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Cooking for 100 with $200

I have this dilemma every 3 months or so, and I still haven't figured it out. We take turns cooking for a crowd of 100 every Sunday, and the budget is $200. That's including the extra cost of buying organic ingredients.

The crowd is mostly older Koreans who are not that adventurous. Their idea of a good meal is a big fat bowl of spicy red soup overloaded with salt and garlic. Most groups cook a big batch of rice (already provided and not figured into the budget), a big batch of soup, and some Korean side dishes. Our group is younger, and we've been trying to experiment with other types of food.

Last time we did a Mexican-style rice with poblano peppers, and it wasn't very popular. Other dishes that have worked are vegetarian chili and shepherd's pie (with kimchi on the side, of course).

With such a limited budget, 4 cooks, and 4 hours of prep, the food needs to be easy to make (preferably one-pot with a salad on the side), neutral in flavors, easy to reheat and serve buffet style, and fitting for the Korean palate. Ideas we're toying with are a white bean tomato stew, mabo dofu, jambalaya, and lasagna.

Any other ideas? They would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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  1. What about gumbo? Would go nicely with the rice and some familiar flavors.

    5 Replies
      1. re: susan1353

        You can do Gumbo z'herbes - green gumbo, basically - as an offshoot.. just uses a truckload of greens..

        1. re: grant.cook

          Truckload of greens sound great. Is there a lot of chopping involved? Any recipe suggestions?

          1. re: yumyumyogi


            Epicurious has a couple of recipes as well.. I do believe there is a lot of prep work..

            1. re: grant.cook

              Oh my, that's a long list of ingredients. My fellow "cooks" would kill me. :) Thanks for the suggestion anyway.

      2. Is this for church? My mom and dad do that too every few months for their church. I know they consider it a headache. I sympathize with you. What about spaghetti? Or cha chang myung (sorry for the butchering.) I was also going to suggest the lasagna idea. I'll try to think of other things my parents have done.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sibaik

          Yes it is. good to meet others in a similar bind. Chachanmyun would be delicious, but I would concerned about the noodle texture staying intact. Do you have a recipe by any chance?

          1. re: yumyumyogi

            You can prep the noodles ahead of time, drain and refrigerate them. Give them a hot water bath just before serving and the texture will be fine.
            Dicing all those veggies for the dish would be a lot of work, although there are some frozen veggie combos (potato, carrot, peas, etc) that would work. Pre-made black bean sauce is available in most Korean markets. Just thin with water to taste.

            A "Koreanised" red sauce spaghetti could be good. Add sliced jalapenos or red chili peppers and oysters to the sauce. But make another "standard" sauce for those who don't like spicy.

        2. How about a mild yellow curry with veggies and chicken.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sarah galvin

            I love curry, and it would be a great option. Only the owner of the house hates the smell of curry lingering for weeks after we cook it. Yes, many factors to consider. It's a real pain in the booty.

          2. Thought of a few more--a giant frittata or some kind of quiche? A butternut squash soup served with bread?

            1 Reply
            1. re: sibaik

              Sounds like my kind of meal, but too pricey and too much cutting for our group of non-cooks. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

            2. I wouldn't do lasagne for older asian palates because of the cheese--I know a lot of older asians who don't eat or can't eat cheese. What about linguine (or other pasta) with clam (chopped in cans) sauce? Lots of garlic is always good. You can doctor the sauce somewhat to fit their taste. Add a salad and garlic bread and you're all set.

              4 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                You're right -- last I read, the statistic was at 95% of ethnic Asians being lactose intolerant. I'm the only one in my large family who isn't (kee!). Also, the older population is not used to dairy in general, and their palates are not accustomed to its creaminess. (Sorry for the generalization, but it's hard not to make any when dealing with large numbers of people.)

                1. re: link_930

                  It's funny, I don't think most of the adults I know realize they're lactose intolerant. I made some batches of fresh chai during the winter with soy milk for this reason, and they said they'd prefer regular milk. They don't mind creamy, as long as there's plenty-o-kimchi to offset it.

                  1. re: yumyumyogi

                    Most Asians can tolerate lactose in small amounts. So I think with chai it won't be too big of a deal. Lasagne, on the other hand, seems like it would be too much for them.

                    1. re: yumyumyogi

                      I am not lactose-intolerant (thank goodness!), but I have read those who are can tolerate a glass of milk with no problems. Of course, that's theory ...

