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Cooking party ideas

I like to have friends over and do the cooking with them. Shockingly, I've found this more difficult to put on that I'd initially thought. Some things take far too long in the oven to be practical for a cooking party. Some things really have the "too many chefs spoil the broth" issue. I try to find something that we can be actively cooking where everyone can really be involved. Do you have suggestions or book/website recommendations? Thanks

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  1. how many people? do you have the space for several people to be chopping, washing vegs, etc...enough burners? I'm thinking of paella and some spanish tapas...do you want everything ready at once? warm enough and grilling possible?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Madrid

      Yes, I have a large kitchen. In the past we've done things like risotto (with roasted chicken breasts, salads with chopped in extras), rolled stuffed pork, make-your-own pizza, and a sushi-making party. But I'm starting to run out of ideas. I have a large center-island which is a nice prep-area, 4-burner gas grill, double ovens, warming drawer, all kinds of odds-n-ends, outdoor gas grill. Have a couple big chefs knives, 4 cutting boards.

      The paella idea sounds nice. Enough "busy work" that everyone can get involved. I was also thinking making different sauces, or stuffing like manicotti or homemade ravioli

      1. re: bblonde

        wow, you have a great kitchen and so wonderful to share it with friends. If paella sounds good, you could have some people prepping it....it can be finished last minute on stove or in oven. others prepping some mostly raw tapas, fixing up cheeses and roasted marcona almonds, olives and some working on the great catalan romesco sauce for dipping, vegs, and for grilled shrimp or pork brochettes someone else is doing. grilled or roasted asparagus wrapped in spanish serrano ham or not. grilled tuna or scallops also great with the romesco, you could even try some grilled baby octopus.

    2. What about pasta or ravioli? It gives you some down time to make the flling, have some wine, chat. Or, dumplings would be fun.

      1. What if you broke it down into courses? Then a couple people could be doing something easier/quicker for appetizers while others could be working on later/longer cooking dishes. When one is done, folks eat that and then they early cookers can become a cleaner uppers for the later ones...getting the table ready too.

        1. tamales!

          you could also do a bunch of small plates instead of a focal/main course, and assign a couple of people to each dish so everyone has an essential task. in fact, if you choose a specific cuisine and keep all the dishes within that theme, you can explore a different one each time...more excuses for more parties ;)

          1. Thai food would be great; you could have lot's of chopping action, there are short marination times for some ingredients, things can be made in progression.

            You could prep together and make; green papaya salad, summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce, Thom Ka coconut soup, and a stir fry with noodles or Pho for last. Maybe fresh papaya with lime for dessert. Lot's of thai beer and good reisling.

            A great group dinner that would have good timing.

            1. A Mediterranean Theme -
              someone preps hummus and pita, someone stuffs/wraps dolmas, someone makes baba ghanoush, someone makes a garlic sauce, another kebabs, baklava, etc.

              Mexican...
              enchiladas - someone makes sauce, someone makes filling, then together they do an assembly line for rolling; someone make rice with a cilantro sauce, someone make guacamole and chips, someone beans and salad... pre-make dessert or fry bunuelos at the end :)

              Or do a theme ingredient like:

              -Tomatoes - tomato soup, panzanella, Stuffed Tomatoes, Marinara Sauce over noodles or polenta, tomato cobbler, and tomato sorbet/ice cream for dessert

              -Eggplant - caponata, stuffed, ratatouille, parmesan, etc.

              ...i'd love to come! you're kitchen sounds awesome!

              1. i've been to some really fun pizza parties. people make creative toppings....and then assemble their pies to share. a lot of fun. and some very good pizzas.

                1. Rolling eggrolls and filling wontons are tasks that are good for group assembly. Have an Asian-themed party with shumai, potstickers, and dumplings. You can have several different fillings and you can steam, deep fry, and do other forms of cooking.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: FoodPopulist

                    I've done a similar thing - we did 4 different dumplings from Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings book. Also had a tamale and enchilada party as goodhealthgourmet suggests.

                    Both were very informal cooking and eating parties without a formal sit down meal. Everyone takes home some leftovers.

                    Our next plan is Italian stuffed pasta - I'm going to maybe work in some stuffed meatballs.