Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cooking For a Crowd

It's natural that you'd want to show off your new house for the holidays and invite friends for parties, or welcome family into your home. It can be tough to cook for a crowd, however, especially when you are faced with a wide range of pallets and the prospect of expanding recipes. Even if you are not an experienced or regular cook, it is fully possible to manage even big sit down dinners. Here are a few tips for managing:

  • Make a complete list of ingredients for each recipe, and take the time to make a cooking schedule so you can see ahead of time what temperatures and cooking times each item will need. That way you will know where in the kitchen you'll need to be when, and avoid the chance of mishaps or overcooking.
  • Do your prep ahead of time. As tempting as it is to chop and prepare ingredients just before they go in the pan, you'll ensure that you have plenty of time if you chop, slice, or even just open the cans of each item you'll need before the first burner on the stove is lit. Measure out the exact amounts of each ingredient into individual bowls or ramekins so that all you need to do is add it in as you move through each step of your recipes.
  • Plan a simple appetizer course that can keep guests busy and entertained while you put the finishing touches on your main course. Appetizers can either help picky guests fill up on something familiar like cheese and crackers, or they can be a chance to show off daring recipes without taking too big a risk. Whichever you choose, prepare appetizers as far ahead of time as possible, including any necessary slicing and chopping.
  • If you are hosting houseguests and need big, filling meals that come together quickly and please a wide range of tastes, consider some of the following options that can easily be expanded and customized:
    • Burrito bars are a big hit. Get an idea of all your different filling options from the online menu for Qdoba, Chipotle, Moe's, or other burrito joint. Simply buy the ones you want to include on your bar, and set each out buffet style. Guests can craft their own burrito to their taste.
    • Similarly, buy pre-made pizza crusts and set out a selection of sauces and toppings. If you want to simplify even further, simply prepare a combination of basic cheese pizzas and some with more adventurous toppings.
    • Stir fry is also easy to expand or shrink as a recipe. Simply sauté vegetables in one pan, meats in a another, and sauce in a third. Make a pot of rice depending on how many will be eating, and let guests combine as they wish.
    • Sandwiches are also quick, easy, and flexible, and can be dressed up if grilled panini style. Picky guests can enjoy basic meat and cheese toppings, and you can show off your culinary flare by including a few suggested sandwich combinations with unique flavors or ingredients.

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