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School Has Started!! Autumn Has Arrived! And I've Got 31 REALLY Hungry Guys to Cook For!

As some of you might know, my real-life bread & butter, what helps put groceries on the table job is cooking for a group of young men at a Fraternity at the local branch of University of California. This years' number is 31, w/ this breakdown: 24 omnivores; 7 vegetarians; no vegans.

I could weep out loud at from sheer happiness at this last. Although I am not required to produce a meal for the vegans, or actually even the vegetarians, I'm a Jewish Mother and it's physically impossible for me not to have something nice on offer for all coming to the table. (You will observe this high-flown sensibility of mine virtually disappearing towards the ends of the year, when I post things like" The vegetarians are all on their own.") The vegans always had me bending my brains, but the vegetarians had me in a snarl more than once too, mainly 'cause I didn't want to serve them the Same Old Thing.

The rules: No alcohol proper, meaning I can cook with it but not serve it. This is a legal and religious restriction (Per the terms of joining that branch of Fraternite et al). It is truly observed well. I have no idea what happens during Summer, nor do I care to.


Ten "Old Boys" will have left, w/ ten "New Boys" arriving. There will be some new taste preferences to get used to, and ten new personalities. They, too will have something to get used to: Me. A foul-mouthed mama who cooks really well, takes breaks whenever I please and insists on the right to play my own musical selection or station VERY LOUDLY while I cook. By the end of the year, I'll have found something to love about each one. Kitchen Questionnaires are available for all involved and affected by the current management's unilaterally unbreakable decision on What's For Dinner. If you don't respond, you can't bitch.

The Magical Birfdayday blackboard will, as always, be employed: But damnit! Tell me a week in advance, 'cause I'm a cook, not a magician!!

I look forward to culling your ideas this year, and your recipes.

Kudos and ((hugs)) to the mommies sending their precious babes off to Kindergarten for the first times, and to the mothers kicking their eighteen-year-olds' butt out the door for their last year. And a stiff drink tonight. Or this morning, whatever.

Tonight WFD is Sliced Marinated London Broil, Stuffed Baked Potatoes, (w/ butter, milk, sour cream, chopped green onion; garlic, salt and pepper; mixed w/ beaten eggs and re-baked; garnished w/ shredded cheese, crunchy bacon and more green onion). Tiny little marvelous self-contained devils, they are. Alongside, bread and butter, green salad w/ sliced tomatoes and a well-emulsified lemon vinaigrette w/ oregano; Steamed string beans w/ brown butter and sliced almonds. And cake, because tradition decrees that on the first Real day of school, there must always be cake. And the ultra plus de nom: A do-it-your-owndamnself-rootbeer float bar. I'm sure some of you will recall how veryvery lazy I am, and that anything I can get them to assemble themselves is gravy.

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  1. mamachef, do you serve after cooking, like dinner in a home, or must these meals be made ahead?

    I'm sure you've thought of *everything*, but "breakfast for dinner" is something that many many people love (and many many people hate. My Dad would say "Why are we having breakfast for dinner?" My Mom would reply "Becase the cook likes it".)

    Blintzes (simple crepes filled with cottage cheese) can be baked or fried, topped with fresh, frozen, canned anyfruit. Ham, bacon, sausage (real or veggie) can accompany. Phyllo envelopes filled with curried smashed potato -- no , 31 is too many even for an assembly line -- but long fat strudels (vegetable, potato) might work.

    7 Replies
    1. re: blue room

      Hi blue room! To answer your first question: that's the beauty of it. I follow my own daily roadmap as far as service is concerned. I've got warming ovens and containers available to me, and can even go as far (infrequently) as leaving something that needs to be finished left undone, knowing that *somebody* will see my note, Bold, in Red. I don't often do this though. It's usually a happy tossup. I'm there, or I'm not. I never do short-order, though, unless it's a really special occasion and is HAS to work like that. And if Mr.'s not due home, I'll sit down and eat with 'em.
      We have breakfast for dinner all the time. I love that you suggested it, for sure. It's very easy to adapt for the vegetarians, it's unexpected, and hopefullyl it'll be Universally-loved. (I know the personal tastes, so far, of only 2/3 of my gang.) And actually, though you're right that some people grumble about lack of a "proper evening meal," most young folks love it. The potato strudel, known to my Gramma as "Lazy Woman's Knishes" are a grand idea. I frequently get stuck on an unusual starch side dish; this would fit the bill. I can get good strudel dough here. Wouldn't be as inclined to make blintzes, though: they tend towards liking their evening meal a little heavier, and I'd have to throw an incongruent main in with it, for the heavier eaters. Those, I do at home, and for catered events, most often brunches. Thanks for reminding me; we're do for a blintz brunch here, at some time of day or another: Cheese, w/ fresh berries while I can still get them, made into a crushed-berry sauce. :)

      1. re: mamachef

        Just goes to show: You are an incredible human being person!

        1. re: mamachef

          I have made and enjoyed this strudel: http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_w...

          It's not vegetarian but it could be. You could adapt it to have mushrooms, which would be nice. I think it could be made ahead as well, although I haven't

          1. re: limoen

            Very nice, limoen, and just the sort of thing I was talking about. I think the 'shrooms would be great with this, or even adapted as part of a whole new filling recipe. It has me thinking that a spinach/mushroom/onion version would work well as a main dish for the vegetarian gents, too......especially for a special occasion meal.

            1. re: mamachef

              Something I make for a crowd of vegetarians is pasta (I usually use cavatappi) with Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce II or III, pp. 95-95 of THE CLASSIC ITALIAN COOKBOOK.

              II is onion, carrot, celery, tomatoes (it says fresh, but I use canned more often), salt, sugar, olive oil.

              III is tomatoes, butter, sugar, salt, an onion (that you don't even have to chop--just peel and cut it in half from top to bottom, so it can leach into the tomato and butter).

              Add Parm (Is Reggiano in your budget for this size crowd?) and a salad. Dinner.

              1. re: Jay F

                Thankfully enough, Jay F, there is room for good cheese in the budget. I like her base recipes - and also am more likely to use good-quality canned tomatoes as opposed to fresh. (Tomato gravy is for home, every year.) And if I can hide them carefully, I generally have a few rinds lurking in the cook's fridge, to enrich the sauce with.

        2. re: blue room

          I'm finding myself a bit jealous mamachef! How much fun, first of all I love young people and do so so much that I have a couple of my own. Never knowing what to expect is half the fun.

