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Feeding a congregation

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My wife just signed us up to provide a meal at church once a month, and I'm trying to come up with a few ideas. We do a fair amount of cooking for crowds, and can put together some decent bbq for 50 or so without much effort. This is a slightly more daunting prospect.

We need to be able to prep and store at home (most likely on Sunday in a fairly standard to smallish home kitchen), then on Wednesday leave work at 3 pm, pick up the food at home, transport to the church kitchen to heat and do final prep to serve by 5:45 pm.

I'd like to avoid the inevitable pasta and a giant vat of sauce.

Last night was our first effort, and we were a little overwelmed. Had planned for 40-50 and ended up serving closer to 80. Did pulled pork, fries, and bleu cheese coleslaw. BBQed and pulled the pork Sunday, heated trays along with the fries (frozen), and did a homemade dressing for bagged slaw mix. Worked out alright, but again we were misinformed about the quantity needed. Ended up stretching everything to feed 70 folks before we had to break out emergency fried chicken from Popeyes.

Next month I'm thinking about BBQed brisket on Texas toast, with Ranchero beans and a salad. I know I can pull this off pretty easily with a high level of quality, but could use some ideas beyond that. I don't think I want to bbq for each month, but then again that may be well recieved. The immediate reviews on the pork last night were positive. Only problem was the pain I personally suffered with fairly scimpy portions as we tried to get it to stretch.

I'm thinking Jambalaya might be a good option. Easy enough to prep component parts then assemble in aluminum trays to reheat later in the week. Cornbread, and veg on the side.

Any other ideas, or helpful hints would be appreciated.

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  1. The problem might be, if they are used to a vat of sauce and pasta, your meal is very enticing. Is this a free meal, or is it a fund raiser, is my first question.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coll

      There's a nominal fee per diner. It's essentially just something they do on Wednesdays to offer everyone a chance to eat before bible study, and other group meetings without having to go home and get bogged down in making dinner etc. It's a good combination of convenience and socializing.

    2. Two thoughts:

      Chili with salad and cornbread.

      An interesting macaroni and cheese with a side salad. (A pasta, I know, but not necessarily the usual.)

      7 Replies
      1. re: karykat

        I could do a chili-mac. I'm a pretty experienced competition chili cook (snob). I don't think I could produce enough of a reasonbable quality that I'd be comfortable serving, but I could pull off a chili-mac I'd stand behind.

        Oh, and Pastichio. I could pull that off without it feeling like too much of a cop out.

        Thanks

        1. re: laststandchili

          How would Mexican casseroles go over? Enchiladas, that kind of thing. And things like gumbo, the trick is to make more rice than main.

          Also lasagna or baked ziti, rather than just a vat of sauce?

          1. re: coll

            Good call. I think a tamale pie would be very doable.

            I make a mean gumbo. Only problem is that the pastor is originally from Louisiana. Presenting gumbo would be a roll of the dice. I'm already a little apprehensive about attempting a jambalaya.

            1. re: laststandchili

              Too bad there's not a kitchen there, it would be fun to cook together with an expert!

              Once in a while, a roast beef or turkey dinner with all the sides is a nice change too.

              1. re: coll

                There is a pretty good kitchen. Two ranges, fridges, lots of prep space. Biggest issue is time constraints on a workday. I think taking a day to prep and cook on site would be great. I'm sure we'll work it in at some point.

                1. re: laststandchili

                  That would be fun. Maybe even invite a few interested congregants, sort of an inpromtu cooking class and they can help you.

              2. re: laststandchili

                Hey, you're doing this as a service, I think folks would be happy for the food. Sounds like the crowd is very "meat and potatoes." What about a hearty chicken stew with biscuits on the side and homemade iced oatmeal cookies? You can definitely make everything way ahead of time freeze and let the stew defrost in the fridge the day of. It should take long to heat of the stew.

                Another idea is taco salad. Marinate chicken breasts overnight in lime juice, soy sauce, cumin, and chili powder. Roast in the oven the night before and then cut them up for the salad. Put out bowls of lettuce, chopped onions, copped tomatoes, grated cheese, tortilla chips and sour cream. I like to make my own lime vinaigrette but bottle dressing will work fine. For dessert, make a chocolate sauce ahead of time (I actually do 1 pound of chocolate and a can of coconut milk) with precut fruit to dip it in.

