BACKGROUND: This helpful information, along with various recipes to serve 100 (I've already posted some of them under Recipes to Serve a Crowd on this blog) comes from Page 14 of my old (now aged/yellowed) May 13, 1988 weekly issue of the AGRI-VIEW paper and this was put together by their Associate Editor, Jane Fyksen. The hotline phone number listed further down in this artice is still active after all this time-- I know this because I dialed it a minute ago.
I've typed the following information from the article:
"Farm women are experts at cooking hearty meals for people with big appetites. But even the pros may get weak knees at the prospects of serving 25, 50 or 100 guests.
"Diane Brion, farmwife and Extension home economist in Buffalo and Pepin Counties, has some advice that will make that wedding reception, family reunion or church dinner less overwhelming. Even if you're not involved in cooking for a big gathering this spring or summer, you might want to file away her suggestions for later reference.
- "Cooks have to think differently when serving a crowd, Brion directs. For instance, would you serve 50 people frozen or canned peas. Canned peas are more economical, she notes.
- "What about apple crisp or apple pie? A big pan of apple crisp will save a lot of baking time. Meatloaf or meatballs? Again, meatloaf saves time.
- "A molded or tossed salad? Not only is Jell-O less expensive, but a tossed salad won't stay fresh looking for long on your serving table.
- "Baked or barbecued chicken? Barbecuing is probably the way to go if you're going to be short on oven space.
- "And how about fruit punch or milk? Milk is the best choice, as you'll need a very large container to mix the punch in.
- "If you're having a buffet or picnic at which guests are apt to be moving around, some foods should be avoided, like soup, Jell-O, if it must be put on the same plate as hot food, most foods needing a fork, and ice cream and cream pie.
- "Brion warns that recipes should not be increased any larger than four times. 'Purists' say stick to doubling only. Brion admits that she adjusted a pancake recipe for a much bigger group. The batter was way too runny. 'The proportions get all out of whack,' she notes.
- "Food safety is a consideration if food is going to sit out during your gathering. She discusses some situations that may crop up. For instance, if you like to cook ahead and made three large briskets and refrigerated the meat while it was quite hot in the roasting pan in which it was cooked, and the meat was still warm the following morning, you had better figure you're out $60 in meat. Over night, and in that warm, moist atmosphere, bacteria had a good opportunity to multiply. Further cooking now won't guarantee that the meat is safe. In the future, divide hot, cooked foods into smaller containers to promote fast cooking in the refrigerator.
- "The ancient philosopher Horace said, 'A host is like a general--it takes a mishap to reveal his true genius.' The really smart hostess gives her guests that impression without having it get to the point of a mishap. She knows how to stay ahead of her guests and keep the food looking and tasting good for several hours during her gathering.
- "Just remember that several smaller dishes of food are better than preparing one big platter. The back-up plates can be refrigerated or kept in the oven prior to serving. Hot food should be served from chafing dishes or warming trays registering 140 degrees. You should probably check your chafing dish, because often the warmers only hold food at 110 to 120 degrees--a good growth temperature for some bacteria.
- "Rest the serving dish containing cold foods on a bed of crush ice and re-plate it with fresh, full trays after two hours. It's not safe to add new food to a serving dish that has sat out at room temperature more than two hours. Not so long ago, I attended a graduation party where the family had a plastic children's swimming pool on the serving table-- they had dumped a whole lot of ice into it-- with all the dishes that needed to stay cold sitting among and on the ice cubes, the 'cold food' WAS COLD!
- "Let's say you're planning to take 100 pieces of marinated chicken to church for a dinner. It's not a good idea to transport them in a big plastic trash bag. The bag doesn't provide enough insulation to keep chicken warm for over two hours.
- "Next, check the package to see if the (trash) bags are approved for use with food. If there is no such statement, assume they're not. It's possible the marinade3 could allow chemicals in the plastic bag to get into the chicken. Also, a deodorant is sometimes used in trash bags, and it could harm the taste of the chicken.
- "Brion says the USDA has a meat and poultry toll-free hotline that hostesses can call weekdays for answers to their cooking questions (1-800-535-4555). Again, just to see if this hotline is still up and working almost 24 years after this article was written, I dialed it right now-- YES!, it is STILL available to help you out with any questions you have.
- "Brion says a common mistake when setting up buffets is crowding too much on the table. The general rule for arranging the table is to start with plates, then cold dishes, hot dishes, salad, bread and beverage. The silver, placed parallel to the edge of the table, and napkins (not stacked) are picked up last.
- "Removing main dishes for a big sit-down dinner and serving the desserts can be tricky.
- "'Ask for help,' Brion directs. 'One person can remove two main course plates, take them to the kitchen and return with two servings of dessert. Or if the guests are going to serve themselves dessert from a buffet table, ask them to place plates and silverware in a designated spot.'"