Meal after meal, day after day, healthcare foodservice operators are challenged to serve flavorful and healthful food and make the most of their labor and skill resources.
Speed-scratch cooking is a valuable aid in this effort. Speed scratch, which means combining high-quality prepared food products with those made from scratch, saves time and labor and permits culinary skill to be deployed where it is most effective. It can have dramatic benefits for high-volume operations, but it can pay off in facilities of modest scale as well.
With nine kitchens, five menus and about 800 residents to feed at Lakeview Village retirement community in Lenexa, Kan., little wonder that Director of Dining Services Jonathan Williams has speed-scratch solutions in his repertoire.
“We do a lot of true scratch cooking here,” Williams notes. “But speed scratch gives us a useful third option between using products that are totally prepared and those we make completely from scratch.”
For example, the rich flavor of Spanish rice made by simply mixing Pace® Chunky Salsa with white rice belies how quick and easy it is to make. “You would have to gather a lot more ingredients to make that from scratch, instead of just adding two cups of heated salsa to a hotel pan full of rice,” says Williams.
That is also a great quick way to use up an unexpected amount of leftover plain rice, which happens from time to time. “All chefs and kitchen managers try to prep to what they are going to actually use, but a lot of times it is hard to predict,” says Williams. “Especially here, where our menu changes every single day and is on a four-week rotation. It takes us two to three months to determine our usage.”
Another streamlined application he suggests is Southwestern Fajita Chicken Salad, a toss-up of cold, sliced fajita-seasoned chicken, corn, black beans and salad greens, dressed with a mixture of Pace Chunky Salsa and ranch dressing.
At 866-bed Mercy Hospital Springfield in Springfield, Mo., where an average day’s production is about 12,000 meals, there is always a role for a speed-scratch solution that shaves time or labor while upholding quality.
Enter Pace Chunky Salsa as a multi-purpose sauce, dip and condiment and ready-to-cook recipe ingredient. It stars as the latter in baked cod, in which the low-fat salsa moistens and flavors the fish as it cooks in the oven. Not only is it a more healthful sauce for fish than a rich cream sauce, it also spares the kitchen some labor.
“Salsa saves us a couple of steps because we don’t have to prep and sauté onions and peppers,” says Tyler Gant, Foodservice Manager. “Our kitchen is rather small for the amount of food we have to serve, so we welcome any shortcuts that save us labor or speed up production.”
In addition, Pace Chunky Salsa brings so much zest to cooking that some recipes are satisfying and flavorful without additional salt. “We can cut our seasoning way back on the cod because of the salsa,” Gant says. ”And when we put the salsa in Spanish rice, no other seasoning is required. We are not adding salt, so we can use that for some of our lower-sodium diets.”
Another popular option at Mercy is corn and black bean salsa, a tasty dip made by combining prepared beans and corn, salsa and chopped cilantro. “That is a huge seller on our self-serve bar,” Gant says. “We also do a sauce for nachos made by adding salsa to white queso cheese that sells better than standard cheese sauce.”
The ability to cross-utilize a single product like Pace Chunky Salsa in several applications and reduce the number of single-use ingredients is important at a place like Mercy. “We’re constricted on storage space, so anywhere we can cut back on inventory is a huge help,” says Gant.
Pace Chunky Salsa has a foundation of tomatoes, jalapeños and garlic, so it gives your speed-scratch dishes a head start in flavor. It shines in applications across all dayparts and meal occasions and on a wide variety of menus, not just Mexican and Southwestern. It provides consistent fresh flavor without artificial additives, preservatives or thickeners. Creative operators are finding new uses for it every day. For example, try it in place of tomatoes to create a Latin-inflected sauce for pasta or pizza. Create signature sandwich spreads by combing it with condiments like mayonnaise, mustard or pesto. Give grilled scallops or shrimp a unique accent by pairing them with Pace salsa mixed with diced avocado, mango or honeydew. When making chili or braised items like pot roast, short ribs or braised pork shoulder, adding Pace salsa to the cooking liquid enhances the flavor.
This post is sponsored by Campbell's Foodservice