          I'm not vegetarian as I'm sure you know that by now, but I do enjoy vegetarian dishes. Okay, so maybe I'll use chicken broth, or cheat a bit with eggs and milk, but certainly you know how to work around those little details.

          Here's a few of my favorites.
          Chile Rellenos
          Stuffed cabbage or peppers
          Eggplant Parmigiana

          all of which can be made with or without meat.

        3. Wow. I had no idea that you cooked for a fraternity. What an interesting and challenging way to work in the food business! I'll bet you have lots of stories, even without alcohol allowed.

          I think I'm a little too speechless to have any great ideas right now, though beef stroganoff comes to mind as a favorite crowd-pleaser (and beefless stroganoff for the veg-heads--I'm married to one and it adapts surprisingly well). Served with egg noodles, though we have throwdowns in our house about noodles vs. brown rice.

          I am curious as to how this works budget-wise? It sounds like you aren't working with an unreasonably meager budget based on today's BTS menu--do you have a lot of flexibility in the cost of your meals?

          I am going to watch your future posts with even more interest!!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: jlhinwa

            Thank you, DPGood and Jlhinwa. That is REALLY sweet of you both. At DP: I LOVE that job. I love those guys. I get as much out of it, if not more, as I give.
            To Jlhinwa: The budget is really very decent, especially as open-minded as this bunch generally ends up being. Nights of decadent meatiness have been known to be counterbalanced by a delicious yet inexpensive meal of rice, beans, tortillas, salad, salsa - though I will confess that even on THOSE nights there will be nice accoutrements, like guacamole, shredded cheese and sour cram available - and it works out really well. Because of the group's number, the cooking I do falls midway between a really good, from-scratch-whenever-possible buffet to cooking that other people would consider Industrial-level. I do not use truly industrial products, though; wouldn't be fair to them. I enjoy sheparding their food budget: I just shop according to the meal plan that works within it and submit receipts that the House Treasurer generally looks at quizcally. And on an off-week, if I go a bit over, I try to go under by that amount the following week. I have had to ask for more money one year only; the rest of the year, I've been able to "cull" or save enough from the budget that I was able to offer them a Years' End blowout w/ amazing food, +1 invites included, or a dinner out, with the equal amount of $$ going towards their final bill.
            I love the young men (that just sounds wrooooooong, but it's staying in) and the time I spend there. It honestly doesn't feel like working to me. I've taught more than one of them the basics of cooking and a few recipes; enough to make a meal or two anyway. The lack of alcohol only highlights my experience there. I was concerned at first for a few reasons, on two different points, when the job was first offered to me many years ago: concerned FIRST about being the only, v. small woman in a frat full of alcohol-impaired young men. Sh*t happens, right? And I have a responsibility to not go into harm's possible way. When I found out about the no-booze rule, I totally relaxed. I relaxed a great deal more when I discovered they also have an anti-hazing rule in addition to the booze thang. I am not a fan of hazing, so that was good.
            Then, when I went in for my stage, somebody mentioned that both prohibitions were directly related to the House's religious association. So I had something else to worry about: would I be urged to find Jesus every day? Would I find tracts stuffed into my mailbox? And finally, was I REALLY going to accept a job at the House of Bush? (Yes, I mean Geo.)
            Turned out, no worries. None at all. Took the job w/ a two-week contract/proviso and have loved it ever since.

            1. re: mamachef

              What a great job for you! I'll bet those boys love you! And I would imagine they are fun to cook for--young men, most likely first time living away from home and probably a little clueless as to what it takes to put together a decent meal. I can imagine they would be a very appreciative audience.

              I was in Santa Fe in June and went to a cooking class. We came back with some fun recipes that might work...meatballs with Romesco sauce, a Spanish tortilla (works well for a large group), tamales, tortillas with roasted vegetables and goat cheese, marinated chicken cooked in banana leaves with some kind of very mild chili sauce, and sweet empanadas. I guess it would be considered southwestern cooking--definitely not Mexican.

            2. re: jlhinwa

              Ditto all this! You go girl! That sounds like a very challenging yet fun job!

            3. Some very lucky frat boys to have you cook for them! I'm guessing anything I add will be same old, same old for you but I'd start w/ a hearty starch and then have a meat that can be added on the side, or mixed into the starch. Then add whatever compatible vegetable with it. Things long the lines of (you can doctor them up for your cooking level):

              spaghetti and sauce w/ a big side of meatballs
              risotto w/ a side of prosciutto or seafood
              rice and beans w/ side of ham
              curry vegetables over rice w/ a side of chicken
              mac and cheese w/ side of pulled pork
              soups and bread

              focaccia pizza, varioud toppings
              fajitas w/ roasted vegetables and some meat
              baked potato bar (so many fun toppings you could do w/ that)

              BTW, I love the breakfast for dinner idea. Stratas and the like would be great, too.

              10 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                Thanks for responding, chowser; and in such a thoughtful way. I really, REALLY appreciate the idea about a non-meat-centric approach, or not making a big slab of something the expected Main Event. It's rare that red meat is a complete centerpiece there, actually. It's much more likely that red meat, in the form of lean ground beef, will show up as meat sauce, or a pot of chili, or as a lasagne. (Meat left out until I can reserve a healthy portion for the non-meaty-eatys.) We generally have "whole meat" which includes poultry, about twice a week. The rest of the time it's casseroles, tacos, what have you.

                I adore you forever for including the baked potato bar. Although I've done many types of "bars" and have served "Bar Snacks" per the request of a birfdayday boy, I've never presented big huge bakers as the main. I've only done regular, side-dished sized bakers w/ a variety of (none main-dish) dressings and garnishes. MUST do. Now to think of (main-dish appropriate) toppings. Thank you, chowser!
                Oh, and folks? There IS no "old hat" when it comes to cooking like this night upon night. You'll see. About midway through the second semester, I'll be all over here whining, looking for either new things to do or for variations on the old things, 'cause I'll be sick of making the old stuff - almost as sick as they'll be of seeing it again. And if Birfdayday involves a request for an untried ethnic food? This is where I'll ask my questions and get my answers. Please, don't EVER not respond for reasons of quantity: I can alway work around that. For the most part, it'll be ideas I can play with, more than actual recipes, that I'm after. Kinda like real life.

