You may recall a post, back from September 15th, 2008 called “How To Cook For A Group.”
In that post, I whined about how I wasn’t good at cooking for a group: “The truth is that to impress a large group of people, you’ve got to cook large. Some folks are better at cooking large than others; I’ve come to discover that I am far superior at cooking small. I’d much prefer to cook for four than to cook for fourteen: I’d rather roast a chicken than a whole pig, I’d rather man a single skillet than a giant grill.”
Since I wrote that post, things have changed. Well, sorta-kinda.
This weekend, we went on the annual trip to Cape Cod at the invitation of our friends Rob & Kath. Here are some pictures I took with the Hipstamatic Application for the iPhone:
Pretty, right? Especially considering that we departed on Friday with visions of Hurricane catastrophe and, instead, enjoyed absolutely beautiful weather.
But back to the subject at hand: cooking for a group.
I think that post I wrote two years ago was a way to let myself off the hook. After all, I cook all the time, I write about cooking all the time, and I’m getting paid to write a cookbook for which I’m also cooking all the time. Should I really be that intimidated to cook for a group? Maybe I just needed to man up.
So, upon our arrival to Cape Cod, I offered to make dinner. Actually, it happened a bit more organically; we were in the grocery store and our friend Anna was going to make Amanda Hesser’s linguine with creme fraiche and lemon. But she couldn’t find cream friache and didn’t see the point of making it without her favorite ingredient; so I stepped up to the plate and offered to make one of my favorite pasta dishes of all time, Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. (Click that link for the recipe.)
The challenge here was multiplying the recipe by 3: normally it serves 3 people, now it would have to serve 9.
So I was very mathematical about the whole thing: instead of buying one jar of sun-dried tomatoes, I bought three. Instead of buying one box of pasta, I bought three (and so on).
Anna was my very helpful sous chef and we made the pots and pans we had on hand work to our advantage: in the larger pot, I boiled the pasta. In the smaller pot, I made the sauce. Then I drained the pasta and added the sauce to the larger pot and added the pasta back to it so it could cook together:
The result was a hearty dinner that served 9 people generously (there were even leftovers). Look at the happy eaters (that’s Anna looking at the camera):
But that’s not all I cooked this weekend, no sir.
I also bought two large loaves of challah bread at that same grocery store and on Saturday morning I made the French Toast you see in the lead photo. I used my standard French Toast recipe (see here) but the bread really made the difference. People gobbled it up.
Still, my theory in that original post that people like huge portions of meat wasn’t disproven. On Saturday night, our friend Josh grilled up his signature ribs and they were a sensation. He used his own secret spice blend and cooked them low and slow so they came off the grill glistening and golden brown. If I get points for stepping up to the plate this time around, Josh still takes the crown. And he deserves it.
But now that I’ve cooked for a group, I’ve learned that the real secret is just taking the leap: making up your mind to do it. If you hesitate, if you doubt yourself, it won’t happen: someone else will slip in and steal your thunder. So the next time you’re vacationing with folks and you see an opportunity to make dinner, step up to the plate, even if you don’t hit a home run. A base-hit is good enough for most people, especially when they’re hungry.