Cooking for a crowd has its exhilarating moments, especially when efforts are rewarded with resounding success. It also has its hazards, as the many cooks who have tried to increase some recipes by multiplication have realized--often too late.
One home cook, thinking that the two cups of dry beans called for in the recipe for six servings was hardly enough for one person, much less the eight people she was planning to serve, multiplied the recipe by eight. Little did she realize that beans swell to near triple their size upon cooking. She ended up having to hire a cleaning crew to sweep up the mess of beans that had expanded and oozed out of the pot, inching onto the kitchen floor and toward the door, a ferocious army on the march.
Yes, it does take a knowledge of ingredients, the proper equipment and a sense of recipe development to be a large-scale cook. Quantity cooking is not just a matter of multiplying a recipe. Often, expanding a recipe can lead to flavor, texture and balance problems. Some foods, such as baked goods, jellies, jams and candies, are particularly fragile in their chemical makeup and require special formulation to accommodate the chemical changes that occur during cooking--even when the recipe is minimally increased.
If you have the equipment, the proper facilities and feel capable of handling quantity recipes, consider it the better part of valor to follow recipes already formulated to quantity size amounts. Without the proper equipment and know-how you are better off sticking to home-size recipes and cooking several batches.
Readers who write to us about problems related to quantity size cooking are those who, of necessity, occasionally cook for club or other functions and need help with recipe ideas and amounts of food to purchase. "I need to plan 100 turkey salad sandwiches in pita pockets and fruit carrot salad but can't determine the uncooked weight of turkey for 100," wrote Gloria L. Wise of Rolling Hills Estates.
But organization and recipe development is not the only problem. Another may be cost.
There are two camps of thought on cost, we found.
One quantity cook opts for roasts in lieu of casseroles. "People don't realize that by the time they buy all the ingredients and put it all together that they are probably putting more money into a casserole than it would take to buy and prepare a simple roast. In addition, most guests prefer roasts with simple side dishes to fussy casseroles. Besides, you often get a better buy when purchasing meat in a larger size and doing the cutting yourself," said Times food news editor Marge Powers.
Roger Starr of Highland Park, on the other hand, is satisfied with one-dish meals, such as turkey-noodle casserole or meat loaf, which he said work well when quadrupled and are relatively inexpensive. "Of course, such recipes are the exception," he wrote. "For one thing my budget is limited to a moderate $3 to $4 per person, paid at the door (and we also serve wine and soft drinks, as well as hors d'oeuvres and coffee)."
Once a month, Starr is called upon to prepare dinner for anywhere from 40 to 60 members of a social organization to which he belongs. Since he must complete all preparation and cooking at home in his kitchen and transport the results to the homes of a revolving series of hosts, he is limited to one-dish meals, salads and desserts, alternating with the occasional ham or turkey.
This brings us to some of the problems one may encounter and ways of solving them when cooking for a crowd.
EQUIPMENT--Check the equipment and utensils available well in advance, then borrow, rent or purchase any items that are required for preparation of the meal. Your local church, community center, school, catering establishment or restaurant may have large utensils they will lend or rent for the occasion. If you have an opportunity to purchase new equipment for a community kitchen, suggest that cookware made for restaurants and institutions be used, not home-size pots and pans. However, be certain that the equipment will fit the ovens and sinks.
INCREASING RECIPE SIZE--A good rule of thumb is to multiply a recipe for six by four times to make 25 servings; by eight to serve 50 and by 16 to serve 100. Don't attempt to increase recipes for baked goods, candies and jellies.
SEASONING ADJUSTMENT--When preparing recipes in quantity, seasonings must be adjusted accordingly. When making two times the recipe, use one and one-half times the amount of herb or spice called for. When the quantity is three times the recipe, use two times the amount of herb or spice; when making four times the recipe, adjust the herb and spice to two and one-half times the amount called for.
