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Dinner for 40


tammylc
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Burnished Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips

Fine Cooking readers in the crowd might recognize this recipe from a recent issue. I tried it for a dinner party and everyone loved it, so I wanted to try it for common meal. It was a challenge - the schtick about the recipe is that you cook the chicken and root veggies on the same pan, so the juices mingle and make everything taste good. But with a full house (32 meat eaters, 13 vegetarians, and 12 kids) oven space was a huge challenge. We used the two common house ovens, my oven, and my neighbors oven. And as it turned out, we didn't have quite as much food as I would have liked, so we actually could have used even more space (or used the space we had differently).

And we certainly had the money to do it - I only spent ~$116 on ingredients, which works out to around $2.85 per person! Chicken thighs are da bomb when it comes to budget buying! And even organic root veggies are still cheap.

The shopping list/recipe:

Protein

60 chicken thighs (almost two per adult meat eater - should have been two per adult plus one per kid - more kids took chicken than I expected)

7 lbs tofu

Marinade

2 jars grainy dijon mustard

1/2 bottle balsalmic vinegar (I thought we had some in the kitchen, but we didn't and I ended up scrounging from neighbors)

olive oil, salt, pepper (all staples)

Roots

~10 lbs sweet potatoes (should have been more)

5 lbs parsnips (should have been more)

Other

2 lbs spring mix

1 bunch parsley

12 slices bacon

2 dozen eggs (for kids)

2 pkgs cheese chunks (for kids)

2 lbs butter (dessert)

1 lemon (dessert)

Mix up the marinade and marinade the chicken thighs for at least one hour and up to 8. I think I managed about 2 hours on the chicken and an hour on the tofu. We cooked off the tofu early, knowing we could throw it back in the oven after the chicken came out. Peel and chop veggies. On sheet pans, fill one half with chicken and the other half with the veggies. Sprinkle with s&p. Bake for 20 minutes, then baste and stir veggies. Continue baking, basting and stirring every ten minutes until done (about 50 minutes total).

For the vegetarians, we cooked the tofu in baking pans for about a half hour, then 15 minutes again before serving. We just did a standard roast on the root veggies, and that's where we could get some more volume into the process - those pans could have been fuller.

The chicken is gorgeous. The skin gets crispy and rich and brown and (the burnished of the recipe title). The veggies get tossed with a garnish of crumbled cooked bacon and parsley before serving. The flavors are excellent, and the bacon parsley garnish totally "kicks it up a notch." Don't skip that step! (The vegetarians just go parsley, natch.)

To serve, we put the root veggies on platters, then the chicken or tofu on top. That way there wasn't any confusion about which roots were meat contaminated or not (and we used less serving plates, which I'm sure the dishwashers appreciated).

For dessert, I made lemon-cornmeal shortbreads from another recent issue of Fine Cooking. They're totally awesome. Of course, they also required the oven, but that was okay, as I just started early and made them while the chicken and tofu were marinating.

I think we were okay on quantity, but I know people would have liked more food. So the trick to doing this one again (and I got lots of compliments on the flavor, so I know it would be appreciated) is to figure out how to manage the volume in the given oven space. One way to do it would be just to cook the chicken and root veggies separately, or to just do the chicken and serve a non-oven-cooked side. Even the same veggies, but boiled and mashed. Or we can borrow another oven - there's a third that's real near the common house (in addition to the two we used), so it would be easy. We could cook up more root veggies separately, and just mix some of those in with the chickeny ones.

Anyway, with spring here, I don't expect I'll do another oven intensive meal like this until fall, so I have a long time to work out the details.

For my last meal this month I'll be making pecan-crusted tilapia with brown butter sauce, cajun rice and asparagus.

And in some exciting news, one of my neighbors is using the common house for his high school reunion this summer, and sent out a call to the community email list to see if anyone wanted to cook dinner for them, in lieu of them hiring a caterer. They're happy to pay catering prices, but he wanted to keep the money within the community if anyone wanted to do it. There will be 40-70 people. The low end is totally in my comfort zone, but the upper end would be a stretch! We're still talking about the menu etc. I'm pretty excited - this will be my first paid cooking gig.