                1. re: mamachef

                  For a baked potato bar, chili is of course a classic, and both easy to make in advance (tastes better that way, anyhow!) and to adapt to omnives' and vegetarians' tastes: a veg bean chili and one with meat, plus a variety of toppings such as sour cream, shredded cheddar or jack, green onions, pickled jalapeños, crumbled tortilla chips.

                  Of course, you can also chili night without the potato bar, with meat and veg versions, toppings, and big pans of cornbread.

                  Another easy-to-adapt one that hits that comfort-food note is baked ziti with marinara, dollops of ricotta, and mozarella. I like to saute strips of green pepper and sliced sweet onions and mix them with the pasta, sauce, and cheeses, for a nice addition of flavor and texture. You could do pans with marinara and meat sauce, or simply make it veg and offer grilled sausages on the side. Add a big salad and garlic bread.

                  How about pot pies or cottage pie? You could do a smaller pan of a vegetable pot pie or "shepherd's" pie (a veg shepherd's pie with a lentil and vegetable stew as the base is nice).

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Those pies always go over so well, Caitlin. Funnily enough, Harters gave me a recipe for something similar to what you mention, last year: A lentil/veg. stew, topped w/ cheesy biscuit cobblers. It's great, and I've sinced used it in guises both veg. and meat-centric. Thank you for reminding me!

                  2. re: mamachef

                    How about a pasta bar...with a couple of different shaped/colored/flavored pastas and two or three different sauces? Crusty bread and tossed salad, and yum!

                    Jambalaya, also with crusty bread and a salad. I don't see why you couldn't do it with a vegetable based smoked sausage, and add the seafood, if you're using it at the end for the meat eaters.

                    Macaroni and cheese, in dozens of variations

                    Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, with some hearty sides....

                    Eggplant and/or chicken parm


                    stuffed vegetables with and without ground meat in the stuffing
                    (acorn squashes are coming, but you can also do zucchini or summer squash)

                    I just did stuffed peppers that were really easy- kind of a southwestern style with rice and hamburg, seasoned with cumin and chipotle chile,and I liked the stuffing so much I made just the stuffing part the next time, and added some black beans

                    Rice bowls....endless varieties there

                    Lo mein bar

                    Wow.....you may have already done some/most of these, but sometimes it helps to have your memory jogged by somebody else....I've done lots of "communal" type cooking, and am also always looking for something new and different and delicious:)

                    1. re: sunflwrsdh

                      Love that pasta bar idea. Pasta is one of the cornerstones of our meals there, but at most I've made a vegetarian version of the usual meat sauce. I love the idea of building several different types for a bar, because if there is some left over, I can always find a way to incorporate extra sauce, and it's such a nice way to improve an almost hands-off meal.

                      1. re: mamachef

                        You could do an alfredo sauce, primavera, garlic and oil, and my granddaughter's current favorite, florentine as just a few suggestions. I love this thread, as it gives me great ideas too, which I am always looking for:)

                        1. re: sunflwrsdh

                          Cream, or tomato-based? We LOOOOOOOVE spinach, but buying enough to serve as a side is such a pain. Incorporating into sauce though: I'm thinking fresh tomatoes, etc. w/ spinach (pre-sauteed, chopped, drained) and some dollops of slightly-lemony ricotta.....

                    2. re: mamachef

                      We had a baked potato bar when I was at school and it was brilliant. Though the potatoes were a bit soggy - cooked then kept in a faux-Victorian display case thing which got quite steamy. We always had tuna salad, grated cheese, baked beans, cottage cheese, grated carrot, chopped ham. I had a BP with tuna, cheese and beans the other day and it brought back fond memories! Don't forget the butter and lots of white pepper :)

                      1. re: gembellina

                        I love a good baked potato bar. Love it as a "loaded" with butter, chili, diced ham, diced tomato, cheddar cheese and sour cream. You could do so many varieties of toppings. How fun.

                        You can also do stuffed peppers - some veg with rice mix and some meat. Love those little suckers. I know they have been on sale in my area.

                        1. re: boyzoma

                          We've done that potato bar, more than once, and a variation of it that involved a creamy potato soup w/ a bar of add-ins. The peppers are a GREAT idea. I'm going to have to look through my logs from last year to see if I've done that before, and how it was received. I've done stuffed eggplant (Mardi Gras!!) and stuffed zucchini (celebrate Summer!!) and they were good with it. I also like that one because I can do a vegetarian option v. easily. Thank you, bz!

                  3. Greek night for these Greeks? Hummus, grape leaves (canned, the latter)? Moussaka for the non-veg and spanakopita for the veg? Big green salad with cukes, toms, and feta? Nice crusty (Boudin hahaha) bread? Baklava?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: buttertart

                      Digging hard on this one, girlfriend. HARD. Definitely within budget, both time-and-moneywise. But....because I'm lazy, as you know? I'd prolly just make up a pan of meatless moussaka as the veg. entree. (a travesty, I know) and blow off the spanakopita, which I'd happily make in its' normal quantity at home. I could put a layer of TVP/mushroom or Tofu/mushroom in, seasoned w/ just a hit of cinnamon and mint, for that. And they could smell the marinated cubes of crusty lamb as it grilled with olives, and onion chunks and cherry tomtoes and whole cloves of garlic. The rest of them can have meat in their moussaka, and all will be well at AGO.

                        1. re: mamachef

                          If you wanted to make an easy-to-serve spanakopita-type dish, you could make spanakopita pie (like this one http://www.marthastewart.com/313253/q..., though personally I wouldn't add herbs, which are expensive anyway) which could be done in batches, or even in a springform or three.

                          1. re: limoen

                            And I will endorse the linked recipe as FABULOUS although I did think the dill added a lot. Still, my dill-hating father thoroughly enjoyed his which I left the dill out of so I'm sure you could skip it.

                          2. re: mamachef

                            Instead of moussaka, try pastitsio. Kind of a Greek version of shepherd's pie...ground meat in a tomatoey sauce spiced with cinnamon, topped with a layer of pasta, a savory custard poured over and baked with cheese on top. Like any casserole, it adapts easily to being made in an all-vegetable version (I use mushrooms, onions, shallots, & bell pepper chunks). It is very filling and comes together quickly, and the cinnamon is an unexpected touch in a savory casserole...serve with a Greek salad, some warmed pita bread..maybe some hummus and tzatziki on the table for scooping up with the pita.

