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tammylc

Dinner for 40

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tammylc   
they sound fancier than they are....essentially it was meat, potatoes, and soup.

The soup was corn and pepper:  Corn pureed in milk, steeped, strained, heated, and roasted peppers done much the same way in water.  Added spices to taste (whatever I felt like at the moment, but I really just wanted that pure corn and pepper taste), and drizzled with some balsamic and apple juice reduction.  The challenge was just getting the soups to be the same viscosity so they wouldn't flow into each other in the bowl.

The meat was marinated in a puree of red onion, garlic, parsley, basil, red wine vinegar, and EVOO (lots of EVOO).  and seared on cast iron griddle plates.

Potatoes were an assortment of new potatoes, sliced thin on a mandoline, and spread evenly on a sheet pan with some EVOO, sprinkled with a lot of fresh thyme, thin discs of garlic, and sea salt, put into at 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until some of the thinner slices with brown and crispy.

edit:  When I have a lull I do one plating so people can see what it should look like, and then I set up a buffet line for people.........I've learned that 90% of college students out their, when hungry, don't give a damn what the food looks like on the plate, as long as it tastes good, so I don't try for fancy dinners where I plate everyone's food.  On the upside, considering how many of the people here have grown up eating out at fast food, I'm sure many of them are at least appreciative of having food on a ceramic plat.e.

Ah, you're dealing with students? So I take it this is your job, then? That's cool. My audience is a little different.

Did you plate the double soup?

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tammylc   

Two weeks ago I did tortilla soup again - it's a perennial favorite around here, and it's good to have some old standbys to rely on. For this Thursday, I got talked into doing Canadian Thanksgiving again. Canadian Thanksgiving is/was actually today, but Thursday is my closest cooking night to the big day. My neighbor and friend J asked me if I was going to do it again this year, and expressed disappointment when I said no. "We don't do a common meal for American Thanksgiving," he said, "So it's nice to have that kind of feast together." Oh, alright then...

I've simplified the menu to save my sanity this time, and have resolved not to allow more than the standard maximum number of people to sign up (64 - we were at 62 last I checked).

The menu:

Roast turkey for the carnies

Stuffed squash for the veggies

Mashed potatoes with turkey gravy

Ginger-glazed carrots

Roasted brussels sprouts

Cranberry sauce

Nanaimo bars for dessert (gotta get that Canadian touch in there somewhere)

Now I'm off to look through this thread to see how much of everything I cooked last year. If I'm remembering right, it was something really insane, like 30 lbs of mashed potatoes. Yikes!

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racheld   

I check this thread every time it's near the top---that means something's been added, and I always hope it's another of your marvelous meals.

You may have seen your name mentioned in a couple of threads lately---one mention of a party I did recently, and another on "what can I do with endive." For the party, I made your port-glazed walnuts, and reduced the glaze. A mixture of chevre, cracked pepper and dried cherries went into the lovely little pale velvety endive spears, with a walnut half laid on for garnish. Just before the big round platter went to the buffet, I drizzled a few drops of the reduction down the length of the stuffing.

Beautiful, and they ate up every bite. One gentleman even swiped a couple of the tiny whole center buds, too small for stuffing, which I had stood like little trees in the center of the platter. I didn't see him eat them, but imagine that he did.

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tammylc   
I check this thread every time it's near the top---that means something's been added, and I always hope it's another of your marvelous meals.

You may have seen your name mentioned in a couple of threads lately---one mention of a party I did recently, and another on "what can I do with endive."  For the party, I made your port-glazed walnuts, and reduced the glaze.  A mixture of chevre, cracked pepper and dried cherries went into the lovely little pale velvety endive spears, with a walnut half laid on for garnish.  Just before the big round platter went to the buffet, I drizzled a few drops of the reduction down the length of the stuffing.

Beautiful, and they ate up every bite.  One gentleman even swiped a couple of the tiny whole center buds, too small for stuffing, which I had stood like little trees in the center of the platter.  I didn't see him eat them, but imagine that he did.

Wow - that hors d'oeuvres sounds amazing! I hope you don't mind if I steal it for a party...

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racheld   

Wow - that hors d'oeuvres sounds amazing!  I hope you don't mind if I steal it for a party...

Imitation is the sincerest. . .

I borrowed yours, and it's only right that it should come home.

