Cooking for 40

Holy cow- I truly stink at photography- ironic, really, since my father used to be a professional photographer. Sorry Papa, even though I got your Punctuality Gene and Cooking Gene, it looks as if the Photography Gene only landed in my sister and not me. I just spent the last few minutes downloading photos from my camera only to see shot after awful, blurry shot of much of the food I cooked or ate over the last couple of months. Yes, it’s been THAT long since I last blogged, but trust me- based on those crappy photos I’m saving you, dear reader, from being exposed to my poor documentation of some really good food. I simply did it no justice!

These photos fall into that category as well, but I couldn’t NOT post about the first time I cooked for close to 40 people. Yep- forty. J and I decided to throw a party for his band/crew family to celebrate the end of the year since the guys travel so much and we hardly ever get a chance to hang out. You know what? It wasn’t so hard. I did it bit by bit over the course of five days, and although I was sweatin’ it a little on party day, it all came together fairly painlessly. After all, I did get the Planning Ahead Gene from my dad as well.

On the first day, I made the savory pastry crust for four mushroom and gruyere tarts and tossed them in the freezer. The next, I made 7 quarts of pureed butternut squash soup which also went into the freezer, and made the mushroom filling for the aforementioned tarts. They day before the party I marinated the pork tenderloin and made a big batch of caramelized onion jam for the sliders, and prepped both the carnivore and vegan version of bacon wrapped dates. All that was left to do on the actual day of the party was put it all together, and make 4 quarts of Barefoot Contessa’s famous mac ‘n cheese!

Here’s the evidence:

Two kinds of salami, purchased at Nicole’s Gourmet Imports in South Pasadena:

I love savory tarts and have made this mushroom and gruyere version many times.

If you make four and then cut each into 12-15 pieces, you immediately have enough for a large party:

Two kinds of sliders: Garlic/balsamic/rosemary-marinated pork tenderloin and vegan bratwurst, both topped with sweet caramelized onion jam, arugula and spicy dijon mustard on Trader Joe’s slider buns:

Little pastry cups filled with a mixture of crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon zest and chives topped with flakes of smoked salmon:

Up front: Crudités of lightly blanched green beans, asparagus and sugar snap peas served with hummus:

The Barefoot Contessa’s rich, beautiful macaroni and cheese made with three cheese, a pinch of nutmeg and topped with fresh breadcrumbs. I skipped the tomatoes since they weren’t (and still aren’t) in season:

You can’t have a party without cheese, crackers and assorted other nibbles like olives and cornichons!

I rented chafing dishes for the first time ever- along with heat lamps, tables and chairs from Dolphin Party Rentals in Pasadena- everything was awesome and they deliver and pick up. So easy. That soup chafer is filled with butternut squash soup, one of my favorites. The only real trouble making that is breaking down five squash- peeling, seeding, cutting….but worth the effort:

On the left: Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo. On the right: veggie bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with soyrizo. Honestly, they were equally delicious and one of the most popular items at the party. Just buy seeded dates, stuff cooked sausage or soyrizo into each, wrap with your choice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. You can do this the night before, then bake them on a cookie sheet the day of the party:

Call me crazy, but cooking this much food was so fun…my love of cooking only grows by the minute, and I’ve started to just make most dishes based on what I personally like to eat instead of following recipes. Of course when there is a recipe as good Barefoot Contessa’s mac ‘n cheese, you gotta make it! There are few things in life as satisfying as seeing the smiles on friends’ faces when they eat something you made for them, and I’m glad we did it!

What’s your favorite party dish?

9 Responses to

  1. Seeing these pictures brought it all back – this party was KILLER and the food was superb. If I could do it all again, I'd skip lunch that day and bring a wheelchair. Shit, I still gotta return your tupperware.

  2. TAG, great job! Did you provide cots for your guests to pass out on? everything looks really homey and great for a party. We'll have to join you, J and Japanese cat soon. I finally opened up my cocktail bar so it's time to shake it up!

  3. I've never had to cook for 40 at a time but if I ever do, I'll be turning to this post for inspiration! It all looks so amazing!

  4. You might believe that you didn't inherit the photo gene, but you more than make up for it with superior party planning, food styling and cooking skills.

    What a beautiful spread!

  5. Anne this is amazing!!
    That mushroom and gruyere tart looks mouthwatering – anyway you would share the recipe? :)

  6. I'm exhausted just looking at all you did! You are amazing! The tart looks fabulous!

  7. the hostest with the mostest

  8. What a GREAT menu! After owning commercial kitchens for over 30 yrs, my only advice to your readers is to simplify the menu. The pictures I know do not do justice to your creations, cooking like this can only come from the heart.

  9. NYC Car Accident Lawyer

    That's surely a lot of appetizers. All of these ideas sound great for a party. Thanks for the inspiration.

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