Cooking party menus & ideas?
September 26, 2008 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Menu/recipes for a cooking party?

Many of my friends are great cooks, and I am pretty darn good in the kitchen myself--we all find great pleasure in the act of cooking. I would like to plan a dinner party where we all cook together in my kitchen, then share the fruits of our labor. Please help me create a multi-course menu that several people (4 or 5) can work on at once.
  • kitchen is well outfitted with pretty much all the doodads and appliances you could need, but only four eyes on the stove and one oven (non convection)
  • there's a nice island we can all work around comfortably, but not enough counter space for anything that takes up gobs and gobs of room
  • no outdoor grill and circulation is kind of crap (I frequently set the alarm off using my grill pan - OK for me, but not a lot of fun for parties)
Obviously, the cooking is the entertainment here, so hands-on food is preferable to delicious but non-interactive food like marinate-and-fire recipes. Proverbial bonus points for autumnal seasonality, wine pairings. Adventuresome recipes are not a problem.

Other hints for making such an event a success, like how to enhance a groovy 'food sensuous' instead of 'worky' mood?
posted by CaptApollo to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How about these Swiss Cheese Fritters from FX Cuisine?

They take some assembly and you have to sort of eat them as you go.
In fact he has lots of fun recipes for having people over to cook--I really need to cultivate a friendship with that guy!
You could probably put together a whole menu just from that site, and the Swiss/German/Italian flavors are often very autumnal.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:42 PM on September 26, 2008

Gnocchi (made from scratch of course) could be fun, with folks contributing different kinds of sauces, toppings or complimentary sides. Personally I would bake, rather than boil the potatoes, and you obviously need a ricer, so I hope thats one of your doodads.
posted by elendil71 at 12:49 PM on September 26, 2008

Éclairs are pretty labor intensive without being a pain. Really, most fancy pastries can be a nice assembly-line activity. Make some marzipan and peel the almonds yourself if you wanna lot of extra work.

Meat offers lots of opportunities for painstaking and entertainingly gross work. Debone some quail. ;)
posted by paanta at 1:09 PM on September 26, 2008

Pumpkin or butternut squash ravioli, make pasta and filling from scratch.

We did something similar, making osso bucco and risotto and drinking wine. Have fun.
posted by fixedgear at 1:20 PM on September 26, 2008

salad, ravioli w/ various fillings, dessert fondues to dip angel food cake or fruit into.
posted by theora55 at 1:27 PM on September 26, 2008

Probably one of the most fun (and tactile) group cooking activities is making tamales from scratch. It's not super challenging for a group of experienced cooks, but tamale parties are something of a tradition, and you can make your filling out of whatever seasonal ingredients you pick up at the farmer's market.
posted by dersins at 1:43 PM on September 26, 2008

This cheddar chicken corn chowder has worked well for me in the past with up to 4 people on it. The recipe as it is isn't well laid out for that, but if you take a look ahead of time you can figure out what should be done in what order with multiple hands. Even when you try to cut corners like using a pre-roasted chicken, you'll still need a good bit of work done like deboning & slicing said chicken. If you want fewer people on this (obviously, just one person can make it) I'd say put 2 people on salad duty, 1 on dessert - brownies, cookies, or pie crusts - with at least one salad person switching over to pie fillings.

Multiple cutting surfaces & knives are beneficial, as is easy access to a microwave.

Anything that's a bit messy, and can involve serial steps in parallel (does that make sense? I mean like an assembly line) is fun. I made latkes with 2-3 friends last year, and it was fantastic.
posted by knile at 1:45 PM on September 26, 2008

Manicotti made from scratch is something my father and I have done in tandom. You could certainly expand this to more people if some work on making the wrappers and others work on the filling.
posted by mmascolino at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2008

similar to dersins' suggestion, a dumpling party is lots of fun too
posted by rux at 2:22 PM on September 26, 2008

This is my favorite kind of party because everyone has to get involved. My favorite of these favorites, which emphasizes the food-fun instead of the work aspect, is to have a crepe party. Steps:
1) Invest (one time) in a real honest-to-god crepière. ($150-200)
2) Make crepe batter before guests come. Be sure to have some sweet, some savory batter. This is not very exciting to make and should have 20+ minutes to let the gluten relax and the lumps de-lump.
3) Together or separately, prep fillings (mostly cutting, some sauteeing, nothing too challenging but all fun)
4) Start with the creping! They're really fun to make, everyone gets a turn, and the rotations give everyone a chance to eat and a chance to cook. Sometimes, there will be waiting time, but it's okay because then the meal lasts longer, you can eat more and spend more time together. Win!

For machines, I really really love my Tibos. It's about 14" diameter, electric, and non-stick, just like the ones you see in restaurants or on the street. I highly (highly!) recommend getting a flat grill like this because a) you can use it for many many other things (this one even comes with a "crepes of the world" cookbook) and b) the spinning of the crepe with the big wooden rake is half the fun. The ones where you just pour batter on and wait for it to spread by gravity are so utterly anti-climactic!
posted by whatzit at 3:39 PM on September 26, 2008

I did a cooking course where a group of 6 of us made a big Indian meal, and it worked out quite well. One person mixed and kneaded the dough for naan while everyone else chopped ingredients and measured out spices for a couple different curry-type dishes and chutneys. (The naan has to be started early, since it takes time to rise.) Someone put the rice on to cook, while others started preparing the curries. When things were almost done, we had a couple people shaping the naan while another person worked on frying them (I gather that naan is usually baked while parathas are usually fried... not sure why we did it this way, but it tasted great). Indian food lends itself especially well to this kind of group cooking because there are so many different veggies to chop, and spices to measure.

To make things go smoothly, it will help to have an idea ahead of time of what order things need to happen in. Make sure you've got lots of cutting boards and knives and little bowls to put things into when they're waiting to go into another dish. Print out several copies of each recipe, so they can be spread around for people to look at - I like to tape them up on the walls behind my counter, so they don't take up any extra counter space.

As for maintaining a fun atmosphere, I think wine and/or beer and music will do the trick. Perhaps you can even match them to the theme of your meal, whether it's Indian or Italian or whatever. Having an appetizer already prepared wouldn't hurt either, so people can snack as they cook.
posted by vytae at 8:56 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

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