                      I would make barracho beans--pinto beans with cilantro, onion, jalapeno, bacon, spices, etc. Could serve with hot corn tortillas and butter. If I were doing this, I'd get the tortillas straight from a local tortilla factory (we had one even when I lived in Michigan). And of course, corn + beans = complete protein.

                      A not-bad church supper I remember involved rice, bulk sausage, and slivered almonds. I could dig up that church cookbook if you're interested ...

                2. I think pho would be a good choice. I know you said you already had the rice. Maybe they can eat that with the banchan. Koreans love pho. Rice noodles are cheap and you can stretch the broth using that instant powder.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Miss Needle, pho would be much loved by everyone. Is there a quick, natural way of making the broth, without instant powder? It's manadatory that we use organic, natural ingredients. My understanding is that it takes hours and hours for the broth to reach the right level of yumminess.

                    1. re: yumyumyogi

                      I don't use the powder but thought that it may help if your budget was too small to purchase more beef. You can actually make decent pho broth with about 2.5 - 3 hours of cooking; of course, not as good as something that's been simmering a lot longer but OK enough for your purposes.

                      Not sure if you can do some prep at home -- but if you can, you can make beef stock at home and really reduce it (so it's easier to bring to the site) and dilute it at church. There will be some compromise on quality, but not too much.

                      1. re: yumyumyogi

                        Can you buy a boxed chicken or beef broth that is natural and organic? If so you can cheat by cooking any beef bones (or cuts of beef with the bones) in the broth come up with a delicious enriched beef stock that tastes very good in less time ....about an hour or so. (and yes, you can use chicken broth with the beef bones.... I do it frequently... it imparts less of that boxed "beef broth" flavor and allows the natural beef flavor in the bones to come through.)

                        1. re: Mellicita

                          Mellicita, I saw a recipe somewhere online using pre-made beef broth. I wondered about the depth of flavor. Good to know it comes out well. Thanks!

                    2. I'm Korean, and I'm impressed that your moving away to more types of cuisines!
                      Of course, the first thing that came to mind was bibimbop...but I'm pretty sure that's been done over and over again...
                      When my grandma used to make "American" food, it was her version of a hamburger without the bun...Which got me to thinking that corn cream soup (the one's Koreans eat), meatloaf, and a vegetable side might make a good meal.
                      Of course, I never cook so I'm not sure if this will be under $200...

                      1. some things i've cooked for my parent's korean church group:

                        spaghetti & bolognese w/ cesar salad
                        japanese curry w/ rice
                        clam chowder w/ crusty bread and tossed salad
                        beef udon noodle soup (goes great w/ kimchee)
                        chicken parmesan and fettucine
                        arroz con pollo

                        1. Just wanted to mention that if you're going to cook pasta, make sure you cook it past al dente. To a lot of older Koreans, al dente means that you undercooked it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            Ha! It's funny to see that someone understands the odd, finicky palate of older Koreans.

                            1. re: yumyumyogi

                              He he. When we had guests over, my mom would have me make linguine with clam sauce except that she would tell me to really cook the noodles thoroughly and add cornstarch in the end to make it "better."

                          2. Second on the Arroz con Pollo idea
                            Chicken Paprikash (sour cream could be optional, for those who can tolerate/like it)
                            Chicken Soup with chicken filled dumplings (was thinking you can use leftover cooked chicken as dumpling filling)
                            Chicken a la King served over rice (will they eat creamed chicken?)

                            1. I'm not very knowledgeable on Korean food... and was doing some Google searching on Korean food to see if I could help you with suggestions. There are a huge number of interesting recipes out there! Much more than just kimchi and bulgogi. What about embracing your Korean heritage (and pleasing the older folks palates!) and trying some of the many recipes floating around on the internet? There are tons of very different recipes for soups, stews, noodle dishes, salads, etc that might work with your budget and could be made in bulk quantities.
                              One called "jeon" was little "pancakes" made of grated potatoes of zucchini mixed with shredded meat and spices or kimchi... it looked like it would be fun to make and you could adjust the recipe towards whatever was on sale that week at the store.

                              On the non-Korean side of things... would they go for saurkraut and kielbasa? (reminds me of kimchi a little bit!) Maybe something like a pad thai? Chinese stir fry or lo mein (I make a sauce with peanut butter, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and garlic mixed in... I know its not authentic, but I think the flavor is good and its simple to make)

                              1. I went with a bunch of my adult Korean esl students to an Indian restaurant -- their first time eating this cuisine -- they all loved everything. It doesn't get much cheaper that lentils!

