Cooking for a crowd

August 21, 1991|By Sherrie Clinton | Sherrie Clinton,Evening Sun Staff

DON'T PANIC. MAYBE if I say it enough times I'll eventually believe it. However, every time I've been confronted with a large group of people to feed my first thought, after I've stopped hyperventilating, is to send out for a few buckets of fried chicken.

There really is no need to panic if you plan ahead. These make-ahead dishes, for about 20 to 25 people, are part of a meal I actually served at a friend's going-away party. You can supplement this menu with party-fare standards such as potato salad, cole slaw and cheese and crackers. A dip, with raw vegetables or potato chips, would not go amiss.

For dessert I made two cheesecakes. I like to serve cheesecakes because folks are always impressed but more importantly the cheesecakes can be made two or three days ahead of time. Wrap them tightly and store in the refrigerator. Before serving, top one with fresh fruit and serve the other plain.

The veggies in this gazpacho recipe should be fine enough so

that folks can sip the soup if they so desire.

Gazpacho a la Mexicaine

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, about 2 cups

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

6 tablespoons chopped scallions

1/2 cup chopped sweet green pepper

1 cup cucumber, cut into 1/4 -inch cubes or very coarsely chopped in a food processor

4 tablespoons chopped green hot or mild chilies

2 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves

4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

2 cups tomato juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Makes 12 servings, Make recipe twice to feed 25.

The gazpacho can be made 24 hours ahead of time if you keep the chopped vegetables in one container and the liquid mixture in another. Combine about three hours before serving. Serve in a classy glass pitcher, as we did, or use a punch bowl.

Let each guest personalize their dish by setting out containers of hot sauce, red wine vinegar, croutons (Pepperidge Farm makes good ones) and sour cream. A small bottle of pepper-flavored vodka might also be a good idea, depending on your guests.

?3 Serve in small, clear plastic cups with spoons.

Adapted from "Pierre Franey's Low Calorie Gourmet" by Pierre Franey; Random House -- 1984

Mandarin Chicken Wings

24 chicken wings

1 cup cornstarch

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash garlic salt

1/4 cup milk

4 cups cooking oil

Peking sauce, recipe below

Cut the chicken wings at the joint with a sharp knife. Discard wing tips. Scrap and push the meat to one end of the bone so that each piece resembles a small drumstick. Refrigerate covered until ready to use.

In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients but cooking oil. Use a wire whisk to blend completely. Dip each chicken drumstick into the batter, coating completely. Heat the cooking oil in a heavy 12- to 14-inch skillet, the oil should be at a depth of one-inch, over moderate heat, until sizzling but not smoking. Cook the batter-coated pieces, a few at a time, over moderate heat, five to six minutes, turning often, until lightly browned. Remove from fat and set aside to drain on paper towels.

Dip each fried chicken piece in Peking sauce and place in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Pour the remaining sauce over the chicken wings and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce is absorbed. Baste and turn the chicken wings frequently. Serve warm or cold. Serves 12, double to serve 24.

Peking Sauce

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup Japanese vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

To prepare sauce in a small saucepan combine all ingredients. Blend and place over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved, seven to ten minutes. Remove from heat.

In my opinion, you can't beat quichee when it comes to serving a crowd. This dish can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and served at room temperature. Don't leave the dish setting outside for any length of time. Take just enough quichee out of the refrigerator to satisfy the first wave of guests, setting out more as needed.

This crab quiche recipe calls for lump crab meat but backfin can be substituted.

Crab Quiche

2 prebaked pie shells of Herbed Pie Crust, recipe below

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 pounds fresh lump crab meat (see note above)

8 eggs

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Freshly ground pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh herbs, lemon thyme, parsley and chives for example, minced

1/4 cup green scallions, finely choped

2 small red bell peppers, finely chopped

4 ounces country ham, shredded

12 ounces Swiss cheese, grated

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the egg yolks with one tablespoon water and paint the prebaked shells with the mixture. Spread mustard over the top and set aside.

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