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Old 07-24-2013, 10:00 AM   #1
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Question Tips for cooking meals for a bunch of people?

Let me give you a little background first.


My fiance and I have decided to learn how to cook a couple months back and it's been going great so far. We obviously started with beginner-level recipes and made quite a few good dishes (steak, chicken breasts filled with mozarella and wrapped in bacon, a whole lot of pasta, etc).


In an effort to give back a little (and, hey, show off) every Sunday we cook for our parents (it's a small country, easy to get together).


My question is this: So far it's been quite difficult to manage cooking for 6 people at once (me, her, my parents, her parents). Sometimes I don't have enough burners, the food doesn't fit into the pan at once, so some of it is a bit colder than the rest of the food, etc. It's a headache. For example, I needed to cook six steaks, but only two fit in the pan. so I had to cook two, remove them, cook two more, remove them, and all the while, the first two are getting colder. You know what I mean?


Now, my fiance has asked me to do a meal which includes a first course and a main one. This blew my mind. It's not that I don't know how to cook these things; it's that I know I'm gonna explode under the pressure.


Short of skipping on the first course myself to continue cooking the main course (or cancelling the wedding and finding a new wife :p), what tips can you give me for managing such (relatively) large endeavors?

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Old 07-24-2013, 10:31 AM   #2
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Welcome to DC.

Do as much of the prep work ahead of time as you can. Some things can be served cold. Some things can be ready to go in the oven.

For those six steaks at once, someone here mentioned that he had seared the steaks and finished them in the oven. If some people like their steaks cooked more, then those should be the first cooked.

I'm sure other folks will have lots of suggestions.
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Old 07-24-2013, 10:44 AM   #3
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Do you have a slow cooker/crock pot? They're good for holding and keeping things hot. You can also prepare some dishes in them, freeing up burner and oven space.
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Old 07-24-2013, 10:57 AM   #4
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Welcome to DC! I often cook for 6-8 people and get everything on the table on time. I do as much prep as I can ahead of time, but also plan the menu based on space available. I would not do steaks if I could only cook 2 at a time--but I might do kabobs instead, for example. For the starter, I'd probably do something simple that could be prepared in advanced and served.
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Old 07-24-2013, 11:02 AM   #5
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Howdy!
Welcome to D.C.!
If you have the counter space, you might look into a couple of table top burners if you want to use electricity. Table top propane burners work well but can be problematic. You can also use a gas grill to cook many things but, again, the logistics can be tricky, unless you share the duties with your wife to be.
BTW.. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!
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Old 07-24-2013, 11:20 AM   #6
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Hi, and welcome to DC A lot of foods can be held either warm in the oven or cold in the fridge until it's time to serve. In the winter, a soup makes a great starter; in the summer, a salad is a nice starter. Prepare a salad in a large bowl and keep it in the fridge. Dress it just before serving.

You can hold a main dish in the oven or on the stove top. For example, you could make baked chicken and mashed potatoes and keep them in a low oven till it's time to serve.

You can do the same with steaks, by the way. Sear them on both sides for a couple minutes, then put them in the oven to finish. When they're done cooking (check with an instant-read thermometer to make sure they're about 10 degrees below the temp you want), remove them from the oven and let rest covered with foil on a serving dish for 10 minutes, while you finish something else.

With practice, you'll get better at planning meals that don't require the components to be cooked all at the same time, and at doing more at one time - searing in one pan while sauteeing in another, and knowing when to pull them off the heat, for example.
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Old 07-24-2013, 11:44 AM   #7
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I suggest you decide on what you will cook based on the tools available. If you have one pan that can fit two steaks at a time, steak is not a good choice for dinner.

How about a fish soup for a first course? You can keep it warm while you prepare a main course that cooks while you're eating the first course. Perhaps a small roast of chicken, duck, beef or lamb.

Serve a lot of wine and no one will mind if there are minor delays.
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Old 07-24-2013, 11:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
I suggest you decide on what you will cook based on the tools available. If you have one pan that can fit two steaks at a time, steak is not a good choice for dinner.

How about a fish soup for a first course? You can keep it warm while you prepare a main course that cooks while you're eating the first course. Perhaps a small roast of chicken, duck, beef or lamb.