Edited by tammylc (log)

Tammy's Tastings

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eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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And in some exciting news, one of my neighbors is using the common house for his high school reunion this summer, and sent out a call to the community email list to see if anyone wanted to cook dinner for them, in lieu of them hiring a caterer.  They're happy to pay catering prices, but he wanted to keep the money within the community if anyone wanted to do it.  There will be 40-70 people.  The low end is totally in my comfort zone, but the upper end would be a stretch!  We're still talking about the menu etc.  I'm pretty excited - this will be my first paid cooking gig.

Congratulations, Tammy! I'm sure you'll do a great job, and let us know all about the menu and post pics!

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Tammy, thank you so much for your advice. I don't have the time and price constraints you had to deal with. Further comments at the end.

I've made Beef Bourguignon a couple times and talked about it in this thread.  Go to "print this topic" and search for Beef Burgundy to find the posts, if you're interested.  You don't have my price or time constraints, so the reasons it doesn't work well for me won't apply to you, and I think it sounds like a great idea.

The recipe I've used is from Cook's Illustrated, and it turns out quite nicely.

I think I will be able to scale things okay except for the herb bouquet. I need to go from a bouquet to ounces of herbs. Any suggestions? Julia's recipe serves six to eight regular people.

In my experience, I've tended towards making several pots of whatever it is I'm making, rather than trying to do one ultra large one. This means that things like bouquet garni can actually just be doubled or tripled or whatever per pot. It also reduces cooking time, as bigger pots of food take much longer to cook.

So if Julia's recipe serves 6-8 and you need to cook enough for 80 then you need 10-12 batches. I'd do three or four pots. Doing them individually like that makes it much easier for the home cook who just does occasional bulk cooking - you don't have to make as many modifications that way.

For the pearl onions, I'm planning to use canned just because of the sheer volume. Any strong objections? I'll probably use fresh mushrooms. Julia recommends zinfandel or Chianti. I'm probably go with four liter boxes. I don't expect anyone here to admit they drink wine from a box, but If you heard of a reliable brand from a trusted friend, I would appreciate advice.

I think frozen pearl onions would be preferable to canned. Re. box wine - I know that people like the Black Box Chardonnay - I don't know if Black Box makes a red. Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? You'd probably get better quality wine buying some $3.99 or $4.99 bottles from TJ's without a huge increase in cost. The quality of beef burgundy is largely at the whim of the wine you make it with - better wine makes it better, so buy the best that will work in your budget. (I have a friend who made BB from the leftovers of a mid to high end Burgundy tasting, and he said it was incredible.)

The dinner will be in June, so I have plenty of time to plan. Any "gotchas" to look out for?

Just the usual advice I give everyone - everything takes longer, so be sure to alot yourself plenty of time. Especially for something like BB which needs long slow cooking. I just looked at that recipe, and it's saying to check after 40 minutes?! That's crazy! Expect more like 2 1/2 - 3 hours to get truly tender wonderful beef. Maybe longer because you're doing triple or quad batches.

We charge members $12, so I'm looking on a budget at around $900. After costing things out, I think I can afford a $100 dollar case of plonk wine out of that, with a few bottles left over for the cooks.

We do dinners every other week and I've been an assistant cook a number of times. I can do the mise a day in advance if I can find a cold spot enough to keep things. We have a walk-in beer keg cooler that I could use, but that may not be cold enough. I could even do the cooking the day in advance to let the flavors meld. The mushrooms and pearl onions would go in during the reheat.

And, I'm going with fresh pearl onions. What are assistant cooks for anyway? I'll be cooking in foil covered roasting pans to maximize surface area exposed to the heat, but even with that 40 minutes is just crazy. It will also make serving much easier. I'll do a tray per table, seven or eight trays, and let people help themselves.

Thanks again,

Jim

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Your meal sounds great, Tammy.  I'm always happy to hear of a good way to cook chicken thighs -- such an economical protein and often used at our house.

That particular issue of Fine Cooking has 4 or 5 variations on the theme of chicken thighs and potatoes cooked side by side. The two I've tried have both been good.

They truly are a bargain - so cheap, but with such good flavor and juiciness. I'll take chicken thighs over chicken breasts almost all the time.

Tammy's Tastings

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eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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We do dinners every other week and I've been an assistant cook a number of times. I can do the mise a day in advance if I can find a cold spot enough to keep things. We have a walk-in beer keg cooler that I could use, but that may not be cold enough. I could even do the cooking the day in advance to let the flavors meld. The mushrooms and pearl onions would go in during the reheat.

