We love cooking for a crowd, so pretty much every weekend we invite as many of our clan over for dinner as possible. But we also cook for other crowds on a regular basis because we believe that all people deserve good food.
This month marks the one year anniversary of the Northside United Methodist Church’s Community Dinner. The dinners were the brainchild of Kate LaCroix, the former assistant to the pastor at our church. She is still the heart of what we do.
Kate started an outreach committee at our church with the intent to feed people’s bodies and souls. It has been a very successful venture. On the third Tuesday every month from 5 to 6:30 p.m., we serve dinner to anyone who walks in the door. The dinners are open to the public and most of the people who show up are not members of our church.
Even though the dinners are free, there is a basket for a free will offering. That money is used to pay for the food for the following month’s dinner as well as the other food ministries we do each month, such a serve dinner at the Champ Homes in Hyannis and make soup, sandwiches and cookies for the Salvation Army’s Miracle Kitchen. We recently added the Faith Miracle Kitchen, sponsored by the Cape Cod Council of Churches, to our repertoire once a month and have become “the chili church” for that ministry that serves 200 dinners to those in need in Hyannis three nights a week.
We are by no means the only church participating in the Faith Miracle Kitchen. Since the ministry began in April 2012, about 18 different churches have volunteered to help out, including Cape Cod Covenant Church in Brewster, Brewster Baptist Church and Faith Assembly of God in Hyannis, where the dinners are actually served.
It is truly rewarding work to feed so many people each month. In the past year we have served about 1,500 people at the various venues. Each month our committee meets to decide what we will serve each group and who will be in charge of what food.
At last month’s Community Dinner we served pancakes, sausages and fruit salad in honor of Mardi gras. Breakfast for dinner was amazingly popular with both young and old. In keeping with a holiday theme, this month we decided to serve Guinness beef stew with a nod towards St. Patrick’s Day.
Since you never want to experiment with a recipe on the day you serve it to others, I decided to cook it for us at home over the weekend. I had a package of stew beef we bought from Seawind Meadows Farm at the Orleans Winter Farmers’ Market.
Our usual beef stew recipe is a bit fussy. It’s made with lots of red wine and we roast pearl onions and baby bella mushrooms separately in the oven to layer in extra flavor. We usually serve it over mashed potatoes.
For this stew, I wanted something more old-fashioned, but also simpler to make. Simpler doesn’t have to mean less flavor, so I began with some diced bacon, because everything tastes better with bacon.
The Kitchen Genius has cooked mashed potatoes for over 100 people before, but for this stew we decided to cook the potatoes right in the stew with the carrots. We chose Yukon gold potatoes for their creamy flavor and their beautiful color.
The resulting stew was a winning recipe. Red wine creates gravy that is quite rich in flavor. Swapping in Guinness created a whole different flavor profile: earthy, deep and delicious. This is a recipe I will be making again.
If you want to try this stew without cooking it yourself, you are more than welcome to come to the Community Dinner at Northside United Methodist Church on Tuesday night. KG will be in the kitchen keeping the food rolling. Even though I won’t be there this month because I have a prior obligation that evening, you will be in wonderful hands with the amazing crew that shows up every month to serve.