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first time cooking for 30 people during vacation

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Hi, I am going to be sharing a beach house with 30 friends at the end of july. I have volunteered to prepare a dinner one night, but have no idea what to prepare. My cooking skills are not extremely advanced, but I knop my way around a kitchen. Any suggestions would be so appreciated! Thanks

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  1. Wow, that must be some huge house to hold 30 people! I would say you certainly need to plan ahead and consider doing mainly cold or room temp dishes...what do you have for refrig capacity? If you have availability of fresh produce that will make a big difference....do you have a budget and do you have others who will help you?

    1. If I had to prepare a hot meal for that many people I would either 1. sort of chicken out and cook burgers and hotdogs on the grill with chips and raw veggies/dip (a drawback to the burgers/dogs is that you will likely have had them already on your beach vacation) or 2. make something ahead like and enormous kettle of chili or maybe a bolognase sauce and then boil about 6 pounds of spaghetti in two batches in a 12 quart kettle. A few bags of salad and a few loaves of French bread would round it out. An electric roaster like this would be useful:


      Another idea might be to make a big batch of seasoned beef taco meat and all he fixins for tacos and ket everyone assemble their own. The good thing about this is that because there is a protein and vegetables, a side dish isn't really necessary, just don't run out of food.

      1. Not sure what money restrictions there are, if any,but you could always do a huge clam bake if money is not an issue. Otherwise, I'd do burgers, dogs, sausage, chicken & steak and/or skewers a huge salad and another cold side/salad like an orzo salad or gazpacho

        1. Or...if you're near a Costco...some big salmon fillets on the grill are always good...and will go a long way. And you could also do sausages....another Costco find in big proportions. The important thing is not to stress...and make sure that you enjoy yourself. Certainly people will volunteer to help. Pour good wine!

          1. I'm concerned that a vacation rental probably doesn't have a lot of refrigeration space or oven capacity.

            How about getting 6 or 7 rotisseried chickens and shredding the meat. Toss it with taco seasoning and lime juice. Get a load of tortillas. Then make a vat of pico de gallo for assemble yourself soft tacos (take an aliigater chopper along to make quick work of chopping veggies). Serve it with a salad of black beans tossed in a cilantro dressing with frozen roasted corn (Trader Joe's) and currant tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes.

            Only thing left to do is make vats of guacamole and margaritas. ...and be glad someone else will do the next day!

            Oh, and for dessert, a street food at Los Angeles' original village, Olvera Street, is wedges of fresh melon or pineapple splashed with lime juice and sprinkled with a bit of ground chili powder.

            1. I live at the beach ....I am not sure which one you are headed to but at my beach huge 30 plus houses are common and pretty well tricked out. I would make a big batch of chicken bog and a green salad on the side.
              The places around here have lots of places that you could order large amount of food at a pretty reasonable price ....most vacation type places do...if you didn't want to cook.

              1. Others have given great suggestions, like the taco bar, clam bake, and shopping at Costco.

                How about securing a 10 - 20 lb. bone in ham, that you can cook indirectly on the grill? If you figure about 8-12 oz per serving, you'd be set. It would probably take about all day to cook it, but that's half the fun. If your grill is charcoal, I would transfer it to an oven to apply glaze on it. Make or buy a large tray or three of macaroni & cheese, buy some mini slider rolls or biscuits, and everyone can make their own little ham sammies. Offer a bunch of different mustards, a couple of salads, and you're done.

                1. Hi cfrn, how well do you know everyone? If no, ask ahead of time if anyone has allergies or dietary needs and then you would work from that. I like the idea of taco bar, or of doing a bbq (maybe ask everyone to chip in for this), and of maybe doing a salad bar.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: S_K

                    IMHO, with 30 people, if you start asking about dietary needs you may well never get a meal made. And if someone has an allergy, in that situation I would assume they've found ways to deal with it because not everyone will ask and there will always be faced with these problems. Just a few people I would ask, but 30?

                    1. re: escondido123

                      For me, I would ask because I would feel bad if someone couldn't eat and sometimes people forget about food if it's not important to them. I wouldn't change the meal entirely, I'd just leave things out and let people put in the optional ingredients on their own. For 30 people, I like buffets anyway, so that's why. A sit down meal is a different matter entirely, and you're right, it would be impossible in that case. It's easier than worrying. And it really also depends on the people you're hanging out with. The people I hang out with won't say that something is a "dietary need" unless it's for religious or allergic reasons. I don't hang around the crowd that has an undiagnosed allergy because they feel it's fashionable or low-fat.

                  2. I'd make a big pot of chili, with or without meat depending on finances and whether there are vegetarians ( likely one or two in a crowd of 30), a big pot of rice or even easier, bulgur. Some kind of green salad and ice cream for dessert.

                    1. my first instinct was something like lasagna... a few meat trays, couple cheese, couple veggie... some simple salad, maybe some grilled / roasted veg.

                      but then, as you're at the beach, will people want a "hot" meal? you could make a number of frittatas or quiches (crust or not) in big 9 x 13 (0r bigger) baking/casserole dishes.

                      stratas are easy, just make a couple of trays of a few varieties

                      or polenta lasagna

                      or even eggplant parmesan is pretty straightforward...

                      have fun!

                      1. I would do a few pork shoulders ahead of time and take it down as pulled pork. Can reheat in a big pan in the oven. Then just buns and sides. Sides for BBQ are easy - cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, etc.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MrsCheese

                          Love that! We just did pulled pork for 24 (13 adults, 9 kids). We got a 14-lb. shoulder and had plenty for leftovers, maybe 1/3 of what we bbq'd. With bigger appetites (three of the kids were toddlers who ate hot dogs instead) I think that would be plenty, probably still more than enough - especially when you add the sides.

                        2. For 30 people I would provide a vegan option (which would also cover dairy and egg issues), but would not ask any further about dietary restrictions unless you happen to be very experienced. Once you ask, you're sort of obligated to provide alternatives, and that can mean preparing multiple simultaneous, mutually exclusive meals.

                          Grilling is a good option, as long as you have enough grill space. Otherwise, I'd go with something that can be made in big batches. For example, do one big pot of meat chili, another pot of vegetarian chilli, then have coleslaw, garden salad, rolls, and tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole.

                          1. Something quick and easy ~ fococcia sandwiches? You could bake loaves before the trip and bring them with you, but depending on where you go you may find them at a grocery store or bakery. You could do a variety of sandwiches, including a fresh or roasted veggie option. If you wrap them in foil and throw them on the bbq you could have baked sandwiches without warming up the kitchen. Just cut them into smaller servings if you make a variety so people can have more than one kind. A huge salad or two and cut up watermelon would round out the meal. Mostly assemble and serve so you could focus on a simple dessert. Grilled peaches and ice cream? And I agree with above posters ... plenty of wine/margaritas/etc.!

                            Another idea - I make grilled sausages with sweet & sour peppers on the bbq often. Other than slicing the peppers and onions (which would be a great time to accept any help offered for such a large crowd!) there's not a lot of prep involved. I've done them with pork and chicken sausages and liked them both. Again, with a couple salads, fruit and a simple dessert.

                            1. If you have access to a grill, how about beer brats with all the fixin's? For sides you could make a cold potato salad and grilled veggies. Gin and tonics might be called for as well.