What's easy to cook for 15 people?
March 17, 2008 10:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently living with 14 other people. We take turns cooking for each other. So Mefites, please help me with cheap, easy and delicious recipes that are easy to scale up to very large portions. Difficulty: We only have one medium sized oven but several stove tops. Oh, and one of us can't eat chili.
posted by sveskemus to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Casseroles work well in the situation -- they can be cheap and easily scalable. Lasagna is another dish that comes to mind. Infinitely customizable to suit the needs of different people, cheap, and highly scalable.
posted by nitsuj at 10:50 AM on March 17, 2008

Taco/taco salad buffet!

couple pounds of ground beef
couple heads of lettuce
sour cream
shredded cheese
tortilla chips

People LOVE it.
posted by jrichards at 10:51 AM on March 17, 2008

Pasta with assorted sauces (tomato or garlic + olive oil or cream sauce).
posted by mmascolino at 10:52 AM on March 17, 2008

Hard boiled eggs. And lots of them.

Then just put out some salt and pepper, maybe some fancy mayos and mustards, and you're all set.
posted by Grither at 10:53 AM on March 17, 2008

This looks like it could feed fourteen people...you could always make a salad as well.


10 potatoes, cooked, peeled and shredded
2 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup onion, chopped
salt and pepper, (to taste)
2 pkg. taco seasoning
1 cup milk
4 lbs. hamburger
Ragu or whatever brand cheese sauce
potato chips

Add sour cream and milk to dressing mix and mix well. Fry hamburger and onion and potatoes and add taco seasoning. Layer hamburger mixture alternately with sour cream mixture in a couple casserole pans, then pour cheese sauce over top. Bake at 350 degrees until hot. Before serving, sprinkle crushed potato chips on top.

This is an Amish recipe from Wisconsin (Mrs. Abe Miller). It's from my favorite cookbook.
posted by mamaraks at 11:02 AM on March 17, 2008

Eggs are cheap and a great source of protein (although I would be mightily annoyed if I came home to a dinner of hard boiled eggs). Scrambled eggs, omelets, ham & eggs, frittata, even egg salad sandwiches if you ever make lunch for the whole crowd. All are easy and easily scalable.
posted by boomchicka at 11:07 AM on March 17, 2008

To piggy back on what jrichards said, taco night can be a big hit. This was a childhood favorite of mine and I just started making it again with my girlfriend. We love it! A few other ingredient suggestions:
  • To make it vegetarian, try Gimme Lean Beef. It comes in a roll and cooks up just like ground beef.
  • Hard taco shells. They break and make a mess and are fun.
  • Taco seasoning. This is sold either in little packets or together with taco shells. This adds legitimacy.
  • Canned corn. No prep necessary and organic is still pretty cheap.
  • Canned pinto beans. Heat em up. And again, organic is cheap.
  • Nothing will make or break this meal more than your choice of salsa. Choose wisely.
Most all of the prep can be done in parallel so if you can get just a few of the 14 people to help you can be sitting down within 10 minutes of starting.
posted by funkiwan at 11:18 AM on March 17, 2008

The Duggar Family (17 kids and counting) has some recipes that might be useful.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:20 AM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Arroz con pollo, or pretty much any take on "protein + veg + rice". Depending on your access to seafood and smoked pork products, it's not far from that to paella or jambalaya.
posted by mkultra at 11:26 AM on March 17, 2008

This thread and this thread from eGullet.org have good ideas for large quantity cooking.
posted by Daily Alice at 11:26 AM on March 17, 2008

What is it in the chili that makes it a no-go for Person X?
posted by Greg Nog at 11:31 AM on March 17, 2008

mashed potato (on the stove) and lamb (in the oven). yes I'm poking fun at your danishness

Off jokes, I have a pasta-thingie that I made up one night that I like to do which is very simple to scale. I never measure anything so you can experiment your way around this.

In one fairly large pot, cut up ten or so spring onions and let them stew (not boil!) in cream (in your case I think the 5 dl maybe more - you can experiment with the lower fat kinds but I find full fat to work the best). Season with a dash of salt, pure white pepper (just a touch) and more muskot. This should turn into a fairly thick goo-ey mess as the spring onions "melt" into the cream. Creme fraiche experiments have not created the right consistency for me but it tastes just as good. You want this thick because you want it to stick to the pasta.

In another pot boil lots&lots of fettuccine.

