Too Many Cooks: Cooking for a Crowd

April 12, 2013

You'll be hearing from the staff at Food52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.


Spring has finally decided to make an appearance, and it's making us want to throw impromptu parties and break out our favorite wine to share. While inviting people over is the easy part, deciding what to cook for company can be tricky. In anticipation of a festive season, we're asking:

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What do like to cook for a crowd?

Are you a grilling ninja? Do you go all out with a show-stopping main, or do you stick to chips and dip? Tell us in the comments!

Flank Steak 

Lauren: Spring crowd cooking means we are back in Montauk, grilling on the deck. Yippee! My go-to is a grilled veggie, couscous, feta, and herb salad + grilled flank steak with chimichurri.

Jennifer: I'm with Lauren -- fire up the grill for marinated flank steak!

Kenzi: Until I turn my super-tiny fire escape into an illegal grilling patio, it's all about grain salads. Or deviled eggs, but I usually eat all of them while I'm making them, so I suppose that's not very hospitable. 


Will: I like to make Asian-inspired spreads, like DIY lettuce wraps with lots of spring veggies, mushrooms, rice noodles and plenty of dipping sauces!

Bryce: I'm all about the summer spaghetti -- fresh tomatoes + garlic sauce over linguini. Plus peach pies.

Amanda Li: David Chang's Bo Ssam is a huge crowd pleaser. Bonus points if I make the buns, too.

Maddy: Charcoal-grilled chicken wings tossed in a mixture of Sriracha, honey, fresh lime juice, and olive oil.

Beatrice: Baby back BBQ ribs rubbed with a sweet paprika and espresso dry rub, cooked low and slow.

Karl: I go for lasagna, or if I'm really diving into it, BBQ pulled pork smoked in my bullet.

Marian: You guys are fancy. I like to put out a huge bowl of guacamole and call it a day. 

Lindsay-Jean: I'm with Marian. And Karl's pulled pork smells so good I reconsider vegetarianism every time he makes it.

Merrill: I like making guac too. Or a big frittata with spring veggies and cheese. And maybe some bacon.

Lauren: Is there ever a maybe with bacon?

Merrill: No.

Stephanie: I totally agree on the frittata. It's so easy to do when other people are in your kitchen (I'm an anti-help-in-the-kitchen cook), and it's fun to use whatever vegetables are available.

Amanda: I like to make Al Forno baked pasta -- it's what we made for the community in Gerritsen Beach after Hurricane Sandy.


Jason: Beer battered fish tacos!

ChristinaOrzo salad -- lemon! feta! tomatoes! spinach! Bonus: it makes a boatload.

Kristen: I love to make this Fully Grilled Caesar Salad, because it really freaks the crowd out when you grill the lettuce -- until they taste it!

What do you like to cook for a crowd? Tell us in the comments! And if you've got spring entertaining on the mind, be sure to sign up for our Spring Fling giveaway with Anthropologie.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Written by: Sarah_Sherwood

Editorial Intern at Food52


SBMCW April 16, 2013
This is the simplest large party dinner I have ever prepared. Just did this dinner two weeks ago for eleven family members (5 brothers and 4 sisters). Get center cut salmon filets with or without skin and bring to room temperature. Put olive oil and salt and pepper on the salmon. Bake at 225 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. You can overlap the thin and fat parts of the filets to ensure the thin sections don’t overcook. Simple & Elegant.

Side dishes as you like but asparagus with olive oil, lemon and butter is also stupidly simple.

Make a sauce, if you like, for the salmon of ½ yogurt and ½ sour cream with shallots, capers, salt and pepper. Add finely diced Pepperdew peppers and lemon juice (make the day before). Call your guests to table and put salmon in the oven. Start with toasts of Prosecco and one or two amusing anecdotes followed by a salad. When done with the salad course, pull the salmon and serve with room temperature asparagus. Embarrassingly simple – zero stress.
thirschfeld April 14, 2013
roasting the whole damn pig, or if I am feeling vegetarian we just graze our way through the garden eating raw vegetables. Imagine a human herd meandering through a field munching and you get the picture.
QueenSashy April 14, 2013
I envy you. No garden here in the city. Occasionally, I fantasize about roasting a suckling pig in the oven.
Marian B. April 15, 2013
Tom, that's my kind of party.
QueenSashy April 13, 2013

