I recently received an e-mail from a lady asking for tips on cooking for large group meals. She has the task of cooking dinner for 100 later on this month, and wanted to know all the details of how I cook a Butter Chicken Dinner for a crowd. So, this post is for you, Vicky. I hope it helps!
I admit I had never made Butter Chicken before experimenting with it for a group of 50 earlier this year. It turned out to be a real favourite, and as an added bonus, it fits for the whole “gluten free” issue as well. It can easily be adapted to be dairy free as well. Just omit the butter in everything, and sauté the veggies in oil instead of butter.
The group we were cooking for requested dinner at 6:30. It was mostly women, with a few staff men ~ 50 in total.
We began our workday at 9 am. I had a wonderful, happy, and helpful assistant named Brittney, and we had a delightful “adventure” that day. My personal philosophy in cooking for a crowd is that I try everything possible to avoid last minute panic or rushing around. You never know what curve-balls you’ll be thrown (this day was a perfect example of that!), and planning in some “wiggle room” for unexpected things is really important.
Step 1: Place (2 – 3 kg boxes) skinless boneless chicken breasts on large baking sheets and sprinkle on some butter chicken spice. Put in 350 degree oven to bake.
Step 2: While the chicken is baking, prepare the sauce and toppings, while your assistant whips up the no bake cheesecake.
This meal is a kind of variation of a Polynesian Dinner and curry chicken. I offer toppings of sunflower seeds, sour cream, fresh cut pineapple, and (not pictured) coconut for the guests to put on their chicken and rice. (The fruit in the background was for the next morning’s breakfast.)
Once in serving bowls, cover the toppings and put in cooler (or refrigerator).
Also cover the finished pan of cheesecake (a Jello cheesecake mix) and place in cooler.
The Butter Chicken topping prep is:
1 2.84 liter can coconut milk and 1.42 liters tomatoe sauce mixed together with 1/4 cup butter chicken spice.
(This is the amazing spice I use ~ from www.acecurriestogo.com in Vancouver.)
Once mixed together, cover sauce and put in cooler.
Also, dice 3 onions, cover and put in cooler for later.
By now (about 30-45 after putting it in the oven), the chicken should be cooked. The temperature of the thickest part of the chicken should read 74 degrees Celsius.
Let the chicken cool a bit, and then dice into 1 inch chunks and place in 2 medium deep hotel pan. Cover and place in cooler.
Now you have done the pre-prep for the meal. At this point (around noon) you could set up your serving line…or you could go home and do a few loads of laundry!:)
This is when things turned a bit adventurous for us! At 4:00, I headed back up to the kitchen to start putting together the butter chicken, only to discover that the power was out!!
Thankfully, we have propane stoves and gravity fed water, so the show still could go on!:)
I started to sauté the previously diced onions in butter, along with about 1/8 cup garlic, but discovered that sautéing in the dark is a bit tricky!
Thankfully, Brittney had a flashlight app on her phone…
Once the onion and garlic had sautéed nicely, I added in the previously mixed sauce and stirred it until it started to simmer. Then, I added the chicken chunks and let it simmer a few more minutes.
At this point, I transfer the chicken into 2 medium deep hotel pans, cover with foil, and place in the oven at 300 degrees. It will hang out and simmer the flavours together until it’s time to serve for dinner.
Brittney then cut and plated the desserts and placed them in the cooler.
I got the rice prepped to put in the oven. For this group, I placed 6 cups of basmati rice into each of 2 medium deep pans. I sprinkled it with salt and put in a couple hunks of real butter.
Then I poured 11 cups boiling water over each pan, covered tightly with foil and put it in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. (I time it so it’s finished 15 minutes before serving time.)
Brittney prepped the naan bread by cutting each round into 4ths and brushing over melted butter spiced with garlic. It just needs about 5 minutes in the oven right before serving time.
The spinach salad was put was a large bowl, sprinkled with craisens and feta cheese, and mixed through. (Buying washed and ready to serve salad greens will save you a TON of time…and it’s not necessarily more expensive, either.) Pour salad dressing/s into serving bowls.
If the serving line isn’t already set up, do that now. (I totally forgot to take a picture of this!)
I bring a large pot of water to boil and pour the frozen peas in about 1/2 hour before serving time. But they do NOT need much cooking time! Once they are done (about 5 minutes?), I drain them, put on some pats of butter, cover with foil and place in a warming oven.
And, here’s where a picture of the finished meal should go…
You’ll just have to imagine it with me. The power outage sort of threw off my picture taking system! It did come on 15 minutes before the meal was served, but I was a tad busy then…
PS. Looking for more meals for a crowd?
These Ham and Cheese Sliders are a favorite!