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Aug 7, 2010 06:46 PM

Please help me w/dinner menu for 18 tomorrow.

Hi guys:

I am a new cook and I need your help with finetuning my menu and prep work and times for dinner tomorrow(Sunday). This will be for 18 people and I am on a strict budget. Dinner is to be served at 6p. The proposed menu is roast chicken, pasta al limone(spaghetti in lemon sauce), and sauteed spinach w/ raisins and almonds.

For roast chicken?
Are 3 chickens enough for 18? (They are about 7 lbs each)

I have rosemary, garlic, evoo, lemons, onions? What is the best way to get the most from these seasonings? Make a paste and put it inside the cavity, under the skin, outside the skin? Do I apply salt and pepper before or after applying the paste? Can I do this overnight?

At what temperature do I cook the chicken and for how long?

I have only one electric stove. When do I start and how many chickens do I roast together in order to finish by 5.30p

For spaghetti:

The recipe will be similar to this:

How many pounds of spaghetti would be sufficient for 18 persons as a side dish?
Would I increase the quantities for the sauce in direct proportion to the number of pounds of pasta?

I only have the jarred parmesan cheese, is that good enough?

I do not have a microplane grater, what side of the 4-box grater can I use to get the most lemon zest or is there another way to get to the zest?

For the spinach:

I have 6 10 oz boxes of frozen chopped spinach. Is that enough for 18 people?

I'll be using garlic, raisins and almonds; how much garli and should it be minced or sliced? How much raisins? And for cost reasons, I'll be using almonds instead of pine nuts but I only have access to skin on dry roasted almonds; will these almonds work and how? chopped?

Finally, thanks in adavance for your responses. Any comment will be greatly appreciated. Despite my limited cooking experience and the budgetary and equipment constraints, I really, reaaly want this to work out well.

Yeah, and pray for me too!


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  1. First of all good luck to you , this is a very ambitious endeavor. I don't think 3 chickens are enough. Personally I'd roast 6 minimum 5 , but I don't think you will have enough room in your oven. If you are doing 3 you might as well roast 4. If you google roasting a chicken you will come up with a link to the perfect roast chicken recipe , either by Julia Child or Ina Garten. Follow that.
    IMO jarred if you mean what comes in the green container is not parmesan cheese. You need to get the real stuff.
    You can use the very small side of the 4 sided grated for zesting in a pinch.
    I'd use 4 cloves of garlic minced and I don't have any idea about raisins...are you following a recipe? What does the recipe say? I'd go with blanched almonds and toast them myself rather than dry roasted.
    As a suggestion, in the future when hosting a dinner party when you are inexperienced, starting small and building a batch of true and tried recipes will build your confidence and skills will go a long way. Also planning a bit early in the week would help too.

    1. The easiest, tastiest chicken recipe I've found so far that's essentially foolproof is Thomas Keller's ( I agree with the previous poster that 3 will be enough for 18 people, even at 7lbs. Generally you might want to count on approximately 1 lb per person, I believe.

      1. Good luck - you can do it!

        Chicken - for Thanksgiving there were 9 chicken eaters. I roasted 3 5 1/2 lb chickens. We had 1 1/2 chickens left over. However, this may have something to do with the plethora of side dishes. People take smaller servings I think. Something else to think about is the ratio of white to dark eaters. If everyone wants white, you're in trouble, but that's not likely. I roast at 425. I'd do them separately, then foil them, and let them rest. Heat briefly before serving. It'll likely take 1 1/2 - 2 hours (closer to 2) for each chicken, depending upon your oven. I'd start cooking at 11:30, but that's me.

        Pasta - i say a pound for 6 people. so like 3 pounds.
        Sauce - increase proportionately

        Get real parmesan.

        Spinach - i'd say 8-9 10 oz boxes - i estimate a box feeds two people - i am a garlic fiend, and if you roast it, it's wonderfully mellow, in which case i'd use a couple of cloves per box. if you're just lightly stir-frying it, i'd say a clove per box or maybe 8 for 9 boxes.

        Almonds - blanch em if you don't want the skins, then peel, whir through processor to chop, then toast in a dry skillet

        Just be calm and methodical, and know that however it turns out, people will be appreciative. You will learn a lot regardless!

        1. First bit of advice: get someone to help you! Dinner for 18 is a significant feat for any one cook in any kitchen - and for a beginner its just too much to expect. You will need at least one person working with you, preferably more when it is close to dinner time.

          Off the top of my head, 21lbs of chicken is sufficient. But those are big old hens. If you haven't already bought them, better to get more, smaller birds - like maybe 5 x 4lbs or even 5 x 3.5lbs. And for that quantity I would suggest you work with quartered birds and roast them in large pans with the dark ad white quarters grouped together. I would make a marinade from your ingredients (other than the onion) and toss the chicken quarters in the marinade for 4-8 hours prior to roasting. Roast with onions cut into wedges. I'm guessing you'll need at least two very large roasting dishes - more likely you'll need 3-4 regular sized ones. Look around for a recipe that gives some ideas about temperatures and times, but beware that you'll probably be straining the capacity of your oven and may need to cook on two levels for longer, swapping the bottom and top shelves a few times during cooking. Rough guess would be to cook them at 400 degrees for about 1:20. The white meat will cook quicker.

          Shooting from the hip: 4lbs of pasta should be enough for 18 sides. Be sure you have two very large stock pots to cook that much pasta in, and be sure to use a sufficient volume of water. Sauce is proportional to the pasta weight. I'd use the 2nd finest grit on your box grater since the zest is served uncooked and you want it to blend in thoroughly. I'd be tempted to use some of the liquid expressed by the roasting chicken instead of the EVOO in the spaghetti sauce. [CORRECTION: displace some of the EVOO with pan drippings, but do not eliminate the EVOO at all.]

          Good luck.

          1. You haven't allowed much time for input on your questions, nor to shop for other ingredients should you change your plans.

            I think 3 chickens are enough as long as they are 7#. I would recommend butterflying them to roast faster without turning, but you won't have room to fit 3 flattened birds in your oven. You can roast the chickens all at once as long as you have a large roasting pan. Plan so they are done an hour before serving. Tented with foil, they'll stay warm enough. Either put a paste under the skin or just put a halved lemon, some garlic cloves, rosemary sprig, and a halved onion in the cavity.

            I would serve rice or potato (bake along with chicken) rather than spaghetti, which IMO does not go with chicken. But if you want spaghetti, 3# is enough as a side. You can do the entire amount at once in a 6qt or larger pot. As discussed by McGee and on CH, it is untrue that pasta must be boiled in copious amounts of water. Bring the pot of salted water to the boil, add all the pasta, stir, and when it returns to a boil, shut off the heat, cover the pot, and leave it be for 5 minutes. Then stir again, return cover and forget about it until the recommended total cooking time + 2 minutes has passed. Stir and drain. Jarred parmesan will do if that's all you have. Use the smallest holes of the grater for the lemon zest.

            You have enough spinach. Find a recipe to follow. Sliced garlic will be milder than minced. You'll need to chop the almonds. You can do the spinach early in the day and rewarm to serve.