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Cooking For A Team Of Hungry Young Athletes


thistle
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Starting a new topic, because although I thought I mentioned it before, couldn't find it in my posts-as a parent of a high school athlete, I've been asked to join in team dinners- a bonding experience for teams before games, which means 30+ sweaty boys, & coaching staff, hitting you up for large injections of food. Although it is daunting to prepare food in these quantities, it's very satisfying-they eat most things, they're in & out, & all you have to do is clean up, w/ the faint whiff of perspiration.

I did 1 dinner last year, spent the week preparing for it, smoked pork butts, ribs, brisket, fixed salad, slaw, blk bean/corn/tomato salad, baked ziti, w/ poundcake, fruit, & ice cream for dessert & it was a hit! They're used to carb heavy dinners-pasta, pizza, so this was a meatfest-I couldn't believe how quickly the food disappeared, my son had me stash some ribs for the coaches, he said they always arrived a bit later, & missed the best food.

I wish my house was larger, so I could set it up for comfortable dining for all, as it is, I have to put up portable tables everywhere, & they all try to squeeze into the tiny sunroom to eat, but that's just the way it is. For my 1st dinner this year, I'm cooking pulled pork, ribs, maybe brisket, & something w/ chicken thighs-no vegetarians on the team, but 1 Muslim, who Tom said didn't find the brisket last time, & felt kind of left out. I'm also making 3 different vegetable salads, baked ziti, Mac n cheese, bean dip, & the same stuff for dessert-poundcake, fruit, ice cream, maybe cupcakes, if I get really organized & ahead. For drinks, we place coolers around the house w/ water, Gatorade, soda.

This is not fine dining, but it's a good test of my cooking & organizational skills, the boys are happy & fed, & I both look forward to, & am nervous about how it's going to go...One thing is certain, they're always appreciative (maybe they're just polite)....

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One thing is certain, they're always appreciative (maybe they're just polite)....

wow! you certainly are a generous parent, with both money and time, to provide that level of food for a crowd of typically ravenous adolescent males. I have no doubt that their appreciation is genuine.

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I like to do it because for one day, I can pretend I am a chef or a caterer-I was introduced to egullet (& then subsequently DR.com) by Malawry's foodblog when she was attending L'Academie de Cuisine. Her later blog on cooking for a sorority house continues to inspire me- if she can be organized enough to cook for that many girls 2x/day, surely I could pull it off every other week, for a limited time...went to Costco today (debating membership) w/ a friend, & picked up chafers, inserts, & sterno, meat prices are comparable to Belvoir commissary, though.

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Wow, quite an undertaking! I understand what you mean about every so often, wanting to "cook big." I'm part of a group where I host a luncheon 1 or 2 times a year for a dozen ladies -- certainly not the groaning board that you've undertaken -- but being organized, planning a menu where folks can eat from a plate in their laps, timing things, setting a balanced menu for the low-salt peeps and the vegetarian peeps, etc. really is a fun challenge to do every so often.

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First team dinner last night went off just fine- I only ran short on one thing- I had 1 pan of baked penne, which was gone in less than 10 min, probably should have had 2-3. I had leftovers of everything else, some things just small amounts, the things that were leftover in quantity were 2 1/2 sized pans of pulled pork (I'll freeze that), an untouched veggie tray that didn't even get unwrapped, & an excess of grapes & bean dip. I forgot to put out the pickled onions & the oranges. I took notes on quantities, because I'll be doing this again on April 1st...

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Sounds like a hit! Cracks me up about the raw veggies staying untouched. It's not just teens who shun those, I often observe people shying away from crudite at gatherings, it's fascinating. But stuff each one with some peanut butter with a garnishing M&M or two, or honey cream cheese, and step back, they get picked up like coveted morsels.

Another tool in the "pretend I am a chef or caterer" toolkit is this fantastic resource:

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd

I often see it in used bookstores or Half.com for five bucks or less. Yes, Vegetarian, but amazingly flavorful and hearty food that will disappear quickly amongst the teen lads. You'll want to round out the dishes with chicken, beef, or pork, but the no-nonsense, time-saving preparation (ingredients are given by weight) and directions are a boon for frugal, crowd-pleasing hits.

