Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When You Gotta Feed A Crowd...

Please tell me I'm not the only one...

My very much loved husband, D came home from work last night with this announcement: "Guess what I forgot?!?!?!?" I was in the middle of one of my online teaching sessions, so my mind was not really on what he forgot. I replied, "Your flashdrive?" He said, "Nope. I forgot that tomorrow is Sigma Xi Day." He went on to tell me how he ran into one of the professors who mentioned she was looking forward to the luncheon he would be providing.

Flip back a couple or more years ago: My husband was asked to join Sigma Xi, which is a national research honors society. The society--similar to other honors societies/clubs encourages students to do reseearch in their fields. At this university, the members hosted once a month seminar days, where students and professors give presentations on their research. The members usually provide "light snacks/refreshments." At the time my husband joined, they were wondering how to draw more people to the seminars. They discussed it at several meetings. In the meantime, the person who usually made sure there were light snacks on hand for the seminars was unable to do provide this service for the immediate future. My husband volunteered to help out.

That's where I came in.  I explained that if you want to draw a crowd, you needed good, wholesome, tasty FOOD to bring in people. So our first venture into providing FOOD--not snacks--for the next seminar involved in making tuna wraps. Those went over oh so well--compliments floated like rose petals over the group. Word got around. The next seminar we provided chicken wraps. More people attended the event. Word got around. More and more people were attending the seminars. Where the society was lucky if it drew 20 people before, now they were having 30-40-50 people easily. Sigma Xi was gaining popularity with students, faculty, and staff.

I decided that wraps--while easy enough--were boring in the fall and winter months and at every seminar. I added soups and pasta salads to the menu. I figured a little variety would go over well. Let me tell you, the variety went over extremely well. Now we were feeding between 50-75 people easily at the various seminars.  The one time that D forgot about an upcoming seminar until the morning of--say two hours before the seminar--he ran out and grabbed the usual vegetable plate and dip and chips and salsa and a package of cookies. Later that day he saw a poster announcing the seminar. Below the presenter's name and topic was the words, "Light refreshments provided." Someone had scribbled out "Light" and replaced it with "Lame."  

So last night when D announced his little bit of forgetfulness, my first thought was, "Soup--a nice hearty soup that's easy and delicious." About the same time, D said, "Well I thought we could make your chicken corn chowder to feed everyone." Perfect.  It's simple and I love simple. 

So if you ever have to feed a crowd in the winter or's how to do it.

A big stock pot--at least a 16 quart one. 
5-8 lbs of potatoes, peeled and cubed
7-9 chicken breasts--deboned & skinned, cubed
2 whole onions, peeled and cut into strings (cut them from tip to root)
6 carrots, sliced
7 stalks of celery, sliced
2 one-pound bags of frozen corn 
6 cups of whole milk
1 stick of butter--not margarine
5 TBSP unbleached, unenriched flour 
2 TBSP Onion Powder
1 TBSP Dried, minced Garlic
1 TBSP Dried Parsley Flakes 
1 TBSP Coarse Black Pepper
2 tsp Kosher Salt 
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Garlic Powder

Add the potatoes to the stock pot, adding enough water to cover them. Cover and crank up the heat until the water boils. Add your carrots. Turn down the heat, crack the lid so a bit of steam escapes. While this is cooking, add two tablespoons of butter to a saute pan or skillet. When the butter had melted, add your onion strings. Cook until the onions are starting to carmelize. Add the Dried Garlic. Stir and cook until the onion is carmelized.  Place into a separate bowl and set aside.
Add the cubed chicken pieces to the same skillet and cook thoroughly. I like to brown the chicken pieces just a little bit, but it's not necessary.

While the chicken is cooking, add your celery, spices, and carmelized onions to the potato-carrot base. Stir until well combined. Mix the flour and one cup of mix in a separate container until well combined. Add to potato-carrot base. Stir and mix everything. Heat until mixture forms a rolling boil. Reduce the heat, and add the milk and rest of the butter, mixing well. 

Add your cooked chicken and frozen corn, stirring until everything is thoroughly mixed. Let it simmer on low heat until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.

At this point, you can add some flavors. We added a large tub of green chile because we live in the Southwest and it's a common ingredient. However, if you can't get green chile where you live, you can add cooked and crumbled bacon, if you aren't worried about offending non-pork eaters. Because of dietary restrictions that many people have today--I leave out the bacon when feeding a crowd.  

If you need it to feed a family, you can reduce the amount of the ingredients down to fit your family's needs. It can also be expanded to fit larger crowds. Because of the weather we are having--all snowy and icy roads, I expect only about 30-40 people will make it to today's seminar. 

My friend, Cherin of LanyardLady asked for recipes for casseroles nearly two weeks ago. While this recipe doesn't qualify as a casserole, but it can be frozen.  In fact, I believe it tastes better after it's been frozen.  
Now, if you ever have to feed a crowd--you will have this to fall back on! Enjoy!


  1. OMG, you seem so calm about it LOL. I would have been slightly aggravated. Hope everyone enjoyed it. Was he going to put a big sign up "Real Food"?

  2. Whoopeeee! This is definitely a keeper! Thanks, Cathryn. Now it's your turn to spring a really big surprise on D!

  3. Holy cow that is a lot of people to feed! Great story!

  4. Oh, my goodness! I would have had a panic attack for sure. D is blessed to have such a cool-headed wife. The chowder looks and sounds so yummy! I've copied the recipe and look forward to making it sometime soon. Thank you for a wonderful new recipe.