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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

07.14.2005

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cooking for a crowd
by Yee-Fan Sun |
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continued from page 1

sharing the kitchen
When you're cooking for the masses, it helps to get some folks together to help you with the food prep. But for those who are used to going it solo in the kitchen, sharing chef duties presents its own set of challenges. Too many cooks in the kitchen, as the old adage goes, spoil the broth, so it's best to establish from the get-go who's actually heading up this operation. While it might sound all nice and democratic to let each cook prep his or her own dish, you'll generally find that this leads to major chaos, as folks battle for kitchen resources, and dishes that need to be prepped early can't get made until too late, while those that are best served straight away sit around getting soggy and limp.

Having a head chef (or at most, a couple of head chefs) around to oversee the cooking and timing ensures that both manpower and resources are being used as efficiently as possible. Make sure to assign folks to specific kitchen duties. You'll need choppers and bakers and folks to man the stove. And of course, there's plenty for the less culinarily-confident to help out with as well -- from dishwashing to table setting, food serving and plate clearing and more.

Should you be designated the cook in charge, you'll find that micromanaging is not a good idea. If you've delegated the sauce making to someone else, trust that they know what they're doing; rein in your despotic instincts, and don't insist that they do things exactly the way you might in their place. Conversely, if you've been assigned some random cooking duty and genuinely don't know how it should be done, be sure to ask. As with so many things in life, a little communication will go a long way to ensuring that things go smoothly, and that no one ends up wanting to throttle anyone else.

get planning
Make a list -- better yet, several. You'll want to put together at least a menu and a shopping list; creating a detailed to-do list is also a good idea, both for pre-party prep and actual cooking and serving time.

Well before the big cooking day, take inventory of your kitchen and storage space. Make sure you have all the necessary pots and pans, and that they're sufficiently capacious to accommodate large volumes. If a careful perusal reveals that you don't have all the gear you need, either borrow from friends, or get shopping. Disposable baking pans -- you know, the heavy-duty aluminum foil variety -- offer an inexpensive and practical solution. You'll also need to clear out the fridge to make room for ingredients and completed dishes. If you're worried about running out of fridge space come party day, a big cooler filled with ice/ice packs can be handy for additional cold storage.

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