I don’t like to waste food. At buffets I take only as much food as I know I can eat and I always try to clean my plate. It bothers me therefore when I cook for the large parties we throw three or four times a year and see lots and lots of food left over.Try as I can , it’s impossible for me to estimate how much food is really needed. Not that anything goes to waste ; any food that’s left either goes into the freezer to be eaten over the course of the next week or we doggy bag it for our departing guests. Not an ideal solution because one gets awfully tired of eating the same food over and over again and besides it never tastes as good as when it is freshly made.
There are several reasons why I find it difficult to estimate quantities more closely. The main reason is that when the dinner consists of several dishes, the tendency is to prepare each dish as if it is the only thing on the menu. This is particularly true of the Thanksgiving feast where we used to have 70% of the food left over after the meal. By conscious effort over several years, we ‘ve cut down the amounts of food we prepare ; now the left overs are “only” half as much ( of course, that’s still 30-35%). Better but still unacceptably high. The leftover turkey can be repackaged in many different ways ( BBQ turkey hash, turkey sandwiches, curried turkey etc.) and mashed potatoes are no problem but the yams, stuffing and greens get old and tired awful fast.
Another problem is that guests at a large party often have different food taboos. I’ve gotten used to catering to vegetarian tastes but then there are some who don’t like yoghurt ( a larger number tan I’d thought) or who don’t eat garlic or onions or… Among non-vegetarians there are those who eat chicken only, or who have cut back on meat because of health reasons and now restrict themselves to only fish. Also, I’ve slowly come to realize that as we all age, my generation no longer eats as much we used to. However, I still estimate portions as if it were the good old days. We hosts have a mortal fear of running out of food though there is really no reason to feel that way.
One other problem is that when one serves appetizers and there is a long period before dinner, guests fill up on appetizers and drinks and are almost full by the time the entrees are served. I’ve mitigated this problem by preparing fewer appetizers and serving the main meal earlier than we used to. One can always chat during and after the meal. Besides , it’s healthier to eat early, something we have grown accustomed to in our daily lives.
Inspite of knowing all this , it is still difficult for me to restrain myself when it comes to preparing food. A case in point is the Fourth of July bash that we had at my cousin’s house this past Sunday. Having volunteered to make the chicken wings and spare ribs , I went to Costco to pick up the meat. There were about 17-18 guests expected and I wound up getting a tray of spareribs ( about 9 lbs.) and a packet of chicken wings ( another 9lbs). Weightwise all the packages were about the same and I picked the smallest I could. I also bought some kielbasa just for emergencies. All in all I didn’t think too much would be left over but I was wrong.
The chicken wings and the spareribs both turned out great and the guests enjoyed them thoroughly . The wings were almost all gone , with only about 8 pieces left but about 3 lbs of the spareribs were left over and the packet of kielbasa was unopened.. Luckily, we were scheduled to attend another BBQ on Mondayand I took the leftover spareribs to the party. We heated them in a 250 degree oven over a pan of water to keep them moist and succulent and served them as appetizers. Everybody just loved them . They were all gone in minutes. The chicken wings will be our lunch today and the sausages will go in the refrigerator for the next party. All-in-all, I guess we didn’t go as much overboard as we used to.
By the way, I ‘ve just realized that grilling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Because our grill was giving us some problems, we prepared the wings and the spareribs in the oven and they came out fine. We then took them over to my cousin’s place and finished them off on his grill. They were perfectly cooked and there were no worries about undercooking or charring as when we used to cook them on the grill. For those who are interested , these are the ‘ recipes”.
The chicken wings were each cut into three pieces and the wing tips saved in the freezer to make stock. The wing pieces were then mixed with a mixture of salt and black pepper and baked in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, the wings being turned over halfway through the baking process. The rendered fat, most of it, was decanted off , and the wings allowed to cool a little before being slathered with the BBQ sauce. I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Chipotle and Honey BBQ sauce after having jazzed it up with a couple of teaspoons of cayenne pepper sauteed in a little olive oil.
For the ribs I decided something different. I separated them into individual riblets and used a dry rub mixed in with an equal amount of brown sugar. We used Rudy’s Dry Rub (mainly salt, red chili pepper, paprika, garlic, sugar and ‘spices’ ) which we had brought back with us from our recent trip to Austin , Texas. The ribs were then allowed to rest for a couple of hours before being baked initially at 425 degrees for 25 minutes and then at 350 mimutes for another 45 minutes. After they had cooled, we mixed them with 1/2 a bottle of the vinegary Salt Lick’s BBQ sauce ( another souvenir of Austin). They came out very well and several people asked for the recipe. So here it is. Bon Appetit.