Helping People 101: Sharing Food

LouisianaInitiative_streetsofcharitySharing food is one of the most basic and powerful ways to help people. Considering that 1 in 6 people in America face hunger, there needs to be more of us feeding those who are struggling.  Cooking for 100 people is easier than you might think!

Every Saturday in Downtown Shreveport a group of people gathers in an empty lot, just before 5:00pm.  They set up folding tables and serve a meal for 50 to  100 people and then clean up, break down, and vanish leaving no traces that they were ever there, all within a single hour.

This past Saturday it was my turn to cook.  Because it is near the end of the month, I was told to expect a lot of people – as many as 100.  Normally I cook for three people so this undertaking seemed like a big task.  It really wasn’t.

Cooking for a large group is not difficult at all; it just requires some planning and forethought, plus a little extra equipment.  If (when?) you decide to do something like this, be sure to tell all of your friends and family what you are planning.  My mother-in-law happily donated her 3-gallon (12 quart) and 4.5 gallon (18 quart) stock pots to the cause, along with two pounds of frozen meat. A coworker donated a bag of chicken, which meant I didn’t have to purchase any meat at all. We picked up 4-gallon (16 quart) stockpots at a popular discount store for $12.00 each.  As long as you’re making stews or other foods with a lot of liquid and keep the heat fairly low, the cheap stockpots will do just fine.

I only spent about an hour researching “Cooking for 100 people” before I had a good understanding of how much food I needed to make. It takes about 6.5 gallons to serve one cup of food to 100 people, so I decided to make 8 gallons of stew and 10 lbs of rice to serve with it.  The last thing in the world I wanted was to run out of food before everyone got to eat. I have included my recipe below, including all of the day-before preparations and some advice to help you avoid my mistakes.

Here is a slide-show that I prepared from photos taken along the way.  In the past I have been against posting photos of good deeds, but I’ve since discovered that this is an EXCELLENT way to let friends and coworkers know what I’m doing  – and hopefully – inspire them to pitch in and help!  After sharing this around a little bit, I already have several people lined up to help me next month.  It is hard to argue with what works.

Hearty Bean Stew for 100 People

15 lbs of dry beans, any kind.   I used a mix of kidney, pinto, black, navy.
2 lbs pork tenderloin
6 lbs of chicken breast
1 lb pork sausage
3 bunches of celery, chopped
4 lbs of onion, chopped
chicken broth (I had homemade bone broth)
few teaspoons of liquid smoke
few scoops of minced garlic
Tony Cachere’s – green can
Oregano, salt, pepper

6 – 7  lbs of white rice  (I cooked 10 lbs – way too much!)

The day before:

Rinse and soak beans for a minimum of 8 hours.
Boil and shred the meat. Save the broth.
The day of:

Drain the beans and use fresh water and the broth from boiling the meat. Boil the beans hard for about 10 minutes.  Add a mountain of chopped onion and celery.  Add the meat, garlic and seasonings then reduce heat to low for about 3 hours.

I cooked 10 lbs of rice but 6 or 7 lbs would have been plenty.  The best way to cook large quantities of rice is in steam table pans in the oven, but if you don’t have those just cook it in several smaller batches.   I used a large stockpot which produced very mushy rice. It wasn’t a big deal this time since the rice was being mixed with stew.

The pots stayed very hot wrapped in blankets, and the baskets made it all easy to carry.  We didn’t have to worry about spilling in the car.

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