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Cooking for a group! What to make?!

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, first post here, shortly after this i will post an introduction in the other forum.

Me and 4 other guys , who have no cooking experience ( i have some, but only at home cooking ) have been chosen to cook dinner for about 20 people.

We are all boys in our mid 20's, every year the rookies on the team have to cook a dinner for the rest of our teammates, and you can guess who got picked :)

Ive heard from some of the older guys that every year has been the same old Boring Spaghetti / garlic bread/ caesar salad. I really want to branch away from this so that me and the others stand out and make something really great!

We have access to a full kitchen, and we are given $100 dollars to buy whatever we need.

One team member is a vegetarian, so he does not eat fish, meat, chicken etc.

My question to you people is: What should we make? I would like to do a 3 course meal , but have to keep cost down even though we are cooking for a large volume.

Is there something simple yet great/delicious that me and my group can cook up easily in 2 hours?

as for the vegetarian, should i gear the entire recipe to suite him? or just cook a separate dish for that one individual?

if i need to provide any more info please let me know


post #2 of 8
Welcome to ChefTalk! :D You've come to the right place for help.

My first thought is do something vegetarian for everyone, something that has so much flavor no one will miss the meat. Vegetarian Chili with lots of beans and chopped-up vegetables in it. :lips: Serve it with rice (maybe brown instead of plain white; brown rice takes longer to cook but still fits into your two hours) and salad (you can have a variety of bottled dressings, and everyone will be fine ;)), and you're good to go. All you need them is dessert, and I'm sure the others here can give you lots of ideas for that and for more possible main dishes.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #3 of 8

First off welcome to Chef Talk.

With a $100 budget, I can see why pasta is what's usually served. 5 bucks a person is hardly a budget for a fancy meal. Yet it is doable. Grilled marinated chicken, chicken Marsala with fettuccini alfredo as a side, Roast Beef, mashed taters, greenbeans or how about a pasta variation. Specialty pasta tossed with sauteed chicken, smoked chicken, proscuitto ham or shrimp with things like, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, broccoli, spinach, cheeses, sausages? Maybe an alfredo sauce or a variation of one with marinara added, lemon wine sauces, garlic etc. Leave out the meat for the vegetarian or maybe a grilled vegetable plate. Maybe an all apps type meal. Wings, Not just the hot variety, chicken Satay, egg rolls, potstickers, cheeses, veggies, dips, etc. Suzanne was posting as I was and her idea of a chili sounds good. How about a simple casserole or baked pasta dish. Baked tortelloni, lasagna, mostaccoli, ziti ravioli. Those possibilities are endless. Through your own admission of not being well versed in cooking I'd try to keep things as simple as possible. Don't get too deep ya won't enjoy yourself. Just enjoy the experience and learn from it. Again 100 bucks for 20 people? Doohhh!!!!
post #4 of 8
I think I'd go with a Minestrone soup which can be done vegetarian easily--easier if they accept dairy, a bread salad with some cheese if the vegetarian will eat cheese--offer a thin-sliced cured meat to go in the salad for the carnivores, a salami for example; next some roasted vegetables: potatoes, carrots, onion wedges or shallots, asparagus if there's good fresh asparagus available.

Dessert, I'm weak on dessert, especially if the vegetarian doesn't do dairy and eggs. many custards are elegant but easy and pretty cheap.

That should be doable under $100.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #5 of 8
Do something WILDLY different - onion bhajis for starters ( I can let you have a recipe - it's dead easy) with mint sauce - very cheap to make!

Chicken/Lamb curry with fragrant rice - again relatively cheap. Keep some sauce aside and throw some vegetables in it to make a vegetable curry for the vegetarian, and mini pappadums. Some sliced onions and tomatoes in vinegar and cilantro

Ice cream for dessert - fancy it up with some fresh fruit or sprinkles - alternatively a big bucket of frozen yoghurt - you'd be better off shopping at Price Club, Sams, Costco etc
What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? ~Lin Yutang
What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child? ~Lin Yutang
post #6 of 8
Just to take a different tack, I think five bucks a person for a home-style meal (as opposed to restaurant style, guys) is more than enough. I regularly cost out the meals I serve at home, and $4-6/serving is on the high side.

I don't think I'd gear the whole meal to the vegetarian. That's not fair to the others. Instead I'd do a meal that includes a side which everyone might enjoy, but which was entreeish (is that a word) enough for the veggie.

Given the budget, and the time of year, why not go with a turkey dinner? Turkey is relatively cheap and goes far.

I would start with a an easy soup that all could eat; perhaps cream of celery or roasted veggie. Then I would serve roast turkey, stuffed baby acorn squash (using a fruited grain filling) and either fried apples or poached pears as another side. Again, this balances the needs of the vegetarian with everyone else.

If the budget still allows (and there's no reason it shouldn't), a simple dessert, like a panna cotta, would work.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #7 of 8
Young 20 year old guys on some sort of team.....25 of them, 1 veghead......$100....2 hours to cook (non pros)

Risotto keeps popping up, not sure how the groups would take to it.....
can be made with veg stock or dried mushroom broth......there are alot of butternut squash risotto recipes around, not sure if you're group would be up for that.
Make this vegetarian to fit all needs, then have a meat....

Chicken Breast Marsala or chicken with white wine cream sauce

Green veg.....green beans are universally popular, blanch and then finish with lemon dillweed butter

Salad...either mandrian oranges, red onions, croutons or apple slices, toasted pecans....light vinagrette

Ok....ready.....either scratch chocolate pudding or butterscotch pudding....top with toasted nuts/whipped cream.....
Or hot fudge sundaes.

Means alot of stove top work.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #8 of 8
Cook up some short brown rice (a rice cooker comes in handy) and add a lot of diced celery, diced carrot, and diced onion (or leeks or scallions). They will cook along with the rice and just a TBSP of EVOO and some salt and it all comes out excellent. Veggie man will be happy. GIve him some Kikkoman soy sauce if he needs it! :)

For the rest of the meal, chop up some boneless chicken breast into 1" squares (as much as possible). Brown these on all sides in a big frying pan with some olive oil. Set them aside. Add about 1/4 of 250 g of clarified butter, and a bunch of diced portabellas, leeks or onions, and cook until the mushrooms lose their water and the onions are clear or even starting to carmelize.

Add 250 g of bread flour and the rest of the clarified butter and stir like crazy. The whole mixture should "seize up" on you. NOT TO WORRY. Add some white wine to deglaze and 1 Qt of Turkey or Chicken stock. Stir again like crazy. Add 2 C of heavy cream. Reduce a bit. Add more wine or stock or plain water until you get a thick but not too thick sauce. Season with fresh rosemary, S&P to taste.

Add back in the already cooked chicken. Simmer a few minutes with cover on the frying pan to discourage evaporation.

Serve the rice (with veggies), the chicken with sauce on one plate.

Start the meal with sliced ripe heirloom tomatoes interspersed with leaves of fresh basil and thin slices of mozzarella. Drizzle with a vinagrette made of equal portions of EVOO and aged Balsamic vinegar. Add to the vinegrette a dash of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, 1 TBSP of Dijon mustard for every 2 TBSP of olive oil, and depending on amount about 1 TBSP of brown sugar for every 4 TBSP of olive oil. Stir like crazy, drizzle over the sliced tomato, fresh basil and mozzarella salad.

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