Nina’s Tips & Techniques: Cooking for a Crowd!
Whether you love to be in your kitchen or could think of 10 things better to do, EVERYONE has a place in their busy lives for simple, quick, and easy-to-execute meals. Here are my tips and techniques for creating all things delicious and FAST!
Hosting Memorial Day is a bummer . . . I feel like I’m always in the kitchen making food while everyone else is enjoying the weather. It’s not fair! How do I serve great food AND attend my own party?
Hosting a party should be FUN—the secret is to serve things you can make ahead of time. If you plan well, you should be able to serve a great mix of hot and cold food and still enjoy the party! Steer clear of snacks that need to get heated up in the oven in batches. You’ll just be running back and forth all the time. The best part about Memorial Day is that it’s prime time for cooking outside, so set up your grill in a central location where you can cook and hang with your friends at the same time. Get all your grillables ready the morning of the party or the night before. Platter up burger and dog fixings and make side salads that can be stored in the fridge. Then, when it’s party time, just unwrap all of your dishes and fire up the grill! Better yet, assign an appetizer to each guest—avoid the vague “everyone bring a dish” statement or you might end up with 15 tubs of guacamole.
How do I know how much food to buy? I feel like I either don’t have enough or I’ve got WAY too much!
When you’re serving lots of dishes at once, it’s important to remember that no one is going to really take a full serving of any one thing. Your friend Sally might really love one dish and take second helpings, but that’s okay because your buddy Bob might skip that dish entirely—the point is, portions usually balance out. Generally folks will take a small serving of each offering—I always estimate about 1/2-1/4 serving per person depending on how popular I think the dish might be. If it’s the main course, estimate 1 portion per person—again, some people take more and others less. If you’re a worrier and need to make sure there is more than enough, choose the one dish that you won’t mind having leftovers of and over-prepare on that, but try not to have too much of everything or you will end up with waste.
I have a friend coming to my party who has food allergies. Eek! How do I make sure they will be safe and happy?
For people with serious food allergies, parties can be a nightmare. Parents of kids with severe allergies live in fear of their child coming in contact with an allergen. If your friend’s allergies are life threatening, the BEST thing you can do is make your entire meal free of that item. If the party is a potluck, make sure you politely ask all your guests to bring allergen-free dishes. If your friend’s allergy is mild, make sure you very clearly label each dish that contains the allergen. You can also pull them aside and show them the dishes that are safe for them to consume. Putting effort into accommodating a guest with allergies goes a long way and will put you both at ease. Everyone wants to enjoy the food—it’s the heart of party!
Recipe: Gluten-Free Vegan Potato Salad
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes (cut into ½ inch cubes with skin on)
6 scallions (thinly sliced, white and light green parts)
¼ cup chopped chives
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup whole grain mustard
½ cup olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper
Place chopped potatoes in cold water to cover with a generous amount of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook potatoes until they are tender but not dry. Drain in a colander and let cool. In a large bowl combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil and mustard. Add the chives, scallions, and parsley. Combine the dressing and the potatoes. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. Toss until everything is evenly coated. Serve at room temperature.