I think you'd get great flavor that way.

And, I'm going with fresh pearl onions. What are assistant cooks for anyway? I'll be cooking in foil covered roasting pans to maximize surface area exposed to the heat, but even with that 40 minutes is just crazy. It will also make serving much easier. I'll do a tray per table, seven or eight trays, and let people help themselves.

Personally, I'd still stick with frozen, because fresh are just such a pain to deal with and the frozen ones turn out really nicely. I like your roasting pan idea. And I'm still shaking my head a bout the 40 minutes thing - that's wacky. Other people in my community have tried to cook beef burgundy, and the beef invariably winds up chewy, either because a) they choose the wrong cut of meat or b) they don't cook it nearly long enough. Yet another reason to cook it the day before if you can manage it - no need to worry about coming up on service time and it not being done yet.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 2 weeks later...

Pecan Crusted Tilapia with Brown Butter Sauce

This meal went surprisingly smoothly, given that one of my assistant cooks (who was a last minute replacement) forgot he was coming and didn't show up until 5. We recruited someone to set tables for us, so that helped a lot. But mostly, we were just fortunate that despite sounding pretty snazzy, it was actually quite an easy recipe.

As much as I love to cook, this menu was a little different for me, as I didn't follow a set recipe for anything I made. Sure, I'd done some research looking at different recipes, but once in the kitchen it was just making it up as I went along.

We had 28 meat eating adults, 7 veggie adults, 1 meat eating teen, and 13 assorted children. I spent $196, which works out to $5.89 per adult (including the 12% pantry fee). A little higher than my usual, but still in the ballpark. Not very organic, but hey, we didn't run out of food and even had a goodly amount of leftovers.

Pecan Crusted Tilapia with Brown Butter Sauce

12 lbs fresh tilapia filets

2 lbs chopped pecans

16 oz panko bread crumbs (not sure if that measure is weight or volume - two 8 oz cans)

9 eggs

flour, salt and pepper from the pantry

5 sticks butter

4 lemons

parsley

I got the fish from a great fishmonger here in town (Monahan's in Kerrytown) and it was awesomely fresh and really excellent quality. And he cut me a deal for buying in bulk, so it was quite affordable too. I see other tilapia meals in my future.

12 lbs of tilapia worked out to 33 filets. I was worried that if many of the kids ate fish, we wouldn't have quite enough, so we cut all of the tilapia in half before breading and frying them. This was a really good idea, as the more regular shapes were much easier to work with. To make the coating, I just combined the pecans and bread crumbs in the food processor until they were a nice size, then had my assistant cook do a standard flour, egg, bread crumbs thing. We prepped all the fish ahead and had them out on sheet pans waiting for their turn in the pan.

The limitations of our stovetop came into play quite a bit here, as I could only cook two pans at a time. All in all it took about 40 minutes to cook all of the fish. I kept the early batches in a warming oven, and while they weren't as crisp as the ones fresh from the stove, the flavor was good and they didn't dry out at all, so that was okay.

I made the sauce up in advance, not using the pans the fish were cooked in. For one, I didn't want to have to worry about it at the last minute. And even though we were wiping out pans in between batches as necessary, they were still pretty nasty with burnt bits by the end. Cooking the sauce separately gave me much more control over the heat, and we just reheated it at the last minute to get it to the tables as hot as possible. Technique - brown the butter, add lemon juice, stir to combine, add salt if necessary, stir in chopped parsley - voila!

Spinach-Feta Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

8 mushrooms

8 oz feta

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach

Easy.

Cajun Rice

5 lbs long grain rice

3 lg cans "petite" diced tomatoes

5 red pepper

4 lg onions

5 stalks celery

(garlic - just realized I should have used some and didn't)

assorted pantry spices

We turned out not to have any paprika in the common house, so this didn't come out quite like I was expecting. But it was still fine. I took a page from my jambalaya making technique for this one. I used the food processor to chop the veggies, which makes prep so much faster. And I used my trick of cooking the rice and the other ingredients separately, and then combining them at the last minute. I probably could have thrown the sauteed vegetables and spices into the rice cooker and cooked it all at once though. Not sure how that would have turned out.

