Feeding a Crowd for The Holidays

Feeding a Crowd for The Holidays

Enjoy stress-free holiday entertaining no matter how big the party.

If you’re cooking for a large crowd this holiday season — friends or relatives or a combination of both — there’s no need to panic. Entertaining a group of 15 or more guests can be relaxing, enjoyable, and yes, fun. With careful menu planning, advance preparation, and easy-to-make and easy-to-maintain dishes, anybody can enjoy themselves in a crowd.

Here’s what the chef instructors of The Art Institutes say about stress-free entertaining for a crowd:

Start with smart shopping by stocking up on pantry items a week in advance and for perishables one or two days in advance. That way when you forget something, you have time to run back to the store.

Select menu items that can be made a day or two in advance so you are not exhausted and can enjoy the party. Select foods that can be served cold or at room temperature and that can be served family style on large platters for quick serving.

Try to incorporate healthy foods into your menu by thinking of ways to add fruits and vegetables to your menu; they are inexpensive, filling and healthy.

Don’t be afraid to add color because the more colorful the food, the higher the nutrients.

Buffets mean folks eat more, so if you want to serve this way, remember your guests will have a tendency to eat one-third more food because it all looks so good. Think about lower calorie options for those that are concerned about their waistlines.

Stay with the types of dishes you’re comfortable preparing. Go for familiar food with a twist and easy but beautiful presentations.

Set the table the night before if you’re planning seating arrangements. That helps to reduce confusion among your guests as well as yourself. Arrange seasonal accessories the night before so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your guests.

Here are menu suggestions for holiday entertaining from the professionals at The Art Institutes. The following recipes are courtesy of Chef Stephanie Green of The Art Institute of Phoenix.

Sweet Tropics Fruit Salad

Serves 6 to 8 (recipe can be doubled)

  • 1 large stalk of celery, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 golden kiwi fruits, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup jicama peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion
  • 1 medium mango (ripe but still firm), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions: Peel and chop ingredients as directed. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and stir to coat. Add salt to taste.

Roasted Red Pepper Crostini

Makes 24 servings

  • 1 French baguette
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 30 Kalamata olives, pitted 2 red bell peppers, roasted and seeded
  • 1/3 cup tomatoes, seeded 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash of sugar

Cut baguette into 24 slices and brush with olive oil. Bake in 450-degree oven for five to six minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside. Roast peppers in the oven under the broiler, rotating to blacken each side. Peppers will take about 15 minutes to roast. When peppers are charred, place in a bowl, tightly covered with plastic wrap. Let cool. Discard charred skin and remove stem and seeds. In a food processor, combine olives, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar. Pulse briefly two or three times; you want the mixture to be chunky. Spread mixture onto baguette slices. Garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley.

You can make this recipe a day in advance and assemble the day of the party.

The following recipes are courtesy of Chef Joe LaVilla of The Art Institute of Phoenix.

Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza

Serves 16

Chef’s note: this recipe uses a simple pie crust flavored with herbs, and can be made as a large pizza or as individual tarts.

  • 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, diced and chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 5-6 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into julienne strips

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and cut into the flour until the texture resembles coarse sand. Mix in the herbs. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms a dough. Form into a ball and chill for 30 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and cut in half. Roll each half out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into an 8-inch circle, or into individual 3-inch circles. Pierce circles with a fork and bake on a flat cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool.

In a large sauté pan, combine the oil and onions. Place the pan over medium-low heat and begin to cook the onions. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to collapse. Add the salt and continue cooking the onions another 20 minutes. Stir more frequently as the onions cook longer. The onions should be golden to deep brown and very soft.

Assembly: Take one 8-inch circle of crust and spread with half the cream cheese. Top with half the onions and with half the prosciutto. Slice into wedges and serve.

Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 16

  • 6 whole beets, approximately 4 inches in diameter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 12 ounces mixed greens, or hand torn romaine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets, cut off any greens without cutting into the bulb of the beet. Do not cut off the root end. Rub the beets in olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil individually and roast for 45 minutes or until soft and yielding to light pressure. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the foil, and peel the skin off the beets. Cut into eighths and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, thyme, scallion, garlic, mustard and sugar. While whisking constantly, slowly add the olive oil to the mixture. Season to taste.

