How many roast chickens for 15 people?
I'm having a dinner party for 15 and am planning on serving roast chicken as one of the courses. It's a tuscan theme and I will be starting with some light antipasti followed by the first course of risotto and gnudi. The chicken will be the main course along with some roast vegetables as a side and followed by fruit/cheese then dessert. I'm trying to determine how many pounds of chicken I will need. Given the amount of courses, the portions won't have to be very large. Any suggestions on how much chicken I will need? I'm assuming 2 birds of about 5-6 lbs each. Does that sound about right?
I'm not sure 2 birds is enough, even with your other courses and are you sure you have room in your oven for two at the same time? Much as I love roast chicken, I've never made it for a crowd - I'd rather doing a chicken dish that is sauted or braised, that I can make ahead of time and reheat.
Oh, it's hard enough serving roast chicken for a family with everybody fighting over the crispy skin and the drumsticks!!! That will be a bigger problem with 15 dinner guests, plus you've got the added headache of carving and presenting the chickens nicely, too.
I think I'd work backwards from presentation. Think of the chicken as pieces.
Buy 15 breasts, 30 thighs and 20 drumsticks. Bake or braise the chicken. Maybe a cacciatore. That's more than you need but it allows people to select one or two to three small pieces, or one larger piece, or however they wish to combine it.
You'll have leftovers, but who minds leftover cold chicken?
When I do "rustic" parties, I always like to have the appearance of "plenty" so I plan one main dish or side that is good as leftovers and make a lot more than than I know I'll need. There's something about one large heaping platter that just says hospitality.
I've done an entire flat of strawberries for 8 people and then made jam the next day. It looked great for the dinner party and nothing went to waste.
I really think that's WAY too much chicken, 15 breast?? No way, even if you mean split breasts, with all the other courses that's too much.
I think the OP is pretty close with 2, 6lb birds, after all this is an Italian style dinner, with multiple courses including a starch course (ie, filling) and then followed by cheese and dessert.
Assuming your guests are not heathens and you are comfortable cutting up the chickens, I say go for two, three if you're worried.
Slice the breasts in half for presentation, they'll go further, and save the backs for me!
Hats off to you for choosing roast chicken, clearly some wouldn't because of space, etc, but surely you've thought of that.
You have the perfect name -- "Makingsense." "...work backwards from presentation. Think of the chicken as pieces." The only change I would make is I think in terms of half a chicken per person. Here I would be using at LEAST 8 whole small, or medium size, chickens so that each guest has a half-chicken. In fact, that is how I do it on the grill. Some people take an entire half while others take white or dark meat only and somehow it all works out allowing seconds for still others. I know the OP is a great cook because of the number of guest invited -- confident!. That means all the jucy chicken will be eaten. Therefore 8 to 10 chickens (=16 to 20 half-chickens) is not too much food for 15 hungry people. When the food is good the dinner can only be made bad by not having enough of it. Maybe 10 whole chickens or at least a few extra breast.
As a rule of thumb, you should count on one to one-and-one-half pounds of whole poultry per diner. So unless you can find a couple of 8-pound chickens (capons, maybe?) you're probably better off roasting three birds. And IMHO it's always better to have lots of leftovers (just finished a chicken salad sandwich a couple of minutes ago) than to feel bad because there wasn't enough food on the table.
I suspect you could get away with 2 chickens. When I initially read your post, I thought gosh, at least 3 chickens. But then I remembered - oh yeah, I always cook too much food. So 2 is probably ok.
But MMRuth's concern about having enough white/dark meat to go around depending on preferences is a reasonable one. If you know you have an odd crowd, and everyone is on a diet requiring white meat only, well, then 3 would be safer.
I find you can roast 2 chickens much more easily than 3 chickens in a standard oven. So from a practical point of view, it would be easier if you can get away with 2 birds. Given that you are having a lot of courses, including risotto/gnudi and a cheese course, I totally think you could get away with 2 birds. I don't think anyone will go away hungry! But if the roast chicken is meant to be the showcase dish, then you'd be safer to do 3. I personally love having tonnes of leftovers, especially a nice roast chicken...