Food for a Multitude
Meat and greet: When cooking for a crowd, make sure you know what folks really want to sink their teeth into

Filling many hungry bellies takes a bit of planning and the right recipes.
IMAGE: Aladdin Color, Inc./Corbis

I became interested in big-batch recipes after I volunteered to provide side dishes for a barbecue fundraiser that was to feed 100 people. I decided to make potato salad, coleslaw and beans.

I peeled, chopped, shredded, measured, cooked and mixed for hours and made mounds of potato salad, a pile of coleslaw and a big pan full of beans. I hadn’t wanted anyone to go hungry. As it turns out, that was not a problem.

After all that work, and the money spent on ingredients, fewer people than expected bought plates, and those who did went for piles of brisket and just dabs of my home-cooked sides. At the end of the night, there were gallons of the sides left over—an expense rather than an asset.

“Where did I go wrong?” I asked the volunteer who made the brisket, a seasoned pro at feeding crowds.

The answer: He knew his audience. With these folks, he said, they aren’t here for the sides. They’re here for the meat.

So, lesson learned.

The next time I prepare a big bunch of food for a big bunch of people, I’ll scale it back a bit. The recipes I pick will include ingredients that are reasonably inexpensive and preparation time that won’t take hours and hours.

I’ve been fiddling with this potato salad recipe for a while. It fits the above criteria, and it’s a little different than standard. I think it’s a recipe for success.

Baked Potato Tater Salad

8 pounds red potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 pound bacon
4 bunches green onions, tops only, or chives
4 cups sour cream
2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dried dill weed (or 2 tablespoons fresh minced)
1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub potatoes and cut into approximately 1-inch chunks. Place in even layer in large roasting pan, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting, or until potatoes are tender. Remove from oven, place in large mixing bowl, and allow to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, render bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble into bits and put in mixing bowl. Mince onion tops and add to bacon along with sour cream, mayonnaise, dill and cheese. Mix well. Pour over potatoes and mix until well coated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Servings: 30. Serving size: 3/4 cup. Per serving: 312 calories, 10.2 g protein, 20.2 g fat, 19.4 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 549 mg sodium, 3.6 g sugars, 44 mg cholesterol

Cook’s Tip: If you use small, C-sized potatoes, you won’t have to do as much chopping as you would using larger sizes. Red potatoes don’t require peeling.

July Recipe Contest Winners

The call for recipes for Food to Feed a Crowd brought some interesting responses, including one recipe for a whole stuffed camel (not knowing how to get my hands on a camel, I did not test it, plus it’s a mite impractical for the Lone Star State). There was also a list of the quantities of food needed for a barn raising. See the Related Stories box for both of these untested recipes if you’re interested.


We did, however, test our winners and found them delicious. They’re listed in the Also in This Issue box.


Thanks to the Texas Peanut Producers Board for sponsoring this month’s contest.

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