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Holiday Style

Come one, come all

An around-the-world menu from the 40th anniversary edition of ‘Cooking for Crowds.’

Photograph by Kristin Teig; Styling by Catrine Kelty

BECOMING A CROWD PLEASER

In 1970, an energetic and hopelessly optimistic would-be graduate student who liked to cook took a job at Harvard’s Center for West European Studies preparing meals for $6 a head (not including ingredients). About 50 people would show up for lunch and 25 for dinner to eat Merry “Corky” White’s tabbouleh, moussaka, chicken paprikas, and other ethnic dishes few knew at the time. “People thought that quiche was exotic,” she says.

“I was earning money to go to graduate school and taking intensive Japanese,” says White, now a professor of anthropology at Boston University with a faculty research appointment at Harvard’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. The food she made at the center so impressed a New York publisher who dined there that he collected a bunch of recipes that White had mimeographed for regulars and told her he wanted to put them in a book. He had a pal who could do illustrations. White could hardly believe her ears. Cooking for Crowds was published in 1974 with amiably fuzzy drawings by cartoonist Edward Koren. The 40th anniversary edition comes out shortly.

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White had a wild ride during her time as a caterer. One day she was helping set up tables while a pot of Ukrainian cabbage-and-pork stew simmered. The untended stew burned horribly. She called her friend Julia Child and received this advice: Whisk in sour cream, lemon juice, and parsley. Sour cream would mask the burned taste, lemon would brighten the pot, and parsley, said the famous French chef, “because, silly, it makes it pretty.” Then she advised White to tell the guests, “The dish of the day is Smoked Borscht.” They loved it.

Today, White caters occasionally and often throws spur-of-the-moment dinner parties with beau Gus Rancatore of Toscanini Ice Cream in Cambridge.

Cooking for Crowds gives measurements to serve six, 12, 20, and 50. You can make Moroccan chermoulah, chicken Bengal with homemade curry powder, and the frozen Indian dessert kulfi. You’ll also find more mainstream dishes, such as chili, beef ragout, and lasagna.

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“Life was a training session,” says White, who created a dinner of squab stuffed with veal pate for Jacqueline Onassis and a celebrated guest list. “I actually cooked the squab at home and rushed them over,” she says. At the venue, White rigged a single burner and curtain of foil to finish the cooking. “It was so crazy,” she says. “If the board of health came by, I’d be in prison.”

Sheryl Julian is the Globe’s food editor. E-mail her at sheryl.julian@globe.com.

POLLO AL LIMONE

A sophisticated, subtle Italian chicken dish, it can be served with a salad and Soave Bolla, a dry white wine. Lemon or lime is a fine adjunct to both artichokes and chicken.

SERVES6122050
CHICKEN, BONED AND CUT INTO 2-INCH PIECES3 LBS6 LBS10 LBS24 LBS
ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR2 TBS4 TBS7 TBS 1 CUP
MEDIUM ONIONS, THINLY SLICED24716
FRESH MUSHROOMS, SLICED½ LB1 LB2 LBS4½ LBS
OLIVE OIL3 TBS6 TBS10 TBS

1 CUP + 6 TBS

GARLIC CLOVES, MASHED24716
DRY WHITE WINE 1 CUP 1 BOTTLE 2 BOTTLES 3 BOTTLES
CHICKEN STOCK, AS NEEDED½ CUP1 CUP1½ CUPS4 CUPS
SALT½ TSP1 TSP2 TSP4 TSP
FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPERTO TASTETO TASTETO TASTETO TASTE
BAY LEAVES1248
PARSLEY, FINELY MINCED 2-3 TBS4-6 TBS¾ CUP1½ CUPS
FRESH SUMMER SAVORY2 SPRIGS4 SPRIGS CUP CUP
OR FRESH BASIL2 SPRIGS4 SPRIGS CUP CUP
OR FRESH CHERVIL2 SPRIGS4 SPRIGS CUP CUP
OR DRIED BASIL OR CHERVIL¼ TSP½ TSP1 TSP2 TSP
20-OZ CANS ARTICHOKE HEARTS, DRAINED AND RINSED123-48
LEMONS, THINLY SLICED1-23-45-68-10

Dust the chicken pieces with flour and set aside. Saute the onions and mushrooms in the olive oil in a large casserole, then remove the vegetables and set aside. Add the garlic and the chicken pieces to the casserole. Brown the chicken, then return the vegetables to the casserole. Add the wine and enough stock to cover the chicken and vegetables. Simmer slowly, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, add bay leaves, parsley, and only the dried herbs, if dried are used. Add the artichoke hearts and stir gently. Place the lemon slices on top, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes. Add the fresh herbs, if used, at the very end.

