This past weekend I made a Cooking Light pasta salad for 18 people—a feat I am immensely proud of. I know what you’re thinking. You just got through a holiday with a turkey that could barely fit in your oven, enough pies to open a bakery, enough leftovers to satisfy late night cravings through New Year’s. What’s the big deal?
For me, it was taking the very few pots and pans in my small kitchen and a recipe originally intended to serve 4 and assembling ingredients so that nothing got overcooked, dried out, or underdressed. This was not easy. I had four pots of different sizes boiling away at different times. I had to dress the pasta in batches so no one got a mouthful of shallot or a slick of olive oil. I had to stretch the recipe a little as the herbs I thought were enough turned out to be just shy of what I needed.
Most of us don’t have professional kitchens and the marvelous equipment that comes with them: hotel pans, oven ranges as long as your hallway, pots big enough to bathe in. But with enough organization, an assembly line to suit your needs, and every bowl and spoon you’re willing to spare, a massive meal can come together relatively quickly. Extra hands are always a bonus, too.
A few tips to keep in mind:
Do as much prep work as possible beforehand: chop nuts, measure out spices, grate cheese, and so on.
Put measuring cups and stirring devices at every station: around the sink, oven, and cutting board. I lost a lot of time looking for what I just put down.
Work in batches: Dividing your dish, even if only by two, will allow ingredients to cook more evenly. If it needs to cool before another step, spread out on cookie sheets to cool evenly.