BUYING GUIDE--Most quantity recipe cooks have trouble deciding how much food to buy for servings of 25 or more. A Times' guide for quantity food preparation suggests the amounts of food to buy for 50 servings. Halve the amount for 25 servings. You'll note amounts for seafood, fruit, meats, relishes, salads, vegetables, beverages, breads, casseroles, dairy products and desserts. Checking the chart, you will have an instant count for the amount of coffee to purchase to make 50 one-cup servings. You'll need eight pies to serve 50.
PREPARATION/COOKING TIME--You'll have to take into account the added preparation and cooking time needed for quantity recipes to compensate for cleaning, prepping, drying, or heating large quantities of ingredients. Larger pans require longer cooking, so the best policy is to follow the recipes to the letter.
SPACE--Storage and refrigerator space is an important factor to consider when cooking for a crowd. Do you need more than one refrigerator? Do you have the freezer space for individual molds or casseroles? How about extra shelf or counter space for properly chilling or cooling dishes. Does your counter have enough space to lay out several pots and pans at one time? Is your oven large enough for institutional size equipment?
FOOD SAFETY--A key consideration in any food handling, especially large amounts of food that take longer to cool and might be candidates for food spoilage, is proper cooling. Stuffed poultry, ground meat, egg-containing products, such as mayonnaise, custard and sauces, could cause problems if allowed to stand too long at room temperature. Make sure that hot foods being held are heated to above 140 degrees. You might also want to supplement existing heating surfaces with the help of electric skillets, steam tables or hot trays.
All fresh, cured and cooked meat must be kept in the refrigerator and used within two or three days. Thaw frozen meat just before cooking, preferably in the refrigerator. Meats cooked for future use should be cooled quickly, uncovered, in the refrigerator, or in a cool room with good air circulation.
Meat and broth should be separated to hasten cooling. To rapidly cool broth, set it in a pan of running cold water before refrigeration. Stir the broth to prevent formation of fat that may seal in heat. Refrigerated coagulated fat can be removed before reheating to reduce fat content. Leave meat and broth uncovered until cool. Then cover and refrigerate.
Hot cooked chicken or pieces of meat should be spread out on a flat pan to cool quickly and safely. Stacked hot meats stand a chance of developing harmful bacteria if allowed to stand too long. Large roasts may be cut into halves to cool. Stuffing should be removed from a turkey or other poultry and cooled separately.
SEASONAL FOODS--You'll get dollar and quality mileage by buying foods in season.
A few miscellaneous tips when handling especially fragile foods:
--To prevent noodles from sticking together, immerse in cold water until ready to use. For ease in serving, let lasagna stand 10 minutes before cutting. Lasagna may be combined ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake. Increase baking time about a half hour.
--If making meat balls, combine the ingredients the day before and store covered in the refrigerator. The sauce can be prepared ahead and refrigerated. The cooked meat balls and sauce can be stored in the freezer for two months.
--To make a gallon of broth using turkey carcass, simmer bones, one cup chopped onion and one tablespoon salt in one gallon of water for two hours.
--When baking cakes, do not place one pan directly below the other in the oven. For 50 servings, an average recipe will have to be made two times.
3 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup oil
1 (4-ounce) can red curry paste
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk
1 quart chicken broth
9 pounds shrimp, peeled and cleaned, or 6 to 7 pounds lean lamb or beef, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon white pepper or to taste
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoon water
Hot cooked rice
Diced passion fruit
Saute onions in oil in large skillet until onions are transparent. Remove from heat and add curry paste, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir until blended.
Return to heat and gradually add coconut milk and broth. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened, about 1 hour. Stir flour and water and gradually add to sauce. Add shrimp and simmer 5 to 7 minutes until shrimp turn red in color.
Serve curry over rice. Top with bananas, mangoes, papaya, passion fruit, coconut and peanuts. Makes 16 to 25 servings.
2 pounds ground turkey
2 pounds onions, chopped
3 hot green chiles, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 (10 3/4-ounces) cans plum tomatoes, mashed
8 (15 1/2-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained
1 1/2 cups broth or water
1/3 cup chili powder
1/4 cup vinegar
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 cups sour cream
1 cup chopped cilantro
Brown turkey with onions, chiles, green pepper and garlic in large kettle, stirring to keep separate. Pour off fat.