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tammylc   

Slight setback on Canadian Thanksgiving preparations. When I got to my butcher this morning to pick up my turkeys, they didn't have them. He'd wrote them down for the wrong day, and had them waiting for me last Saturday, wondering why I never picked them up. Eek! They had turkeys, but they were still mostly frozen, and smaller than what I was looking for. But I didn't want to take the chance of not being able to find something somewhere else, so I grabbed three (instead of the two larger ones I was hoping for), rushed home, and put them in a big sink filled with water. Keep your fingers crossed that they'll be thawed by 3, when they need to get into the oven!

But at least the guy at the bread counter at Zingerman's was able to cross-slice my bread for me, so I have much less to do with that to make it ready for stuffing.

Off to go make Nanaimo bars, etc.

Here's my rough plan for the day:

- get up with Liam, feed him breakfast get him ready to go

- drop him off at daycare

- go grocery shopping. Sparrow Meats to pick up the turkeys, Zingerman's to grab a loaf of day old bread, Hillers for the rest, I think, because they are near to Michael's and I need to check out caramel wrapping options.

- slice bread and put in a low oven to stale

- make three batches of Nanaimo Bars for dessert and get them in the fridge to chill

- make cranberry sauce

- bake squash

- get turkeys in the oven

- start giblet broth

- make stuffing, stuff squash

- chopping, lots of chopping - potatoes, carrots, trimming brussels sprouts

- make gravy (all except for adding the turkey drippings at the end)

- cook and mash potatoes

- glaze carrots

- once the turkeys come out of the oven, roast brussels sprouts and cook stuffed sqash

- finish gravy

- carve turkeys

- get food out to tables

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Dana   

Wow, what a busy day!!! I hate to be stupid, but what are Nanaimo bars?

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tammylc   
Wow, what a busy day!!! I hate to be stupid, but what are Nanaimo bars?

They're a Canadian dessert. Very sweet, very rich, but pretty darn tasty. here's the recipe I used, but note that there's an error in the directions - the cocoa should be cooked with the butter and sugar, not the coconut. This was my first time making them, but I was very pleased by how they turned out. They were yummy.

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tammylc   

Well, that was a totally insane day. I started shopping at 9 and finished cooking at 6:15, and worked continuously during that time, minus about 15 minutes for lunch. Cooking common meal is not supposed to take up my entire day - but I guess that's why I don't cook Thanksgiving every time I cook.

It took about 4 hours to thaw the turkeys, I guess. Luckily we have big dishwashing sinks, so I just threw them in there, still in their plastic packaging. I checked on them after about three hours, and the while the outsides were mostly thawed, when I pulled out the giblets and neck, the insides were still icy. So I threw them back in, directly in the water, and another hour like that took care of it. I used Alton Brown's technique of having a trickle of running water in the sink to create convection.

I had enough time for them to dry out a little bit and for me to get them prepared (chopped veggies in the cavity and pan, etc) and still got them all into the oven right on time at 3 pm. I used a Cook's Illustrated recipe that calls for relative high heat roasting and flipping the bird around - first you do the back, then each side, then finally the breast. The skin gets nice and crispy on all sides of the bird. But with three birds - two in the common house and one at home - I spent most of the 2 hour cooking time trotting around from oven to oven, dodging the multiple snow flurries that came through yesterday.

I probably overcooked the birds a little, although - interestingly - the one that actually read at the "right" temperature was underdone in the legs and had to be put back in. Whatever - my standards are much higher than most of my eaters - and it was by no means inedible.

Let's see... the rest of the meal was:

25 lbs mashed potatoes

10 lbs ginger glazed carrots

8 lbs brussels sprouts

6 squash cut in half and stuffed with bread stuffing for the vegetarians. I had more stuffing than I needed, so had a small amount to put on the tables for everyone too.

8 cups of gravy (my giblet stock was too watery, so the subsequent gravy was kind of watery too. Plus I didn't get good browning of the drippings. Again - I knew it wasn't my best, but others were happy)

8 cups of cranberry sauce (with orange and ginger - probably the easiest thing I made all day, it's a pressure cooker recipe that takes about 15 minutes for prep to finish.)

