Cooking for a Crowd: Menus, Recipes, and Strategies for Entertaining 10 to 50

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9781594860119: Cooking for a Crowd: Menus, Recipes, and Strategies for Entertaining 10 to 50
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Susan Wyler's indispensable classic is back in print-now better than ever, with more than a dozen new menus, over 70 new recipes, and a wealth of updated strategies

The original edition of Cooking for a Crowd won great praise all around: Florence Fabricant named it one of the New York Times best books of the season. Perla Meyers, author of How to Peel a Peach, advised, "Keep this book as a reference whenever you are entertaining." And Rose Levy Berenbaum, author of The Cake Bible, declared, "She puts together the components of a dinner with the passion, perfection, and ease of a master painter. The game plans . . . enable any cook to impress without risk."

This new edition builds on the premise of the original-that many a home cook can manage the occasional dinner party for 4 to 6, but when it comes to entertaining a crowd of 10 or more, the logistics become exponentially more complicated. Wyler's ingeniously user-friendly combination of creative menus, do-ahead game plans, and crowd-pleasing recipes makes it possible for any home cook to entertain on a large scale.

Wyler has expanded the volume to include over 225 recipes and 35 menus for a variety of sizes and occasions-such as Tuscan Lunch for 12 to 16, Black and Orange Halloween Party for 24, even a Wedding Supper for 50.

A perfect balance of inspiring and instructive, Cooking for a Crowd is a must-have for all home cooks who want to bring large groups of family and friends together at the table.

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About the Author:

SUSAN WYLER was food editor of Food & Wine magazine for 10 years. She is a widely published food writer and an IACP- and James Beard Award-nominated cookbook author whose other popular titles include Simply Stews, Tailgate Parties, and Cooking from a Country Farmhouse. Wyler lives in rural Pennsylvania.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Flavorful Dinner For Good Friends

FOR 10 TO 12

THREE-MUSHROOM LASAGNE WITH GORGONZOLA SAUCE

MEDITERRANEAN SEAFOOD CASSEROLE GARLIC CROUTONS (PAGE 60)

COMPOSED SALAD OF CARROTS, BEETS, AND CUCUMBER

HAZELNUT DACQUOISE WITH CHOCOLATE CREAM

This is, quite simply, delicious food to share with your favorite people. I love the flavors that make up these recipes: wild mushrooms, blue cheese, tomatoes, garlic, fennel, seafood, and, last but not least, chocolate and hazelnuts. Maybe it's the vibrant Mediterranean flavors of these dishes and maybe it's the close friends I've shared them with, but I'm convinced this menu guarantees an extraordinarily pleasant evening, especially for the cook, since much of the dinner can be accomplished in advance. To me, this blending of modern trends with traditional tastes reflects the best of informal entertaining.

While the lasagne can certainly be made with dried noodles, the variety of mushrooms produces a subtle and complex flavor that deserves the delicacy of fresh pasta. If you don't feel like making your own, many stores sell fresh sheets of pasta for lasagne. Though the entire dish can be assembled up to a day in advance, bake it shortly before serving to preserve its subtle flavor and light texture.

I love the taste of bouillabaisse, but I'm not comfortable with soup as a main course at a company dinner, and I don't like the fishy smell that permeates the house. That's why I developed this casserole, which has all the vibrant, Mediterranean flavors of the original--olive oil, garlic, saffron, leeks--and much of the same delectable seafood but requires no fish stock; only the cooking liquid from the mussels and clams is used. Garlic toast helps to sop up the delicious juices.

Though the dishes are savory and rich, this is a relatively light meal, so I offer a more substantial salad than usual before dessert. Colorful and different, it makes a striking presentation on the plate. I prefer the salad at this point in the meal, but if it works better for you, it could be served as the first course.

Dark chocolate and toasted hazelnuts are an unbeatable combination, which are here combined in an elegant presentation that is guaranteed to draw applause from even the most sophisticated of guests. The dacquoise can be completely assembled up to 24 hours before serving. Although the nut meringue layers soften slightly, the hazelnuts remain crunchy, and as with most chocolate desserts, the flavor improves overnight.

DO-AHEAD PLANNING

UP TO 2 DAYS IN ADVANCE: Make the tomato sauce base (Step 1) for the seafood casserole.