Add tomatoes, kidney beans, broth, chili powder, vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until desired consistency, stirring occasionally.
Serve with dollops of sour cream and garnish with cilantro. Makes 25 servings.
SHRIMP IN BEER
1/2 cup oil
6 pounds shrimp, shelled and cleaned
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons salt, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/3 cup flour
3 cups beer or ale
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Heat oil in large skillet. Add shrimp and onion. Lightly saute in oil 2 minutes. Add salt, hot pepper sauce and flour.
Stir in beer and lemon juice, stirring constantly. Bring to boil, add bay leaves and thyme.
Cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Makes 25 servings or 4 to 6 shrimp per person.
4 pounds canned salmon
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup julienne-cut pimientos
1/2 cup capers
1 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup vinegar
2 cups pitted black olives
1 pound fettuccine
Bottled Italian dressing
Drain salmon and coarsely flake. Reserve liquid. Combine salmon with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, pimientos, capers, parsley, vinegar and olives. Toss lightly but well.
Cook fettuccine according to package directions. While still warm, combine with dressing, tossing to coat fettuccine well. Refrigerate fettuccine and salmon mixture separately. Combine just before serving. Makes 50 (8-ounce) servings.
MIXED GREEN CHOPPED SALAD
2 heads Romaine lettuce, chopped
2 heads butter lettuce, chopped
1 head chicory lettuce, chopped
1 pound small endive, chopped
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1 pound cucumbers, chopped
1 head celery, chopped
1/2 pound radishes, chopped
1 1/2 pounds Italian cotto salami, julienned
2 pounds mozzarella cheese, julienned
Combine lettuces, endive, onions, cucumbers, celery and radishes. Cover and refrigerate.
Combine salami and cheese. Cover and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, combine vegetables, salami-cheese mixture and Italian Vinaigrette. Toss until well coated. Makes 25 servings.
1 quart extra virgin olive oil
2 cups red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon mashed garlic
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
Combine oil and vinegar and mix well. Add onion, garlic, salt, paprika, pepper and basil. Stir well. Pour into jar and shake well before serving. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.
2 sweet red peppers, roasted and diced
32 slices tomato
32 slices Jack cheese
8 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded
2 avocados, cubed
Heat small amount oil in pan. Dip each tortilla in hot oil to soften, adding oil as needed. Layer 8 tortillas in greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with red pepper. Layer with 16 tomato slices. Cover with 1/2 shredded chicken and top with 16 cheese slices. Layer 6 tortillas over cheese layer.
Repeat layers and top with tortillas. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until filling is heated through and cheese melts.
Top with Salsa then sour cream. Sprinkle with avocado. Garnish with cilantro. Makes 16 to 20 servings.
4 tomatoes, cubed
6 green onions, sliced
2 red onions, sliced and grilled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Combine tomatoes, green onions, red onions and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 cups.
1 pound margarine
8 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 1/2 cups sugar
3 to 4 cups broken pecans
2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
Brush 2 (15 1/2x10 1/2x1) inch jelly roll pans with margarine. Melt remaining margarine and chocolate in large saucepan.
Remove from heat. Add pecans, flour, baking powder and vanilla. Mix to blend. Add eggs and beat well.
Pour into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes, being careful chocolate mixture does not scorch. Do not overbake. Cool in pan and cut into bars. Makes 70 (1 1/2x3-inch) bars.
PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE PIE
1 pound cream cheese
1 1/2 pounds sifted powdered sugar
1 3/4 cups or 1 pound, less 2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 cups milk
2 quarts plus 1 cup non-dairy whipped topping
4 (9-inch) pie shells
1 cup finely chopped peanuts
Whip cheese at low speed until soft and fluffy. Beat in sugar and peanut butter at medium speed. Slowly beat in milk. Fold topping into mixture. Divide filling between pie shells. Sprinkle each pie with peanuts.