2 9x13 pans of nanaimo bars (3 recipes as linked above, split between two pans)

I made a HUGE mess, and used nearly every pan in the kitchen. Even with me working from 11 on, and my assistant cooks coming at 4, we just didn't have any time to do any significant amount of clean as you go. I tried, and got a few rounds though the dishwasher, but it was only a dent in the mountain. I apologized heartily to the cleaners (one of whom was my husband) - but even so, they were still done within the 90 minutes they get work credit for, so while it was more work than most, I can't feel too bad about it.

I've already turned in my receipts, but I had 65 people - 37 adult/ teen meat eaters, 9 adult/teen veggies, and 19 kids. I spent around $205 dollars, so with the pantry fee, the meal will come to around $4.73. It was mostly NOT organic, because I didn't have time to go to a lot of different stores, so went to one place where I knew I could get everything (including custard powder for the Nanaimo bars, thanks to their British foods section).

One my way home from the grocery store, I stopped and collected up a bunch of red maple leaves, and we scattered these around on the tables for decoration. And my neighbor Jay printed off the lyrics to Oh Canada, passed them around to all the tables, and led the room in a rousing chorus. (It was impressive how many people knew the tune - we can thank the South Park movie, I guess.) So it was appropriately Canadian.

As always, I'm saying "Never again," but I know I'll likely be convinced next year. Jay, who convinced me this year, has offered to take the afternoon off work next year to pitch in, and that would certainly help. As would my neighbor and assistant cook Heather's suggestion that I find a couple people willing to cook turkeys at their houses, and hand them the instructions and the ingredients. That would really help, as it would free up the ovens in the common house during the main cooking period, meaning I wouldn't have to come as early to precook squash, etc. And, of course, having the right size and quantity of not frozen turkeys would help too.

Sorry no pictures - just didn't have time. I actually got a new digital camera delivered in the mail on Wednesday, and haven't had a single moment to try it yet! I was making some caramels for some friends of mine who wanted to buy some for gifts, so that's what I spent Wednesday night doing. And then Thursday night, after cooking and eating dinner, I had to play with my son, get him off to bed, and then cut and wrap up about 75 caramels before I could - finally - go to bed!

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Tammy, reading about this makes me tired! I can't imagine the mess!

How did your quantities work out? How did you fix the brussels sprouts?

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tammylc   
Tammy, reading about this makes me tired!  I can't imagine the mess!

How did your quantities work out?  How did you fix the brussels sprouts?

I'm still tired today. Ugh.

Quantities were good. Only significant leftovers were some mashed potatoes. I could have probably gotten by with 20 lbs, but it's not something you want to run out of. More turkey would have been good, but I think everyone got enough. Even though the 3 smaller turkeys weighed the same as 2 larger ones, I would have ended up with more meat from 3 large.

The brussels sprouts were cut in half, tossed with olive, oil, salt and pepper, and roasted.

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Chufi   

Wow Tammy that sounds like an amazing dinner! I hope your 'guests' appreciated it.. and now you should get some well-earned rest!

those Nanaimo bars look very good, they are on my to-make-soon list now!

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tammylc   
Wow Tammy that sounds like an amazing dinner! I hope your 'guests' appreciated it.. and now you should get some well-earned rest!

those Nanaimo bars look very good, they are on my to-make-soon list now!

Sadly, no rest for the wicked. At least, none until Tuesday when I get on the train for a 4 night, 5 day vacation to Chicago. Boy, am I ever looking forward to that.

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tammylc   

Last week I cooked a variation on the burnished chicken thighs with sweet potatoes and parsnips I cooked back in April. The recipe is from a Fine Cooking article, and calls for cooking the chicken and the veggies on the same pan, so the juices mingle. This is a very tasty way to cook it, but - as I discovered then - not very feasible with only two small ovens.

But I wanted to do it again, because it's such a tasy recipe. So this time I just cooked everything separately. I remembered this as being a pretty easy meal, and it is, but it require a lot of sequential oven useage, which meant I spent more time cooking than I really wanted to. It wasn't helped by our decision to make cake for dessert - it was very near to both my birthday and one of my assistant cook's birthday, so let's just say it seemed like a good idea at the time...

Shopping List

80 chicken thighs (2 per adult, 1 per child)

6 lbs tofu (1/2 lb plus per veggie)

2 jars grainy mustard

1 bottle basalmic vinegar

15 lbs sweet potatoes (an increase from last time, but still not enough)

7 lbs parsnips (about right - some tables ran out, but others had extras)

12 sliced bacon

1 bunch parsley

2 chocolate cake mixes (I know, I know - I just didn't have the time for scratch!)

