Poolside Key West Lunch: leftover Picadillo, egg, toast wine. My iPhoto

Poolside Key West Lunch: leftover Picadillo, egg, toast wine. My iPhoto

I’m headed south today for my annual boondoggle, cooking for my cousin and his sailing crew at the annual regatta there, ten days reserved solely for personal writing, reading, and cooking (and occasional carousing—the boys are pretty persuasive in the post-dinner hours). Dinner for twenty every night, and this year a new baby girl has been welcomed to the sailing family. Dinners will certainly feature some of  the beloved standbys—Carolina BBQ, steaks, lobster. Many requested duck confit (I buy them from D’Artagnan; they’re fabulous and easy on the cook).

I usually do a huge shopping run the first day and start with six or seven chickens, breaking them down first thing so that I have stock, schmaltz, cracklins to flavor the food all week, and chicken for grilling (jerked last year). Though a cold front is moving through, so maybe a really good Bolognese and Caesar salad for the first night. It was suggested that I make bacon-wrapped fried chicken, and I just might give this one a go.

This is cooking for a big, hungry group, so it’s vats of food rather than petite, precise, à la minute meals. Vats of grits with sous vide eggs, hoppin’ john, black beans and rice.

For those who cook for big groups, I would love to hear what your go-to dishes are, especially the sides. Seriously, I’m looking for ideas! The main protein is easy—I have trouble with original sides.

© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.