That may seem like an unsurmountable task to you, but I assure you. It is possible. It is all about the prep. Or as they say in restaurant-jargon: “mise-en-place” which is basically the French way of saying “set up”.
The first thing you do when cooking for a great number of people. Think about your menu. You want to offer food that is cooked either in the oven, the slow cooker, a rice cooker, sous vide or a some kind of machine you don’t have to watch over. Something you can just set — and forget.
Over time, I have learned to hone in on things that work. And things that don’t. Good examples of menu items that work are the following:
- Baked fusilli pasta with ragu
- Rice pilaf
- Pulled pork ribs
- Danish Liver Pate
- Chicken thigh on the bone
- Curries. Meat, and/or vegetable
- Anything pickled e.g. pickled Scandinavian style cucumber salad
- Baked salmon
- Caprese salad
Make sure you empty out your fridge(s) as much as possible before your start, because you will be needing that space. Anything that doesn’t have to be there…. place it somewhere else. If you don’t have the capacity, a quick fix is to get a large cooler. I invested in a Yeti and I have not regretted it. The quality is excellent and I know it will last me forever.
Start chopping up as much as you can. Onions, carrots, celery. Any ingredient you will be needing for cooking the dishes you have planned. If you’re doing mashed potatoes, peel and cut the potatoes, place in salted water and they won’t get bruised. The secret is to eliminate as much air as you can, so fill up the vessel with water until it touches the lid. Then depress the lid to create a vacuum. This work, you can do days out. Even a week, so no need to panic.
Blend your own spices that you will be using in curries, meat and fish. Blend your salad dressings. If you don’t want to, used ready-made ones. There is nothing wrong with Old Bay.
Things like hummus and pesto can be made a week in advance without fear of losing flavor. Also find new and creative uses for them. Not just penne/pesto, but use it as a dressing for salad or sauce for your fish.
Don’t stress about getting it all out at the same time. I always start with putting out some charcuterie, cured salmon and cheeses to begin if people are peckish. Then I move on to the salmon. Get a whole filet and bake it in the oven. I like to bury it in chopped leeks, pour heavy cream and butter over it and spice to taste. After 15-20 minutes in the oven, it’s ready to go. It also tastes great when it’s cool. Caprese salad is a great, and you can even sprinkle it with some of your pesto.
Remember to freshen up your serving dishes now and then. It is more appetizing to get food that comes from a full platter.
The constant clean-up during the party is the challenge, but there is nothing wrong with getting a few of your friends to help out. They are only too happy to help when they see you making all the effort.
I will be posting more about this subject as it is a vast one. I will also be uploading videos to my YouTube channel.