SICILIAN BROCCOLI

Broccoli — actually, most any vegetable — should be slightly undercooked. Parboil this ahead of time, and reheat briefly with oil, wine, and garlic.

SERVES6122050
BROCCOLI, SEPARATED INTO FLORETS AND ENDS PEELED2 LBS4 LBS7 LBS16LBS
OLIVE OIL5 TBS½ CUP + 2 TBS1¼ CUPS2 ½ CUPS
GARLIC CLOVES24815
DRY WHITE WINE2 CUPS1 QT1¾ QTS2½ QTS
SALTTO TASTETO TASTETO TASTETO TASTE
FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPERTO TASTETO TASTETO TASTETO TASTE

Wash and drain the broccoli. In a large pot, parboil it in a large amount of water for 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately drain and set aside until serving time.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok (or 2) and saute the garlic, being careful not to burn it. Add the wine, salt, and pepper, and boil until the wine reduces by about half. Just before serving, heat the wine to bubbling and toss the broccoli in it until heated through.

SWEDISH LIMPA BREAD

This is a sweet, rich rye bread that goes well with unsalted butter. (Bread can be frozen.)

DOUGH2 LOAVES4 LOAVES8 LOAVES
WARM WATER2 CUPS4 CUPS8 CUPS
SHORTENING2 TBS4 TBS8 TBS
ANISEED, CRUSHED OR FENNEL SEEDS, CRUSHED1 TSP2 TSP4 TSP
MOLASSES¼ CUP½ CUP1 CUP
LIGHT-BROWN SUGARCUP⅔CUP1CUPS
ACTIVE-DRY-YEAST PACKAGES124
ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR3½ CUPS7 CUPS14 CUPS
SALT 1 TBS2 TBS4 TBS
RYE FLOUR2¼ CUPS4½ CUPS9 CUPS
VEGETABLE OIL1 TSP2 TSP4 TSP
GLAZE
EGG YOLK123
WATER1 TBS2 TBS3 TBS

Combine 1¼ cups (or 2½ cups or 5 cups) of the water, the shortening, aniseed or fennel seeds, molasses, and brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, then cool to lukewarm (about 45 minutes).

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the remaining ¾ cup (or 1½ cups or 3 cups) warm water. Add the molasses mixture and the all-purpose flour and beat until smooth. Cover this sponge and let it rise until doubled in bulk (1½ to 2 hours).

Stir down the sponge and add the salt and rye flour. Brush the surface with vegetable oil, cover, and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Punch the dough down and knead it for 8 to 10 minutes. Form the dough into 2 (or 4 or 8) smooth, round balls and place on greased baking sheets. Brush the top of the loaves with the egg yolk and water (mixed together), and bake for 50 minutes or until hollow-sounding when rapped with the knuckles. Remove from the baking sheets and cool on cake racks. The texture is best after the bread has thoroughly cooled, possibly the next day.

SHRIMP IN DILL PESTO

This fresh dill version of pesto is delicious on shrimp; a mixture of fresh dill and parsley can also be used. Served cold on a lettuce “boat,” this is an excellent first course.

SERVES6122050
WHITE WINE½ CUP 1 CUP1CUPS4 CUPS
WATER½ CUP1 CUP1CUPS4 CUPS
PEPPERCORNS6122050
BAY LEAVES1238
THYME½ TSP1 TSP1TSP3¾ TSP
SMALL ONIONS, FINELY CHOPPED1238
SALT1 TSP2 TSP3 TSP8 TSP
RAW SHRIMP, SHELLED AND DEVEINED1 LB2 LBS3 LBS8 LBS
OLIVE OIL¼ CUP½ CUP¾ CUP2½ CUPS
GARLIC CLOVES471226
FRESH DILL WEED, ROUGHLY CHOPPED1½ CUPS3 CUPS5 CUPS12 CUPS

Combine the wine, water, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, onions, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer only until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan, then turn up the heat and reduce the liquid by half.

