Cooking For a Crowd: The Potato Bar

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Bryan is an artist, father, husband, and son (not really in that order). He works for the Department of Vetern's Affairs and writes and administers The Fireside Post with his father, Ohg Rea Tone. His writings have not been published, though they have been printed a lot.

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Cooking For a Crowd: The Potato Bar

I am the Director of Youth Ministries at our church, and at out program we eat together every week.  Some weeks have more people than others, of course, but we are getting good at providing meals for semi-large crowds (like 25 – 30 people) with minimal prep and even less of a budget.  I wanted to share some of the ideas and growing pains that we have experienced as we figured this out.  I am starting with one of the most popular ideas – the potato bar.

Here is how it goes:

Your best bet is to get baking potatoes rather than the standard, cheaper bag of potatoes that are small and irregular.  If you get the smaller potatoes, you will want to consider about 1.5 potatoes per person, which is hard to do, and they don’t fill up a plate very well.  I even found the baking potatoes pre-wrapped in foil and ready to be placed in the oven, and I think that, on sale, they were $1.99 for a four pack.  This is not something I would do in a budget crunch, but in a time crunch it is a huge blessing.  Anyway, get some potatoes, and wrap them each in foil.

If you can bake the potatoes ahead of time, great.  Put them in a cooler and they will stay hot, and will even cook a bit more so that they are nice and soft when it is time to serve them.  Use tongs or oven mitts, though, these guys can be hot.

Here are some of the most popular toppings from around these parts:

Butter

Cheese sauce (the jar of cheese sauce from the salsa isle works really well.)

Shredded cheddar cheese

Bacon bits

Sour cream

Ranch dressing

Chopped broccoli (you can get this in the frozen foods isle to save prep time)

Salsa

Chopped onions

chopped peppers

Chili – this can be prepared ahead of time or just warmed up from a  can.  I personally love to make chili, so I would spend the extra time to make some and have it available in a crock pot, but that is just me.  If you get a hankerin; to make a pot of chili, there is a great recipe right here on The Fireside Post.  This, i think, is imperative if your crowd is a super active bunch of high school students.  You need all the protein in this meal that you can get.

We will focus on the self serve style meal ideas for now.  This is not so much about me giving you ideas as it is about us sharing them, so please let me know if you have some great ideas for potato bars.  Stay tuned, too, because next we are going southwestern…

There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. Sounds very tasty. I have learned when in a pinch for time, wrap your potatoes in a plastic wrap and microwave them. They will not dry out.

  2. Also, if anyone has ever tried to microwave any sort of potato dish, you know it can take 2-3 times as long to heat up. For mashed potatoes, try mixing a little milk in, since microwave heat the liquid in the food.

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