Meanwhile, cut the cheap leftover tail/odd bits of fresh salmon that you can get from the fishmonger at closing time for cheap in to somewhat similarly sized cubes/bits.

Drain the fettuccine, put back into large pot, pour the gooey mess in there and add the salmon-bits - stir like mad while it's still piping hot. The heat from the sauce and the pasta will cook the salmon to perfection. Ta-dah, done.
posted by dabitch at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2008

What is it in the chili that makes it a no-go for Person X?

It's the actual chilies. She can't have any fresh or dried chili at all.

Thanks for all your answers so far!
posted by sveskemus at 11:34 AM on March 17, 2008

You don't mention why Chili is off the menu?

Indian or Thai curries are easy to make and taste wonderful.

Make a roast dinner, get a big lump of beef chuck, stab it with a knife and shove garlic and rosemary down each of the wounds. Fry it for a few minutes so its nicely coloured on the outside, pour on some red wine (or stock..) throw some onions around it. Into the oven, voila.
Make mashed/boiled potatoes on the stove top, either roast or boil your veg sides depending on space available. Roasts are so easy to make, and always goes down a treat.

Big pot of Ragu is easy, served with pasta/salad.

Stew can all be done on the stove. Get a big pot (or pots), brown some beef (or lamb/mutton) in it, throw in carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, leeks into it. Add a sachet of bouquet garnier, some wine (always wine!) and fill it up with beef stock (I use weakish Bisto Gravy). Plenty of salt and pepper. Bring it up to the boil, and let it simmer until you can't resist the smell anymore.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:40 AM on March 17, 2008

For carnivores:

Pork Chop Casserole

Package of pork chops
Cream of Celery soup

Trim excess fat off pork chops. Season the chops with light salt, pepper, garlic and whatever else you want. Brown them quickly in a pan on top of the stove.

In a well greased casserole dish place a layer of thin sliced (1/4 ") potatoes that covers the bottom. Next add a layer of the browned pork chops. Now add a layer of thin sliced onions. Spread a layer of celery soup. Continue adding successive layers till you're out of stuff.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

This recipe is insanely tasty and easy.

You will prolly need 3 pans for 15 people.
posted by wsg at 11:43 AM on March 17, 2008

I made this for a ton of people (doubling the recipe.) Tasty, veggie, and NO chilis!

Couscous to go with is easy to make in a big batch as well.
posted by picklebird at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2008

Cook a bunch of Turkey and mashed potatoes for one night.
Save the turkey carving, and throw it into a bunch of pots with broth and assorted veggies the next day and cook some high quality soup.
posted by jmd82 at 12:00 PM on March 17, 2008

If you do the taco buffet thing, set up some tortillas as well - some people do not (gasp!) like tacos, and picking at a heap of fillings is kind of depressing. (Speaking from experience, here.)
posted by bettafish at 12:04 PM on March 17, 2008

Pork Chop Casserole additional note.

Do NOT dilute the soup or the casserole will be too runny. Use the thick, undiluted soup straight from the can.
posted by wsg at 12:08 PM on March 17, 2008

Moosewood Cooks for a Crowd has lots of great, cheap meals for groups (I particularly love the noodle kugel).

Spanakopita is cheap, delicious, & pretty simple if you're not afraid of phyllo dough. I never use a recipe -- the proportions are very flexible -- but this recipe looks like a good guide, and you can scale it for 15 people. It's cheaper if you use frozen spinach -- just make sure you thaw it fully and drain it well (thawing it in a colander overnight works pretty well).

A big wok is invaluable for large-group cooking. Chopped garlic + chopped onions + grated ginger + mixed frozen veggies + tofu/meat/other protein + tasty sauce of your choice = easy stir-fry. Serve over massive quantities of rice.

Of course, there's also the whole "Beans + Starch" category of meals. These are very cheap, especially if you use dried beans instead of canned. In this category, we have:

- Lentil stew (or any other bean-based soup) & bread
- Hummus & pita, plus a big salad and maybe some feta cheese
- Black beans & rice. The simplest version of beans would be: saute some chopped onions and garlic, add some cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper, add the beans, and barely cover with some kind of tasty liquid -- canned tomato juice like V8 works surprisingly well. Simmer until cooked, stirring often and smashing some beans against the side of the pot with your spoon to make the mixture thicker. Serve over rice, shredded cheese optional.
- And plenty of other variations on the theme.