2 cans evaporated milk

1 dozen eggs

1 lb butter

2 pkgs sweetened coconut

1 lb pecans

salad greens

ice cream

I had some adds and some drops after I closed the meal, so I ended up with around 31 adult meat eaters, 9 veggies, and 15 kids. I've already turned in my paperwork and receipts, but I'd guess it came out around the usual - $4.50 or so.

So, unlike the usual situation, there was plenty of meat, but not really enough sides. Oh well - there was plenty of food.

First thing I did was to get the cake and frosting out of the way. I was making my own frosting for the German Chocolate cake(makes up a little bit for the cake mix, right?) and that had to chill for a good while first. While the cakes were going in one oven, I baked the sweet potatoes in the other. Then I had to get the chicken marinating - the thing I'd forgotten about this recipe is that it calls for a 1-8 hour marinade, so even though the active work is low, there's a significant time investment. Also, it takes a LONG time just to trim 80 chicken thighs. I marinaded at the tofu at the same time, but it really needs an even longer marinade, as the marinade didn't really penetrate.

Once my assistant cooks came, we mashed up the sweet potatoes that were already baked. We could have used at least 20 lbs, I guess. The parsnips were cut up and roasted. All of this had to happen before the chicken went in (about an hour before service) so then we had to keep everything warm somehow. We covered the parsnips with foil and they were fine, and we set up a double boiler thing for the sweet potatoes. I thought I was going to have about 15 minutes to throw things back in the oven at the end, but I got my temperatures messed up, and started the chicken too low. Fortunately it came out well in the end and was perfectly juicy.

One of the main problems with this meal is that the majority of the work is done by the time my assistant cooks come on duty. So we were able to get the kitchen really clean. And when I realized I'd forgotten salad greens and ice cream, I was able to send an assistant cook out to get them with no problem for timing. But given that I was trying to come up with an easy meal for that day, so I could spend time working on other projects I had happening it didn't really meet that goal.

My November travel schedule for work is crazy, so I'll be looking back through this thread for previous meals and meal ideas that really are easy. I end up cooking three times in a week and a half - Nov 22, Nov 26 and Dec 3. I've set jambalaya as the menu for the first one, because that really is a walk in at 4 and be done by 6 meal for me. Now I just need to find a couple others like that.

One of my meals in December will probably be another "Dinner at the Great Oak Bistro" , as the friend that I did that with last time is interested in coming in again. We're still working on the menu, but it will certainly be ambitious. We're planning to start with a double soup, then serve a main course that will be either rabbit or quail. Yes, we're crazy.

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tammylc   

After a bit of a break to accommodate all this travel I've been doing for work, I've got a bunch of cook shifts in a row. Wednesday I made jambalaya, and was quite pleased with how it turned out. I wrote up the recipe and posted it to my blog, in case you ever need to cook jambalaya for a crowd. Since it was the night before Thanksgiving, it was a small meal for me - only about 35 people.

Tonight I made turkey and wild rice soup. When I posted this menu, I assumed that I'd be home for Thanksgiving, and that I could coordinate my Thanksgiving cooking to support the meal. I also figured that - like Wednesday - it would be small meal.

At 50-odd people (I had late signups and drops, so I'm not sure of the final number) it wasn't a small meal. And I ended up not being home for Thanksgiving, and thus not having a turkey. Fortunately, I convinced a few neighbors to donate their carcasses to stock making, so I set up a couple big pots of stock yesterday, and finished up the soup tonight. I bought a boneless turkey breast and cooked that up for the meat, since I didn't have any leftovers.

Stock is cheap, which meant I could splurge on some spendy ingredients - real wild rice from Zingerman's (although I ended up supplementing that with some of the regular stuff), as well as Zingerman's bread (day-old, refreshed in the oven) and cheese for dessert (1/2 lb each of four kinds - the big splurge at $16/lb or more).

I'm too lazy to go dig out my shopping list and give you the full rundown. Sorry! I cook again in a week, and I'll be reprising the Egg Curry that I made once before - hardboiled eggs in a tomato curry sauce, with dal and raita and rice. My plans for my other meal in December have fallen through, so I need to come up a menu for that meal - anyone have any suggestions?

