I did not choose the menu, but I have served this meal to a similar number of youth before. However, do you think I kept my notes? This time I took copious notes on how much of everything it takes to serve this meal to 100 people, and I put them in a place that will be forever safe as well as accessible. Sometimes when I put things in a safe spot, I cannot retrieve them later, but not so with these notes. They are in my personal journal.
The people that were helping me cut the vegetables were amazing! We cut 12 bell peppers, 3 stalks of celery, and 25 tomatoes in ONE HOUR and there were only 2 of us for part of the time and 3 for the rest of the hour!
One of the people who helped me last time I made this meal for an equally large group had a nifty recipe for the chicken gravy. Even if you use homemade gravy or fresh chicken at home, this recipe is really the way to go for a large group. The proportions are 2-3 cans cream of chicken soup to 1 equal size can of chicken broth, then add canned chicken (or turkey). For 100 people I used 7 cans cream of chicken, 3 cans chicken broth and 8-12 ounce cans chicken.
The only glitch... I had no idea that all rice cookers did not work the same. The last time I did this, there were enough people on the committee that we all were in charge of bringing 12 cups of cooked rice. This time, we ended up with some rice that was mushy; it's a good thing that the rice was on the bottom so as soon as the gravy and toppings were on it, no one knew the difference! The whole problem with cooking 25-30 pounds of rice is that you really can't cook more than 12-15 cups of cooked rice at one time. Therefore, we had 6 rice cookers plus my BIG pot (x2) cooking rice. I'm still working on a solution to the "cooking large quantities of rice" issue. For this meal, 1 cup of cooked rice per person is too much but 1/2 cup is really not enough unless it is a small group and you know the people will not eat more. For the large group, I settled on 3/4 (+ or -) cup of rice per person.
We have honed it to include our family preferences: crisp Chinese noodles, rice, chicken gravy, celery, pineapple, coconut, and a cherry on top (although we don't often include the cherries any more since I am the only REAL Maraschino cherry fan in the family). I have discovered that a lot of people like the cheese and tomatoes; bell peppers and green onions make most anything taste better and the other things... well, I don't use them at home, but they are always eaten when served to a large group.
Also, for a larger group, I like to serve the pineapple tidbits-they are not as messy as as the crushed pineapple and actually go further... and the chunks, well, I find them to be a little too big for my pleasure. I have bought #10 cans of pineapple tidbits for years at my favorite club stores, but this weekend there were no #10 cans of pineapple to be found at the grocery store, Costco, BJ's, or Sysco. Fortunately, I found tidbits on sale so there we were Saturday afternoon opening LOTS of 20 ounce cans (15 to be exact) of pineapple!
I realize that this is a mainstay among many, but the first time I heard of it I thought it sounded gross! To my surprise it was yummy and my family enjoys it every time!
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups chicken, cubed
4 cups cooked rice
1 can/bag crisp Chow Mein noodles
3 medium tomatoes, chopped (or cherry or grape tomatoes)
1 cup celery
½ cup green pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped green onion (or other onion)
1 cup grated cheese
½ cup coconut
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks, drained
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds
Other possibilities that I have seen: sliced or chopped black olives, raisins, and sliced bananas
Combine soup and chicken broth in saucepan to make gravy. Stir to blend. Add chicken. Simmer 10 minutes until heated through. Serve on 8 individual plates layered according to choice.
Option: First layer rice, Chow Mein noodles, chicken and gravy. Add tomatoes, celery, green pepper and onion. Top with pineapple, cheese and more chicken and gravy, if desired.
Option: Place each item in a bowl to be served from. Each person builds their own haystack.
What I Do: We pared the toppings down to celery, crushed pineapple, and coconut on top of the noodles, rice and gravy with shredded chicken in it. When cherries were in season, I would sometimes buy fresh cherries to use on top. Often I make the gravy using a white sauce recipe and replacing the milk with either chicken broth or bouillon or use 2 cans of cream of chicken soup with 1 cup chicken broth or bouillon and 1 cup of chopped chicken or turkey. Serves 6-8.