Quiche is delicious and very easy to make. If your oven has two racks, you can make 4 pie-sized quiches, which is a light meal for 14 people. Quiche Lorraine is the classic, but you can put any combination of fillings and cheese inside (just make sure your fillings aren't too wet -- if you use mushrooms, for instance, saute them first to get rid of the excess moisture).

Frittata, like quiche, is an easy and yummy meal. Fritattas are nice because you can put any kind of leftover veggies, cheese, meat, etc. inside and it will all end up tasting delicious. Just layer the fillings in a big frying pan, sprinkling healthy amounts of cheese between each layer, then fill the pan with salted/peppered beaten egg. One note: the gigantic frying pan I used to use for frittatas didn't heat evenly, so the potatoes didn't cook through -- eventually I figured out I could pre-bake them, then slice them up and fry them. It made them super-crispy and delicious.
posted by ourobouros at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Potato Soup and all its variations.
Corn Chowder

Both are super easy, filling and can be made by the vat full.
posted by onhazier at 1:01 PM on March 17, 2008

This is the best vegetable soup ever. Add in some noodles and it's very filling, more of a stew than a soup. I make a ton at a time. It freezes well.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:21 PM on March 17, 2008

Non-chili pepper chili recipe that feeds 3...scale up as needed:

In mortar:

1 tsp. black peppercorn
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. corriander seed
1 tsp. sea salt

grind and add:

2 tsp. paprika
pinch thyme

grind and set mixture aside

In 4 quart sauce pot:

brown 3/4 pound very lean ground beef (88-94% lean) - do not drain!
add 1 medium yellow onion chopped fine
add 4 tbs. water and the spice mix
cook while stirring until the onions start to turn

add 1 can dark red kidney beans with syrup
add 1 can black beans with syrup
add two small cans tomato sauce (or from scratch)
add 1 small can crushed/stewed/chopped/whole (after chopping) tomatoes (or from scratch)
add 1 tsp. sugar (to cut the acid from the tomatoes)

cook on medium heat for one hour, stirring frequently

serve with cornbread
posted by mrmojoflying at 2:16 PM on March 17, 2008

A very inexpensive Spanish Rice recipe (if you make your own stock...otherwise just inexpensive):

Red rice (feeds 4)

2 tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups white rice (well rinsed)
about 3 cups chicken stock
1 16oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. crushed black peppercorns

brown rice in olive oil, stirring constantly
add onion and garlic
cook until onions turn
add mixture to rice cooker with enough stock to cover almost 1/2 inch.
add tomatoes, salt, and pepper
cook until finished
let sit 10 minutes and fluff.
posted by mrmojoflying at 2:20 PM on March 17, 2008

Try polenta as an alternative to pasta or rice. It's super cheap, and hard to screw up. Offer sauteed veggies, shredded cheese, meat and/or sauce as toppings/add-ins. There are a ton of variations, so knock yourself out.

Disclosure: I'm eating some right now (with olive oil, salt, and pepper), so I may be biased.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 2:24 PM on March 17, 2008

my easiest meal that is great to make a TON of is indian dal, i don't really prepare dal the traditional way but this is a great dumbed-down american version. here's an article about dal (http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/kgk/2000/0300/kgk032500.html)

lentils (or there are a wide variety of legumes used in dal, so you can play around: chick peas, split peas, mung beans, pidgeon peas..., that website discusses some variations)

rice or quinoa (i love quinoa which cooks fast and has great amino acids, is a complete protein in itself)

canned tomato sauce/diced tomatoes

a bunch of curry powder or masala mixture, i just buy one of the imported box mixes you can get for cheap in the "ethnic" aisle at the grocery or in an indian store. here you will have to make sure you're not getting one with chilis already included, for your friend

a little oil, this is optional, i just like fat, ghee would be more appropriate to indian cooking but less common in my household

So, I just throw all this in a pot with water, about a 2-to-1 ratio of liquids (including tomato juices) to dry ingredients (your legumes and grains). I let it boil away, stirring and adding more water as necessary. Becomes a big soupy, yummy mix. If i'm feeling elaborate, before i put everything in the pan, i will saute some garlic and onions, and then pour everything in with that. Good to garnish with chopped nuts, raisins, yogurt, cilantro, shredded coconut...as you like it.

Just to note also, it is traditional to cook dal and rice/grains separately, so you could go that way and pour the dal over rice/quinoa/whatever. I just like to have only one pot to clean.
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:59 PM on March 25, 2008

« Older I want my obscure 80's   |   What healing process and timeline can I expect... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.