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racheld   

Tammy---When I have time tomorrow, I'm going to read this from start to finish. I'm devoting every minute to spare to my week-blog, which ends at midnight. I just wanted to mention that I used your wonderful port-glazed walnuts for a party and the picture is posted---they are a garnish on some stuffed endive---credit for the recipe to you.

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Tammy, are you looking for something simple and somewhat light, or something heavier?

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tammylc   
Tammy, are you looking for something simple and somewhat light, or something heavier?

Fish, I think. We don't eat it very often at common meal, and we like it (even more important, our toddler likes it!) so I try to cook it fairly often when it's my turn. I'm thinking of just doing my pecan crusted tilapia with brown butter sauce again, but I'm totally up for new ideas. From a price perspective, I need to stick with something that I can get relatively cheaply - tilapia is something I can get a really good price on for really good quality fish, so I've tended to stick with that. But I could explore other fish possibilities.

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tammylc   

Wow - it's been almost 2 months since I posted here. I feel so neglectful...

I haven't been cooking anything new - just lots of reruns of old meals. Tonight I'm making Tortilla Soup, which is always a favorite. Although the pecan-crusted tilapia has moved above it in terms of people's favorites in my repetoire.

I have to cook again in less than 2 weeks - Monday February 5. I could trot a classic back out, like the jambalaya, but I'd like to try something new. Anyone have any ideas for me? For a Monday night, I'll need something that I can cook in my two hour window - I'll have to work that day, so don't have the option of starting early. However, since it's Sunday the day before, I could potentially do something that needed to be marinated or otherwise prepped in advance.

Oh, and one of my neighbors stole one of my meals! She's now put my sesame noodle recipe on the menu twice. But she's a good friend, so I forgave her and gave her my blessing to keep doing it. But that puts me down one recipe in my stock rotation (although that's one I usually cook in the summer anyway).

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Since I am making a roast chicken with sausage stuffing etc tonight....

does anyone ever do mini Thanksgiving dinners with turkey breast or roasted chicken 1/4s?

tracey

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jmcgrath   
I have to cook again in less than 2 weeks - Monday February 5.  I could trot a classic back out, like the jambalaya, but I'd like to try something new.  Anyone have any ideas for me?  For a Monday night, I'll need something that I can cook in my two hour window - I'll have to work that day, so don't have the option of starting early.  However, since it's Sunday the day before, I could potentially do something that needed to be marinated or otherwise prepped in advance.

If you don't have any restrictions about cooking with wine, Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon might be appreciated. I recently made a big batch that I served over egg noodles. You can do all of the prep work and cooking on Sunday, refrigerate overnight, and reheat the next day. Beef Chuck Tenders are going to be the cheapest type of meat. I've seen them in 20 lb. cryovac package, and one should be enough for 40 people.

Jim

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tammylc   
Since I am making a roast chicken with sausage stuffing etc tonight....

does anyone ever do mini Thanksgiving dinners with turkey breast or roasted chicken 1/4s?

tracey

I have done a full-fledged Thanksgiving dinner twice now. People do roast chicken fairly regularly, but the problem is that we only have two standard ovens, so it's hard to cook all the chickens, and they don't tend to get nicely browned. I did a rotisserie chicken once, making side dishes and just buying the chickens already cooked. Everybody loves rotisserie chicken so that went over pretty well. (Hmmm, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I'll just do that again on the 5th.)

Another neighbor just recently did turkey breast for common meal. And Tofurkey for the vegetarians - yuck! Even most of the veggies didn't like it.

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tammylc   
If you don't have any restrictions about cooking with wine, Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon might be appreciated. I recently made a big batch that I served over egg noodles. You can do all of the prep work and cooking on Sunday, refrigerate overnight, and reheat the next day. Beef Chuck Tenders are going to be the cheapest type of meat. I've seen them in 20 lb. cryovac package, and one should be enough for 40 people.

Thanks Jim. I have made beef burgundy a couple times before, and it's been popular (I use the Cook's Illustrated recipe, and it's fabulous). But it has a couple strikes against it for common meal. One, I try to use "happy" meat, which makes it hard to do beef burgundy within the price parameters I'm working with (~$4/person). And two, I don't actually want to do nearly all the work the day before. I get two assistant cooks for 2 hours the day of, and I like to make good use of them. However, it is certainly the season for it - I'll have to go back and look at what I wrote last time I made it. See if it was a "never again" or not...

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