Recapturing the Joy of Cooking for a Crowd

food, recapturing the joy of cooking for a crowd

Glorious fall colors in upstate New York.

A version of this post originally appeared on October 22, 2022, in Stephanie Wu’s newsletter, “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world. Read the archives and subscribe now.

I spent last weekend at a friend’s place in upstate New York. Before our visit, she posed a question: “What’s a dish you’ve been wanting to make?” I’m used to city trips planned around new restaurants, and though I’m someone who rarely cooks, the idea of planning a weekend around home-cooked meals that we’d all make together was surprisingly appealing to me.

We landed on two recipes I’d bookmarked some time ago — Grossy Pelosi’s vodka sauce and Tandem Coffee Roasters’ biscuits. I’d attempted both before, and wasn’t completely happy with the results; I hoped that by cooking alongside my more experienced friend Mary, I’d pick up some tips and feel more confident the next time around. For the rest of the menu, we looked at what ingredients we’d already have on hand — pancakes to use up the buttermilk, for instance — and picked other dishes that took minimal prep time, since we didn’t want to spend all our time in the kitchen. Mary’s husband, Dillon, took the lead on making sure we had some proteins to go with our carbs. And I was mostly excited at the prospect of grazing my way through comforting, cozy food for a full weekend.

Here’s how our weekend menu shook out:

food, recapturing the joy of cooking for a crowd

Vodka sauce pasta was the star, but we rounded it out with garlic bread, Caesar salad, and other sides.

food, recapturing the joy of cooking for a crowd

Biscuits and sausage gravy for brunch.

Saturday breakfast: Pancakes, fruit, and bacon

Lunch: Sandwiches from a restaurant in nearby Roxbury

Dinner: Vodka pasta, fried chicken cutlets, Caesar salad, and garlic bread

Dessert: S’mores

Sunday brunch: Biscuits with sausage gravy

We made some changes along the way — we decided to skip our original lunch plan of grilled cheese and tomato soup and grab food while walking around town. And we scrapped our ambition to bake a pie for dessert in favor of the much more low-key s’mores, because it’s not a vacation if you can’t choose to be lazy at the last minute.

The trip was memorable in so many ways; it was the first time I was lucky enough to do an overnight trip when the leaves were in their peak fall colors. But what I’ll remember for future trips is how fun it was to collaboratively plan a menu, one that incorporates a recipe wishlist with cooking alongside (and learning from) friends, and building off of each other’s favorite dishes to put together a weekend of meals. We took what can often feel like a group trip chore — feeding a crowd — and turned it into something worth looking forward to.

Below, as always, you’ll find some of my favorite reads from the past two weeks.

On Eater

food, recapturing the joy of cooking for a crowd

Alice Wong writes about (rediscovering) the joy of food while on a feeding tube.

I absolutely love this Via Carota salad, but will admit that I’d rather pay for it at the restaurant than attempt it on my own.

Where to find apple cider doughnuts in the D.C. area and in Oregon.

How our obsession with off-menu ordering and hacking food apps is impacting restaurant workers.

The Star Trek cookbook was made for the most fervent of fans, but falls short when it comes to inspiring actual cooking, writes Rachel P. Kreiter.

Alon Shaya’s next restaurant will be located on the Las Vegas Strip.

food, recapturing the joy of cooking for a crowd

Diwali is often marked with desserts.

In honor of Diwali weekend, Eater Chicago talked to chefs around the country about the evolution of South Asian sweets, also known as mithai.

Southern California’s most in-demand wedding chef is known for his elaborate spreads and Indian specialties.

The McDonald’s Boo Bucket is not just for kids, says Amy McCarthy. Did you nab yours yet?

It’s never a bad time to be thinking about pie — whether for Thanksgiving or for a weekend slice.

Off Eater

Nneka M. Okona writes in the Washington Post about various iterations of spaghetti — and how the dish has become “the essence of Black ingenuity.”

Jennifer Fergesen dives deep into Filipino vinegars as part of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Field Notes From Asian American Kitchens project.

Also in the Chronicle, critic Soleil Ho digs into whether the French Laundry is worth the splurge — and the stressful mad dash for reservations.

Look out for the popcorn cocktail at a bar near you, via our sister publication Punch.

Grub Street highlights six ways COVID permanently altered the restaurant landscape.

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