Steamed Asparagus

7 bunches asparagus (which I believe worked out to around 8 lbs)

When I planned the menu I didn't think about the fact that I'd be busy at the stove frying fish right up until the last minute and thus wouldn't have space for a big pot of water for steaming asparagus. We made the decision to cook it ahead and serve it at room temperature, and I don't think anyone cared. There was warm brown butter sauce to spoon over top of it.

Salad

1 lb baby spinach

15 oz mixed greens

Once again I was a victim of the grocery store not having my big 1 lb tubs of organic greens. Damn them. So I got one big one of spinach and three of the 5 oz pkgs of the mixed greens. And whereas I usually underbuy on salad, this time I overbought - we didn't even open up one of the packages. What can I say - I'm used to having more people at dinner!

Ice Cream

This was left over from a birthday party earlier in the week, so I got it for free. Otherwise, given the price point, I would have had to do something cheap, like cookies.

I was planning to make mac and cheese for the kids, and completely forgot about it. Realized at 6 pm, when it was far too late to boil water, boil pasta, and mix it all up. I dispatched one of my assistant cooks to make up a couple packages of "Easy Mac" in the microwave and we put out what other kid food we could find. I figured that if we started with some Easy Mac, parents could make more if we ran out. As it turned out, I think a bunch of kids ate and enjoyed the fish, so it wasn't a big deal.

As much as I was worried about not having enough fish, we actually turned out to have lots of leftovers. I think cutting the filets in half was a really great idea, as I'm betting there were people who were happy with just one half, which meant other people could have three, and we still had plenty of leftovers.

I'd definitely do it again. It was good, relatively simple, and people really enjoyed it. The tilapia was reasonably priced (especially given the quality - I could have gotten cheaper by buying frozen, but wanted to go fresh) and very good. I've been looking for ways to add more fish into the common meal rotation, and this is one solid possibility.

Next up, I'm recapping my tortilla soup, as one of my assistant cooks that night is a huge fan and requested the opportunity to help make it. After that, I'm not sure. I want to do a beet and goat cheese salad (just beets and goat cheese and balsalmic-mustard vinaigrette, no greens) but I'm not sure what to make to go with it. Maybe fish again, but a different preparation... Any suggestions?

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I fix tilapia almost exactly the same way!!! Sometimes I use Wondra flour instead of panko, and skip the flour/egg, making more of a 'miller's style'. I usually deglaze - not something you can do easily in your situation - with white wine, then add some shallot and capers, along with the butter and lemon. If you saute the shallot and capers, then deglaze and add the butter/lemon, I think that would work for making it ahead. Some finely chopped tomato is good as well.

We use tilapia when we do a 'fry' with shrimp also. It's a delicious little fish, affordable and adapts easily to a lot of dishes.

I notice that a spring mix is often on your menus. Do you usually make a dressing or does everyone use a commercial dressing?

Stop Family Violence

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I notice that a spring mix is often on your menus. Do you usually make a dressing or does everyone use a commercial dressing?

We almost always use commercial dressing. We serve family style, and put two different bottles of dressing on each table. People troll the room searching for their favorites. Amy's Organic Shiitake Sesame is the community favorite, although their Goddess Dressing runs a real close second.

Very occasionally someone will make a special dressing. Sadly, the last time someone did that, they dressed the salads a) too far in advance, b) with too much dressing, and c) just poured the dressing over the greens instead of doing a nice toss, so it pooled in the bottom of the bowl. Pity, really, because it was a very nice poppyseed dressing for spinach and strawberry salad.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 1 month later...

Doh - I'm falling behind again! So here's a little catch up post.

For my first meal in May, I made Tortilla Soup again. It's a perennial favorite around here, and pretty easy, so I put it on the menu pretty regularly. One of my assistant cooks is a person who's been raving about this soup for months - asking for the recipe, etc. So it was really funny when we were making it and she was making all these comments like "fresh cilantro, huh - that seems like too much work, I would have probably used dry." Even though she knows that she LOVES this soup, she still couldn't get that if she wanted the same results, she'd need to use the same ingredients and method. Funny.

I usually make quesadillas for the kids, but this time I decided to make them for everyone. Except when I was doing my math I was forgetting that quesadillas take 2 tortillas, so I didn't actually end up making enough. Must remember for next time.