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  What about a big pot of New Orleans style red beans and rice with cornbread muffins. Use smoked sausage with the beans.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    Older Korean people don't tend to like Indian food... spices are strange to the palette

                                    1. re: oryza

                                      I don't know how old you're talking about, but these were people in their 50's. They weren't familiar with the spices, but they liked them.

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        I've had "chicken tikka masala" on my list of ideas for a while now, but everyone talks me out of it each time saying Koreans don't like Indian herbs (not that this dish is really Indian). Indian food is my comfort food, and my parents absolutely love it. Has anyone else seen adults in the 50-60 range enjoy Indian food? This would give me some more support for the chicken tikka.

                                        1. re: yumyumyogi

                                          I can't help w/ the Korean part of it, but I make a yogurt marinated chicken that is light on spices - basically yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and chives - and v. picky, non-spice-loving people in my family love it. I've posted the recipe here - will dig it up for you if you like.

                                          1. re: yumyumyogi

                                            I'm actually amazed that the Koreans in pikawicca's group loved the Indian food. Most older Koreans I know hate it. The most they can deal with is the Japanese curry.

                                            1. re: yumyumyogi

                                              I'm an adult in the 50-60 range and I adore Indian food. Growing up in San Francisco, I may have been exposed to a greater range of foods as a child, but only started eating Indian about ten years ago (except Gaylord's which may not count).

                                      2. Dear Chowhounders,
                                        Thank you so much for all the suggestions. There are definitely some very useful suggestions here. There are several other factors I didn't bother to mention here that would prevent us from doing some of the dishes mentioned - mostly for prep reasons. No one wants to chop a mountain of vegetables for too many hours (bibimbop, jeon). I don't mind it (I do prep work at a restaurant), but the rest of the cooks have had bad experiences with these dishes and would most likely give me the evil eye. Mellicita, the reason the younger group tries to do something other than Korean food is so the handful of non-Koreans who hate Korean food can occasionally enjoy the meal with us, too.

                                        So far, the suggestions I may take up are:
                                        Pad Thai
                                        New Orleans style rice and beans
                                        *All with extra kimchee, of course.*

                                        Further notes and questions below individual topics.

                                        Thanks again!

                                        14 Replies
                                        1. re: yumyumyogi

                                          Would they eat tamale pie? Making in the large foil lasagne pans, and then adding the toppings: tomatoes, cilantro, cheese, scallions, olives, avocado etc. and salsa. Would be super easy and tasty.
                                          This looks good, use beef or chicken instead if you wanted to....

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            This actually looks like a good possibility. It looks slightly soupy, which the adults like. And it seems accessible to non-Koreans as well. I would be tempted to not serve kimchee with this since it has salsa in it but, believe it or not, they will still ask for it.

                                            1. re: yumyumyogi

                                              Oh put it out for them! It might be good!
                                              I came across this recipe today, craving tamales and not wanting all the work, it looked like a possibility. I love the toppings most of all! I don't know about putting corn in it, but the black beans sound good to me. The one thing I would do, is make the topping as close as I could to a good tamale, which has chicken broth in the masa.

                                          2. re: yumyumyogi

                                            Just wanted to add.. Bless your heart for trying so hard to please a difficult group! Non-Koreans who dont like Korean food with older Koreans who crave homestyle traditiaonl Korean cooking! Thats a nearly impossible combo!

                                            Another tip - if you have access to a food processor, it can make quick work of chopping or slicing or even grating veggies!

                                            1. re: yumyumyogi

                                              How about a nice batch of beef stew? That wouldn't break the bank for sure. You could serve it with a nice crusty bread.

                                              1. re: yumyumyogi

                                                "So far, the suggestions I may take up are:
                                                Pad Thai
                                                New Orleans style rice and beans
                                                *All with extra kimchee, of course.*"

                                                Good list. Although my personal experience with older Koreans suggests that the Pho might not be so popular, "all those funny herbs" you know. To Koreanize it, significantly reduce the coriander, mint, and basil (have that stuff all on the side, and much less than for a non-Korean crowd). Have lots of srihacha sauce and hoisin sauce on hand. Lots of bean sprouts. Throw in some korean style fish cakes, so it looks familiar. And of course, extra kimchi on the side. The key is to make the base familiar enough for the conservative tastes, but have the option to make it more authentic and interesting for the adventurous crowd. Oh, and lots of extra kimchi. Did I mention the extra kimchi?