In a large salad bowl, combine the salad greens, goat cheese and pecans. Add the beet pieces. Dress with the lemon dressing and serve.

Potato Parsnip Gratinee

Serves 16

  • 3-1/2 pounds red potatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 quart half-and-half
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter
  • 6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the potatoes, parsnips, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a deep sauté pan. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Butter a 13″ x 9″ pan. Layer half the potato mixture in the pan, cover with half the cheese. Repeat for remaining potatoes and cheese. Pour the cream over the potatoes. Bake for 45 minutes. Allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Benita Wong of The Art Institute of Washington.

Red-Cooked Turkey

1 turkey breast, about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds (4 pounds of turkey turns into 8 to 10, 4- to 5-ounced portion servings)


  • 2 green onions, cut in half with white part split and slightly smashed
  • 2 slices ginger root
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry

1. In a pot large enough to hold the turkey breast, first combine all the marinade ingredients. Add the turkey breast and marinate for several hours under refrigeration, turning occasionally so that the meat is evenly marinated. (If there is not enough marinade, double or triple the ingredients so that the breast is about half covered with the liquid.)

2. Remove the turkey breast and set aside. Bring the marinade to a boil, lower to a simmer for about five minutes. Place the turkey breast into the simmering liquid. When the liquid returns to a simmer, cover and turn the heat down to low so that the liquid is just bubbling slightly. Turn the breast occasionally for even cooking.

3. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let the turkey continue cooking in the hot liquid.

4. After 30 minutes, turn the heat on and allow the cooking liquid to return to a simmer. Turn the heat off again and let the turkey sit covered in the hot liquid.

5. After another 30 minutes, use an instant-read thermometer to take the internal temperature of the turkey at the thickest part of the breast (upper part of the breast between the first wing bone socket and the breastbone). It should read 165 degrees. (If the reading is below 165 degrees, then bring the liquid back up to a simmer and allow the turkey to continue cooking until it reaches the correct temperature.)

6. Take the turkey breast out of the liquid and cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Brush the slices with dark sesame oil for additional flavor.

7. If a pan-gravy is needed, take some of the cooked marinade and add an equal amount of chicken stock or water. Adjust seasoning to taste. Thicken with cornstarch.

This recipe is courtesy of Chef David Goldberg of The Art Institute of New York City.

Pumpkin Soufflé

Serves 10 to 12

Chef’s note: The only tricky part to soufflés is that they must be served immediately from the oven, or they will fall.

Soufflé Base

  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 ounces sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 2 ounces sugar
  • 3 ounces flour
  • 6 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 10 ounces egg whites
  • 2 ounces sugar

1. Bring the first 3 ingredients to a simmer.

2. Combine the next 4 items together and temper them into simmering mixture.

3. While stirring, allow to boil for about 1 minute to cook out the flour flavor.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the pumpkin and spices.

5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The base can be made up to 3 days in advance of using.

6. Hold the egg whites and sugar separately till ready to bake.

7. When ready to bake, butter soufflé dishes thoroughly and coat with sugar.

8. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

9. Whip egg whites to soft peak, add sugar and continue whipping to firm, moist peaks.

10. Fold egg whites into soufflé base and pour into prepared dishes.

11. Bake till set, about 15 minutes, and serve immediately.


The Art Institutes system of 24 educational institutions is located nationwide, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. The Art Institutes system of schools has provided career-oriented education programs for 40 years, and its education institutions have more than 135,000 alumni. For more information visit The Art Institutes website at www.artinstitutes.edu/nz.

Courtesy of (ARA) ARA Content


  1. If you are having a party or just have large quantity of something cold being served, freeze your ice cubes in a muffin tin, they will be firmer, larger and last a lot longer than regular ice cubes. Good for punch, lemonade or ice tea.

  2. When I did big parties, I would make ice cubes out of some of the punch recipe and freeze in the sundae cups from McDonald’s. You can fill the cups fairly full and freeze. They do not dilute the punch as ones made of water would.


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