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Thanks for the recommendation, I put it on hold at the library. No strict vegetarians on the team, but they will happily eat vegetarian dishes. I did have one guy announce a nut/ shellfish allergy as he came in, & I was frantically thinking over all the dishes, including BBQ sauces & rubs (almost made a broccoli salad w/ nuts, but didn't).

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Recovering from the first of this season's team dinners on Monday-(excuse me for a moment, while I heap praise on my son), Thomas is a senior this year(still evaluating his college choices), a team captain on the Mt. Vernon HS lacrosse team, & despite a partially torn patellar tendon (which we're monitoring), scored 5 goals last night (they lost the game though).

Menu was pretty much the same as last year, I've been smoking meats since Friday-3 10 lb. pork butts, 6 racks spareribs, 6.5 lb brisket, 6 lbs. chicken thighs, salads, chips, 2 pans of baked penne (will double this next time), poundcakes/brownies (also need to double this, was gone in a flash). The boys were cold, soaked, & muddy when they arrived, I wish I had thought to make hot chocolate (I have the big insulated cooler), but the food was demolished. I'm bringing 2 leftover racks of ribs, & 2 tatertot casseroles to another team dinner tonight, but at least it's not at my house. It was hilarious to watch 25+ boys all try to squeeze into a 14' x 16' sunroom (I had tables set up all over the house), while the dogs howled mournfully upstairs, locked away from all the action....

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OMG, tatertot casserole is my donnybrook-it's a ridiculously simple casserole, that is loved by teens, & others- 13x9 pan, 400 oven for 25 min.- brown 1 lb. ground beef (I've also used bison, & you can also add sautéed onions), 1 can cream of something soup, glug of ketchup, glug of Worcestershire, mixed / w shredded cheese (optional), topped w/ a bag of tatertots-mine is special because I put 'M V' on top in tots, dusted w/ paprika- school colors are maroon & white.

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2 more tatertot casseroles down (& I snuck in some leftover jerk chuck), & only 6-7 more weeks of lax to go- at least the team dinner is at the school cafeteria, & I have 2 poundcakes leftover from Lizzy's tailgate yesterday to contribute...

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4 racks of spares, to go to another parents' dinner tonight-I had to spread out the pork rub I had left, & use some Omaha steak seasoning on the backs. I've already pulled off the rib tips & trimmings, some are in the crockpot for broth. I finally figured out it was easier to slice ribs individually (usually after 3-4 hours) before I sauce & foil them, rather then wrestling messy ribs at the last minute. I think my neighbors are grumpy that they have smoke wafting across their porch today...

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This wasn't a team dinner, but that's how I approached it. My son graduated HS on Friday & we had a picnic on Saturday for around 50 family & friends. I started smoking meats on Thursday, & my mom, sister, niece came up from NC on Friday to attend the graduation, & then help me get ready Saturday morning. I'm surprised at how much it threw me off, trying to give directions to helpers, I'm so used to being the only one in the kitchen.

We had 30 lbs. (raw wt.) pulled pork, 4 racks spareribs, 7.5 lb beef brisket, 6 lbs. smoked chicken thighs in mojo criollo (reheated in crockpot), big pkg of chicken drumsticks in Thai lemongrass marinade ( from SheSimmers) grilled, hot dogs for the kids, various salads-slaw, blk bean/corn/ tomato, mixd green (this went untouched). Also bean dip, chips, queso, crudités, pickled shrimp, pickled cukes & red onion & for dessert, poundcakes, brownies, grapes, strawberries, pineapple.

The only things we ran out of were the bean dip (4x recipe, next time I'd double that) & the poundcakes (I had 2, but could have used 4). It was just so great to see my extended family (Tom is the oldest grandchild & the youngest was born 3 weeks ago, he was also there) & friends,

& thanks to my experience w/ team dinners, it was easy to prep. Of course, now that the last guests have left, I have my feet up, & I'm drinking a beer...

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I'm transitioning, y'all- my first athletic (he definitely didn't get it from me) child has graduated from HS & has gone off to college (harder than I thought it would be, I didn't cry). Now, I'm thinking about team dinners for the girls-Lizzy is playing field hockey this fall, & while I'm not hosting, I'm contributing dishes-I'm just not sure if the girls will appreciate the meatfests I've prepared in the past. So, bean dip/chips/salsa, what are some other side dishes that would be appreciated?