Make the pesto in batches by pouring the olive oil about ½ cup at a time into a blender. Add some of the garlic and dill to each batch and blend. Empty the blender into a large bowl as you go. Repeat until all the oil, garlic, and dill are used up. When all is thick and smooth, stir the strained, reduced cooking liquid into the bowl and beat hard until the pesto is creamy and smooth.

Put the shrimp in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over. Toss well and chill before serving.

FYRSTE KAKE

This is a rich and almondy Norwegian cake. Serve it in very thin wedges.

SERVES6122050
UNSALTED BUTTER¾ CUP1½ CUPS1½ LBS3 LBS
GRANULATED SUGAR1¾ CUPS3½ CUPS2 LBS5 LBS, 4 OZ
EGGS, SEPARATED361018
ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR2½ CUPS + 2 TBS5 CUPS + 4 TBS2 LBS, 13 OZ + 7 TBS5 LBS + ¾ CUP
BAKING POWDER3 TSP6 TSP10 TSP6 TBS
ALMOND EXTRACT1½ TSP3 TSP5 TSP8 TSP
GROUND BLANCHED ALMONDS1 CUP2 CUPS3½ CUPS6 CUPS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and ¾ cup (or 1½ cups, 2¾ cups, or 4½ cups) of the sugar. Add the yolks of the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the 2½ cups (or 5 cups; 2 pounds, 13 ounces; or 5 pounds) all-purpose flour and the baking powder. Add 1 teaspoon (or 2 teaspoons, 3½ teaspoons, or 5 teaspoons) of the almond extract.

Reserve ½ cup (or 1 cup, 1¾ cup, or 3 cups) of the dough for the topping and spread the remaining dough over the bottom of a greased 9-inch cake pan (or 2 pans, 4 pans, or 6 pans).

Beat the egg whites until frothy and gradually add the remaining cup (or 2 cups, 4¼ cups, or 6 cups) sugar, beating constantly until stiff. (For large amounts, use a hand-held beater in a large kettle.) Fold in the almonds and the remaining ½ teaspoon (or 1 teaspoon, 1½ teaspoons, or 3 teaspoons) almond extract. Spread this filling over the cake pans.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons (or 4 tablespoons, 7 tablespoons, or ¾ cup) all-purpose flour to the reserved dough. Roll out on a floured board, cut into strips, and lay the strips in a crisscross pattern on top of the almond mixture. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool before serving. (Store in a cool place, tightly covered.) Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream, if you like.

BISCUIT TORTONI

This is like a frozen mousse, but richer and more interesting in texture. You can add rum instead of vanilla, if you prefer. This is my favorite frozen dessert.

SERVES6122050
GRANULATED SUGARCUP¾ CUP1½ CUPS3 CUPS
WATER⅜ CUP¾ CUP1½ CUPS3 CUPS
EGGS, SEPARATED24816
ALMOND MACAROONS6122448
ALMOND EXTRACT1 TSP1½ TSP3 TSP6 TSP
VANILLA EXTRACT1 TSP1½ TSP3 TSP6 TSP
HEAVY CREAM1 CUP2 CUPS4 CUPS8 CUPS

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reads 230 degrees on a candy thermometer.

In a very large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Slowly stir the sugar syrup into the egg whites and mix well. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and pale, and fold into egg-white mixture, stirring well.

Pulverize the almond macaroons in a blender, or crumble them into fine crumbs between your fingers. Keep out 3 tablespoons (or 6 tablespoons, ½ cup, or ¾ cup) for the garnish and add the rest to the mixture. Add the almond and vanilla extracts.

Whip the cream until stiff. Fold carefully and thoroughly into the egg mixture (by this time, the amounts will be enormous, so I find it best to use a big preserving kettle to mix the cream and egg mixture together). Transfer to individual serving cups (I use clear-plastic disposable 5-ounce cups for a crowd), sprinkle the reserved macaroon crumbs on top, and freeze. This can be made 2 to 3 days ahead, if kept covered and placed in a reliable freezer.

Excerpted from Cooking for Crowds: 40th Anniversary Editionby Merry White. Copyright © 2014 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

MEET THE COOKBOOK AUTHOR

Merry White will lead a free discussion at Harvard Bookstore on December 5 at 7 p.m. 617-661-1515; harvard.com

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