Fifteen people were coming for dinner in 2 short hours. I hadn’t finished grocery shopping and hadn’t ever cooked in the kitchen I was using. My husband and I were in Buenos Aires, renting a 1-bedroom apartment while visiting our oldest daughter who is studying abroad for the semester. She plays for her Argentine school’s soccer team and had invited her teammates for dinner. We planned a dinner menu to reflect tastes from home: Antipasto, Tossed Green Salad, Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti, and for dessert, Lemon Cake with Fresh Berries.
The grocery store had 2 levels. This was the way up to the produce and meat departments.
We were in the grocery store at a peak time and there was a line in every department to weigh and bag most of our shopping list including: chicken and deli meats, olives, cheese, and produce. Luckily, my daughter, her friend, my husband and I divided the list and made it out of the store in under an hour.
Back in the kitchen, I knew I had the skillets and saucepans I needed for this double batch of cacciatore. What I didn’t realize was that the stovetop wasn’t large enough to fit
more than one large pan at a time. So, while my sous chefs prepped the antipasto and the salad (and googled ‘how to light the stove’), I quickly prepped and simmered one batch of cacciatore and began to warm the oven. As soon as I could, I transferred the skillet’s contents onto a baking sheet and placed it in the oven. When my second batch of cacciatore was finished, I did the same to make room on the stovetop for the large saucepan to cook the pasta. The timing was surprisingly perfect because as the 15 friends arrived for dinner, they enjoyed the antipasto and a televised fútbol match (their favorite team was playing). When the game ended, dinner was ready!
Here are my 5 tips for “Cooking for a Crowd’…Enjoy!
Begin with a menu. Preferably, build the menu from dishes you are already comfortable making. It can be stressful to cook for a crowd, so adding a new recipe for the first time is a risk you may not want to take.
Create a shopping list. Remember to include beverages and condiments, and things like lemons & limes for garnishing and creamer for coffee.
Write a schedule. Look at your recipes and sort out what can be made days ahead and stored (in fridge or freezer). Next, for the day of the event, plan the time you need in the kitchen.
Solicit help. Is there anyone that can help you prep and cook? Your family members or friends? Or, can you modify your menu to incorporate some prepared items such as washed and prepped produce (e.g., salad mix, shredded carrots, diced butternut squash)
Take a deep breath and enjoy! There is such joy to be found when friends and family gather to share a meal together. May you be blessed!