For my second meal in May, I made baked chicken with a secret sauce. Sorta. A friend of my went to college in Rochester, NY and he and all his buddies got hooked on the Sassy Sauce from Sal's Birdland, a chain of fried chicken restaurants in the area. They reverse engineered the recipe, and now he sends me bottles of it regularly. (And having just been in Rochester and eaten at Sal's, I can definitively say that his is better than the original.)

So it was kind of funny telling people that no, I couldn't tell them exactly what was in the sauce, because I didn't know. I've long since turned in my receipts from the meal, but here are some notes on quantities for future reference - I used chicken thighs and made 2 per adult and 1 per child, and this was more than enough - there were some for leftovers, which is what I wanted, so that was good. I made 15 lbs of potato salad, which I think was also about right. And then some salad. I made up 5 lbs of mashed potatoes for the kids, but they didn't really go - I guess the kids were eating the potato salad too.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Okay, one more, then I'm all caught up.

Last Thursday, June 8, I made Spicy Korean Style Pork Medallions with Asian Slaw from a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated. I'd made this for some friends at home and immediately pegged it as an excellent choice for common meal - extremely easy and fast, yet very flavorful. Pretty healthy, too.

I'd started with 38 adults/teens and 15 kids, but by the time I made a bunch of adds and drops we ended up with 26 meat eaters, 16 veggies, and 17 kids. Total cost - $132.83, or $3.30 per person. That price was greatly aided by pork tenderloin being on sale, andd while I think we had enough pork, people would have been happier with more, so I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Shopping List (pretty much everything was organic or "happy")

Protein

8 lbs of pork tenderloin (should have been 10)

4 lbs of tofu (should have been 5 or 6 - we ran out. Also, must remember to divide blocks into portions that make sense for the number of people - I was assuming 1 block of tofu would feed 4, but then I was cutting it into 6 pieces)

Slaw

9 lbs of napa cabbage

2 lbs carrots

3 red peppers

4 bunches scallions

Assorted marinade and dressing ingredients

1 big bottle tamari

1 bottle sesame oil

1 bottle rice vinegar

3 heads garlic

1 jar pre-minced fresh ginger (we needed 3/4 c, and that just seemed like too much to ask someone to do from fresh)

Hot sauce from the fridge, brown sugar from the pantry

6 lbs short grain rice

Brownies[/]

2 lbs butter

1 doz eggs

flour, cocoa, sugar, etc from the pantry

I started a little before 4 pm with the brownies, and put my assistants to work prepping dinner as they arrived. The method is really easy - cut the pork tenderloins into medallions and toss with half the marinade (reserving the other half for a sauce). We used the same marinade for the tofu as well. While that was marinading, sliced up the cabbage and red peppers, shredded the carrots and diced the scallions. We made a dressing for the slaw right away, but waited until just shortly before dinner to actually do the dressing - the napa cabbage gets wilty if it sits too long. Half the scallions go into the salad, and the other half just get scattered atop the pork/tofu. The pork tenderloin just gets a quick 2 minute per side sear in hot oil on the stovetop. I should have started this a little earlier, as even with two pans going, it was slow and I was rushing at the end. Also, because the marinade has sugar in it, the pans need to be cleaned out after every other batch (preferably after every batch, really).

And that's all there is to it. It was fast and easy. Aside from the rush at the end (and the fact that we should have started plating a little earlier) it was pretty relaxed. We ran out of dishes to wash, about which I'm sure the cleaners coming after us were quite pleased!

People definitely would have liked more pork, although I think everyone got "enough" - the suggested portion size calls for only 1/4 lb per person, and we had that much. But given the price I got on the pork, I could have done more easily. The only other problem was that my assistant cook decided to salt the rice - it never occured to me to tell her not to. I don't generally have objections to salted rice, but when you're serving it with a soy based sauce, it can be a little much.

Definitely going into the rotation.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I KNEW it!!! I was channeling you ALL DAY on Thursday, though I kept wondering why...My mind was in that big kitchen, with you taking your time, doing each dish and the garnishes and the prep---weird. Maybe because it had been so long since you checked in with another chapter in the community saga.

Thanks for the update...wish I HAD been there to help. I miss cooking for a hundred.

