Chef’s Secrets: Cooking for a Crowd

Magneto and I have a comfortable home, with plenty of space for each of us. We’ve worked really hard to pull together a variety of elements to create rooms that are functional, thematic, and appealing. But when other people come to visit…well, let’s just say I feel some anxiety because I worry they won’t feel the same, or we won’t have enough room for everyone to hang out.

That carries over into my hostessing: not only do I plan every option for every activity and meal out, I also buy enough groceries to feed a small army five meals a day for a week.

That came in handy a few months ago, when Mr. and Mrs. Magneto came to visit, staying with us for about five days. I know, visiting Los Angeles and not going out to eat a lot is almost a crime, since this is one of the greatest food cities in the country. But older people also tend to vacation in a way that is a bit more relaxed, which allowed me to practice cooking for a family.

When Magneto and parents were on their way over from the airport, I received the request for snacks before we all headed out to dinner. Snacks? Hold on, let me fire up my replicator and get some Earl Grey. Hot.

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Cocktail snacks for four, in 25 minutes.

I got to work, rolling pigs into blankets while the oven heated, skewering pickles with meat and cheese for my then-breadless boyfriend, and stuffing roasted red sweet peppers with seasoned ricotta.

I also knew I wanted to do something special for Mr. Magneto’s birthday, so I also made sure to fill my cooled chocolate cupcakes with black cherries before icing them sparingly with cream cheese frosting, then bagged my chocolate chip cookies, and set out the bourbon (because, let’s be honest, Mama needs her bourbon if she’s going to host parents).

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Did someone say they wanted cookies?

We also had breakfast at home, which meant throwing together a tater tot frittata: eggs, cream, sharp cheddar, broccoli, ham, bacon, spinach, and frozen tater tots.

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Who says you need to labor over crust to make a good quiche?

One of the best ways to impress a mom is to serve her the foods you’ve seen her eat most frequently, so I also made sure to always have on hand fresh berries, fresh squeezed orange and blood orange juice, and toast.

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Breakfast is a big thing for us.

For dinner, I made a casserole out of my homemade bechamel with added cream and nutmeg and pepper, over cooked chicken breast, pasta, broccoli, kale, and mushrooms. Supporting such a rich casserole with more dynamic flavors – garlic and sherry brussels sprouts, and roasted rosemary and thyme potatoes – rounded out this down-home, comfort food meal.

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I really did drink a lot of bourbon that week.

Focusing on dishes that serve a large group while requiring mass cooking instead of individually plated meals is a great way to maximize your time with guests while also knocking their socks off with your cooking prowess.

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