                        2. I recently attended an event that had a mashed potato bar that was very good. This same event also featured a soup bar. Three different soups served in little shot glasses. You could use any size glass/cup to accomodate larger appetites. Perhaps w/ an assortment of warm breads.

                          1. I don't have any great ideas for you at the moment. Only chiming in to say that I so loved reading more about how you feed that pack of goobers. :)

                            1. Three Army Dining Facilities. 2 in Germany and one in Louisiana. Cooking for 600. For the same clientel. 17 to 25 year olds, many away from home for the first time. Only the Army then was not sensitive to halal, kosher, vegetarian. Very meat centric.

                              Hamburgers. The exotic fixins bar was always a big hit. Had a book from a burger place in San Francisco called the Hungry Hippo. Exotic then, main stream now.

                              Lasagna. A budget buster but worth the effort. Stores well.

                              Fried chicken. Change it by adding various spices. Viennese has copious amounts of smoked Hungarian paprika. Try curry for a British flavor. Cardamom for Kashmiri.

                              I wish I had kept a meal card file.

                              Go to the thrift shop and get some 50's era casserole recipes from those happy housewife cook books. Tuna fish with potato chips on top was my mother's favorite.

                              Depending on where they come from, any filling in a pastry or bread dough. Stromboli is the largest. Nachitoches meat pies my favorite. Vegetarian as well as meat pies. Add gravy and rutabagas and you have a Youper pasty. Fillings are any leftovers to stretch the budget. Can be deep fried or baked.

                              Fish pot pies. The fish stays edible and you don't have to stress about late arrivals getting a piece of baked leather.

                              Theme nights are always good. Mexico's independence day is 16 September. February is Black History Month. Your vegetarians should love that. I'm talking about Eithiopian, Trinidadian shark and bake, Mali couscous, South African biltong. Lets celebrate all the holidays. Rosh Hoshanna, Chinese New Year. For Veterans Day, head to the ROTC or local Guard and ask for Meals Ready to Eat. An easy night for you, and a possible eye opener for them. There are vegetarian versions. For any vets in the frat, try to make their favorite meal to order that night.

                              As soon as this is posted, I am sure I will think of many more. Good luck and have a great time.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                Your response is awesome, IndianRvrfl. I especially loved the idea of "theming" meals. We've done it many a time, but never w/ an eye to "thiss or that month" - or day's - food-themed corrolaries. I love it - and it will send me in gustatory directions I've previously never thought of.
                                Thanks so much!

                              2. This topic fascinates me, partly because my son (one and only) is leaving for college in exactly 14 days. Since I've been feeding him for the last 18 years (almost), I'm dying to know what he'll eat when he's on his own. He's determined not to gain the freshman 15.

                                I don't have a lot of ideas for you, but I have been surprised to note that most of my son's friends like curries, both Indian and Thai. They could be vegetarian or not.

                                Funny thing. One young man I know joined a vegetarian "house" because he liked the people. He wasn't a vegetarian, though, so he'd go to a frat house for steak night.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Glencora

                                  Glencora, thanks for chiming in w/ your .02 - and true enough, they did indeed have more adventurous palates than I was expecting.
                                  Love the last. :) Kids always know where their bread's buttered.

                                2. Love your attitude, and your meal choices. :)

                                  The temp here in TX just dropped 20 degrees F over the weekend, so now I can believe that there will actually be a Fall season. So here's what's on my mind for now:

                                  -white chicken chili (cucumber/bell pepper/tomato/kalamata salad, and rice or buttered tortillas on side)
                                  -crawfish scrambled eggs (served on croissants or hoagie rolls, dirty rice and greens on the side; use frozen crawfish)
                                  -King Ranch casserole (I know it angers the haters, but it's still loved around here; you can make all from scratch if desired; stores and reheats well)

                                  Edited to add an old fave: Italian sausage, peppers, and onions, grilled and sliced, then simmered in tomato sauce and served on starch of choice -- hoagie rolls, rice, or penne pasta. I've used also Field Roast Italian sausages and no one knew they were vegetarian.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: DuchessNukem

                                    I am going to have to do the white bean chili, for sure: I hear "chili" and my mind inevitably goes "redredred." I've made some versions which were amazingly well-received, so double thank you for reminding me that generally what translates well for 8 will work just as well for 30+, if I revise.

                                  2. I just remembered a really tasty dish --


                                    and another here -- http://cookingwithmolly.com/Chicken%2...

                                    You could have a traditional turkey dinner in the spring, substitute lemon bars for pumpkin pie as a concession to the season.

                                    I love scalloped corn (milk & eggs go into this, with or without frankfurters on top


                                    You could call *all* their mothers and ask...!

                                    1. My sister-in-law is visiting and we have a big pot of lima beans on the stove that will be served with cornbread tonight. Simple, filling, low cost vegetarian dinner. And I do love red beans with ham or sausage.

                                      Last night we had taco salads for s-i-l's b'day. With plenty of black beans. Something for the boys to assemble themselves, and it's all veg until they add strips of chicken or beef on top. And those shells are refillable!

                                      For baked potato nights, offer a few baked sweet potatoes. They're not as amenable to 'toppings' but I sure like them. I had twice-baked potatoes in my freezer most of my college years. You can put cooked ground beef in them, too, for a one-dish meal.

                                      It's tough to serve seafood to a crowd and on a budget. Sunny mentioned jambalaya, there's also paella. But a big pan of baked fish is awesome if budget permits. Ummmm Veracruz.

                                      We really like stuffed pork loin. Usually a spinach/oregano/feta stuffing, but sometimes fruit instead. The slices are so pretty.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: AreBe

                                        Re: toppings for sweet potatoes...I often add diced sweet potatoes to my pumpkin chili but never thought to top a baked sweet potato with chili. Thanks for the inspiration AreBe!

                                      2. A layered pasta frittata
                                        For the idea, not for the specific recipe

                                        Salads, including chicken, maybe curried chicken salad, to be stuffed into pitas
                                        Here’s a really terrific curried chicken salad. Not that you need one.

                                        Paella in paella pans probably isn’t realistic, but before I owned one I used to make paella in a Dutch oven. No soccarat, but mighty tasty. This isn’t it, but the technique was similar.

                                        Who mentioned gumbo? There’s a very good one in Prudhomme’s Louisana Kitchen with chicken and andouille. Substitute kielbasa?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          The poor man's jambalaya with sausage and ham from that Prudhomme book is super "guy food" too.

