Lunch for (est) 24, 5yo to 80

I’m flirting with repeating last year’s family reunion lunch for around 2 dozen + or - people. I sat 10 in the dining room, 6 in the hall and overflow “youngsters” picnicked in the living room. Aside from set-up, I worry about a new menu that will please everyone and not kill me of before the party…
Last year I slow cooked 3 pork shoulders, two huge pans of baked pasta (one red and one green) for picky kids, and a side of salmon. Plus green salad. Guests brought desserts.

Any suggestions for similar “make ahead” big dishes?

Last year was so enjoyed by all that I’m somewhat worried that more family will emerge and want to come. Not that they wouldn’t be welcome, but…


I think I’m your Fourth Cousin, Twice Removed. I’ll block out whatever dates you’re planning for the reunion this year…


Maybe we should do a separate sitting, different date, for HO friends, But in the meantime, any ideas?

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Was there anything which was not eaten lat year? If so, I would change out that dish. Otherwise I’d keep the same menu since everyone enjoyed it.

Unless you just want to have a completely different menu. If so, you could go the taco bar route. The pork shoulders would fit right in. Rice and beans can be prepared many ways. Accutriments allow everyone to customize. This works best if you have room to serve buffet style…

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I personally love the taco-bar approach but worry about unattended tykes. When it comes to kids’ mess, I am pretty proactive.

I also considered lamb shoulders which I adore but not everybody likes lamb. This is not a foodie group. I’m trying to play it pretty straight. No strange stuff.

The only dish not fully consumed was the green (spinach and ricotta) pasta. I won’t go there again.

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Very wise!

The pork could be changed up with sauce for BBQ. Mac and cheese for the picky kids. Beans (baked, 3 bean salad, cowboy, etc.), cole slaw, potato salad, corn on the cob. I’ve heard of people doing cotc in a cooler for big crowds. It’s supposed to hold up quite well. The salmon could be switched to shrimp. Costco has a cold seasoned shrimp in their grab-n-go section which is really good and the flavor works with this meal. I’ve brought the shrimp to potlucks and been inundated with recipe requests!


We did a big dinner recently for a mix of kids, adults, vegetarians, carnivores. I made a large dish of pasta, had various condiments to go with it (amba, tomato confit, grated parmigiano) together with a big dish of chili (beef) and one of mushrooms (vegetarian). Everyone was happy. For dessert, water chocolate mousse.


I love lamb but I’d skip it for this event. I find more people dislike it than appreciate it.


What fun!

Things I’ve made in bulk for group occasions (that got eaten :joy:):

  • Lentil salad (with or without quinoa or bulgur)
  • Black bean / black eyed pea salad (with corn and tomatoes is always good)
  • Roasted or steamed broccoli or cauliflower dressed like a salad (good cold or room temp)
  • Tomato salad of various varieties
  • Mac and cheese
  • Baked ziti or penne with vodka sauce
  • Quiche or kuku or other egg bake (good warm, room temp, or cold)

FWIW, and should others need something simple and inexpensive to serve a crowd, Here is the pork shoulder treatment I used. I had butcher bone but not tie 3 pork shoulders that i then opened and smeared with herbs, anchovy, garlic and EVOO, s and p. Tied them, wrapped in Saran and refrigerated.

The EVENING BEFORE THE PARTY, removed them from the fridge and preheated the oven to 450F. Placed the unwrapped roasts in a deep roasting pan along with a cup of water and put in oven. IMMEDIATELY lowered the heat to 250F.

Went to bed. Removed roasts from oven at 7am.

Left on stove-top until an hour before party, then reheated in a Dutch oven on very low heat until all was hot/simmering. Tender as love, simply chunked and plattered with fabulous defatted juices on the side. Utterly delicious.

Stupid easy.


What’s your trick of keeping the pasta al dente and not soft like at canteen?

Scallops with citrus sauce and mango are always a hit in all the party I prepared, even frozen scallops when budget imposed. The problem was some people ate more they should. Chicken, pork, beef are meat that are fine with most people. People like roasted duck here. For 24+ people, dishes like paella is a crowd pleaser. I have a panna cotta recipe with orange coffee sauce, very successful in many parties and easy to prepare.

I have an excellent suckling pig recipe if you are interested, restaurant signature dish, with creamy sauce with various spices and cabbage, the best part, it is easy to make.

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When I make the pasta, I scoop it out of the water instead of dumping the water. That way I could make the pasta in two batches, putting the second batch into the hot water as I was serving the first batch.


re pasta, mine were both baked. So slightly underdone before saucing, then baked until bubbly and crusted. I always combine both Parmesan AND crumbs for baked pasta dishes.


We’d love to read your suckling pig recipe and procedure. Consider that many of these whole animal recipes can be condensed for large but smaller cuts.

Here it goes, recipe by Delacourcelle brothers. I made it back in April with pork belly, more here.

The recipe in French (with video at the bottom of the page).


You could do baked quesadillas for the kids and tacos bar thing for adults- the basic flour tortilla and cheese quesadilla is generally a sure thing for kids.

A few years ago for christmas i did a “theme” of retro family recipes, i made an appetizer from one grandma, dessert from the other grandma, my dad did the omni protein which was another family favorite.

Are there any family favorites that would scale up well for a crowd? Could be fun to serve something that has a backstory to it.


Any constraints aside from kids involved? Picky palates or allergies?

This is absolutely lovely! My mother made fabulous baking powder biscuits but didn’t pass on the gene. Her other cooking was competent but basic. Her mantra re pleasing grandkids was “it’s just as easy to open (homecanned) peaches as apricots, to make green Jello as red” and that’s about as far as it went.