Cooking tajine for 30 people - what cookware?
I am going to be cooking a chicken tajine with preserved lemons and olives for 30 people for my wedding.
I will be making the tajine 1-2 weeks in advance, freezing and defrosting the day before. Then on the day it will need to be reheated. We have cooks to do that.
My question is what cookware to use. I normally make it using an actual tajine - this is the last recipe I used, which i loved:
But my tajine pot only has capacity for about 3 portions, and I'm not prepared to use it to make 10 batches of the stuff - it would take too long.
So then I tried making a batch using my slow cooker. I boiled then left it to simmer overnight, which must have been too long, because the chicken basically disintegrated and the sauce took on a completely different flavour - almost caramelised to the point of being gluey (hard to explain). My work colleagues loved it but I was disappointed, having tasted the much better tajine version.
So now I am wondering what other options I have. Of course I could try cooking it for a slower time in the slow cooker. But having read about Dutch/French ovens - and having always wanted one - I'm thinking now might be the time to get one.
Would it work, taste-wise, to prepare 2 batches of the tajine using the Dutch oven (e.g. Le Creuset), then, on the day, use the Dutch oven again to reheat the first batch, transfer that batch to the slow-cooker to keep warm, then use the LC again for the second batch.
Or is the fact that I'll be freezing and reheating going to reduce any taste advantage there would be from using the Dutch oven?
Secondly - what size LC (or other brand) would I need to prepare 15 portions? I was thinking the 9-quart. I will have cooks to lift it and move it around, but I don't want to injure them (or me, when I want to use it after the wedding).I know how heavy those things are.
I have thought of getting a bigger tajine, but I don't think I would get much use of it after the wedding. The Dutch oven I would definitely use.
Hope you can help!
I've been making it very often for the past month or so, very successfully in a very large All Clad skillet. I think you could probably do the simmer in a large Dutch oven (though I'd prefer to have all of it in the juices, not piled above them) or even in shallow roasting pans or a bit steam table pan, tightly covered in a very low oven.
In your tagine, is the meat in one layer?
I'd suggest one or more large covered pans in the oven, ones that would let you arrange the chicken as in tagine. The cheapest would be aluminum (turkey roaster), but there might be too much acidity for that. Enameled steel is another low cost option. The roasting pan that came with your stove might work (with a foil cover).
enamel turkey roaster, big enough for a 25lb bird.
or from a restaurant supply store, a 'hotel/steam table stainless steel pan.
If you are cooking it a long time in the oven, I think that paulj's covered turkey pan is the best way to go... Personally, while I don't have much use for the turkey pan like that after, $28.00 for a wedding is cheap enough to be a single-use throw away. Can cook, transport (well sealed in saran wrap for keeping everything in and preventing cross contamination, and even then perhaps in a garbage bag to prevent spillage) and re-heat all in the same container.
Another option is to get as large an inexpensive braiser or rondeau that will fit in your oven, but that would be more expensive than paulj's option. On one hand you might have more utility for it afterwards, on the other hand if you have little use for it after the price makes it not as tossable. You can get a 15qt braiser at about 14 to 15 inches in diameter for about $60-$70.
The initial cooking is not really the issue here. I could certainly use the turkey pan if it will fit in our oven. The issue here is more to do with the reheating on the day - how much oven space there will be and when it will be available.
The venue has a 6-burner stovetop and double oven, plus the caterers will be bringing a large warming oven that has capacity for about 12 casserole dishes (I think). It goes up to 350F, but I don't want to rely on it for reheating food; it is for keeping stuff warm. (Most of the food the caterers are bringing will be ready to serve but just needs to be kept warm).
We (us and the caterers) basically have two hours of cooking/reheating time and the oven will be in use for that whole time - firstly for appetizers and then for about 8 trays of baked ziti/ & eggplant parmigiana that will need reheating. .There is a possible window there where the oven may be available, but I'd rather not risk it.
So stovetop is a better option for reheating as it will not be used as much on the day. The slow cooker would have been even better as it wouldn't use the stovetop either, but now I think I'll just use the slow cooker to keep stuff warm.
It depends how much I am making. Usually I only cook for two people, so if I do 1 layer of meat in the tajine, that's enough for 2 plus 1 portion leftovers the next day. I have also made with 2 layers of meat, about 4-5 portions, if I want more leftovers. Both work fine - but I do brown the meat in single layers in the tajine first (may not be authentic but I don't care).
America's Test Kitchen had a test/opinion of tajine pot vs. Dutch oven. They concluded that while the tajine looked nice, the results from the Dutch oven were better.
Here's a video of the segment. The equipment discussion starts around 5:20.
My preference would be to avoid the freeze/reheat cycle - if for no other reasons that simplicity and lack of freezer space.