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I KNEW it!!!    I was channeling you ALL DAY on Thursday, though I kept wondering why...My mind was in that big kitchen, with you taking your time, doing each dish and the garnishes and the prep---weird.  Maybe because it had been so long since you checked in with another chapter in the community saga.

Thanks for the update...wish I HAD been there to help.  I miss cooking for a hundred.

Thanks Rachel, nice to know I've made an impression.

What was I cooking when you were channeling me?

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 5 weeks later...

I haven't actually forgotten about y'all. Just haven't been very creative about common meal lately. Last time I cooked, June 22, I reran the sesame noodles I've made a bunch of times before. It was hot out, so instead of slaving over the stove making a green bean & red pepper stirfry, I blanched the green beans and made a cold salad instead, with red peppers and a soy-ginger-sesame dressing instead.

Tomorow I'm making another rerun - the Pecan-Crusted Tilapia from May. I'll probably do green beans instead of asparagus, and I need to think of a dessert still. Ideas? Main dish ingredients are relatively expensive, so I'll probably bake something. I find that I can do a good dessert for not a lot of money as long as I'm willing to take the extra time required to bake.

On the 27th we're hosting a little reunion for my husband's high school buddies in conjunction with common meal. Since this will be a big meal, I wanted simple, so I'm rerunning the Spicy Korean-Style Pork Tenderloin. I'm going to play around with broiling and/or grilling the pork in addition to doing it on the stovetop, because that was the only problem with it last time - it just took too long to do in batches on the stove, not to mention that the marinade burned in the pan, so I had to keep stopping to clean them out. I think I could make quick work of the tenderloin with a grill or two - gives me a bigger surface area to work with than a frying pan. Ditto the broiler. I'll probably do a combination of approaches to cook the most amount of pork as close to serving time as possible.

But I'm really writing to tell you about the meal after that one! I had to swap one of my regular Thursday shifts, and ended up cooking on Sunday, July 30. Hope I'll be feeling inspired by then, because I'm going to try something I've talked about for a long while. I'm calling the meal Tammy's Market Basket, and here's the description I posted to our meal signup system:

Are you willing to take a chance? I'm going to go to the Farmer's Market on

Saturday morning, and see what looks fresh and good, and what Sparrow Meats

or Monahan's seafood have on sale that day. I'll collect up all that bounty

of the season and turn it into dinner. But I can't tell you what it is

before you sign up, because I don't know - you'll just have to trust me.

I'm really curious if this will generate more or fewer signups than a typical Sunday meal. Just how far will my reputation carry me?

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Tammy, the market basket sounds wonderful! I know if I didn't regularly sign up, I'd sign up for that one! Your reputation (not having tasted anything) would go a long way with me.

As for a dessert for this next one. What about brownies with ice cream? You can bake brownies ahead of time and freeze them. Not terribly original or exciting, but when I serve them, they are always welcomed, especially when topped with ice cream.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Or what about a peach or peach and blueberry cobbler? As a Tennessean, I'm adamantly partial to Southern peaches, but when they're gone, I always choose Michigan peaches over California, and I know you grow good blueberries up there.

By the way, I always look for updates to your thread when I come on eGullet, it's fascinating---and I'd sure sign up for your Market Basket dinner!

Edited by jdtofbna (log)

I may be in Nashville but my heart's in Cornwall

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Or what about a peach or peach and blueberry cobbler?  As a Tennessean, I'm adamantly partial to Southern peaches, but when they're gone, I always choose Michigan peaches over California, and I know you grow good blueberries up there.

Interesting thought. I know that the first local blueberries were just coming into season last week, so perhaps I'll take a look and see what the price is like at tomorrow's Westside Farmer's Market. Peaches are still at least a few weeks away, sadly.

By the way, I always look for updates to your thread when I come on eGullet, it's fascinating---and I'd sure sign up for your Market Basket dinner!

Thanks!

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Pecan Crusted Tilapia with Brown Butter Sauce, Take 2

This was a big, big hit. I had no fewer than 3 people come and ask me for the recipe. Even I swooned a little on my first bite - it really did turn out well this time.

Stats: 40 fish eaters, 4 vegetarians, 19 kids. And I had to turn people away who were looking for late signups. That's a lot of fish to fry - this is 10 more people than I had last time I made this meal. Cost per person - $5.74. I thought I was going to top $6, but the few late signups I did accept took care of that.

