I find it really hard, for a lot of reasons, to cook for a crowd. One of those difficulties is getting the amounts right. I almost always have tons of leftovers. I can gauge how much food to prepare for eight people and I’m pretty good at ten. But more than that, I have problems. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know the guests as well and don’t know if they tolerate wheat, eat pork or like fish. So I feel I need to make a little (or a lot?) of many things.
I co-hosted a baby shower this past weekend (yay!) and offered to make lamb sandwiches and a big Greek salad. (These salads are great for parties because romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and red onion don’t wilt! Plus, they’re beautiful). Anyway, I bought the good New Zealand leg of lamb at Costco. I got two three-pound packages.
For the sandwiches, I marinated the legs of lamb in olive oil, garlic, rosemary and thyme for about 8 hours. Then my husband was nice enough to grill them for me. I sliced the cooked lamb into thin slices and trimmed off the fat. Next I made an aioli by mixing minced garlic with good ole Hellman’s mayonnaise. Then, the most important part, I drove to Belwood Bakery in Brentwood to buy their delicious ficelles, the thin baguettes. I sliced them down the middle, then cut them into thirds. I slathered aioli on one side, sprinkled a big pinch of arugula, laid down the lamb, topped with the other side of the baguette and tied up with a string. I love these dainty (but hearty!) sandwiches and hoped the rest of the guests would, too!
They did! Just a few remained which we sent home with the future mama to share with the future daddy for an easy dinner. But there was a whole leg of lamb that didn’t make its way into the ficelles. I’d bought twice as much as I needed. Again!
What to do with three (or it could have been four) pounds of sliced and trimmed lamb? Luckily, I’d signed up to bring a main course to my daughter’s back-to-school night. I decided to make a version of shepherd’s pie! I sauteed a chopped onion, added a couple cloves of minced garlic, tossed in the lamb (which I’d chopped into little cubes), and moistened it all with some tomato puree. I boiled some russet potatoes, then mashed them with butter and a little half-and-half. I poured the meat mixture into a baking dish and topped with mashed potatoes.
Here it is, bubbling and ready to bring to the party:
I feel so proud of myself when I don’t waste food! But then again, there are all the cucumbers and romaine that remain… We’ll be eating salads for a while. Or the chickens will have a feast.