                                        2. Do you have the oven space for homemade pizza?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: PotatoPuff

                                            I have the space for it, but we've got access to one of the World's Great Take-out Pizzas, up in Berkeley: Zachary's. When I'm feeling a lack of inclination......also, the guys always have Boboli,cheeses and veg. in the house fridge.....so I let them do their thing there. :)
                                            Actually now that I think of it, I have space for Pizza: The First Helping Only. I'd have to be there cranking them out. Nope. :)

                                          2. Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese is a lot like mine, though I use Parmigiano-Reggiano in place of the gruyere. The recipe doubles or triples easily (I imagine you have all the cookware you need for your crowd).


                                            Also, I'm delving into Lynn Rossetto Kasper's THE SPLENDID TABLE this fall. I'll bet I'm going to find a lot of things there you could make for a crowd.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Jay F

                                              Yum to that. And when you find them, please find your way back here to share......
                                              yep on the cookware - I just use industrial, restaurant-grade for cooking and serving, for the most part. Reasonably-priced and replaceable. One of the guys here who actually does his own serious cooking came complete w/ his own set of Caphalon. :)

                                            2. Hey, I love happy accidents, and today's is that we've only got 18 for dinner, which means the planned prawn/steak kabobs turned into NOLA BBQ'd Shrimp, w/ oven rice pilaf (bell peppers, onion and celery) buttered loaves of French Bread, heated in the oven; spinach salad, and a mushroomy oniony tofu-y tamari flattop hash that thems what doesn't eat meat/fish can eat w/ the pilaf and bread and salad. Laizzes bon temps rouler!

                                              Root beer floats on offer if sweets are required.
                                              And the Magical Blackboard goes up tonight; someone will phone in the B-day requests over the weekend. Please god let it not be something like homemade egg rolls, because they'll get them, but oy the work, said the happy martyr. :)

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                That sounds delicious. Normally kids go home from school and look forward to home cooking but in this case, they're going to go home and miss school food!

                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                  Oh my gosh, mamachef! Dinner last night sounds just fabulous. Those are some very fortunate young men!

                                                2. how about this? Vegetarian!

                                                  Black Bean Pie
                                                  1 tbsp olive oil
                                                  1 c onion, chopped
                                                  1 green bell pepper, chopped
                                                  1 small can green chilies, diced
                                                  2 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained
                                                  1/2 c salsa
                                                  1 1/4 tsp chili powder
                                                  1/2 tsp cumin
                                                  1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
                                                  1/2 tsp black pepper
                                                  3/4 tsp salt or Adobo seasoning
                                                  2 pie shells, unbaked

                                                  PPL I know who have made it have used a cornmeal crust like a tamale, or polenta, or biscuits, even mashed potatoes instead of a pie crust

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: ediecooks

                                                    Beautiful, and sounds delicious. I'd probably head straight to a polenta crust for this. Thank you!!

                                                    1. re: ediecooks

                                                      ediecooks, that sounds yummy! My husband is a vegetarian and one of his faves is Frito pie using vegetarian chili. He would absolutely love that black bean pie and the rest of the family would enjoy it as well. I'll bet crushed fritos would work nicely as a crust, too. I'm trying this one out soon! Thank you for sharing!

                                                      1. re: ediecooks

                                                        Adding...ooops...the final ingredient should be 2 cups of shredded cheese, which then makes the instructions below make more sense. recipe did not specify type, i usually have cheddar in the house, so that's what i've used.

                                                      2. I'm curious now, mama - What's the food budget for that many oinkers? I don't even wanna know how much food they can plow through...

                                                        1. chicken or turkey divan is great over baked potatoes. I made a new pasta sauce last night that was great; you just roast tomatoes, garlic and whole onions in the oven with olive oil, salt , pepper, rosemary or basil and then puree the results together. Yum! It also converts well into a soup with the addition of chicken stock. What about a soup bar? One creamy, one clear, one vegetable etc. with breads and rolls and salads. Great for rainy nights. I love cornbread or beer bread with my soup. Lamb shanks braised in red wine with garlic, onion, rosemary, mir poix and white beans. To die for! And it makes a side dish at the same time! For something to do with ground beef try gyros. Serve with the tradtional sauce and onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber in pitas.How about moussaka, or pastitsio? Souvlaki with tzatziki and the fixin's and greek rice and roasted potatoes. Schwarma in pitas. Bulgar salads (my daughter eats our favourite for breakfast, lunch and dinner) Pulled pork or chicken in barbeque sauce. I have to say, I've been loving watching Jamie Oliver's Meals in minutes and he has some ideas you could use; a beautiful sweet potato puree with chilies and feta, piri piri chicken, etc. I'm sure I'll think of 20 more things as soon as I post this, but that's it for now! lol

                                                          1. New to this so I don't know your history. You prepare supper only? No breakfast or lunch?

                                                            1. mamachef - I did not know that this is what you do! Very cool, and your chowhound name really makes a lot of sense now (Betty Crocker makes a little bit of sense too).

                                                              I like the ideas of "buffets": taco bars, curry bars, etc. Each person can choose their inclusions and their amounts.

                                                              I've done (for a crowd) a do-it-yourself Mexican/Southwestern soup that might work for you, with some adjustments. I start with bowls of a clear broth, but for hungry young men you might start with a heartier soup like a black bean. Then just put out bowls of chicken, chorizo, garbanzos, avocado, corn, cilantro, tomatoes, chiles, cheese, sour cream, etc, etc. Eaters can enjoy anything from a simple soup to a chunky, hearty, and spicy concoction. Stack up tortillas on the side.

                                                              BTW, I could murder a Zachary's pizza about now. Sometimes I really miss the Bay Area!

                                                              1. i forgot to put the instructions
                                                                Preheat oven to 325. Heat oil in large pan. Add onion and green pepper, and sauté until tender. Add chilies, beans, salsa, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Place unbaked pie shell in deep dish pie pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese mixture on bottom. Pour in 1/2 of the bean mixture. Top with 1/3 of cheese, and pour in rest of beans. Cover with remaining cheese and pie shell. Place into oven and bake 45 minutes, or until pie crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: ediecooks

                                                                  Cheese was not in your oroginal list of ingredients. What kind and how much?

