Park East Kosher Butchers & Fine Foods | Food Online | Delivery | Catering| Deli | Meat

The Pesach Menu Hotline, Part 2

The seders of my youth involved long tables, lots of folding chairs and, in general, a lot of guests.  Armed with a stack of Maxwell House haggadahs, an industrial-size can of macaroons and copious amounts of matzah, we who lived in the house knew that more than any other point in the year, it was a time to serve a crowd…to make some new memories and to relive old ones.

Serving a Crowd

Anyone who cooks and hosts knows that the dishes and menu choices to accommodate a large crowd may differ from what you might select for an intimate meal.  If large quantity cooking is new to you (or you just need a little refresher), here are some tips to help along your menu planning and preparations.

Menu Considerations

Make a list of all the dishes you plan on serving.  Then consider the following: the cost of the ingredients, how much time is required (and how complicated the recipe is), and the yield (i.e. how many it will serve).

  • Cost: Some recipes are just not cost efficient for serving a crowd.  For example, braised short ribs are a lovely choice for a small dinner party, but if you are cooking for 20, a large piece of meat (like a brisket or roast) will be a wiser choice.
  • Time: Cooking in large quantities takes longer than small quantities – obviously, it will take longer to peel 20 potatoes than 5 potatoes, so factor in that extra time. Limit (or eliminate!) long or complicated recipes, and if you do choose to make one, consider the timing carefully, breaking down the steps in your cooking schedule (see below).
  • Yield:  Look for recipes that have a large yield.  A recipe can be doubled or even tripled, but beyond that, the numbers don’t always add up, and the quality and taste of the recipe may be compromised.

Lists, lists and more lists!

  • Once you’ve made your master serving list, write a detailed menu of all dishes, breaking down and itemizing the recipes into individual components (for example, under “Stuffed Chicken Breasts,” list “matzo stuffing”).  This will help you to organize and group your kitchen tasks.  Then make a copy and put it in on your fridge so that you have something to check off as you go (also, when you lose your original or spill brisket gravy all over it, you’ll have a back-up!).
  • Next, review your recipes and create a master shopping list (or multiple lists if shopping at more than one store).  Check it twice.
  • Create a cooking and task schedule: Working backwards from the serving day, decide in advance the order of preparation, based on what can be prepared in advance and what needs to be prepared closest to serving time.
  • Some kitchen work may be done ahead of time, such as chopping vegetables or making soups, braised meats and mixes that can be baked or cooked later (like matzo ball batter).

More helpful hints…

  • Large quantity storage: Plan ahead to have space in your refrigerator for all you will be cooking. Don’t forget you will also need to store leftovers.  If you have a second fridge/freezer, plug it in and get those big Tupperwares and tins (with covers!) ready.
  • Be sure you have pots, pans and serving dishes large enough to prepare and serve your recipes.
  • When you’re multiplying recipes, keep in mind that cooking times may be different if you change the recipe size – doubling does not mean doubling the cooking time, but adjustments often have to be made with a watchful eye.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate! Be realistic about how much you can do by yourself. Enlist “helpers” and delegate chores so that others can be involved in the mitzvah of making Passover…and the mitzvah of preventing the host/hostess from being overwhelmed!

The following recipe is a great choice when serving a crowd.  It’s simple to prepare, makes a ton, is a real crowd pleaser and won’t break the bank (cabbage is cheap and goes a long way!).  A sure win-win for your Passover menu and mine.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Flanken and beef bones give this soup a superior depth of flavor – homey and satisfying with each bite!

Yield: 12 servings

1½ lbs. beef flanken, cut into large chunks (slice in between the bones)

2 beef soup bones

9 cups water or more as needed

1 large onion, sliced

1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-oz.) tomato sauce

1 medium head green cabbage, shredded (discard tough outer layers before shredding)

1 large potato, peeled and diced

1 bay leaf

¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1-2 tbsp. tomato paste

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste

1½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

Place flanken, bones and water in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium-high heat. Slowly bring to a boil.  Using a small sieve or a large spoon, carefully skim off foam and impurities when they begin to rise to the surface.  Add the rest of the ingredients, return to a boil, and lower heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours.  Taste soup and add additional lemon juice and/or brown sugar as needed to achieve a balanced sweet and sour taste.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.   Ladle soup into bowls with a portion of meat in each bowl.

 

By Naomi Ross

Tags:

Comments are closed.