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.
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
|CHICKEN, BONED AND CUT INTO 2-INCH PIECES||3 LBS||6 LBS||10 LBS||24 LBS|
|ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR||2 TBS||4 TBS||7 TBS||1 CUP|
|MEDIUM ONIONS, THINLY SLICED||2||4||7||16|
|FRESH MUSHROOMS, SLICED||½ LB||1 LB||2 LBS||4½ LBS|
|OLIVE OIL||3 TBS||6 TBS||10 TBS||
1 CUP + 6 TBS
|GARLIC CLOVES, MASHED||2||4||7||16|
|DRY WHITE WINE||1 CUP||1 BOTTLE||2 BOTTLES||3 BOTTLES|
|CHICKEN STOCK, AS NEEDED||½ CUP||1 CUP||1½ CUPS||4 CUPS|
|SALT||½ TSP||1 TSP||2 TSP||4 TSP|
|FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER||TO TASTE||TO TASTE||TO TASTE||TO TASTE|
|PARSLEY, FINELY MINCED||2-3 TBS||4-6 TBS||¾ CUP||1½ CUPS|
|FRESH SUMMER SAVORY||2 SPRIGS||4 SPRIGS||⅓ CUP||⅔ CUP|
|OR FRESH BASIL||2 SPRIGS||4 SPRIGS||⅓ CUP||⅔ CUP|
|OR FRESH CHERVIL||2 SPRIGS||4 SPRIGS||⅓ CUP||⅔ CUP|
|OR DRIED BASIL OR CHERVIL||¼ TSP||½ TSP||1 TSP||2 TSP|
|20-OZ CANS ARTICHOKE HEARTS, DRAINED AND RINSED||1||2||3-4||8|
|LEMONS, THINLY SLICED||1-2||3-4||5-6||8-10|
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.
Broccoli — actually, most any vegetable — should be slightly undercooked. Parboil this ahead of time, and reheat briefly with oil, wine, and garlic.
|BROCCOLI, SEPARATED INTO FLORETS AND ENDS PEELED||2 LBS||4 LBS||7 LBS||16LBS|
|OLIVE OIL||5 TBS||½ CUP + 2 TBS||1¼ CUPS||2 ½ CUPS|
|DRY WHITE WINE||2 CUPS||1 QT||1¾ QTS||2½ QTS|
|SALT||TO TASTE||TO TASTE||TO TASTE||TO TASTE|
|FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER||TO TASTE||TO TASTE||TO TASTE||TO 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.)
|DOUGH||2 LOAVES||4 LOAVES||8 LOAVES|
|WARM WATER||2 CUPS||4 CUPS||8 CUPS|
|SHORTENING||2 TBS||4 TBS||8 TBS|
|ANISEED, CRUSHED OR FENNEL SEEDS, CRUSHED||1 TSP||2 TSP||4 TSP|
|MOLASSES||¼ CUP||½ CUP||1 CUP|
|ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR||3½ CUPS||7 CUPS||14 CUPS|
|SALT||1 TBS||2 TBS||4 TBS|
|RYE FLOUR||2¼ CUPS||4½ CUPS||9 CUPS|
|VEGETABLE OIL||1 TSP||2 TSP||4 TSP|
|WATER||1 TBS||2 TBS||3 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.
|WHITE WINE||½ CUP||1 CUP||1⅔CUPS||4 CUPS|
|WATER||½ CUP||1 CUP||1⅔CUPS||4 CUPS|
|THYME||½ TSP||1 TSP||1⅔TSP||3¾ TSP|
|SMALL ONIONS, FINELY CHOPPED||1||2||3||8|
|SALT||1 TSP||2 TSP||3 TSP||8 TSP|
|RAW SHRIMP, SHELLED AND DEVEINED||1 LB||2 LBS||3 ⅓LBS||8 LBS|
|OLIVE OIL||¼ CUP||½ CUP||¾ CUP||2½ CUPS|
|FRESH DILL WEED, ROUGHLY CHOPPED||1½ CUPS||3 CUPS||5 CUPS||12 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.
This is a rich and almondy Norwegian cake. Serve it in very thin wedges.
|UNSALTED BUTTER||¾ CUP||1½ CUPS||1½ LBS||3 LBS|
|GRANULATED SUGAR||1¾ CUPS||3½ CUPS||2⅝ LBS||5 LBS, 4 OZ|
|ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR||2½ CUPS + 2 TBS||5 CUPS + 4 TBS||2 LBS, 13 OZ + 7 TBS||5 LBS + ¾ CUP|
|BAKING POWDER||3 TSP||6 TSP||10 TSP||6 TBS|
|ALMOND EXTRACT||1½ TSP||3 TSP||5 TSP||8 TSP|
|GROUND BLANCHED ALMONDS||1 CUP||2 CUPS||3½ CUPS||6 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.
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.
|GRANULATED SUGAR||⅜ CUP||¾ CUP||1½ CUPS||3 CUPS|
|WATER||⅜ CUP||¾ CUP||1½ CUPS||3 CUPS|
|ALMOND EXTRACT||1 TSP||1½ TSP||3 TSP||6 TSP|
|VANILLA EXTRACT||1 TSP||1½ TSP||3 TSP||6 TSP|
|HEAVY CREAM||1 CUP||2 CUPS||4 CUPS||8 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.
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