Posted in baking, dry heat, wet heat

Dinner for 28 Linguists

Yesterday, I was in charge of cooking dinner after a colloquium we had in the department.  I shopped on Wednesday, as did one of my co-cooks.  I cooked from 2:45pm on Thursday until 3:45…am.  And then a little more Friday morning.  And then more Friday night.  The great thing was that, even though I’m a really bad judge of what’s enough food, I ended up with basically the perfect amount.  Just a little left over of everything.  So I want to keep track of how much I made this time, in case I’m ever crazy enough to do it again.  My theme was French food.

Thanks to everyone who helped!  I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Creme du Barry

This is a leek and cauliflower soup.  I referred to these four recipes: Group Recipes, Global Gourmet, Recettes et Terroirs, Delices de France.  I basically made the first recipe, multiplied by four, with half of the water replaced with whole milk and no extra milk (it was plenty liquid), and for herbs and spices I used white pepper and fresh thyme, flat parsley, and curly parsley.  I blended it in batches in a blender and served it cold.  If I did it again, I think I’d go for a creamier texture – less water, some cream for some of the milk, maybe more creme fraiche – and maybe a different combination of herbs.  I loved the white pepper in it, though.  I had more left over of the soup than anything else, even though I made an amount that’s supposed to serve 16, while I made 24 servings of everything else.  I don’t know if that’s because people were less enthusiastic about it, or because people eat less soup than other things.

We also had (thanks to a couple of helpful linguists) 3 baguettes, of which two got eaten.


I used this recipe for the amounts of the ingredients, except I used half yellow bell peppers and half red.  I doubled the recipe, so I made 24 servings.  Here’s how I did it:

  • Cut the ends of a head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast at 400F for 15 minutes.  Squeeze cloves out and mince them.  (I would have pressed them if I had a garlic press.)
  • Sweat onions; put in a big pot.  Add the garlic.
  • Saute zucchini on high heat in a little olive oil until it gets a little brown; put it in the pot.
  • Put chopped bell peppers under the broiler for 5-10 minutes; in the pot with them.
  • Chop eggplant; pot it up.
  • Dump canned diced tomatoes into the pot.
  • Cover the pot and cook on medium low heat until the veggies are the consistency you like.  I don’t like mine mushy, and I’m proud to say that despite having to be reheated at the dinner, the zucchini kept a nice firmness in the middle.  I chopped everything into cubes or an approximation thereof, rather than slices, and I think that helped.
  • Season with fresh basil and thyme.  I also added some dried oregano, which is not usually done, but I love oregano and I’m the cook.

My only complaint was that there was a lot of liquid that I couldn’t cook off without overcooking my vegetables, so I just discarded some of it.  The veggies absorbed the rest, which may be a really good thing.  But still, next time I would cook the tomatoes separately for a while to get rid of some of that liquid.

I had maybe one side dish sized portion of ratatouille left by the end of the night.

Coq au vin

I used Julia Child’s recipe, multiplied by four (so 24 servings), except I didn’t pay a lot of attention to her instructions on the onions and mushrooms; I just caramelized the onions and sauteed the mushrooms and called it a day.  I also cooked in crockpots, so I reduced the wine and chicken stock by half before cooking.  I probably should have reduced it even more.  I cooked it on low for just shy of 8 hours, and it was perfectly falling off the bone.  Unfortunately, when I went to reduce the sauce, I didn’t think to strain out the bits of stuff, and then I neglected the pot because I was doing other things, and as a result the bits of stuff burned.  At that point I just gave up on the sauce, because I had enough to deal with.  But I think it would have added a lot.

There was nothing left of the coq au vin but a pile of bones.  It was a beautiful, if slightly scary, sight.

I served this with one package of couscous, of which about one serving remained.  I had another package but it didn’t seem necessary.


I used this recipe and made three pithiviers.  I made four pies last time I cooked for a colloq and had a whole extra, and sure enough three seemed to be the right amount this time.  I had about two small slices or one big slice left over.

I used cognac instead of rum, and I didn’t decorate the pithiviers in the traditional way – I just rolled the puff pastry into two circles, put the filling on top of one with maybe and inch border,  which I put egg wash on.  Then the second circle went on top and I gently pressed it against the egg wash.  I learned that pinching the two circles together inhibited the rising of the puff pastry, so it’s important to be gentle and trust the egg wash to do its job, which it did.  The filling turned out really well, I think; before baking it was a little light on sugar and a little heavy on booze, but when served it tasted just right.  I topped it with whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar.

These are supposed to be served right out of the oven, but I couldn’t under the circumstances.  It turns out they taste great at room temperature, but the puff pastry doesn’t stay as amazingly puffed, and when some of the layers fall back together it gets a little hard to cut through.  So serving them right away is optimal, but serving them the next day is still perfectly fine.


4 thoughts on “Dinner for 28 Linguists

  1. I totally didn’t notice that your pithiviers had de-pouffed. And they were delicious. And you were AMAZING. Seriously, who — other than a celebrity chef — can make that much delicious food at one time?? And please a bunch of linguists (who are, by nature, critical of everything), at that? Definitely a job well done.

  2. You’re so sweet, but you deserve a lot of credit! I’d STILL be chopping vegetables if it weren’t for you and Dan. The only reason I didn’t give you a more specific shout-out is that I avoid naming people on my blog in case anyone is ever uncomfortable with that.

  3. I can’t believe I missed that!!
    It looks so good!
    By the way, bon anniversaire! Your wall is not accessible on “livre de visage” to say it… so voila!

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