                                                Re: Gumbo and spaghetti. I hate to even sugest this, as I can't stand it when they do this, BUT.... Koreans love putting chopped kimchi in things. (NOTE: AVERT YOUR EYES IF YOU ARE FROM NEW ORLEANS) You may want to test it out, but you may want to consider putting kimchi in the gumbo. Or the spaghetti sauce. Or a cioppino stew (although the fish would kill your budget). Ewww. I hate cooked kimchi (with the exception of a good kimchi jigae, but I am very fussy). Still, it is very popular with Koreans.

                                                Another easy thing: Chinese based stir-fry dishes and noodle dishes. My mum makes a Shanghai noodle dish that is very popular with Koreans, and has also adapted a Phillipino noodle dish. Again, it helps to Koreanize them a bit (less non-Korean spices, more soy sauce and sesame oil/seeds, garlic and ginger ok, no unusual vegetables that they won't recognize). Simple stir fries are always popular (beef and broccoli, etc.) and aren't bad if you keep the ingredients list simple. And of course lots of extra kimchi.

                                                1. re: moh

                                                  Moh, I'm not from New Orleans, but I even got a bit grossed out at the kimchi with gumbo thing. But I think you're right -- the older Koreans will love it.

                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                    I am not very familiar with Kimchee, but my impression was that it was spicy and sour. Is that right? Because that's the basic flavor profile of tabasco sauce, which is welcome in all things New Orleans... am I being too forgiving in thinking that could work well?

                                                    1. re: Adrienne

                                                      Adrienne, you are correct about the kimchi flavour profile. I think you are also correct that it could work well in gumbo.

                                                      The only reason I balk at the idea is because Koreans have a tendency to try to put kimchi in everything. I personally also do not like cooked kimchi. But you are very right, it could prove to be a very popular combination.

                                                      1. re: moh

                                                        Unfortunately, what Moh said about Koreans putting kimchi in everything is true. I've heard there's kimchi ice cream. Haven't seen it and probably would try a bite just for curiosity, but am pretty sure I won't like it.

                                                          1. re: moh

                                                            That's extreme. I'm all for savory ingredients in ice cream, but I can't see kimchee being all that successful. I've seen kimchee pizza and kimchee burgers. And I would think someone would have come up with a kimchee potato chip by now.

                                                            1. re: yumyumyogi

                                                              Japanese innovation.

                                                              Pic 1: Kimchi Chips, American Burger, Caeser Salad
                                                              Pic 2: Garam(SP) Masala Doritos, Mabu Tofu, Tandoori

                                                              1. re: hannaone

                                                                lol you could get an entire meals flavor profile delivered via potato chips. when i was in japan, i was amazed at just the pringle choices....

                                              2. If you can scrape up another $40, you can buy a WHOLE LOT of pudding!

                                                1. You could do a cassoulet, but I suspect the duck confit would blow the budget..

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                                    Cassoulet can be done cheapy (if you dont mind sacrificing authenticity) by using chicken thighs or legs and sausage or even ham.

                                                    1. re: grant.cook

                                                      Haha! Yes, it probably would. We actually try to make a $20-50 PROFIT from these meals so... go figure. But truly, it's tempting to do something ridiculously delicious and blown out just for the fun of feeding this crowd truly amazing food. While we're at it, how about a seared fois gras dish with rhubarb? I tried selling some olive oil chocolate mousse with fleur de sel for a bake sale recently, only to go unappreciated except by a few youngsters. Boohoo.

                                                      1. Just helped my parents entertain their church friends tonight...We had:

                                                        Seafood Linguine Fra Diavolo (to cut costs, you could use chicken instead)
                                                        'Italian' Chopped Salad (Iceberg Lettuce, Grilled Chicken, Salami, Chickpeas, Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Red Onions, Green Onions) w/ Italian Dressing
                                                        Stuffed Mushrooms (w/ cream cheese, bacon, artichoke hearts, green onions and topped w/ panko)

                                                        I thought they would like the pasta the best but the star of the show ended up being the stuffed mushrooms.

                                                        1. Yumyumyogi, I thought of you when I was browsing through recipes and saw one by chow member "Hannaone" He seems to be a wonderful cook who has posted several recipes for Korean dishes. Here is a link to his profile with Korean recipes he has posted. He also has a website with further info on Korean recipes and cooking listed in his profile.

                                                          1. Ham and scalloped potatoes should be cheap enough, although I'm not sure if the oven space is limited. You could also replace the ham with something else if ham isn't suitable for their tastes.

                                                            Halupki (stuffed cabbage) and/or halushki (cabbage, noodles and perhaps pork) would likely go over well also.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: ThreeGigs

                                                              Oh cabbage rolls! Great idea, kimchee sounds pretty darn good with these. Thanks, now I'm craving them!