UP TO 1 DAY IN ADVANCE: Make the pasta and assemble the lasagne. Cover and refrigerate. Cook the mussels and clams and complete the sauce for the seafood casserole (Step 2). Refrigerate separately; remove about 30 minutes before you plan to cook the seafood casserole. Cook the beets for the salad and shred them; shred the carrots. Toss both with dressing. Wash and trim the watercress. Prepare the Hazelnut Dacquoise with Chocolate Cream.

UP TO 6 HOURS BEFORE SERVING: Make the Garlic Croutons to accompany the seafood casserole. Follow the instructions in Step 2 of Roquefort Caesar Salad on page 60 but use 2 loaves of French bread and 1/2 cup olive oil and do not cut the slices into cubes.

ABOUT 1 1/2 HOURS IN ADVANCE: Shred the cucumbers, toss them with dressing, and assemble the composed salads. Refrigerate.

ABOUT 30 MINUTES BEFORE SERVING: Bake the Three-Mushroom Lasagne. Assemble the Mediterranean Seafood Casserole. Finish the casserole either before you sit down to eat the lasagne or after you clear the table from the first course.

THREE-MUSHROOM LASAGNE WITH GORGONZOLA SAUCE

12 TO 16 SERVINGS

At the original book party for Cooking for a Crowd, which was held at New York's favorite restaurant, Union Square Cafe, this is the menu that was served. Imagine my thrill when then-chef Ali Barker, Michael Romano's predecessor, kept the lasagne on the restaurant's menu for a year. For this more formal service at the party, the chef constructed individual portions of lasagne between thin rounds of homemade pasta.

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms

2 sticks (1/2 £d) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

4 large shallots, minced

2 £ds fresh white button or cremini mushrooms, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 small garlic cloves, minced

3/4 £d fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 £d Gorgonzola dolcelatte cheese

3/4 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)

Homemade Lasagne Noodles (opposite page) or 1 package (16 ounces) lasagne noodles

1. In a medium bowl, cover the porcini with 3 cups boiling water. Let stand until softened, 20 to 30 minutes. Lift out the mushrooms; reserve the liquid. Coarsely chop the porcini. Strain the liquid through a double layer of cheesecloth and reserve 2 cups.

2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over moderately high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the minced shallots and half the minced fresh mushrooms. Saute, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms give up their liquid, it evaporates, and the mushrooms become lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Season these mushroom duxelles with half the tarragon and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, a dash or two of cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Scrape into a bowl. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Repeat with 2 more tablespoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil, adding 2 more tablespoons of the shallots and the remaining minced fresh mushrooms. Season as above. Add to the bowl. Wipe out the skillet.

3. In the same large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat. Add the remaining minced shallots and the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the shiitake and porcini mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the reserved porcini liquid and simmer, partially covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender but still slightly chewy. Uncover and cook, stirring frequently, until the remaining liquid evaporates. Season with the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Add to the mushroom duxelles and set aside.

4. In a large heavy saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter over moderate heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes without letting the flour color. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup mushroom liquid, the milk, and the cream. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened and smooth. Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Whisk in the Gorgonzola and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese until melted. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and several dashes of cayenne.

5. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the lasagne noodles until just tender, about 1 minute after the water returns to a boil for fresh noodles, about 12 minutes for the dried variety. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Place in a bowl of cold water and, one by one, lay the noodles out in a single layer on kitchen towels to dry.

6. To assemble the lasagne, generously butter 2 large baking pans, 9 x 13 x 2 inches. If the sauce has cooled, reheat it slightly over low heat. Arrange a layer of noodles in the bottom of each dish, trimming to fit, if necessary, and overlapping the edges only slightly. Spread a thin layer of mushrooms over the noodles (using one-quarter of the total amount in each pan) and drizzle about 1 cup of sauce over the mushrooms in each pan. Repeat with another layer of noodles, mushrooms, and sauce. Top with a final layer of noodles. Spread the remaining sauce over the noodles, dividing evenly, and divide the remaining 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese evenly over the tops. Dot each with 1 tablespoon butter. (The lasagne can be assembled completely and refrigerated, covered, overnight or frozen for up to 2 weeks.)

7. Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the lasagne (thawed, if frozen) uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on top.

HOMEMADE LASAGNE NOODLES

MAKES ABOUT 3/4 POUND , ENOUGH FOR 2 PANS OF LASAGNE

Though you can roll out pasta dough by hand with a heavy rolling pin (I did it for years), it takes muscle. A food processor and an inexpensive hand- cranked pasta machine turn this process into a breeze.

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, in two batches, combine the eggs and flour. Process until well blended and the mixture resembles coarse sand. Turn out the dough and knead into a ball. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and a kitchen towel to keep it moist.

