I have been playing around with ideas for a nice dinner that can serve 25 people. Yeah. 25. Exactly. See, we’re having a Donor & Volunteer Appreciation Dinner thing for work next month and the fundraising staff is going to cook it. Now, on one level this sounds totally fun but on another level, it spazzes me out to no end. The most people I’ve ever cooked for before is four. Twenty-five is, uh, a lot more than that.
It’s been suggested that we have chicken with some kind of cranberry chutney, which I must say is genius because chutney can be made ahead. My standard company coming over meal is some kind of chicken accompanied by Pastaworks rigatoni, tossed with some green beans, sea salt, garlic, and some shaved Parmesan, with a balsamic reduction drizzle over the top. So, this is what I’m suggesting for the menu to go with the chicken.
In preparation, I tried a Martha Stewart recipe for a cranberry and orange relish Saturday which I’ve decided that I just love. I saw it online last year and toyed with making it for that Thanksgiving but opted instead for a more traditional cranberry sauce intead. Oh, but this year, I’m making the Martha Stewart relish because, wow, was it good with the chicken! I imagine it’ll be just as good with turkey. I’m also hoping blood oranges will start showing up soon in the market, because I really want to use those for both Thanksgiving and the work dinner.
Cranberry Orange Relish
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
2 blood oranges or navel oranges, peeled, sectioned, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces, juices reserved
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup sugar
2 stalks celery, peeled to remove strings, cut in 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup pecans, toasted, broken in pieces
Place cranberries in food processor, and pulse to chop coarsely, about five pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add onion, jalapeno, lime juice, orange sections and juice, ginger, sugar, and celery; mix gently. I also lost a lot of the orange juice while sectioning the orange — so I just squeezed the juice form half an orange into the relish. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. Just before serving, add mint and pecans, and toss to combine.
I served the relish over the top of grilled chicken, which in turn, sat atop a few spinach leaves. I used a marinade for the chicken which I was not particularly crazy about, so, I won’t bother passing that on. I would, however, suggest a good citrusy type marinade and a trusty grill pan.
You’ll notice my balsamic reduction dots on the plate. Yes, they were supposed to be drizzles but I couldn’t find my squeeze bottle. Wah. So I tried to drizzle with a spoon — totally doesn’t work, but, it still tasted good! The recipe is based on one by Rachael Ray, but I’ve added some chicken stock and cornstarch to thicken it up a bit.
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and cracked away from the peels
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tsp corn starch
In a small pot, combine vinegar, sugar, rosemary, and garlic. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes to thicken sauce.
Whisk cornstarch into chicken stock to make a slurry. Pour into the balsamic mixture and whisk over heat while it thickens. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove garlic. Using a funnel, slowly pour into a heat-proof squeeze bottle and drizzle out over food.
So, this is what I am going to suggest, menu-wise. It was all very good when jwa and I test-ran it Saturday night. A different marinade, a higher green bean to pasta ratio, maybe some fresh herbs for a garnish and my damn squeeze bottle were the only things I would really change. Extra pluses: The relish is make ahead, as is the balsamic reduction. The pasta and green beans are fairly simple and as long as someone else is in charge of chicken cooking*, it may just all work out!
* I tend to Tweek out about chicken doneness. For 2-4 chicken breasts with friends or family, I can use my meat thermometer and stay pretty calm, but 25 chicken breasts for strangers would most likely freak me way the hell out wondering if the chicken had cooked long enough and was done but not too done and all tough and dried out and aaargh!!!! — see, it’s starting to happen already.
Oh, yeah, and I’m totally open to cooking for a crowd suggestions. Don’t be shy. Really! Please?