                                                                2. didnt see this one mentioned yet (apologies if it was), but im a big fan of shepherds pie, which is very easy to make vegetarian, and all sorts of pot pies. chicken or veggie pot pies were my go-to meals in college- i used frozen pie crust if it was too hot (or i didnt have time) to make my own. frozen veggies too. very very easy

                                                                  i love savory pies of all sorts- and "free-form" pies were great- pie crust + any kind of filling + a few loose folds + some time in the oven. so much fun to make and easily customizable (not that im suggesting you should make individual pies based on each frat boy's taste)

                                                                  hope this helps!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: InSearchOfTacos

                                                                    You read my mind as I was going through the thread. Love a pot pie! Quite recently at a local place on a cold rainy night my husband ordered chicken pot pie and he was offered puff pastry or regular crust- it was baked to order. I have resolved to make a better pie filling adding curry and potatoes but stick with the puff pie topping - so good!

                                                                    My current favorite when cooking for a small crowd is savory stratas, made up the night before and usually vegetarian but not exclusively. It's easy to assemble several and vary the savory filling.

                                                                  2. You.Are.All.Awesome.
                                                                    I hope I've been clear: this job is the best thing that ever happened to me. I've done everything from prep. to supervising a formal brigade, and THIS job feeds my soul and my spirit. And it feels to me as if you get that. I like having a one-to-one connection with the people I'm responsible for feeding. It's different in a restaurant - they choose to come there. But in a somewhat closed environment, the compliments mean much more, and the menu choices I make feel much more personal.
                                                                    I cook dinner only: most frats employ a dinner cook and the rest of the meals are up to the fellas themselves. Their frat dues or boarder rents also go towards a frat fridge, which is really well stocked w/ the basics, and they make their own b-fast and lunch meals. I didn't know from frat cooking, and it never occurred to me that I should just go buy some big pans of Stouffer's and let them have at it, though I hear it happens elsewhere. I just kind of remodified home cooking, times seven or so. :)
                                                                    The budget is pretty free. The actual breakdown is roughly $4/per/dinner. This works because to counterbalance the NOLA prawn dinner, they'll have a NOLA red beans/rice dinner. :) The beauty is, they don't mind. More than one of them is interested in not only cooking, but in food history.
                                                                    I love the ideas I'm getting here. I have a feeling it's going to be a very good year.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                      Your job sounds great, and I'm so happy to hear how much you love it, mamachef! I hope you will keep posting about your meals and adventures cooking for the boys.
                                                                      They are so lucky to have you!

                                                                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                        Exactly. There is nothing better than loving your work so that it doesn't feel like work, and that in turn will be shared with those lucky guys. Win/win/win! (It's a win for us because we get to read about it and I LOVE happy stories, especially about food!!!)

                                                                    2. Tonight's carte: Sloppy joes, sloppy chickens and sloppy seitans. 1 mayo slaw; 1 vinegar. Oven garlic fries, and sliced melon.And the first full week is off with a bang.(!)

                                                                      1. And onto Tuesday! By popular decree as well as a love of the euphonious, Tuesday is again and shall remain, Taco Tuesday. Which means, we'll have something vaguely Mexican, or anyway something cumin-y and cilantro-y. Tonight is several pans of baked enchiladas; 2 meat, 2 chicken, 2 black-bean/cheese. Cilantro-lime rice, salsas (red and green) and a huge romaine salad with pumpkin seeds for a garnish. Dessert is whatever's around the house: plenty of baked goods, ice cream and the like. And tomorrow the Birfdayday board will be revealed in all it's glory!!
                                                                        Have a great week, y'all.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: mamachef

                                                                          Can I be a dry frat boy in my next life please?

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            Of course you can! I've already been reborn as such!!

                                                                        2. I remember the woman who cooked at the frat I lived in while I was dating a brother - 25 years ago? She made it a safe place for me in many ways, and I remember both her acts of kindness and her excellent dinners with gratitude. Thanks for posting about your work.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: THewat

                                                                            Thewat: what a nice way to put that. "A safe place." I do try to do that - don't give much advice unless asked, but there's something unmistakeable about the face of a young man heading out to his first major job interview, when he feels like he's going to be judged and maybe cast aside. Human nature, yeah? So pep talks about the dynamics of HR are a large part of our conversations, especially as the years' end grows close.

                                                                          2. Something I picked up from Jamie Oliver month and which I've used to great success feeding the bf and some of his rugby team is traybakes: a big roasting pan with maybe chicken drumsticks and sausages, then chunks of potatoes, other root veg, onions etc, tossed with oil and whatever herbs/spices you want. Think little bits of chorizo with parika and cayenne for spanish-y, garlic and oregano for more italian-ish. The veggie tray could have mushrooms or aubergine to bulk it out. Into the oven it goes, time to relax! Then maybe some yoghurty dips, salad, breads on the side.

                                                                            Also, the boys absolutely love their mashed potatoes with the skins still on. It's a lifesaver, considering how much of the stuff they can put away.

                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                            1. re: gembellina

                                                                              Awesome, gembellina! And yep: the "dirty" mashed potatoes are a lifesaver, and I do them that way frequently. Another timesaver is to give 'em a scrub and boil them, and then the peels come off straight away. But you do need teflon fingers to handle them. :)

                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                Dirty mash, I'll be stealing that name!

                                                                                1. re: gembellina

                                                                                  mamachef, Just curious, how many do you have to cook for when you are done with work? Do you then go home and cook again for your family? You must get exhausted! I am exhausted just thinking about cooking for so. many. people. every. day.

                                                                                  1. re: lilmomma

                                                                                    Depends on the day, but for the most part, just my husband and I. Sometimes he's out, and I'll eat there, or meet a friend or go home to watch bad tv, talk on the phone and eat things he doesn't appreciate (See today's WFD for details), sometimes he meets me there and we go out. On the weekends we're more social in our home, but not so much this year. :) And now and I again I'll pick up a catering side-job, and then all bets are off.

                                                                                2. re: mamachef

                                                                                  I don't think I've ever peeled potatoes (red) for mashed.

                                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                                    Not sure I have either, Jay F: but I usually boil nice starchy Russet or Burbanks for that somethin' extra when I'm mashing. And I usually boil them with smashed garlic cloves. :)

                                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                                      You guys are living on the edge. I was quite shocked when the concept was presented to me last year.

                                                                                3. re: gembellina

                                                                                  I do it this way too ... scrub and dice Yukon Golds, and then I 'mash' them in the Kitchen Aid using the paddle. The paddle catches a lot of the skins, and the rest are just fine in the mashed potatoes.

