Cooking for a crowd

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!

Lamb sandwiches.

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.

Shepherds pie (more potatoes to come and some time under the broiler).

Here it is, bubbling and ready to bring to the party:

Terrible photo, I know!

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.

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About cdhla

I'm a former editor at several lifestyle magazines who's been freelancing since moving from NYC to LA. I call my blog The Chipped Platter to remind us that chips are better than perfection. The platter in question, a round one made by Gien, has traveled the world with me, visited with friends and family, celebrated milestones, and offered sustenance. My cherished Chipped Platter is part of the family. (I love my chipped plates, too!) On this blog, I'll be sharing my adventures of cooking for my family and friends, venturing out into restaurants and learning tips from people I meet. Come along!
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One Response to Cooking for a crowd

  1. Travis says:

    Never have leftovers looked so good!

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