Yesterday, my friend Karen Morgan and I were the food chairs for a dinner and program at church. We planned and prepared dinner for 300 women! This is not the first time I have done this – you are probably wondering why I didn’t learn my lesson the first time and say no this time?! Well – to tell you the truth I actually enjoy it! It gives me the opportunity to get to know women at church that I wouldn’t otherwise. Each time I do it I make so many new friends! I also learn a few new tips and techniques along the way. So – just in case you ever need to cook dinner for 300 I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned as well as the recipes for what we served last night.
Now the original recipes I have are actually for 200 servings so I divided the quantities down for you but if any of you think you may need to feed 200 or more email me and I’ll send you the original recipe. (email@example.com)
Tips for Feeding a Crowd:
1. Get yourself some GOOD help! One of the reasons I said yes to this assignment was I knew that there would be a wonderful group of women who would be willing to help me – ‘many hands make light work’. About 8 women joined me Friday afternoon and in 2 hours we assembled enough Apricot Chicken wrapped in Puff Pastry to feed 300. Three friends helped by preparing and cooking 30 pounds of vegetables each and another group of women made 3 batches each of a delicious Swedish Creme. I think I had another 10 women who helped bake all the chicken in their ovens at home. We couldn’t have done it without all the help!
2. Use dishes that taste good at room temperature. Because we don’t have cooking facilities at our church (a kitchen but no operating ovens) everything needed to be baked at individual homes and transported to the church. There is just no way you can feed 300 people hot food when you have to do that. Even if we could have baked it at the church it would have been difficult. Our main dish, Apricot Chicken in Puff Pastry actually tastes better at room temperature, the individual flavors of the chicken, onions and roasted red peppers are more flavorful.
3. Experiment – try out recipes first. Karen had fun experimenting with different dessert recipes before we decided on the final choice. We nicknamed her the Dessert Fairy because she would show up at our door with samples of the different desserts she was trying out! We will miss those visits:( It is not a good idea to use a new recipe you have never tried before when cooking for 300!
4. Have Friends with Good Recipes. Three of the recipes we used came from my friend Patrice, who is an amazing cook and does catering on the side. Thanks Patrice for answering my many questions via email and phone! Karen got the dessert recipe from her friend Elaine. Friends are wonderful!
4. Get MORE good help. Thanks to a group of wonderful helpers in the kitchen we were able to set up an assembly line for serving and get the food out to everyone in a decent amount of time.
LA Note – I used 4 oz. chicken breasts from Cash & Carry. They are the perfect size. The Costco chicken breasts are a little too thick. I also bought 5 inch square sheets of puff pastry from Cash & Carry but you have to buy it in quantities of 100 so you can also just buy full sheets from the grocery store and cut it.
Apricot Chicken in Puff Pastry
Puff Pastry – 5 inch square per serving
12 chicken breasts, 4 oz.
1-2 red peppers
1 pkg. of cream cheese, set out first thing in the morning so it is really soft
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 oz. apricot jam
Trim and slice onions. Caramelize in mixture of 4 parts olive oil to 1 part butter. Set aside to cool. Do the same with the peppers.
Mix cream cheese, soy sauce and jam. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. You want it creamy but not airy like whipped cream. It is better for it to have a few lumps than to be whipped creamy.
Mix egg with 1 Tbsp. water until well mixed (used for an egg wash)
Roll out the puff pastry squares to half again their size. Drop a generous tablespoon of cream cheese mixture on the first one third of the puff pastry. Top the mixture with caramelized onion and a couple strips of pepper. Top that with the chicken. Pull the short end of the puff pastry back over the chicken, pull each side in and then brush all the edges with the egg mixture. Continue the wrap and seal with fingers – a little pinch will do, but they need to be sealed. If you are storing in the fridge cover in wax paper and then plastic wrap and return to the fridge/freezer. When ready to cook, brush the surface with egg mixture and cook at 350 for 30-35 minutes.
Peach Chutney - Serve over Apricot Chicken in Puff Pastry
2.5 lbs. frozen or fresh peaches sliced or chunked
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp. mace
10-12 cloves tied in cheese cloth
1-2 cinnamon sticks
Dump it all in the pan at the same time. Bring to a low boil and reduce the heat and simmer on low for an hour or so. Pull out the cinnamon sticks and cloves. Cool and serve. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks if covered tightly. Better the 2nd day.
Roasted Winter Vegetables
This was a bit of an adventure as we had to cook large amounts so we did it in roaster ovens. It is really meant to be cooked in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven. There were a few prayers said over these potatoes!
This recipe is for 5 lbs. of vegetables (we used red potatoes, gold yukon potatoes, carrots and onions). You can also add cauliflower, broccoli, snap peas, green beans but these veggies will need to be added half way through the cooking process as they cook faster.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbps. paprika
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
Fresh chopped chives for garnish
Put potatoes, onion and carrot on the baking sheet, toss with marinade ( I use my hands) and stick them in the oven at 425 for about 40 minutes. Ovens may vary so keep checking them. When they are 1/2 to 2/3 done add in the other quicker cooking vegetables if you are using them. Toss the whole thing to make sure all veges are coated. Cook for another 20-30 minutes or until all are tender. Garnish with fresh chopped chives
We used mixed greens from Costco and added toasted almonds, craisinets and Gorgonzola cheese. I was hoping for blueberries too but they were out of them at Costco:( Fresh figs are also a nice addition to this salad.
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice – yes I did use fresh lemons, fortunately my neighbor has an electric juicer!
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp dried basil
1/8 cup fresh chives finely chopped
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Mix together and shake
Now – the dessert – it was amazing!
Combine in heavy pan;
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 package knox gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla.
Heat the above 4 ingredients until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Do not boil. Remove form heat.
Add and mix until smooth:
3 cups sour cream
Pour into 10 small cups and refrigerate overnight. Top with your choice of fruit.
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Remove from heat when mixture achieves a full boil. Cool. Use as topping for Swedish Creme. Add topping right before serving.
What’s the largest number of people you have ever cooked for at one time? Leave a comment in the box below and let me know!