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Invited 25 people.... how am I gonna cook this one

So I think i might be in over my head. I invited 25 people for a sit down dinner. I want to do beer braised beef ribs and sides.

- I don't know how much to buy. How much meat per person.
- I have 2 x 4.5 qt Fontignac Dutch Ovens, 1 x 16" J.A. Henckels 16" French roaster (no lid)
- I have a standard size gas oven stove, I have access to a neighboring gas oven stove and an electric stove oven.
- I know I'll need to buy more things, what to get?

I am not in the business of catering. I just like to cook and bring people together.

Obviously, side dishes will be equally an issue.

Please help,

Ambitious Idiot

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  1. The first question I have for you is where do you intend to purchase the short ribs?

    As for cooking, I imagine most home ovens will only fit 6-8 ribs in a roasting pan, times two on two racks/shelves. As such, you will need two ovens or make two batches. If it were me, I would make the equivalent one long bone for each person, or cut in half as two pieces......this must be done by a butcher with a band saw. If you have access to a restaurant supply house, you can probably purchase the short ribs for around $3.00-3.50/lb. Another option is to purchase the short ribs boneless, which is about a dollar more per pound.

    I would serve with some sort of whipped/mashed potatoes, e.g. Wasabi, Garlic or Lobster......or Polenta as the starch. I like the idea of a mushroom medley or ragout with the short ribs and some green vegetable of your choice.....

    Any new cooking vessels you will need will be determined when you decide if you want a long bone , short bone or boneless presentation. The latter can be cooked on the bone and removed, or boneless from the start of cooking. I would caution you to measure your oven's interior before making any purchase. ......your dutch ovens are not recommended for this task, as they are too small. You need something along the lines of a rectangular roasting pan with a minimum 3 inch, or 4 inch side height. Lids are not necessary....you can cover with foil.

    My best tip for you is to search YouTube for a video demonstration to give you the basic knowledge on how to proceed....but it's really nothing more than cooking pot roast or any other braised meat roast in the oven.

    1. The Dutch Ovens will make good serving containers.... I am assuming that you are going to serve family style or buffet.

      measure the inside of your oven and subtract 2" from all dimensions and go to the local restaurant supply house and get a deep rectangular roasting pan with lid that size. Also pick up a 20-25 quart mixing bowl to mix a good green salad. You didn't mention what other sides you will be having, but if you have a couple of 10-12 quart stockpots you should be ok.

      Make as much food that will be served cold/room temperature ahead of time. Plan on having you ribs ready 2 hours ahead of time--that way when you discover that they are not done yet, you have some wiggle room--they will hold nicely in the oven at the lowest temperature.

      You will need about a pound of ribs per person with a 50/50 meat to bone ratio at a minimum.

      1. Do you have a gas grill? If so, buy some disposable aluminum pans and use them to braise the ribs on the grill. Sear the ribs first on the grill, then put them in the pans with your braising liquid, cover them with Al foil and you're good to go. That way you can use your oven for sides.

        1. So we are talking short ribs and not TX-style BBQ beef ribs for this sit down.

          When is this going to happen?

          If you had access to a circulator and a cooler, this would be relatively simple as you could seal the quantity required and then plop them into the water bath for 24-48 hours. Afterwards, trim and sear, which is can go pretty fast.

          Without the circulator and with the number of roasters available, you`ll either need to get your hands on two additional roasters and access at least one other oven, or run batches. The batches may be easier if you have time ahead of you. You can cook, cut/trim and only need to reheat when it comes to showtime. If you're going to do this more or less day of, you're in for a whole bag of hurt.

          Quantity: you know these 25 people and I'll assume that you know how much they eat. I have been served a 50 g portion of boneless short rib and I have been served a 1 kg portion of short-rib, and both were considered at the time to be appropriate sizes. You'll obviously have sides, you'll likely have some sort of starter and you'll have some sort of dessert. So, perhaps 5-6 ounces of meat per person? On a nice thick short rib, that could be around 1 rib/person.

          Side dishes: a mash of something (potato, sweet potato, kumara, parsnip, parsleyroot, Jerusalem artichoke, cauliflower) would be nice, especially if it contained a nice quantity of butter and cream. Something else for textural and visual contrast, so perhaps pattypan squash, haricots vert, or some roast vegetables and the like. Mushrooms like forunder has already mentioned.

          Did you think about the logistics of seating 25 and plating 25 at a time? That's a whole lot of plates.

          2 Replies
          1. re: wattacetti

            I'd suggest it be served buffet style. You can still set the table(s) beautifully and even have a first course plated and on the table. But the entree will be much easier for you if it is served on a buffet.

            1. re: DaisyM

              But didn't sauga79 sign off as "Ambitious Idiot"?

              Seriously though, family-style or buffet service even with the first course would be the path of least pain.

          2. Do your short ribs the night before and refrigerate. Congealed fat is easy to remove, plus they taste better the next day...imo. Best of all it's one less thing to worry about the day of.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gail

              I couldn't agree more. Doing the meat a day or even two ahead is ideal. You can do it in a couple of batches since your resources are limited. Only works if you have refrigerator space, however.

              My mother has made do-ahead mashed potatoes for a crowd my entire life. Her "secret" is adding about 3 oz. of cream cheese per 5 lbs. of potatoes along with the usual ingredients. Works well and can also be made the day before. Mashed potatoes seem to be a "must" for me when it comes to my short ribs.