Serve a lot of wine and no one will mind if there are minor delays.
Good advice, Andy. (all of it)
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Old 07-24-2013, 03:07 PM   #9
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I had another thought about this. Since you're cooking for 6 adults, you can roast larger cuts of meat, along with veggies. So instead of 6 steaks, you could do a beef or pork roast and slice it at the table. You can also roast veggies in the oven, so the heat is doing double duty. Just cut up some potatoes, onions, green beans, asparagus, pretty much whatever you and your guests like, toss in olive oil, season with fresh herbs and salt and pepper and put them in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Give them a squirt of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar when you take them out of the oven. Another bonus to this is that everyone can choose the veggies they like, and they're good at room temperature. You can also use any leftovers to top a green salad.
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Old 07-24-2013, 05:00 PM   #10
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Use your oven for the main course, prime rib, roast beef or even a turkey. What ever. So many choices. Use the stove top for the 1st coarse, salads, shrimp cocktail, soup. You can make cold soup a day ahead.
I grew up with 9 bros and sisters & my parents, so cooking for 6 is nothing to me.
You can even fire up the BBQ.
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Old 07-26-2013, 11:00 AM   #11
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I once singlehandedly cooked for 21 people. If you're regularly cooking for a lot of people, investing in large pans definitely helps. I have an enormous paella pan which I can use for pasta sauces as well as any frying. I also have an industrial sized baking tray (like the sort used for school dinners).

Soup starters are usually pretty easy because they can be prepared hours in advance and just need to be warmed through. Things like bruschetta can be served cold in the summer so just need assembling.

When choosing the components for your main meal, do it with the cooking space in mind, for example if you're making a steak on the hob, you might want to consider making an accompaniment which goes in the oven, such as roasted vegetables. The idea of doing a larger joint of meat which people can help themselves to, as suggested above, is a good one, but you then have to consider whether you can fit anything else in the oven, and if not, make things on the hob.
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Old 08-15-2013, 08:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ed-adams View Post
Let me give you a little background first.


My fiance and I have decided to learn how to cook a couple months back and it's been going great so far. We obviously started with beginner-level recipes and made quite a few good dishes (steak, chicken breasts filled with mozarella and wrapped in bacon, a whole lot of pasta, etc).


In an effort to give back a little (and, hey, show off) every Sunday we cook for our parents (it's a small country, easy to get together).


My question is this: So far it's been quite difficult to manage cooking for 6 people at once (me, her, my parents, her parents). Sometimes I don't have enough burners, the food doesn't fit into the pan at once, so some of it is a bit colder than the rest of the food, etc. It's a headache. For example, I needed to cook six steaks, but only two fit in the pan. so I had to cook two, remove them, cook two more, remove them, and all the while, the first two are getting colder. You know what I mean?


Now, my fiance has asked me to do a meal which includes a first course and a main one. This blew my mind. It's not that I don't know how to cook these things; it's that I know I'm gonna explode under the pressure.


Short of skipping on the first course myself to continue cooking the main course (or cancelling the wedding and finding a new wife :p), what tips can you give me for managing such (relatively) large endeavors?
First of all, don't get too ambitious. It's better to serve something simple but beautifully cooked than something very ambitious which turns out to be a disaster. And you don't want to be so exhausted and flustered with the cooking that you can't enjoy the party.

Malta is very warm at this time of year so what about a salad for the first course - there is wonderful fish and shellfish available in Malta. I'm sure you must know that 1970s old faithful, prawn cocktail, which has become fashionable of late, albeit in a slightly modernised version. Or what about egg mayonnaise, perhaps with a curried mayonnaise, served on a bed of salad greens? You can do a lot of the prep in advance before you get down to the nitty-gritty of the cooking.

For your main course try and choose something that you can prepare the day before, refridgerate and put in the oven in time for the lunch party - vegetable or shell-fish lasagne, moussaka, chicken cacciatore, or if you wanted a cold main course, chicken veronique.

Don't give up
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:20 AM   #13
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I think you need to cook what works with the equipment you have or get some additional equipment to cook new menus you want to add. As a parent to an adult child and very appreciative, I still don't want to eat in shifts.
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