                                                              1. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                replace the ham with spam and you've got a hit. lol.

                                                              2. How about strata? Even though egg prices are up, still should be easy to feed a bunch with eggs, bread, cheese and a few vegetables.

                                                                1. seems like all the noodle dishes would not sit well in a buffet or even something like a pho bar, just because the noodles disintegrate; mostly veg would stretch your dollar the most; I love the idea of a tamale or polenta pie with plenty of add-ins, including kimchi. maybe there's a way to make non-korean banchan somehow, five or six simple vegetables marinated in a tapas-style, mediterranean. wonder how big platters of hummus or babaganoush (very cheap to make with organic dried beans, eggplant, etc.) with fried falafel (kimchi mixed in would be delicious) plus pita wedges, maybe a big typical greek salad. once you factor in meat (it might be out of budget) simple grilled chicken spiced to match and also serving lettuce like bbq-style to go with it all. a fusion korean-mediterranean spread would be awesome, and you could make a lemon-heavy lentil soup too. hmmmmm. doable!

                                                                  or (and unfortunately I don't have any specific suggestions) I bet some of Ming Tsai's master recipes would work great for this since you could make maybe 3 dishes based off of one, and of course, the fusion factor would fit in as well.

                                                                  1. Hello everyone. Just reporting back from yesterday's cooking session. Aside from the headache of menu-planning, budgeting, and grocery-shopping, it turned out to be a wild success. Everyone scraped their plates clean, and we got zero complaints. The menu looks so simple, but it took all of your input and much thought and research to narrow down the choices and meet all the requirements.

                                                                    I chose to do chicken tikka masala after reading picawicca and ola's comments about Indian food. Most of the adults have never tried Indian food, and I think this was a good soft introduction. They asked what kind of food it was and, as with any new foods, they found it "interesting" if not yummy. I think it will take a few more tries for them to fully embrace it, but I'm happy we fed happy mouths, and managed to open up their taste buds to some new flavors.

                                                                    Thank you everyone so much for all the wonderful suggestions, and I'll be sure to check back to this post for future sessions for years to come.

                                                                    Chicken tikka masala
                                                                    Mixed green salad
                                                                    Three-citrus vinaigrette

                                                                    As for recipes, I used the chicken tikka masala recipe from Cooks Illustrated via this board. It was so easy, so delicious, and so cheap:

                                                                    Some adjustments I made:
                                                                    • Halved the chicken called for, and it gave us more than enough chicken (Koreans are more interested in the sauce than in chunks of meat).
                                                                    • Added in half of the serrano seeds for just the right amount of heat.
                                                                    • Threw in some cauliflower roasted with minced garlic, oil and salt
                                                                    • Tossed in a few bags of frozen peas for color and added texture

                                                                    And this vinaigrette was a suggestion from a chef friend of mine, to which I made some adjustments. His original recipe calls for garlic and soy sauce, but I thought those flavors would muddle up the clean taste of what we have here. I added in some honey to sweeten for the Korean palate, and some chopped cilantro to fit the Indian theme. I'm not sure what the oyster sauce does, but I kept it in to add interest. I eyeballed and added as I went along, so this is just a base recipe. Please do experiment and adjust to your taste:

                                                                    THREE-CITRUS VINAIGRETTE
                                                                    Zest and juice of 1 lemon
                                                                    Zest and juice of 1 orange
                                                                    Zest and juice of 1 lime
                                                                    1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, rough-cut into small pieces (grated if not using blender
                                                                    )1 tablespoon honey
                                                                    1 teaspoon oyster sauce
                                                                    1 cup grapeseed oil (or any other neutral-flavored oil)
                                                                    1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
                                                                    Fresh-ground pepper
                                                                    Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

                                                                    Emulsify all ingredients in a blender and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Makes about 2 cups.

                                                                    1. Yumyumyogi-

                                                                      I'm being set upon by my parents to entertain a bunch of teenagers and their parents this time. Have you had luck with any more recipes? I'm in need of some korean-friendly group meals.

                                                                      I was considering Posole with all the fixin's, but am wondering if you had some ideas for me from your experiences?

                                                                      1. I know this is an older post, but since you seem to have been trying to eat some american style foods, I suggest making Pilaf otherwise known as chicken bog. It is very reasonable to make and DELICIOUS. It it what I always make when I have a few too many coming over for dinner.


                                                                        These are the recipes I like, you can adjust to suit your tastes.