Crowd Pleasers – Tips on Cooking Large Quantities

30 March 2012 § 6 Comments

It started with a few hours volunteering in the kitchen of our local Salvation Army on Food Day last October. Since then a good friend and I are now regular fixtures there on Thursdays. We go, chat and cook and then chat some more, making enough food for about 50-70 people that is then served a few days later.

I’m only telling you this as over the past few months I have learned a few things about cooking for a (considerable) crowd:

  • Bacon. It is true (almost) everything tastes better with bacon. The quality of ingredients there varies from week to week depending on donations. Sometimes dishes need a bit more flavor so a small amount of chopped-up bacon will improve any soup, casserole or stew.
  • When making a pasta dish that will be reheated, make sure you add enough liquid so it does not dry out as time goes on it will absorb more of the sauce.
  • Wholewheat pasta does not seem to reheat as well as white pasta. Sure it’s healthier but not as appetizing served a few days later.
  • Experiment. The best bread pudding we made was made with leftover cranberries and chocolate chips. It was genius – the sharp tang of the fresh cranberries was a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the milk chocolate chips.
  • Packets of stuffing (leftover from Thanksgiving) are great for breading chicken or fish. We had no bread and about 100 chicken breasts and we’d got it into our heads we were going to bread them. They added a nice crunch and a bit of sage-y flavor.
  • A pinch of cinnamon improves a chili immeasurably.
  • Certain foods such as lasagna and soups improve with a few days in the fridge.
  • Rice dishes on the other hand have a tendency to go sticky and starchy.
  • Comfort food is always popular. There is something about meatballs and pea and ham soup that just pleases most people.

I’m always looking for inspiration and ideas so please send recipes my way.

Your food donations will always be gratefully received. So if you’re going away for a few days and have fresh produce that you are about to throw out. Don’t. Your local food pantry will gladly receive and make good use of it.

It is time for spring cleaning so clear out those food cupboards and get rid some of those cans you’ve been hoarding. You know the ones that hide at the back of the cupboard that you know you will never use. We will add bacon and herbs and try to make it good!

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§ 6 Responses to Crowd Pleasers – Tips on Cooking Large Quantities

  • Do you ever make scalloped potatoes and ham? This is a dish I grew up eating in Western PA and New Jerseyans seem to love it too. We used to pick the leftover ham off the bone and make this dish for the 2nd or 3rd day after we finished our Easter ham (no waste at our house; then it was on to ham and navy bean soup).

    Ingredients: Thinly sliced potatoes, diced up ham (real ham, not deli ham) (or 10 in your case!), shredded cheddar cheese or whatever cheese you have, milk, pepper, and bread crumbs (I use Italian). You can even add dashes of hot sauce to give it a little kick.
    Spray the pan with non-stick spray.
    Layer, start with the potatoes in the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle ham over top, then sprinkle cheese over that; layer until you’ve made enough for your crowd. Then pour milk over top until it comes about 1/3 way up side of the pan. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top.
    Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for and hour or so (depending on the size of your pans); remove foil and let the top brown well.
    Let sit 5 minutes or so then serve!

  • Good for you!

    There is a joke about a favorite cookbook of mine, the Moosewood Cookbook (all vegetarian), that any recipe in it is even better if made with bacon. I think it may be true!

  • Great tips and a worthy cause! Well done, Little Piggy. đŸ™‚

  • Hannah says:

    What a terrific list of tips, especially the one to experiment. Some incredible dishes arise from looking around and using what’s on hand. Thank you for sharing!

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