Cook for Everyone!
Lately I have been doing a lot of cooking for groups(outside of work) so I thought I would actually write about it. Under normal circumstances I cook for myself and most of the time Amy, but not always. Over the past couple of years I have been playing disc golf. Now, I am not great, but I have a good time. This past weekend I was helping run a tournament, and we were having our Club Championships. This is generally one of the biggest parties of the year for us, as well as one of our most well attended tournaments. This is a two day event, Saturday we had a 27 hole round, and a couple of kegs of beer from Schlafly, a local micro-brewer (They used to have a gluten-free beer, but axed it due to low sales.), and BBQ for everyone. All told, I think we fed about 160.
Obviously, this task required a bit of help from several people. It also required a bit of planning. I came up with a menu that I figured would require very little prep, because lets face it I was going to have a lot of cooking to get done, and the simpler I could make it the better. Since we had done a pretty wide variety of things and I wanted to not duplicate something that had been done already I settled on jerk chicken. We had a few simple sides to go with the chicken too. I went to a local store that is open for restaurants to shop at, and found a great deal on chicken leg quarters. They were about $.44/pound, and came in 40 pound cases. Of course I needed 200 pounds. With bone in chicken I was figuring a hungry disc golfer would have no problem at all putting away a pound of chicken. So that would give us a little cushion. That was the easy part.
Finding a grill was sort of a nightmare. I needed a really big grill, and of course I don’t even own a small one! I already had some helpers tentatively lined up, and was pretty sure I could shanghai at least a few people to help if I needed to, they would want to eat after all! One Sunday morning during a round the topic of the Club Championships came up, and we started discussing where I was with the planning. Basically the grill was my one real sticking point. One of the guys suddenly stopped and pulled out his cell phone. He called a guy, and arranged for the most fantastic grill I could have hoped for! It even looked like a train!
This grill was amazing! It was hot as anything, but after a while I got the hang of working with it, and was able to get chicken that was perfectly cooked, and tasty. The chicken ended up so tender that you could literally pull the leg bone out of the leg with a simple twist of a pair of tongs! Here’s how we worked this magic: two step cooking. Often you want the skin browned, and the temperature in an oven just won’t do it as easily as the high heat of a grill or a saute pan. In this case the grill actually had two levels. The lower level would be fine for cooking thinner foods like a burger, but the upper level was a bit cooler. So, we used the lower level to mark the chicken, and then finished it on the to level. Season the chicken, and then put it on the grill skin side down. After a couple of minutes, check it, and if it is browned flip it to the other side. Then after a few more minutes we just moved everything to the top level. I was actually able to get about 14 pounds on the lower grill at one time, and in two layers I got an entire 40 pound case of chicken on the top. This is how I got 200 pounds of chicken cooked in an afternoon. It took about 160 pounds of charcoal, and cost me a bit of arm hair, but everyone had a great time!
What do we learn from this? Well, sometimes you can do things in different ways to achieve the same result. Tomorrow I am going to be making the Poulet Basques that I posted a while back for Amy’s birthday dinner. We’re going to have several people over, and I am going to roast the chicken rather than cook it the way I described in my post. I’ll take some pictures when I am doing it so you can get an idea, and write it up too!