Monday, November 24, 2014

That time I cooked for 20 people

Twice a year, I am responsible as an officer of my American Legion post to provide our supper.  The cost is reimbursed, but I must admit... this first time cooking for 20 people was extremely intimidating.  Not to mention, our meetings are on Tuesday nights, and I work full time.  Plus, I cook in a small apartment kitchen.  Woof!

The first thing I did was plan the menu, almost a week in advance.  Since it was November, I decided a Thanksgiving-style meal would work best.  I decided on:
I made the green bean casserole and the baked macaroni and cheese on Monday night, minus the fried onion topping on the green beans and the panko crumb topping on the mac.  I kept both in the refrigerator and baked them when I got home before the dinner.

The turkey was almost a disaster.  The prep was easy; I rubbed a packet of onion soup mix over the whole thing, then poured melted butter on the top.  I planned to use my slow cooker for it, but when I went home to check on it, I'd had it set to a lower setting than planned.  My probe reading was still way too low, with just 3 hours to go before the dinner!  So I moved it to a roasting pan, stuck in an oven thermometer, and baked it until it hit the right temperature.  Because I watched it until it was done, vs. overcooking, it turned out to be incredibly tender.  In a pinch, a turkey breast actually bakes fairly fast.

While the turkey and casseroles were cooking, I made the stuffing and gravy on the stovetop.  Super easy.  Seriously easy.  I know this wasn't a healthy meal by any means, but it was a good meal that I was able to accomplish in the timing I needed.

The turkey breast was *just* enough to feed the 20 people.  The gravy and stuffing ran out before everyone got some.  There was just enough green beans, and the macaroni yielded some leftovers.  I got many compliments, and a few folks decided I should cook for them more often.  I was honestly tickled pink!

Also, outsourcing (store-bought rolls) and asking for help (the dessert) were great decisions that saved me a lot of time.  You'd be surprised how little things like that can make a huge difference.

I guess I'd say the moral of this post is, even when you're a busy person with a tiny kitchen, a little planning, help, prep, and some improv, you can cook a big ol' weeknight meal for a bunch of people.  I think I'll have to cook more meat, probably additional sides if I think they will be popular.  My next turn at dinner is in March, and since the weather will be nicer, there may be up to 30 people.  Anyone have ideas of what I should make next time?

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  1. Wow, great minds think alike! Too funny that we both wrote similar posts today. Looks like the meal turned out well, and your pics are making me hungry!

  2. Funny, right? I guess we're both thinking about cooking and how daunting it is to prepare for such a big meal. I'm actually kind of excited about doing it again in March, because the guys really were complimentary. I think that it's easier to cook when you know it's going to make so many people happy.


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