Freeze until firm, then serve cut into wedges. If stored for length of time, wrap pie when frozen hard to store airtight. Makes 24 servings.
BLACK BEAN SOUP
2 1/2 pounds black beans
1 ham bone
1 cup diced onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1/4 pound butter or margarine
1 1/2 gallons beef stock, about
1 1/2 tablespoons whole cloves
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Sherry, Marsala or Madeira
1 1/2 cups sour cream
25 slices hard-cooked eggs
Wash beans and soak overnight in water to cover. Rinse and fill pot with enough water to cover beans. Add ham bone and cook until beans are almost tender.
Saute onions, celery and carrots in butter. Add to beans. Add 1 1/2 gallons beef stock, cloves, bay leaves, mustard, thyme, mace and Worcestershire. Simmer until reduced to about 1 1/2 gallons. Discard ham bone. Cut meat into small pieces.
Strain soup. If too thick, add additional stock. Add ham pieces. Heat to below boiling point. Just before serving, stir in wine.
To serve swirl sour cream into beans and garnish each serving with sliced hard-cooked egg. Makes 25 servings.
THREE BEAN SALAD
1 quart cooked or canned, drained red beans
1 quart cooked or canned, drained white beans
1 quart canned, drained green beans
1 cup bottled Italian-style French dressing
1 cup Spanish onions, sliced into rings
1 cup thinly sliced celery
Place red beans, white beans and green beans in large bowl. Do not mix. Pour Italian dressing over beans and marinate several hours or overnight. Add onion rings and celery. Toss before serving. Makes 25 (1/2-cup) servings.
ARROZ CON POLLO
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 1/4 tablespoons celery salt
1 1/4 tablespoons paprika
50 chicken drumsticks and/or thighs
3 cups rice
3 cups chopped onions
3 cups chopped green peppers
1 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 quart canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons chili powder
Blend garlic salt, celery salt and paprika. Place chicken in baking pan and sprinkle with seasoning mix. Arrange skin-side up and bake at 425 degrees 25 minutes.
Combine rice, onions, green peppers, parsley, chicken broth, tomatoes, salt and chili powder in 20x12x2-inch baking pan. Stir well. Arrange chicken with drippings over top of rice. Cover and continue to bake until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Makes 25 servings.
HOT FLUFFY RICE
1 quart rice
2 quarts water or stock
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, margarine or oil
Combine rice, water, salt and butter in large saucepan or stockpot. Bring to boil over high heat. Stir once or twice. Cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer without removing lid 14 minutes.
If rice is not quite tender, cover and simmer 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat and transfer to shallow pans. Keep warm until served.
Oven Method: Use boiling water. Place rice, water, salt and butter in large shallow pan. Stir. Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes.
BEEF BURGUNDY STEW
6 pounds lean beef chuck, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons beef extract
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
4 pounds canned tomatoes
1 pint Burgundy
1/4 cup beef flavor base
4 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 small bay leaves
4 pounds small whole white onions
4 pounds small carrots, cut in halves
4 ounces cornstarch
1 cup water
Cooked rice, optional
1 cup chopped parsley
Drizzle meat with beef extract. Toss lightly until evenly coated. Heat oil in baking pan. Add meat and brown. Add tomatoes, wine, beef base, salt, basil, garlic salt, pepper and bay leaves.
Cover and bake at 375 degrees 45 minutes. Add onions and carrots. Cover and continue to cook 1 hour longer or until meat and vegetables are tender.
Blend together cornstarch and water. Stir into stew and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. Serve over rice, sprinkled with parsley. Makes 25 servings.
Note: Beef extract can be purchased in gourmet section of supermarket.
1 1/2 quarts water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix water with cocoa. Bring to boil. Add sugar, corn syrup, honey and salt. Stir constantly until temperature reaches 226 degrees on candy thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Makes 3/4 quart.
3 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish or India relish
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 envelope onion salad dressing mix
Combine mayonnaise, relish, lemon juice and salad dressing mix. Makes 3 1/4 cups, about 25 servings.
Food styling by Minnie Bernardino and Donna Deane
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