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I checked out a preview recipe from Michael Symon's new "5 in 5" cookbook. His "Lazy Meatballs With Yogurt Sauce" looks inviting and super simple. It's just skewered and grilled spicy Italian sausage meatballs (maybe turkey sausage for figure conscious young ladies?) with a tatziki sauce (go low fat or no fat).

Food on a stick never fails, so I'd lean towards chicken satay too. Tolerates travel well.

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That sounds good, because I know these girls will eat (they just don't want to look like they are), & if I want to be really lazy, I have tatziki from Costco (yeah, I know, easier & better to do it on my own)...the only help Lizzy has offered is that everyone loves guacamole.

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Revisiting cooking for a crowd, when my son asked me for BBQ for his GMU homecoming back in Dec., I said, "sure". Little did I know I'd be smoking at the coldest time of the year (ok, I didn't have to dig the WSM out from a snow bank). I did 2 pork butts, 1 brisket ($, should have done more pork) & tons of drumsticks, which I cooked in the Instant Pot, & finished in the oven w/ BBQ sauce. After all that work, cooking & reheating, when I brought it over today, the sterno (for the chafers) wouldn't light- who knew sterno expires? I drove all over Fairfax- Giant, Home Depot, & finally, the hell that is the Fairfax Costco, to get them some sterno (they were also out of lighter fluid for their grill) & when I got back, most of the 7 pans of food were gone. Proof that college kids will eat anything, as long as they have drinks. I was disappointed though- I'll try & cook them more BBQ when it's warmer. Live & learn.....

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I haven't done much cooking for a crowd, but will be hosting a visiting team of high school Ultimate players in April, so I'm reading this thread for ideas (and next year or the year after, when our son is an upperclassman, we might host some of his team dinners).  We have a crockpot and an InstantPot, so we could use both, and cook a brisket in the oven and something on the stove top.  But we don't smoke meat, have never cooked ribs, and our son doesn't eat pork.  We've contributed crockpot chili to school events before (hungry theater kids), so that's always an option. I'm thinking brisket, maybe the pulled pernil-style chicken we make in the InstantPot, some meats, mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables and/or salad (some of the other guys eat salad, though our teen won't, but he'll eat cherry tomatoes and baby carrots off a crudite platter).  We make an easy pasta fagioli with smoked sausage that might be good to include too.

I think we'll try your Lazy Meatballs with Tzatiki (with turkey or chicken Italian sausage) at home, and if it goes well, keep that in mind for groups.

Are there any of your foods-for-a-hungry-crowd that you find cook well in advance?

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A long time ago I helped a friend throw a huge party. Two days before, I made several pounds of ground meat's worth of spicy meatloaf...and I formed the loaves to be approximately as wide as a baguette. Note, I included a lot of chopped spinach in the meatloaf for moisture and to lighten it up. I refrigerated the cooked meatloaf. The day of the party, I spread baguettes with mustard, and layered on thinly sliced meatloaf. I wrapped the baguettes tightly in foil. right before the party, we sliced the sandwiches into individual servings. Big hit! I think we ended up with about 8 long baguette sandwiches, which were portable, fun, and made for really easy serving and clean-up.

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I didn't usually cook more than a day in advance, because I don't have as much freezer space as frig space, & didn't want the hassle of freezing, defrosting, reheating. Definitely the most popular non-pork dish was chicken thighs, cooked in either the smoker, crockpot, or instant pot, with a mojo criollo, adobo (soy & vinegar) or jerk marinade. Another favorite thing is jerk beef, chuck cooked in the crockpot (this actually works better then the IP for this dish)w/ onions & St. Ann's Bay Jamaican jerk marinade. I love this stuff, when they briefly stopped carrying it at the Belvoir commissary, I wrote in to try to get them to stock it again, & when they did, I loaded up about 5 bottles, just to be safe. My daughter, who is a very picky eater, loves this jerk beef. & trays of baked ziti were usually pretty popular, too.

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