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What's your "go-to" recipe for a crowd?

With the summer upon us, and trips to the lake/beach/mountains on the horizon, I find myself thinking of the times when it's my turn to cook that day's meal for the group. There are usually 3-4 couples and some kids. My favorite idea last summer was shrimp tacos with cilantro slaw, chipotle cream, and then some sort of guacamole or avocado salad. I like something quick and easy that doesn't take all day - or that is easy to prepare after a day of cocktails in the sun! But I need some new ideas. Can you help?

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  1. My daughter was a water polo player and, at times, the whole team came over to eat after a game or tournament. These ladies have appetites that would shame a lumberjack! My go to "spread" was Lasagna (I think the recipe is Tyler Florence's from the Food Network) that weighs in at about five pounds per pan, a big pot of pasta e fagiole (for the vegetarians) and a huge Panzanella salad. The last time the team (college) was over, there were three pans of the Lasagna, the pasta e fagiole, the panzanella (had to make a second batch) and two sheet cakes. There were nearly no leftovers (22 women and coaches). I've also done pizzas on Weber barbecues on my in-laws farm for the haying crew. I've done do-it-yourself chili dogs for b-day parties (mixed adults and children) The Lasagna spread was easy because I could make the pans ahead of time and reheat them in the oven just before the crowd was due to arrive.

    2 Replies
    1. re: REFFI

      My go-to is definitely lasagna for a big, hungry crowd. I adjust it seasonally based on what vegetables are available but always add ground beef and hot Italian sausage. I only use red sauce in mine because that's the way we have always made it in my family. I also make my own Caesar salad dressing and croutons and that's always a big crowd pleaser. Those two things, a fresh loaf of good Italian bread and let someone else bring dessert.

      1. re: southernitalian

        This is funny. Because one of the "other" couples I'm often with at the beach always brings lasagne too! (So that's not an option for me, unfortunately.)

    2. For the summer time I like real Bratwurst simmered in beer and onions the night before and then grilled. I also steam clams and mussels in white wine with Old Bay seasoning. A pot of corn on the cob with butter and chili salt and a huge tosed salad. Everything is quick and hands on. Throw the shells and cobs in a garbage bag and everything else is basically cosumed. Don't forget the sauerkraut and mustard for the Brats.

      1. Grilled sausages and chicken (with lemon, garlic an rosemary) and roasted peppers, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes, tossed with green and black olives. Along with a salad and cut up fruit. fayedelicious.blip.tv

        1. Baked Ziti or a few trays of stuffed Manicotti - but that's too close to lasagna, so my other crowd menu is Sausage, Pepper & Onion Sandwiches- (on big rolls)
          Just grill the sausages (I use a mix of hot and sweet) and sweat a few sliced onions with a few sliced red bell peppers, add some tomato sauce to everything- spice it up a bit and let people fill up a roll. One time my neighbor introduced me to his chimi-churri type sauce on plain grilled sausages, and I've done that as well, just keep 1/3 of the sausages out of the peppers and onions.... His recipe is tons of garlic, a few green olives, parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper and I want to say he throws in jalapeno but I can't remember, -make it all super teeny tiny with your knife or use a food processor (I don't have one!) then cover in olive oil. I've made grilled flank steak sandwiches with that sauce also. I haven't met anyone who hates it...