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Crowd-pleasing dinners for a group of friends to make together?

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A group of 15 (+ me, the newbie!) are going up to Vermont to shack up for the long weekend in a (well-equipped) vacation home up there. We're planning on cooking together, eating a lot, and having a decadently indulgent time.

Problem is, the friend who always acts as head chef can't make it this time, so we've got to figure out something new this time around.

Any recipes for a really "wow" dinner entree, that all of us can prepare together? We're an adventurous eating crew, and everyone's either a gourmet or a gourmand (or both.) Hits from the past that they've done include: steak with chimichurri sauce, a roast Filippino pork, etc. Ideally, we wouldn't have to pick up too many esoteric ingredients.

Any "wow-ser" sides would be appreciated too.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I hope that not all of you are gonna be in the kitchen at the same time. There are only 2 of us in an empty nest, and I don't want my wife in the kitchen when I'm preparing a dish because I wield a Chinese cleaver instead of a French chef's knife. My wife wears slippers that don't make any noise, and I'm afraid she'll be behind me if I turn around suddenly. Oops!

    One dinner suggestion...it's of Italian origin. My late mother-in-law tradionally made 'aglio e olio' on Christmas Eve back when Catholics were required not to eat meat on 'La Vigilia di Natale.' That's garlic sauteed in olive oil poured over linguine or spaghetti.
    My wife has enhanced the dish by adding toasted pignoli (pine nuts), steamed broccoli florets, and fresh cherry tomatoes sliced in half. You can feed a crowd with that. Of course, you can also have a huge mixed greens salad dressed with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to go with the 'aglio e olio', and plenty of vino.

    Too much oil, you say? Lightly dress the salad.

    1. I once was part of a "team" of 12 cooking a Chinese dinner. We all fit in the kitchen. This seemed like a good idea because you get a lot of prep hands for all the chopping. We were very ambitious in the menu. Finally got the meal on the table by midnight. (I have blocked details of the clean up.)
      Ingredients would be a bit of a trick, though, for Chinese.
      Consider Fried chicken, cornbread and all the Southern sides. The food would be familiar enough, no fancy coordination and enough sides so everyone can participate.

      1. How about doing a fajita party?

        1. I recently posted about a pork roast on another thread, which is very easy. It's glazed with a mixture of apricot preserves and mustard, with some chopped pecans and apricots on it, and it is easier to make than is blowing your nose.

          I also have another easy dish that I pull out on occasions, and I like it with either scallops or a white fish like tautog (it's a black sea bass from the waters of the northeast U.S.). You use fresh lemon, fresh (flat leaf) parsley, shallots, panko, olive oil, white wine and fish. I would use 5-6 lemons, squeeze the juice into a large bowl, add in a bottle of wine (probably a Sauvignon Blanc) and 1/4 cup oilive oil. Chop finely 5 shallots, and chop coarsely until you have about 3 cups parsley, and add them to the bowl. Then add (about 2 bags of) panko, until it gets to a wet oatmeal consistency. Spread it over th fish and bake, then broil at the end to put a crust on the panko.

          It would go pretty well with the agio et olio pasta.

          1. Make ravioli or pierogis. This is totally a situation where more hands makes for lighter work, it's fun to do together, and it's great eating!