My go-to thing for a crowd is Seven-hour garlic crowned lamb from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook by Paula Wolfert. I just cannot have enough of this dish. With lemony fava beans on the side and rose water rice puding as desert.
fhp April 13, 2013
Lately I've been making this lemony tuna pasta from Sicily with chili flakes, mint and garlic.
Oddly a bit of parmigiano makes it even better as it cuts the edge of the lemon juice.
Its great hot but is also good at room temperature and therefor good for a party. Everyone always wants to know the recipe.
EMR April 13, 2013
I like to do my version of a Rijsttafel, using whatever is in season and some of what I already have in my pantry for the side dishes. A Rijsstafel simply means "rice table". It is comprised of a couple of kinds of rice served with small multiple side dishes. I serve a variety of side dishes which always include some protein choices, veggies, legumes and greens. I try to choose side dishes which incorporate a variety of colors and tastes. I always include something sweet, savory, salty, sour, and spicy. Some of the side dishes can be complicated, if you are so inclined, but you can just as easily include a fish and chicken off the grill, small bowl of peanuts, prepared Thai chutney, sriracha chili sauce, or whatever you find in your pantry or the back of the fridge. Guests are given small bowls and they are then free to create whatever looks interesting using the rice and the side dishes. I find that this meal works well for all guests, whether meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans or gluten free. I have also unexpectedly found that this meal encourages people to share with their fellow guests, whether it be bites from each other bowls or stories. A rijsttafel makes for a beautiful presentation and is shamefully simple to prepare. Imagination and some bowls are the only requirements.
AntoniaJames April 12, 2013
Depends on the event. On my back deck, almost invariably: grilling sdebrango's contest winning flank steak with chimichurri, or pierino's Mysteries of Koreatown flank steak (also often marinating chicken in the same Korean marinade), plus heaps of grilled zucchini and eggplant, with chunks of baguettes (made with my wild yeast levain) to sop up the juices. For our annual July 4 block party, I'll make dozens of deviled eggs, topped with dukkah -- though this year, I plan to make some with Torrisi spicy sauce, as well. ;o)
QueenSashy April 13, 2013
I love these steaks too. Yum!
cookinginvictoria April 12, 2013
Many of our summer entertaining dishes feature the grill. My eight year old daughter is partial to bratwurst sausages on a pretzel bun with pickles and potato salad. Or we will sometimes be a little more fancy and feast on local salmon or halibut. As we get closer to warm summer weather, dessert often will feature local fruit or berries -- rhubarb pie or strawberry short cake, anyone?
AntoniaJames April 12, 2013
Yes!! I made the James Beard shortcake last year for a special dinner party on our deck. Highly recommend it. ;o)
darksideofthespoon April 12, 2013
I showed my mother that same recipe and now it's one of her go-to desserts (hey, I'm not complaining!) It even inspired her to purchase her first mesh strainer. She now has 4 of them in various sizes. ;)
EmilyC April 12, 2013
In my family it's a huge pork shoulder or brisket smoked low and slow on our Big Green Egg, often so huge that we have to smoke it overnight in order to have any chance of serving our guests at a reasonable hour. And then there has to be a big bowl of cole slaw on the side.
aargersi April 12, 2013
You guys already know what I am going to say - and the time for the first one of 2013 is upon us - CRAWFISH BOIL! Always boiled 'dads, corn and new taters, and a big ice chest of beer. A giant pot of gumbo, some macque choux. Others will bring jambalaya, cornbread, salads, more beer, whatever. Bread pudding is likely.
But you already knew I would say that

ps throughout the summer it's usually a grill full of veggies and some animal or fish, and salads and sides. Usually pot-luck
cookinginvictoria April 12, 2013
Yum -- I want to come to Abbie's next party! :)
hardlikearmour April 14, 2013
A crawfish boil is one of the most fun things ever! Make sure you toss some whole heads of garlic in the pot, too. The cooked garlic is tasty smeared on a saltine plain or topped with a crawfish tail or two! Artichokes are also good in the boil, and the leaves collect lots of the spices.
mrslarkin April 12, 2013
Ain't no party unless it's a taco party! I make Diana Kennedy's Carnitas so many times, my kids are like "ugh, carnitas again?!"

P.S. I want to be invited to Amanda Li's next shindig.

Marian B. April 12, 2013
Me too. Amanda Li shows us all up every time!
darksideofthespoon April 12, 2013
I'm so with you, Jason, with the fish taco's. My dear husband is from a tiny town in Northern Ontario (see: middle of nowhere) but they are literally surrounded by water . There is a tiny cart off the waterfront that serves the most amazing fish taco's with freshly caught walleye. AMAZE-SAUCE.