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Ideas for cooking for a large group?

I'm having approximately 30 people over for my son's first birthday. I would much prefer to cook as opposed to catering or buying something. Obviously I'd like something that is not too difficult to prepare or that I could somewhat prepare in advance. The only idea I have thus far is lasagna -- it's my go-to for big groups. Any other ideas? I looked for a similar thread but didn't come up with anything...

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  1. I am sure you will get TONS of responses from people who have much more experience cooking for large groups than I, but I have cooked for groups and two crowd pleasers which stood out:

    The Economical:
    -A large roasted bone in ham
    -Gourmet three cheese macaroni and cheese (find a good recipe and use high quality cheeses!!!!)
    -Haricos Vert with wholegrain mustard shallot vinaigrette
    -Croissants on the side.

    The Lunch:
    -Mini chicken salad sandwiches (served on little round crusty rolls) the key is delicious chicken salad easy to bite into…not too chunky
    -Filet sandwiches on croissants – topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms & then topped with arugula (horseradish, paprika mayo)
    -Smoked Salmon finger sandwiches on Eli’s Health Bread, with a cream cheese dill spread and thinly sliced seedless cucumber
    -A good high quality pasta salad
    -A fresh large green salad

    1. Lasagna or baked ziti is a great idea. (baked ziti is even easier) Add some Italian sausage, and/or meatballs served with a great salad and bread - Perfect!

      1 Reply
      1. re: NellyNel

        I agree that baked ziti is good. Another thing I've done is provide a vegetarian ziti as an alternative based on an asparagus, lemon, and goat cheese lasaga recipe.

      2. For big groups I like something like a risotto or a thick soup, where all you have to do is throw a lot of stuff in a pot and stir, no worrying about treating individual portions (ie no breading & frying 30 individual chicken breasts or making 30 individual sandwiches). A big pan of ziti or mac & cheese would have the same advantages.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Emmmily

          Come to think of it, I did those parties above BEFORE I had children…they took pre-work and for the second one I had help assembling the sandwiches the morning of the baby shower I was hosting. If you have a one year old...order pizzas or tell people to bring their own! Ha, Ha!!!

        2. My standard item for a group that size is Turkey Tetrazzini made with all thigh meat because it stays tender and moist forever. I make it using penne or some similar medium pasta that can be eaten with just a fork in case there aren't enough table settings to go around. It can be assembled well in advance and is chaffing dish friendly for buffet service. Make it in a couple of shallow pans instead of one big deep pan to facilitate heating. I serve it with an Antipasto platter and a big tossed salad.
          I learned how to make it at a cooking workshop from Chef Paul Prudhomme so it's quite tasty, but not hot spicy. It's in his "Seasoned America" cookbook.

          I get lots of compliments and requests for seconds.

          1. For a large crowd, I like to make pulled dpork sandwiches. They can be made ahead of time and even taste better when they are.

            Pulled Pork

            7 - 8 pound pork shoulder, bone in
            1 large onion, sliced
            8 - 10 cloves garlic, chopped
            1 and 1/2 cups water

            2 -3 cups barbecue sauce
            Coleslaw
            Kaiser rolls

            Now comes the hard part. Put all the ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for about 9 hours. When finished, take pork out of the crock pot and separate/shred the meat away from the bone and fat. Put the shredded pork back in the crock pot and add about 2 - 3 cups of barbecue sauce. A couple good store brands are Sweet Baby Ray's and Bone Sucking Sauce or make your own. Cook on low for another hour or two. This only gets better as it sits for a day or so in the frig. Serve on rolls with a spoonful of coleslaw on top.

            Barbecue sauce

            This recipe is adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe

            1 large onion, diced
            4 cloves of garlic, chopped
            1/2 cup vegetable oil
            1 small can tomato paste - about 6 - 8 ounces
            1 1/4 cups honey
            3/4 cup soy sauce
            1/2 cup worcestershire sauce
            1 cup hoisin
            3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
            3/4 cup dijon mustard
            2 TB cumin
            1 tsp chipolte seasoning
            1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
            1 TB chili powder

            Saute onion and garlic in oil for about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 - 30 minutes.

            Coleslaw

            1/2 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
            2 carrots, grated
            1 apple, julienned
            3/4 cup mayonnaise
            1/4 cup sour cream
            3 TB 1/2 and 1/2
            1 TB honey
            2 TB vinegar (white wine or apple cider work well)
            1 tsp celery salt
            salt and pepper

            Mix mayo, sour cream, 1/2 and 1/2 honey, vinegar, and about a 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Combine cabbage, carrots and apples in a large bowl and add enough of the dressing to coat. Let coleslaw sit for about a half hour because the cabbage releases some water. Stir again and add more dressing if the coleslaw seems too dry.

            http://www.dinnersforayear.blogspot.com

            1 Reply
            1. re: eatmyfood

              we did this for xmas eve this year and and it a HUGE hit, I would absolutely do it again. you can make so much of it ahead, and the pork you get in the oven in the morning. I like my coleslaw best the next day, so I would make it a day ahead.