In the past two weeks I’ve twice cooked dinner for a group of six. For the first dinner (friends from high school) I tried new recipes and ended up happy with one and unhappy with the other; the second (in-laws) was my old standby Mexican meal, but since I was chatting instead of paying attention to seasoning the results were not up to snuff. Usually my husband is my whole eating audience, and afterwards we candidly discuss what went right and what went wrong and whether we ever want to see this recipe again. So when I cook for a group, it kills me to bite my tongue instead of announce that I know the salad is not very well dressed or that usually the enchiladas are so much better. I feel ashamed fielding dutiful praise for food that isn’t my best as friends push it around on their plates like balky five-year olds. I need a new system. I wanted to ask you—what is the essential meal or recipe you rely on when you’re cooking for a group?
It can be elegant or not; after these last two dinners, I’m thinking I should just make reliable, everyone-likes-it macaroni and cheese from now on when feeding people I love. I’m not interested in impressing as much as I am in keeping guests out of that awful position where they’re forcing food down and coughing up compliments at the same time.
Maybe breakfast for dinner is a good idea: easy, unexpected and laid-back. These are the migas (Mexican-style scrambled eggs) I make when my husband has been a good boy. The ones I used to improvise were pretty good, but once I tried the America’s Test Kitchen version I never looked back. On the other hand, I made them recently and wasn’t as blown-away by yumminess as I remembered. Sigh. Maybe consistency is just not in the cards for this cook!
The instructions call for baked tortilla chips, but I think migas are just as good with regular old fried chips. I like to bake my own chips here because it is cheaper and slightly healthier: brush corn tortillas very lightly with vegetable oil, cut them into wedges, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake in a 400˚F oven for about 10 minutes (keep an eye on them, since it could take a little longer or a couple of minutes less; you want the chips to be crisp but not too brown). You will need about five tortillas-worth of chips for this recipe.
- 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup baked tortilla chips (2 ounces), broken in 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 onion, chopped medium
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jalapeno chile, stemmed seeded, and minced
- 2 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
Whisk together the eggs, tortilla chips, salt, and pepper. Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the onion, red pepper, garlic, and jalapeno and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs and cook while gently pushing, lifting, and folding them from one side of the pan to the other, until they are nicely clumped, shiny, and wet, about 2 minutes. Quickly fold in the cheese and remove the mixture from the pan.