              In colder weather when I tend to make this, I would serve it with roasted root veggies, but this time of year I would consider a room temp green bean salad and oven roasted tomatoes, done ahead.

              Good luck and please let us know what you end up doing!

            2. Nice idea. Bringing folks together really is the point, innit?
              Meatwise: bone-in, you'll need one pound per person, plus a pound or two for the pot and seconds. Boneless, you can halve that, but be wary: it's a fatty meat and lots will cook off. A beautiful side, and easy for you, would be oven cheese polenta. With a beautiful green salad, and maybe some pan-roasted carrots and onions?Whamdinner! and a yummy one to boot!

              1. Sauga, I feel your pain. I do this stuff all the time and always end up kicking my own butt for being too ambitious. My first thought is if you are open at all to changing your entree, you might consider Zuni's mock porchetta, which I first learned about here on Chowhound (http://cookingzuni.blogspot.com/2008/...). I think this because it is fairly economical, amazingly tasty, and would be much easier to cook given then dutch ovens, etc. you have.

                As far as sides go, I think a cold chickpea salad http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sa... would be interesting, as well as the aforementioned herbed/flavored mashed potatoes. I also *adore* a cold broccoli salad http://recipes.kaboose.com/broccoli-s...

                Do some fancy cupcakes for dessert that are easy to serve/cleanup for the number of guests you are expecting.

                1. While I haven't done it on the scale you are, I do recommend this recipe:
                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/be...

                  I'd say 1/2 lb mt. per person will be more than plenty. Make a nice big batch of mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. I'd say try to keep it SIMPLE for yourself. From my experience lots of people don't appreciate or know enough about cooking to appreciate if what you did took you a few hours to put together or two days to put together.

                  As suggested up thread, I'd make the short ribs the day before. Then all you have to do the day of is make the mashed potatoes, the veggie and heat up the short ribs. From my most recent party, a simple wheel of brie baked in the oven, topped with honey and almonds, was the biggest appetizer hit and it was by far the easiest appetizer to make!

                  1. Did three batches of test ribs for a carter job for 60 not long ago. My recommendations:

                    Bone in are just too rough, irregular, and take too much space. Plus, they have the cartilage on them. Go with boneless chuck ribs from a warehouse or restaurant supply. Get a retaurant guy you know to order, if needed. 5-7 lb cryo bags with two pieces per, get about 3/4 lb pp.

                    You trim them into uniform chunks about 3" by 2" by 1". Then you really need to sear them big time. some oil, lots of S&P on the meat. make them sizzle, both large sides. the flavor is in the color... the sear. use several dutch ovens or whatnot to do it. .

                    Then you can get a few disposable full size roasting pans (or hotel pans if you can). add veggies, red wine (cote du rhone was excellent), beef stock, a little tomato paste. season. loosely covered for about 1.5 hrs.

                    Then like Gail said. separate the beef from the stock. fridge both over night. remove the thick layer of fat over the stock. Then combine and reheat. This will be the difference between a rich clean sauce and ribs that taste like grease. oh yeah. You can use a stick blender to puree some of the veggies in the sauce, and it will thicken it up beautifully.

                    1. If you're going to braise that many short-ribs, you're going to need a lot more surface area than what you have. You're probably going to want a couple of hotel pans. You should allow 2-3 ribs per person (depends on the crowd). Season, then brown them off in the dutch ovens in batches. Toss into hotel pans. When you're done, add your aromatics, whatever herbs you want to use, then your braising liquid. Cover with heavy-duty foil, then let them go for a couple of hours.
                      In your roasting pan, you can prepare a potato gratin. Do you have a decent slicer? Go and buy a mess of Gruyere, a whole lot of cream and butter, and you should be good to go. Potatoes and cheese would be good here because they are likely to fill your guests up.
                      Tomato season is quickly getting away from us, but green beans are still in season. Either would make a good salad. Simply make a shallot/balsamic vinaigrette and dump it over either sliced good tomatoes or blanched green beans. This is good because it can be served room temperature.

                      1. Thank you all for your replies and support! I just glossed them now before going to work but I'll be sure to read them in detail. The dinner party is about 3 weeks from now.

                        1. the most ambitious sit down dinner for 25 I ever did was when my husand turned 50. We hired tables, chairs, plates and glassware and cutlery and linens. It was the sit down factor that made it really special (as opposed to the buffets we normally do). It was a huge success, extremely exhausting, and very rewarding. If you can do sit down, I would.

                          make sure you give yourself TIME, lots and lots of time, to do everything if you plan on doing this all by yourself. The fact that it takes SO much more time to prep vegetables or whatever for 25 than for 4, is the easiest thing to forget..

                          Think about what you can make ahead that will not require refrigeration.

                          Think what you can make ahead and freeze, and start cooking now!! For the dinner I mentioned, I made ravioli as a first course. Spent a whole sunday 4 weeks before the party making the ravioli. Froze, them , and on the day, only had to cook them and toss with an insane amount of brown butter. nobody believed I actually made ravioli for 25.

                          Give yourself at least a day after the party to recuperate. It took me about 3 days to stop feeling tired. But, I did everything (shopping, cooking) by myself. If you can find helpers, it will be easier.