When we bought our current house, one of the features about it we liked the most was the expansive dining room.
The kitchen was pretty good (still small by my standards though) but with the adjoining great room that would become the dining room, that sold us.
Now that I think about it, going this route may have been a bad idea.
You see, with enough space in there to sit 10 people and a few kids comfortably, our home has become the de facto place for all manners of birthday parties, celebrations and holiday gatherings.
I, as you know, love to cook, so with all of my pots and pans at my fingertips, it also makes it a great deal easier to kick out a meal for large groups of people.
Which brings me back to the whole ‘bad idea’ thing.
With the space and the cooking skills, we always host.
Seriously though, I don’t mind it that much as I’d rather have these meals here instead of being squished into a much smaller space where you don’t get to sit and enjoy the meal with all participants.
So, if given the choice, I pick our house too (plus, I get to raid my red wine cellar while I’m at it too.)
We recently held one of these big meals just the other day.
My lovely wife’s older sister was in town with her six, yes, count ‘em, six kids and we wanted to have them over for dinner.
Once you throw in the hubby, other siblings and parents, the head count gives pretty big, pretty fast.
As I thought about all the things I could make that would be both delicious and appealing to a wide range of ages, I settled on a favourite family standby–spaghetti marinara and meatballs.
The homemade kind of course.
That would be rounded out with sautéed garlic and Monterey Jack baked cheese bread, Caesar salad with (eggless) dressing over baby romaine and honey & balsamic macerated strawberries with Angel food cake.
Kids would like it–so would Mom and Dad.
That, my friends, is the ticket too–when preparing anything for a large group, the key is going with what you know.
Don’t even think about trying a brand new recipe for a ton of people–if you’re running though the steps for the first time, you won’t know how scalable the recipe really is.
You see, most are for 4 to 6 people–not 14 like my group.
Sure, if it calls for 2 garlic cloves, doubling to 4 sounds easy enough, but what about when you get to 8 or even 16?
You may get not enough of the flavour or way too much.
Knowing how to prepare a dish and what its supposed to look and taste like at the end will save you all kinds of headaches.
Also look at your timing
How do you plan on keeping the meatballs warm if the oven is tied up with the cake.
How many pots will you need on the stove at once to make the marinara and cook the pasta.
Timing, almost every chef will tell you, is crucial.
So before you dive in to start working on your meal, make a quick game plan of what needs done at what time.
Having several pots and pans needing the same real estate space at the same time is not good for your mental health, so avoid it at all costs.
That my friends, are a couple of tips for succeeding at preparing large meals.
I’ll leave you with a recipe too–here’s the strawberry topping I used on the Angel food cake
2 lbs ripe, red strawberries
2 tbsp (30 mL) honey
2 tbsp (30 mL) superfine or berry sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) white balsamic vinegar
Pinch of kosher salt
Wash, hull and half the strawberries. Place in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Place strawberries in a bowl and combine with remaining ingredients, stirring to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Stir before scooping onto your dessert of choice.