2. Tear off lemon-size pieces of dough to work with. Keep the remaining dough covered until you are ready for it. Pass the piece of dough through the widest setting on the pasta machine. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter and pass through the same setting. Repeat two more times to complete the kneading of the dough. Then pass the dough through consecutively smaller settings until it is rolled through the thinnest setting.

3. Drape the dough over a rack (or the back of a chair) to dry for at least 20 minutes. Trim into manageable 6-to 8-inch lengths before cooking. (The noodles can be sealed in plastic bags and refrigerated for up to 2 days before using.)

MEDITERRANEAN SEAFOOD CASSEROLE

12 SERVINGS

The do-ahead trick in this recipe is to steam the clams and mussels in Step 2 until they just open. When they are reheated, they will finish cooking and taste fresh. If you cook them completely in advance, they will toughen when reheated.

Garlic croutons are a traditional accompaniment.

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium leeks (white and tender green) or 2 large onions, chopped

6 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 cans (28 ounces each) Italian peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely cut up

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed Pinch of saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 shallots, minced

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper

3/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley

4 £ds mussels, preferably cultivated, debearded

2 dozen cherrystone clams, scrubbed

3 £ds firm-textured white fish fillets, such as scrod, red snapper, halibut, cut into 3 x 2-inch pieces

12 jumbo shrimp or langostinos in their shells, rinsed

1 £d bay scallops or quartered sea scallops

2 tablespoons Pernod, optional

1. In a large nonreactive flameproof casserole, heat 1/3 cup of the oil. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and just begin to color, about 10 minutes. Add two- thirds of the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds, saffron, and salt; simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. (The tomato sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, covered. Reheat before Step 3.)

2. In a large nonreactive saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderately low heat. Add the shallots and remaining garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the wine, hot pepper, and 1/4 cup of the parsley and bring to a boil over high heat. Dump in the mussels and clams, cover tightly, and steam, stirring up the shellfish from the bottom once or twice, until they just open, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove the mussels and clams from the broth and set aside in their shells; discard any that do not open. Strain the broth through a double thickness of cheesecloth and add to the tomato sauce. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate the shellfish and sauce separately. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you plan to cook the casserole.)

3. Shortly before you are ready to serve the first course, arrange the fish and shrimp in a large paella pan or flameproof casserole. Scatter the scallops around the pan. Quickly bring the tomato sauce to a boil. Stir in the Pernod and pour over the seafood. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook without stirring for 5 minutes. Uncover and tuck the mussels and clams around the other seafood. Cover and simmer until the shellfish are hot and the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top. Serve in shallow soup plates.

COMPOSED SALAD OF CARROTS, BEETS, AND CUCUMBER

10 TO 12 SERVINGS

Finely julienne the vegetables for this colorful salad using the julienne blade on a food processor or a mandoline or Japanese vegetable slicer. If not, use the shredding disk to grate them.

2 bunches of beets

3 long, narrow European seedless cucumbers

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

8 large carrots

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons minced chives or scallion greens

Watercress, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Trim the stems off the beets, leaving about 3 inches attached. Wash the beets and wrap in heavy-duty foil. Bake in the oven for 1 to 11/4 hours, or until just tender but still firm. Let cool; then trim and peel.

2. Julienne the cucumbers in a food processor or on a mandoline. Put in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the other vegetables.

3. Peel the carrots and julienne them. Place in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

4. Julienne the beets. Put them in a separate bowl and toss with the orange zest, orange juice, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.

5. Drain the cucumbers; pat dry on paper towels. Put the cucumbers in another bowl and toss with the rice vinegar, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, chives, and the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.

6. To assemble, arrange mounds of carrots, beets, and cucumbers on a large platter or on individual plates. Set a few sprigs of watercress in the center for garnish.

HAZELNUT DACQUOISE WITH CHOCOLATE CREAM

12 SERVINGS

An elegant but surprisingly light dessert, this is, in a word, fabulous!

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts (6 ounces)

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

6 egg whites

Pinch of cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

8 ounces semisweet chocolate

1/2 cup brewed coffee

1 tablespoon Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur), optional

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups heavy cream

Toasted hazelnuts or shaved chocolate, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 250°F. Butter and flour 3 baking sheets. Make sure they can all fit in your oven, even if the edges of 2 overlap slightly. Trace a 10-inch circle onto each sheet.

2. In two batches in a food processor, grind the hazelnuts wit...

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