I am excited to have Jennifer L. Hart visiting with us today. Jennifer is the author of the Laundry Hag series as well as the Damaged Goods Mystery series. Check them out.
The Bowtie Angel Chef’s Guide to Cooking for a Spring Crowd
Spring’s here, and you know what that means. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, proms, graduations, cookouts and more. The season is bursting with activity and when people are active they like to eat. Big gatherings means a ton of food, so I thought I’d ask the chefs of the Bowtie Angel to share with us some wisdom for handling spring feasting fever.
Q. What dishes do you think are the best during large spring gatherings?
Andy: I find that it depends on the occasion. People dressing up for prom are less likely to gorge on heavy or sauce covered dishes than on something bite sized. For a prom crowd I like to make appetizers. Kids love their apps! Stuffed mushroom caps, maybe arancini, something light. A barbecue on the other hand, is all about the main courses. My Spring Fling pasta is a big hit and goes well with burgers, chicken and ribs.
Aunt Cecily: They will eat the food I make for them and like it.
Mimi: I always like to make a special event dessert. Flag cake for Memorial Day, large cream filled cupcakes decorated with edible flowers for Mother’s Day, or cannoli made to look like rolled up diplomas for graduations. Deserts are the most creative food!
Q. When cooking for a large crowd, how do you handle special dietary needs or food allergies?
Andy: The first step is to ask if there are any dietary restrictions I need to adhere to. These days you have to expect there will be people who require special diets. I always try to include some simple dishes, five ingredients and list everything on a card next to the dish. Caprese salad is a perfect example. Fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, fresh grape tomatoes and basil infused extra virgin olive oil. Simple, clean and straightforward. Naturally gluten free. The more complicated a dish, the more likely you’ll add something that someone can’t eat.
Aunt Cecily: If God wants him dead by turning my good food to poison in his belly, who am I to stop Him?
Mimi: Asking in advance is the best way. Puddings, Italian Ice and fresh fruit are usually safe bets for most dietary restrictions.
Q. Do you have a favorite spring gathering recipe?
Andy: oh, tons of them! I already mentioned the Spring Fling pasta, which works as a
sit down meal as well as a side. Spring means fresh veggies and I love to experiment with different sorts of pasta primavera. Quality and variety is the name of the game.
Aunt Cecily: No. I make the pasta every day.
Mimi: My sweet tooth really kicks in during the spring, so I tend to make lots of cakes. And frosting is a perfect medium to experiment with flowers or other unique designs. Also gelato, there are so many flavors and we have a new ice cream machine at the Bowtie Angle, so I’ll be making some fresh berry sorbet.
Q. Any last tips or tricks for our home chefs to keep in mind?
Andy: Advanced planning is your best bet. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to throw a meal together for thirty on short notice! If you have kids who bring friends along at the last minute, I’d recommend freezing some ready to go dishes that you can just pop in the oven.
Aunt Cecily: Make the pasta, feed the people. The rest will sort itself out.
Mimi: Organize your pantry and refrigerator based on what you make the most. Don’t put a one-time ingredient in with your flour and sugar, it will just get in the way and get shuffled to the back out of sight, where you will forget you have it. I also like to keep a list of what I have and what I’m running low on taped to the pantry door so I never run out of anything essential mid-recipe.
Thanks so much ladies!
Do you find you eat any differently in the spring? One random commenter will receive a Southern Pasta Shop Charm Bracelet.
Jennifer L. Hart knows that surviving as military spouse takes persistence, comfort food and a stellar sense of humor. Her books often focus on people who’ve lived the military lifestyle and zany antics of neurotic heroines who like to eat, drink and have fun. Her works include the Misadventures of the Laundry Hag mystery series, the Damaged Goods mystery series and the Southern Pasta Shop Mysteries.
visit Jenn online at jenniferlhart.com or laundryhag.com