|Lucinda Scala Quinn|
"I live in fear of being unprepared when it comes to throngs of hungry people." - Mad Hungry host Lucinda Scala Quinn (but the words might as well have come out of my mouth, because I feel exactly the same way)
I've got hordes of houseguests descending for the December holidays, and it's my job to feed them. I love having our extended family and friends around, I love cooking for them all, and I'm pretty organized. But shopping for and preparing two weeks of meals for houseguests and other drop-ins intimidates even me. I need help.
Enter chef, author and supermom Lucinda Scala Quinn, who knows a lot about feeding crowds. Her must-read cookbook Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys covers the blocking and tackling required to satisfy the immense appetites of teenage boys (she's raised three). Now, as host of the Hallmark Channel series Mad Hungry with Lucinda Scala Quinn, she dishes out the kind of family meals I love to make: cheese fondue, one-pot stews, homemade "Chinese takeout."
When Lucinda and I met last year we talked about feeding our families; this year Lucinda kindly gave me pointers on how to keep guests happy and well fed over the holidays while still keeping your sanity. I think you'll find her advice useful, too.
- Breakfast: "I'm a breakfast fanatic. I make one breakfast every morning, not different things for everyone. It might be granola and fruit; bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches; oatmeal; coffee cake and hard-boiled eggs. Make sure there's something for everyone. I always have food ready in the morning - it gets people started."
- Lunch: "I put lunch out at a certain time, and I make sure everyone knows when that is. I'll make pressed sandwiches in large loaves of bread and put them out with a bowl of fruit. Or I'll have two kinds of soup on the stove and serve that with crusty bread. The day after Thanksgiving for lunch I made a big pile of crepes and brought out all the Thanksgiving leftovers, and everyone made their own crepes instead of sandwiches."
- Snacks: "I'll put out a fruit bowl, olives, nuts, maybe homemade pita chips. A bowl of cleaned radishes with olive oil and a dish of specialty salt. And cheese. I have a problem with cheese - my family is always saying Mom, step away from the cheese!"
Baked ziti makes a great do-ahead dinner
- Shopping: "I replenish my liquor cabinet and baking supplies before Thanksgiving. In December I splurge a little: smoked salmon, prosciutto or serrano ham, specialty breadsticks, panettone, dulce de leche. Prosecco to give as gifts or to mix with juice for brunch. Lump crabmeat, which I stretch by making dip or crab cakes. And I buy specialty sodas and flavored seltzers for the kids, because the adults are drinking lots of special things."
- The kitchen: "I don't like guests working in my kitchen. I've got everything organized. When I'm a guest in someone's house, I try to be on their program. I'm a planner; I make sure everyone has enough. I don't like people starting in on omelettes when I've already got breakfast prepared." [Me too. I can't help it. I'm territorial when it comes to my kitchen.]