Menu was nearly the same as last time. I bought some nice smoked paprika to use for the cajun rice, and that made it much better than last time. Vegetarians got portabellas stuffed with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and caramelized onion (was supposed to be fennel, but the store didn't have any). I bought 15 lbs of fish, and there was a little bit left, so I guess that was the right amount (although at the time I was a little worried). I bought less asparagus than last time, and just steamed it, cut it up and served it on top of the salad. Found some pinenuts in the fridge and was going to throw those in on the spur of the moment, except that I burned them and didn't have time to toast more. This time, however, I did remember to make the macaroni and cheese. I didn't have time to do anything special for dessert, so I bought ice cream (notes to self - 2 cartons would have been plenty, Cookies and Cream is a popular flavor).

And now, in easy cut and paste form and by popular demand, the recipe:

Fish

Equal parts pecans and panko (aka Japanese bread crumbs)

flour

salt and pepper

eggs

canola oil

tilapia

Put pecans in the food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Add panko, and pulse again, until you have a nice breading consistency - not too fine.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a dish. Beat eggs.

To bread, coat fish in flour mixture, dip in egg, and coat with breading. You can do this quite a while in advance if you want.

Cook in hot canola oil, 2-3 minutes per side, until brown and crispy. Don't overcook! Serve with brown butter sauce (holds surprisingly well in a 200 degree oven).

Brown Butter Sauce

Unsalted butter

Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Tarragon

Salt

Cook butter in a stainless steel or other light colored saucepan over medium heat until brown and nutty. Add lemon juice to taste (a good ratio seems to be slightly less than one lemon's juice per stick of butter), whisking together over the heat to emulsify. Add salt and cook for a little longer to tame the lemon a smidge. Add some freshly chopped tarragon.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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I haven't read most of the posts yet, but I cook for 44 people on the weekends and have come up with some recipes that go over very well.

Lamb Keftas with pepper saute:

for the lamb keftas, get good quality ground lamb, the stuff we get is grass fed from the local Halal market, and has about 10-20 percent fat depending on the butcher and grind that day. I mix it with very fine diced onions, a touch of ceyenne, cinnamon, diced mint leaves, sea salt and sweet paprika, form into patties, and grill on a cast iron pan.

pepper saute, I roast and peel red peppers, then slice. In a pan I saute some onions, then add some thin sliced garlic, add the peppers and continue to cook on high heat, at the end add in capers with some of the juice and a splash of balsamic, taste and season with salt to taste.

Pulled pork:

This is a simple but very good way to get a lot of pork done up fast, and we've done this for a meal for about 200+ people, and is good on homemade masa tortillas and a fruit salsa, my favorite is papaya and habanero (don't forget the cilantro).

Take a bunch of oranges, and squeeze into a big pot, drop the rinds in as well. Take your pork shoulders and salt, put them in the pan with a few jalapenos or whatever pepper you prefer (I like habaneros). Pour enough water in to bairly cover the pork and bring to a boil, once reached, bring down to a high simmer and cook for a couple of hours (4 or so), skimming the surface of scum. The key here is the amount of salt you use in the water, its a lot, but too much and it tastes like sea water in your mouth, but too little and the flavor of the pork and oranges is very muted.

once the pork is very very tender, lift it out of the pot and into a few hotel pans. using forks, shredd the meat and distribute into a layer about 2-4 inches deep in each pan. Salt the meat (use kosher or sea salt), and ladel a few scoops of the reserved liquid over the meat. Put into a hot oven and dry for an hour or two. Every so often you will need to pull the meat out, stir it, and ladel on more of the liquid (make sure to include of the orange rinds as well). By the end, you want to have a nice browned, crisp surface, and juicy, orangy meat underneath.

I have a lot more, but they'll have to wait for when I have a little more time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last night's rerun of the Korean-style pork or tofu worked out well. I'm happy that it's such as easy meal, since I had 66 people. It was especially big because my husband and I were hosting 10 friends for a sort of reunion of his high school buddies.

For dessert I made the Lemon-Blueberry Cornmeal Cake from the most recent issue of Fine Cooking. I took a chance making it for common meal without trying it at home first, but the recipe looked good, and it turned out quite well. Had a couple of people ask for the recipe.

