When my sisters and I were wrangling a collection of little cousins whom we often fed together, I stumbled across a recipe for Chilaquile Casserole in Mollie Katzen’s Still Life With Menu Cookbook. It was delicious and nourishing and totally simple to make and we abused the privilege of its discovery so severely that my oldest nephew re-christened the dish “Chili-Kill-Me Casserole.” Its simplicity and flexibility came to mind when trying to think of ways to make a huge dinner without losing my mind, as it accommodates whatever you have access to or is on sale at the grocery store (roast chicken, for example, can sub in for the ground meat) and whomever is expected for dinner (for vegetarians, you can leave the meat out entirely), has sub-tasks that are easily delegated to helping hands, and is content to be made ahead or held at temperature for a while. Cheese is basically the most expensive of the ingredients here, and even without especially savvy pre-ordering in bulk (which my local markets happily allow for, and which definitely brings the cost way down), I am able to make this and a side vegetable for 140 people for under $200, which is not too shabby.
— Janet Reich Elsbach
Photo: From our pre-show lunch, Robyn Doyon-Aitken