray. The guest who had food carefully and deliberately cut his hot dog in half, split his beans, potatoes, lettuce salad, fruit salad, and donut in exactly half and offered half his food to this late, yet hungry guest. Silently they shared a meal and truly broke bread together.
Moments like this are amazing reminders of the presence of God and God’s subtle workings in our lives.
On any given night as I walk through our main dinning room I can see small groups of friends sitting down together, praying together, and sharing their meal with smiles and laughter. It is not so different than when I sit down and share a meal with my friends.

Andre House Spaghetti Recipe
Preparing the Spaghetti:
          Cooking the spaghetti (70 pounds):
o       Dump about half of the pasta into one pot (cook one pot at a time)
o       Stir continuously
o       When the pasta is still rather firm, shut off the burners.
o       Dump two pitchers of ice onto the pasta and stir in to help accelerate the cooling process
o       Use a strainer to transfer the pasta to the colanders.
o       Rinse the pasta with cold water. Work out any large clumps with your hands.
o       Pour the rinsed pasta into metal pans
o       Cover the pans with clear plastic wrap and place them in the fridge
          Cooking the meat (40 pounds of ground beef):
o       Split the meat between two cooking pans
o       Break meat into small chunks
o       Add one heaping stirring spoon of each of the following to each pan: black pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and seasoning salt
o       Cook in the convection oven for 30 minutes at 225 degrees
o       Remove from the oven, break up any large chunks, and cook for 20 more minutes
          Mixing the spices for the sauce:
o       8 oz. ground pepper
o       32 oz. white sugar
o       32 oz. garlic salt
o       24 oz. basil
o       24 oz. oregano
o       8 oz. seasoning salt
          Sauce preparation  
o       Vegetables
Shopping list:
·        50 lbs of onions
·        3 crates of tomatoes
·        2-3 crates of bell peppers
·        2 crates of mushrooms
·        1 crate of celery
·        2-3 crates of any combination of zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant
·        6 cans of tomato sauce
·        6 cans of tomato puree
o        ¾ inch of oil into each pot
  – Peel 50 lbs. of onion. Soak the peeled onions in ice water to decrease their potency.
– You have the option of chopping the onions by hand or running them through a large food processor
o       Add onions and mushrooms to the sauce. Cook for 20 minutes on high heat with the lid on.
o       Add spices and stir
o       Add meat
o       Add all other vegetables as they are chopped (squash, zucchini, carrots, other things that might be good in the sauce)
o       Boil the sauce for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to one burner on low
o       Add 3 cans of tomato sauce and 3 cans of puree
o       Continue to cook on low heat. Stir often.
o       Add 2 cups of sugar to each pot.
          Add sauce to pasta, cover with foil, and keep in the oven.

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