                                                                                  One of my favorite non-meat dishes is risotto with vegetables (I use chicken broth)--carrots, celery, onion, leeks. The freshly-ground white pepper is important. Also good with chicken. Sometimes I do it as a one-dish meal, other times serve a side salad. Fancy--blood oranges. Less fancy--mandarin orange sections from a can. I do a balsamic vinaigrette with a little sugar and powdered ginger.

                                                                                4. People like to build their own, and it sounds as you've got many ideas, and I imagine you are a terrific cook! I like to incorporate a build your own salad bar sometimes with a chili dinner. Almost everyone loves to do this. And a chicken pot pie topped with biscuits is a good possibility for you, if it isn't too labor intensive. And, there has been a brief discussion about King Ranch Casserole on this forum. This casserole pleased my guys many nights.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                    Yes ma'am: indeed King Ranch is a popular one. And an oven-beef stew, topped with biscuits. I love being able to make casseroles they don't consider unduly casseroley. :)
                                                                                    Hell, who am I kidding. They even love good old Tuna Casserole w/ crushed plain chips; and really - what's not to like about that either?
                                                                                    You're right, there's a novelty bonus attached to letting people self-create. And I've been amazed at some combos coming off the hot dog bar. I mean, weird stuff; stuff I didn't put out there but it made it onto the dogs anyway by dinnertime. A hot dog w/ peanut butter and mayonnaise and chopped brined olives definitely had my jaw agape.

                                                                                  2. Have you played around with Korean food yet? Bibimbap can be easily adapted for the vegetarians (just leave off the beef; add some tofu if you want). You could call it bibimbap bar! Leftover bulgogi could go into tacos for taco night...lots of soups & stews to play with, and tone of veggie side dishes.

                                                                                    My oldest went off to kindergarten this year. If he makes it all the way to college, I hope he'll have someone like you cooking for him : -)

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: gimlis1mum

                                                                                      Interestingly, tomorrow night is Birfdayday night, w/ the agreed-upon meal being "Asian flavors" which gives me tons of room. I'm marinating ribsteaks in a bulkogi marinade, doing a major veg. fried rice, marinated veg. and pickles, and some seitan (marinated) veg. kebabs.
                                                                                      Love the idea of the bibimbap bar. I could really even manage to make sure they had poached eggs available at service.....I think. I'm not David Chang, and AGO isn't Momofuko, but I could sure give it a whirl.
                                                                                      Ah, and just for grins and 'cause we're strange like that, dessert is, by request, a Tres Leches cake. Mixin' the poles. It's all good.

                                                                                    2. Fun thread. I've been following it.

                                                                                      Are you at a point where you can share photos of your prep kitchen, your available tools, your service and dining areas?

                                                                                      I had an experience where I chose in my freshman year to cook at a wilderness conference center. We fed groups weekly, ranging up to 150. I fell in love with the cadence of that kitchen, and also with stainless steel, and also with food grins of those at the conferences.

                                                                                      So I'd love see the mechanical things you've got to work with, with these frat boys.

                                                                                      1. Well, as of today, it's back to the saltmine. I can't complain - ready to go try it on for size after an extended leave. No classes per the holiday, so the guys'll be in and out, and there'll be offers of help available.
                                                                                        Tonight, we've got a cold snap to endure so the bill of fare is heading directly for the hearty rib-stickers - black bean and sirloin chili, with a few portions lifted out before meat's added for my veggie dudes; sharp cheddar and jalapeno cornbread, rice and salad. Nice and easy. I'll whomp that out and then probably sit down with them myself and catch up with everyone.
                                                                                        Have a great, safe week, y'all.

                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: mamachef

                                                                                          Sounds delish, and I'm sure the guys will be glad to have you back :)

                                                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                                                            I just came across this and I'm loving it! I've cooked for large groups of high school students and in my experience, for sheer appreciation there are few groups for gratifying to serve than young men. I also cook for smaller "large" groups of 8-10 guys when my husband hosts gaming night.

                                                                                            It sounds like you've already gotten plenty of ideas, but perhaps a pulled chicken/pulled pork night? A friend of mine introduced us to "hot wing" chicken sandwiches. Chicken pieces cooked in buffalo sauce and served on buns with glue cheese and carrot/celery sticks on the side. Very simple but delicious. Dirty rice is another stick to the ribs favorite from my southern childhood. My mom made a simplified version using ground beef but tvp would work easily for a veg option. I've also done rolled and stuffed burritos baked "wet" with chili sauce. Delicious with rice. I do traditional red rice but I LOVE a arroz verde and find it's perfect for using up all the odds and ends of green bits in my kitchen. I have added things like beet and radish greens for a nice extra flavor. If you serve it mixed with beans and corn, it's a full meal for the veg students and you can serve a meat dish on the side. For a change from pasta, I love a good polenta lasagne. Gumbo is another dish I often make for a crowd and will cook meat on the side to toss in if I'm serving a diverse group. A nice smoked veg sausage would be perfect for everyone. I hate making enchiladas for a huge group, but stacked enchiladas hit the same flavor notes are are far simpler to assemble. Also, like lasagne, they're delicious for a late night snack or lunch the next day. Thai red curry with sweet potato or kombucha is also a simple option for groups and so delicious.

                                                                                            I'm sort of jealous of your job, sounds like it's incredible fun and usually pretty rewarding!

                                                                                            1. re: alitria

                                                                                              alitria, I'm going back after a necessary leave of absence. I DO love it so much. It's completely rewarding and fun to boot.
                                                                                              Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions. Love the Buffalo wing sandwich. Funnily enough, I've made a Buffalo wing SOUP that they adored. (They're pretty good with soups of all kinds.)I do lots of pulled chicken and pork on buns, especially when time's at a premium. Yep to stacked (not rolled) enchiladas, and the polenta too. And I'm definitely hanging onto the gumbo idea. It does fit within our budget, and I'm sure they'd seriously chow down.
                                                                                              Again, thanks!!

                                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                Marcy my husband would be happy if i made your beer roast every night!

                                                                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                  Nothing like a big bowl of gumbo and plenty of rice to fill up hungry crowds! I have a college age cousin in Oklahoma who calls when he's coming home to schedule gumbo night at my house.

                                                                                                  Also, when (if) you have a chance, I'd love to hear about that buffalo wing soup! I do chili, taco soup, etc and love a good spicy bowl of soup on cold nights. You can never have too many options!