        2. How about some kind of egg dish, i.e., a Mexican tortilla, a strata, or even a breakfast casserole with sausage, cheese, etc.? Those are so easy to prepare ahead and put in large containers, then just bake up when you are ready.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jlhinwa

            When this first came up I immediately thought of the pancake suppers I used to help at back in my misty youth as a Boy Scout. I totally like the breakfast possibilities.

            Carnitas would be another good option. Stew the meat ahead and fry up to serve with tortillas, beans, and rice.

            1. re: jlhinwa

              A strata sounds fantastic. Can be made special by adding whatever vegs or good cheese appeals to you.

              Another idea is a turkey tetrazzini. I know you wanted to stay away from pasta with a vat of sauce but the little bit of sherry in this makes it seem different. I use the recipe from this thread called "tetrazzini from Mikey" contributed by Will Owen. I put some breadcrumbs on top: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5982...

              Good for a crowd.

            2. What about a Low Country Boil? Have everything cut up and ready to go into the pot. Shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, muchrooms, onion quarters.. Yum. Serve with some savory sauces, potato salad, french bread or any other killer side dishes.... maybe finish with a few wet naps to keep the congregation sweet smelling for bible study? :-)

              1. I will propose chicken pot pie with a biscuit topping, but I can't tell from your post if that is entirely feasible. But I have another thought. You need 2 families to pull this off every 4 weeks or so. The burden you are carrying is too great, especially if you will be doing this for the next year or so. It sounds as if you are a very good cook who is able to do this, but it is a lot to have sole responsibility for (with your wife of course).

                1. chicken and rice....or like we do in SC...Chicken Bog...it feeds a ton!
                  lasangna or stuffed shells and a salad
                  three or four different soups, corn bread and crackers
                  goulosh with a salad
                  ham and biscuits, corn pudding, layer salad
                  breakfast for dinner

                  1. How about a beef stew? My Men's Bible study group serves it from time to time to 100+.

                    On a separate note, Pima County AZ prohibits home prepared foods from being served at such functions, so everything needs to be prepared in the church kitchen. A problem to round up enuf help to get a meal done in a few hours, peeling, dicing, etc. Need a large crew, and a patient supervisor/chef

                    Blessings

                    1. How about cooking up some beef and shred it, add bbq sauce and cook. Then roll up in soft taco flour tortilla like flautas. I freeze them and then stick in the oven and bake. I always have them on hand.
                      Beef stew, cook ahead and just rewarm. As others said, chili and cornbread. Salads, chinese chicken salad. Can either buy roasted chicken at Costco and then add to salad.

                      1. chili, i was a career caterer before retiring 2 yr ago, so batch cooking was the norm. Question: there is no working kitchen at church w/ refrig and ovens? if not, do you have a 2nd frig at home?

                        1. A couple of soups and bread are easy to make ahead. Minestrone, corn/potato chowder, Pho, butternut squash, bean soups, chicken noodle, chicken rice, tomato and cheese toast, lentil. Good way to incorporate vegetables. Like chili mentioned earlier but with all its variations could be served with baked potatoes.

                          1. I cook once a month for a smaller crowd and the food is reheated at the site the day after we cook it. I avoid pasta like the plague and occasionally do a vegetarian meal. Rice casseroles are the easiest- they reheat well. I do a lot of oven baked chicken - usually drumsticks from Costco to go with the rice casseroles. Cowboy beans and chili, white or red, tacos and meatball sandwiches if it's hot out. I like the chicken pot pie idea but mine has to be fully cooked before they will accept it- it's a day shelter for women and they use microwaves for heating. I buy what's on sale and try to include toppings/condiments like shredded cheese or ketchup or hot sauce. The site supplies a salad and dessert.

                            1. How about shepherds pie? You can cook the feeling and keep it in a large box in the freeze, same with the mash, then just assemble and heat in the oven on serving day. It has everything in it like a one dish meal. Also, beef stew can be good. Chili is already mentioned. You can do different types of beans. Casseroles are also easy to freeze. Do you have the time roast chicken? You can cut up the chickens and use large roasting trays.You can have quite a good amount of chicken roasted in a few batches.

                              1. A friend recently did a group about that size. She did chicken curry. It was very mild and fantastic. She also had salad stuff and of course, a big bowl of rice. I think she had pita bread, too. Curry is generally better the second day, anyway. A little cilantro garnish on the serving container and people will love the color.