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How to Feed a Mob

In ample space under the broadest shade, A table richly spread in regal mode, With dishes piled and meats of noblest sort And savour--beasts of chase, or fowl of game, In pastry built, or from the spit, or boiled . . . And at a stately sideboard, by the wine That fragrant smell diffused . . . --John Milton, Paradise Regained

People may be what makes a great party, but it’s the food that sparks the crowd.

What follows are party recipes for good eating: finger food for nibbling during those first nervous moments; a salad to refresh and keep the mood light; chicken, crisp and flavorful, to get the juices flowing; a soup kept warm on the fire; and a sweet ending.

This is an adaptation of a recipe I cut out of a newspaper years ago; I’ve served it at every large buffet I’ve ever hosted, and made it for as many as 200 people. I generally cook the chicken a day ahead, wrap it in plastic, refrigerate it--and then enlist the help of lots of friends when it comes time to do the shredding. When I make it in very large quantities, I keep the ingredients separate, toss a big bowl together just before the party, and then keep making up more as it is needed. I’ve done as much as 10 times this recipe at one time .

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COLD CHINESE NOODLES WITH CHICKEN

2 whole chicken breasts

4 zucchini, cut julienne

1 pound barbecued pork (available at Chinese deli), cut julienne

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2 pounds fresh Chinese egg noodles

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

3 1/2 cups Sesame Sauce

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1 cup coarsely ground roasted peanuts

1 cup finely chopped green onions

1 cup cilantro leaves

Bring large pot of water to boil. Cut chicken breasts in halves and add to water. Return to boiling, then cover and simmer 6 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 15 minutes.

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Fill large bowl with water and ice cubes. Plunge chicken into icy water 15 minutes. Remove chicken and pat dry. (If doing ahead, chicken can now be wrapped and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days). Remove skin and bones from chicken breasts.

Shred chicken with fingers and place in large bowl. Add zucchini and pork.

Drop noodles into pot of boiling water. Cook 4 minutes. Drain well and rinse under cold water until chilled. Drain again. Cut into smaller lengths and place in separate bowl. Add peanut and sesame oils and toss.

Just before serving, combine meat and vegetable mixture with noodles and Sesame Sauce, toss with ground peanuts, green onions and cilantro. Makes 20 servings.

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Sesame Sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns

1/4 cup sesame paste

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

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1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons chile oil

2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup soy sauce

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1/2 cup sesame oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Chinese black rice vinegar

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Freshly ground pepper

Place peppercorns in cast iron skillet and cook over low heat until dark brown and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Grind in spice grinder or blender. Set aside.

Mix sesame paste and peanut butter with wire whisk in large bowl. Gradually add water, stirring until smooth. Add chile oil, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and vinegars. Whisk to blend. Season to taste with pepper. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Each serving contains about:

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307 calories; 752 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 0.86 grams fiber; 62% calories from fat.


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