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Cooking for 14 - menu check and seeking advice?

On Sunday, I have to cook for 14 people! B-day party for my host. Menu will be chicken Parmesan (I am confident about it) with Batali's tomato sauce (except I'm going to add olives) and a side of pasta with the tomato sauce. Salad with a honey mustard vinaegrette. Dessert will probably be a crumbled-oreo with vanilla icecream and a toffee disc.

What do you guys and gals think about this menu? I'm all ears. My reason for going with the honey-mustard dressing (shallots, mustard, red wine vin, EVOO) is because it's sweet and this will contrast with the saltiness of the Chicken Parm. Is there a cheese I could toss with the salad too - feta?

lso, I'm a bit nervous about having to cook a rather tedious main course in such large quantities. I am planning on starting the tomato sauce tomorrow so that I don't have to worry. Any advice is appreciated.

Thanks for your input!!

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  1. Sounds delicious...i'd add either another main or side dishes or some appetizers.

    1. Chicken Parm for 14???? That sounds like a HUGE task. It also sounds like you're preparing or at least cooking this at the host's home? Tomato sauce on both the chicken and the pasta could be a tad overwhelming. Could you plate the Parm on top of the pasta maybe? Hopefully you'll get lots of suggestions. That 14 number is still of concern. When I'm serving large #s like that, it's usually some huge hunk of a hooved animal :) Re salad I LOVE arugula. That slight bitterness offsets richness perfectly IMO. Good luck and have fun.

      2 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        Hey c oliver, thanks. I will be cooking it in her home, which is where I live. Also, unfortunately, I don't have much choice regarding the choice of animal because she loves chicken parm and wants it on her b-day!

        Regarding plating, that's a good idea to plate it on top of the pasta.

        I am afraid of the #14 but I think if I start the sauce today, prepare the chicken tomorrow and that leaves only the breading and sauteeing and baking on the day of, that should be manageable.

        I just can't get my head around how to adapt my ingredients for these huge portions. For example, that's a lot of dressing I'm going to have to make!

        1. re: xiaobao12

          Sounds good. Do you have enough pans for cooking that much chicken? Or can you borrow some? Then you get into plates, flatware, glasses etc. I served 20+ seated for a luncheon some years ago and picked up crazy cheap champagne flutes at Walmart.

          Escondido's ratios sound good and you can always tweak once you get it made.

      2. I think your salad would be better without cheese since there is so much in the main course. As to the vinaigrette, if you get a good size jar and do 3/4 c EVOO, 1/4 c. vinegar, along with 4 shallots and a T of honey mustard--plas S&P--I think you should be pretty close to what you need.

        1 Reply
        1. re: escondido123

          Thanks for your measurements escondi. Gonna use a yogurt bin as I don't have any glass jars!

        2. As Monica mentioned, I think it's a good idea to put out some finger food while you're preparing the parm.

          If you do thinner slices of chicken breast, the cooking could actually go very quickly, especially if you can get 2 or 3 pans going at the same time. If you're planning to plate all at the same time, preheat the oven to 450 so, keep a broiler pan or baking sheet in there and let it heat up, and just refresh/reheat the chicken for about 7 minutes right before serving. The high heat will help keep the breading crisp.

          Are you going to boil the pasta in advance?

          5 Replies
          1. re: inaplasticcup

            Thanks for the advice re keeping it crisp and heated.

            I will be boiling the pasta right before serving - there is no other way is there?

            I'm going to make the sauce right now! 212 ounces of canned tomatoes!!

            1. re: xiaobao12

              Well, ideally, it's nice to be able to boil the pasta right before serving...

              But if cooking for this many people is a new experience for you, and there's a possibility that just tending to that much frying chicken will frazzle your nerves, it's totally OK to boil your pasta (before you start the frying process to just under al dente), toss it in some olive oil so it won't stick, put it in an oven safe dish, and reheat it with the chicken for 5 to 7 minutes in the oven. Reheat the sauce over the stove about 15 minutes before you're ready to plate.

              That way, you can take everything out, pasta on the left, chicken in the middle, sauce on the right, and make an assembly line of it so that everyone's getting hot food roughly at the same time.

              By the way, 212 ounces is a lot of tomatoes, imo. I usually get 5 or 6 servings out of a 26 oz can of crushed tomatoes. But perhaps your guests will like a lot of sauce, and you can always freeze the rest. :)

              1. re: xiaobao12

                To make things easier, see this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583856
                I assume you are cooking 2 or 3 pounds of dried pasta. You can do it all at once in an 8qt pot.

                1. re: greygarious

                  thanks inaplastic and greyg!

                  greyg, that thread you pointed me to made have saved me. I was thinking about how I could cook 4 boxes of pasta with only one pretty big pasta pot I have. But I will do attempt to do this on Sunday with this method, using thin spaghetti.

                  1. re: xiaobao12

                    you might want to use a slightly thicker pasta noodle. it would hold up better.