Sunday is my Market Basket meal! I'll be hitting the Farmer's Market tomorrow to figure out what to make. I've got 40 people signed up - 21 meat eaters, 9 vegetarians, and 10 kids. I've got some ideas about things to make - I've got a little appetizer recipe for ground seasoned beef wrapped in basil leaves and grilled, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try that. I'll do some with halloumi for the vegetarians. I'm pondering some kind of fish with a peach salsa - we'll see what's cheap at the seafood counter (if I don't do it tomorrow, I'll do it for my next meal). Or maybe the butcher will have something appealing and inexpensive. Fine cooking has a recipe for a chorizo compound butter that's got me intrigued - I can't afford to put it on steak, though, as they do. Stuffed summer squash would certainly be seasonal - anybody have a favorite filling?. I've been making dilled new potatoes a lot at home - that would be easy enough to do for a common meal side. For dessert, something with nice fresh fruit - blueberries and peaches are big right now, so maybe a cobbler or a crisp. Have to see how the tomatoes are looking - could do something nice with those.

Anybody have any ideas? I'd like to have some things in mind when I hit the market so it's not too overwhelming.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  Fine cooking has a recipe for a chorizo compound butter that's got me intrigued - I can't afford to put it on steak, though, as they do.  Stuffed summer squash would certainly be seasonal - anybody have a favorite filling?. 

I read your post really quick and thought: what a great idea, to put a chorizo butter on roast squash slices.

Then I read again and saw this is not what you wrote.

I still think it's a great idea though :biggrin:

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  Fine cooking has a recipe for a chorizo compound butter that's got me intrigued - I can't afford to put it on steak, though, as they do.  Stuffed summer squash would certainly be seasonal - anybody have a favorite filling?. 

I read your post really quick and thought: what a great idea, to put a chorizo butter on roast squash slices.

Then I read again and saw this is not what you wrote.

I still think it's a great idea though :biggrin:

I agree. That is a very intriguing idea.

I'm doing a squash trio amuse bouche for the Heartland gathering next week. If one of my planned items doesn't work out for one reason or another, this could be a good substitute.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Market Basket Menu

Vietnamese Grilled Beef and Basil rolls

OR

Grilled haloumi and basil rolls (vegetarian)

Chile-mustard rubbed roast pork loin with sweet and tart cherry sauce

OR

Caprese-stuffed flying saucer squash (vegetarian)

Dilled red potatoes

Red, White, and Blue Salad - mixed greens with roasted beets, blueberries, and goat cheese

Peach cobbler (probably with ice cream)

As you can tell from the menu, the fruit was looking really good today, so we've got cherries and blueberries and peaches.

The flying saucer squash are very cool looking - that'll be a nice thing for the vegetarians. I'm planning to dice up tomatoes and mix with olive oil and basil and salt and pepper, maybe a touch of balsalmic. That will go into the hollowed out cooked squash. I'll top it with a slice of fresh mozarella and run the whole thing under the broiler.

I just made pork on Thursday, but the butcher made me an offer I couldn't refuse, selling me an entire 8.5 lb loin for $20.

I feel like I probably should have another vegetable in addition to the salad, but green beans were the only thing I was interested in, and those add a lot of prep time.

I'll have a little bit of sauteed beet greens for anyone who wants them.

Any thoughts? Anyone have ideas for cherry sauce, or a favorite recipe for peach cobbler?

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 2 weeks later...

I forgot to report back in after cooking the market basket meal. It went really well. We had to work quite steadily for the time we had available to us, but we got it done and served dinner on time.

I got worried that I didn't have enough potatoes and tomatoes, so I bought some back up ones from the store. I should have cooked the back up potatoes, as we were a little short, but I just forgot about it. I totally did not need the back up tomatoes.

And there was lots of salad, so it's not like people didn't have enough food.

Speaking of salad, beets, blueberries and goat cheese is quite a tasty combination.

The caprese stuffed squash were beautiful to look at, and apparently tasted good too.

Cost per person worked out to $4.19. A bargain, says me.

Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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Tammy, you really have to get some enterprising young lass or lad to hone their photography skills and get us some photos of the meals! What kind of potatoes did you use? I look at the array at the farmer's market right now, and it's mind-boggling!

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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