                                                                                                  1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                    Whoa, mamachef...any chance of that Buffalo Wing Soup recipe? I am loving this thread...it's my new go-to for uninspired nights (and I'm only cooking for four!)

                                                                                                2. re: mamachef

                                                                                                  Marcy, you make it sound like the most fun. I wish I lived nearby and could come over and cook with you some day.

                                                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                    Hey you all!! It IS fun. I really love being around people, and those guys are polite, funny, intelligent, imperfect, loving, and very human. It's marvelous to watch them growing into the people they're supposed to be. I had the same experience with my own children and my BFF's kids.
                                                                                                    The fact that I'm FEEDING them is key. It IS the way to their heart. But when an 18-year old brings you a beautiful flower, just to say thanks? What's not to love?
                                                                                                    Ironically it's also the only job I've ever had where friends can drop by anytime. I've dragged people along with me many a time, to hang out and work. Because it's a house environment,(huge, but homey and they're not too messy), never a problem. Jay, I'd put you to work instantly. :)
                                                                                                    Ach, the Buffalo Chicken soup is so easy....
                                                                                                    You can make broth, from a regular old chicken and veg - you'll want a strong stock. You'll need a grand total of eight cups broth, to serve 4 generously, as a main dish. You can also use canned stock and a rotisserie chicken - remove the breast, and shred, and set aside. (If you do make your own stock, retrive the breast meat. It's more for texture than flavor anyway. Ok, now you need to saute half a cup of sliced celery and half a cup of diced white onion in 3 T. butter till transluscent. To that, add 1/3 c. ap flour, and stir over heat until flour is absorbed. (about a full minute; maybe two.) Add to that two cups of your broth, slowly whisking it in and let the mixture thicken, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add roux to rest of broth, stirring well, and let that thicken. Add 1 c. heavy cream and 1/3 c. Frank's RedHot!Sauce and shredded chicken. Let simmer; do not boil at this point. Taste for salt and pepper. Top with more hot sauce and crumbled blue cheese.
                                                                                                    I'm thinking about ways to even deconstruct this. Something about the crumbled cheese - I need to figure that out. What do you think of swirling in a T. or so of really good blue cheese dressing at the end? I may try that next time I make this.
                                                                                                    Really good served with celery sticks and other crudite, and pretzel rolls.

                                                                                                    1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                      why not have a bowl of blue cheese and let the boys top the soup themselves that way it is fresh in the soup and if you have anybody who dislikes blue cheese they can skip it

                                                                                                      1. re: apg13

                                                                                                        The cheese is served so that they can opt out, apg13. But it's a universally-popular flavor, at least there - I've never seen a guy not take it. I was just trying to think of other ways to serve this dish, 'cause that's how my mind works. :)

                                                                                                        1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                          How about blue cheese croutons or crostini to float on the soup. Love your ideas and think your job sounds terrific!

                                                                                                          1. re: Terrie H.

                                                                                                            Ooooh. I like this a LOT. It would provide the crunch that you don't get since there aren't any wings, hence no skin. Need to toss this around, Terrie H.
                                                                                                            Tonight's bill of fare is pulled chicken sandwiches, German potato salad, green salad and slaw. I have the "bones" for a veggie stock, and I'm going to make a big veg. soup for the fellas who don't eat of the meat: stock, onions and garlic and celery and carrot mirepoix, and then beans and rice and veggies. Oh indeed, that's one leftover they love, the soup pot. I have one Birfdayday request yet, which WAS for keema, naan and chutney - two more requests should be on the board when I get there today. Hope they're easy.
                                                                                                            Have a great day, y'all: I'm planning to do the same.

                                                                                                3. This thread makes me happy in ways I can't really analyze. I'm glad it is alive again and mamachef, I am glad you are back in action, we have missed you as I am very sure that your Boys did.

                                                                                                  1. I'm with everyone else who is so jealous of your job! What a wonderful way to make your living. So many great ideas already and you seem very adept at cooking almost anything. So a couple of ideas that haven't been mentioned yet:

                                                                                                    Pozole Rojo - Very hearty, delicious, easy to make ahead and I love it for the garnishes. I like to make mine very thick and top it with avocado, radishes, cabbage, cilantro, onion, cotija cheese and twice fried tortilla chips. Leave some hot sauce for the boys who want to make theirs extra hot.

                                                                                                    Japanese (sorta) Soba - It's a cold noodle dish which would be great for the warmer days. I like to top mine with some non-traditional mix-ins like shrimp, cabbage, egg strands, cucumbers, shredded chicken, edamame, and cilantro. I also add some chinese hot mustard to the soba sauce. Then top off with nori and for the adventurous ones, tobiko or salmon roe.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: soypower

                                                                                                      Soypower, this is wonderful. The noodles especially are something they'd LOVE, and they really like having a "bar" to personalize their meals. Thank you!!

                                                                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                        Oh dear. I noticed that I neglected to mention that I use the soba/udon sauce that comes in a large bottle at the japanese market. This is what brings flavor to the whole dish. I like to mix the hot mustard in with the sauce (diluted with water as it's very concentrated) and pour it over like a dressing.

                                                                                                    2. When I went to Cal (Go Bears!), there were a couple of family-style Italian restaurants bordering that No Man's Land between Oakland and Berkeley. Forget their names, but the food was cheap and predictably delicious.

                                                                                                      IIRC, they'd bring out salad and garlic bread first, then a bowl of spaghetti and a bowl of ravioli for the table to share, the portion sized for your group. Then you'd order a protein to add on separately, like roasted/baked chicken quarters with Italian seasoning, chicken piccata, whatever, that came on share it-sized platters.

                                                                                                      Wine came in carafes, and as long as a few of the diners looked old enough, they really didn't bother with ages for the rest of the table (oh the heady 70's!).

                                                                                                      I think about those places every now and then, and long for a meal like that again. Since they like food bars so much, that might be a fun idea for the frat boys some night, sans the wine, of course!

                                                                                                      1. DIY summer rolls. Put out platters of batter-fried fish and tofu, bean sprouts, cilatro/basil/mint, cucumbers, tightly rolled and fried egg roll skins, fried shallots, lettuce, vermicelli, and cucumber and pineapple slices. Make a peanut dipping sauce and a fish sauce-based one. Have rice paper wrappers with shallow bowls of warm water for them to soften the wrappers in.