There are a lot of elements involved in hosting a family reunion -- figuring out where people should stay, mini events to get everyone to socialize, favors to remember the celebration, and, of course, food. Food might be the trickiest part. Catering can get pricey, so you may consider doing some of the cooking yourself. Here are 5 tips on cooking for a crowd.
Keep your meals simple by choosing all-encompassing dishes, like casseroles. Casseroles are very forgiving when it comes to serving -- basically you cut up vegetables and meat, stir in a binding liquid and top it with something crunchy. You don't have to make everything pretty, it just has to be tasty.
Plan your menu well in advance of the family arrivals. This means getting out your cookbook and calculating adjustments to the recipes according to how many portions you need. It takes time to type it all out, and you don't want it to cut into family time. In addition to the calculating, you'll also be able to prep the food efficiently. You'll be able to chop vegetables, grate cheese, and season meats in intervals so you don't get tuckered out from one meal.
Stick To The Basics
When you're making food for dozens of people rather than your immediate family, you don't have the luxury of being able to cook around everyone's dietary restrictions or picky palates. Choose recipes that are basic like potatoes, beans, and chicken to cover everyone's food preferences. Provide enough variety so people with dietary restrictions can mix and match the food to create a palatable plate.
Don't be afraid to call on family members to help with your meals. One person can't be expected to serve the entire extended family. Make a list of everyone capable of helping in the kitchen and send out delegations before your family reunion weekend starts so they know what they're getting into. You can even let the older kids help, but leave the little ones to play with their toys. Have one person make the grocery list, have a group make the trip to the store. Put two people in charge of putting groceries away and have someone else coordinate the prep schedule. It will take a load off your shoulders and mind.
Grilling For A Crowd
For more casual meals that involve hamburgers and hot dogs, don't be afraid to cook the meat ahead of time. To keep your burgers hot, moist and delicious, keep a shallow pan of water on the grill -- season it a little bit with beef base and stick your burgers in there when they're done cooking. When the family is ready to eat, throw a pre-cooked patty on the grill for just a second and serve. The burgers will all be cooked thoroughly (but not overcooked) and the warm bath will make the burgers tasty enough that guests will be pleased even if they want their burgers medium-rare.