Kitchen Tips: Cooking for a lot of people

No cauliflower were harmed in the shooting of this photo.
Josh Escobar/Staff
No cauliflower were harmed in the shooting of this photo.

“There’s a lot room for mistakes when you cook for so many people. Remember: It’s not just about taste. It’s about feeding everyone,” said Rose DeNicola, Student Food Manager at Kingman Hall.

Your club may be having a potluck or your friend a birthday party. In any case, it’s up to you to cook dinner for 50 or so people, but don’t worry. We at Eating Berkeley are here to help you out with a few time-honored cooking tips.

1. Make big batches of grains and beans.

From the rawest vegan to the hungriest carnivore, no one likes eating protein dishes alone. With a batch of quinoa, pinto beans, lentils or the like, you can make a filling and healthy side dish with little effort. Besides, grains and beans are easy to heat up and serve hot right at dinner time. Just be sure to get the ratio of water right.
While it boils, toss in your scraps of onions, garlic and veggies, as well as a little salt. When it’s done cooking, add a dash of salt and maybe some cheese, then you’re done!

Warning: cooking rice on the stove top is very difficult. Sensitive by nature, the rice will burn or over-soak easily, especially in enormous batches. Avoid rice at all cost!

2. Start early

If you like cooking, then a few hours to prepare food in the kitchen will go by like a breeze. Yet, you don’t want to serve dinner late. Starting early will give you time to garnish thing perfectly and arrange dishes to make them look appetizing. It will also give you time to relax, which is necessary for any cook to keep their cool.

3. Taste test regularly. Add seasonings a little at a time.

Seasonings and spices like garlic pepper and cumin are good allies when it comes to cooking for a lot of people. A little goes a long way, in effort, taste and gratification. However, if you add too much, there’s no going back. Keep some spoons handy, and taste test regularly. Stir in the seasonings and spices well and taste again. Even if you follow the recipes to the milligram, you always need to make little adjustments.

4. Get help from your friends

Cooking with wine adds flavor to the tomato sauce. A little wine may also pacify the lead cook whose mind is in five places at once, and it may even help recruiting your friends. Invite them over early to help out. Most of them will want to chat, gossip and chill with you before a big dinner anyways. Cutting veggies and taste testing make for the perfect one-on-one time.