            2. If in-season melons are available, wedges of prosciutto-wrapped honeydew would be a nice start to your meal.

              1. If it was me I'd serve pasta aglio olio instead of pasta with the sauce from the chicken. The salad sounds wonderful but I'd skip the cheese in it, there is plenty of cheese in the main dish. I'd also include some type of bread, perhaps a foccacia with a dipping sauce or oil?

                2 Replies
                1. re: cookinforcash

                  Great advice in this thread. I agree w/ the simpler garlic pasta idea, also serving the parm on a bed of the simple pasta.

                  Agree w/ arugula (at least partial) to offset the sweet dressing. How about nuts for a topping instead of cheese? Or, do spinach and sliced strawberries. I make my dressing in the blender when i have to make it for a crowd...easier to work with and helps be sure it emulsifies, too.

                  People love bread and w/ flavored oils, but I would serve a bread that's not too heavy. One of my favorite restaurants serves their foccacia w/ dippin oil and while both are delicious on their own, it's not a good match...too much oil in one place. I like Ciabatta or a peasant loaf instead.

                  And I love nibbles before dinner, espeically if you're serving drinks...it doesn't have to be anything too time consuming. maybe some olives, some almonds, or just put some of the bread out for HD's if you go that route.

                  1. re: danna

                    Thanks for the Aglio Olio idea guys. Unfortunately, my host has demanded that I make my regular tomato-based sauce. But I certainly will try the Olio idea next time for myself - sounds yummy.

                2. It sounds great but if you're worried about doing it last minute, would you consider doing it as a baked pasta dish--making the spaghetti (or ziti/penne, something heartier) for the bottom layer, frying the chicken, pounded flat, before hand. and then assembling. Just pop in oven 45 minutes or so before serving. Have extra sauce on the side. Add garlic bread if you want to make less chicken parm.

                  With all the cheese of the chicken parm, I wouldn't add feta to the salad.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    Chowser, I'm nervous about baking pasta - I have a routine that I go thru with making pasta and am worried about the what if's if I change up my technique....call me a wimp but I want to be sure that this pasta is going to be mmmmmmm yummy...thanks for the idea though.

                    1. re: xiaobao12

                      or you could do the chicken parm baked then do the pasta on the side....at least one element would be done.

                  2. Let us know how it goes!

                    Wishing you success... :)

                    1 Reply
                    1. Tip for pasta in large quantities: use penne, not spaghetti. The short shape is easier to manage. You can boil your pasta ahead of time, but you need to rinse the starch off of the pasta after you drain it, not oil it. Or, sure, you could sauce the pasta, keeping the sauce loose and the pasta a little undercooked, and then pop it all into the oven.

                      The parmigiana shouldn't be a problem, since it's an oven dish.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jaykayen

                        The only time I've rinsed pasta before baking is when making Hazan's green lasagne --- cause she told me to :) Never had a problem. Could you elaborate please, jkn?

                        1. re: c oliver

                          OP asked if there was any way to serve pasta other than making it at that very moment. If you don't rinse the starch off, the pasta will stick together.

                          1. re: jaykayen

                            I have found that mixing the pasta with a little of the sauce prevents that.

                      2. OK guys - so sauce is made - 212 ounces! Gotta prepare the chicken tonight by slicing 9 breasts (horizontally and lengthwise) in in half.

                        For dessert, I caved in and bought a pre-made apple pie from Costco! Just one thing less to worry about. I will warm this pie in the oven and then scoop one ball of ice cream onto each pie slice, yah? And garnish with chopped mint..

                        The only thing I am nervous about is the pasta. I know that greyg has recommended the non-boiling method. I would like to cook all 4 pds of the pasta at once but I am worried that the pot might be too small as I want lots of water. I do have multiple pots so maybe I'll just use two.

                        THANKS GUYS! will take pics before everybody kills the food =d

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: xiaobao12

                          I think it's always good to use methods you are comfortable with when cooking for company, so go with what feels right to you. Hope you have some fun!

                          1. re: escondido123

                            Agreed. :) Looking forward to the pics!

                            1. re: xiaobao12

                              I find it easiest to slice chicken breasts horizontally using my slicing knife.

                              Also, I would use fusilli instead of spaghetti, cook it tonight less than al dente, put it together with some of the sauce in baking dishes no taller than 2" high, and give it a final bake it tomorrow. When it comes out of the oven, put it in a large serving bowl, mix it with the remaining sauce (heated), and sprinkle some parmigiano-reggiano on top.

                            2. SUCCESS!

                              Only had time to take one picture...

                              A few mistakes - I made way too much pasta. Should have listened to jaykayen and made 3 pds. Although the chicken was delicious, there were a few pieces where I thought it was too thick (I had leftovers today). I did not pound any of the pieces to save time....perhaps next time, I will consider making them thinner as it does affect the enjoyment of the bite.

                              I also had issues with the temperature of the food remaining "hot". By the time everybody got their food (buffet style) and sat down, the food already became warm, sadly. Fortunately, it doesn't matter that much with chicken parm but this was definitely a problem.

                              Salad dressing - thanks to escondido for the quick measurements. I added some more honey to make it taste the way I wanted it to.

                              Was a good experience! Thank you to everybody for helping me make this a successful meal....I really appreciate it.