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Casual dinner party for 10 - help

We are having 8 people for dinner next week (family friends of my in-laws/clients) and Im 7 weeks pregnant so can heardly see straight, Im so exhausted. Im looking for a few fool proof recipes that I can turn on with relative ease. Most guests are jewish, so no pork. Any help/advice/sympathy much appreciated..

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  1. I'd roast a chicken or buy breasts and roast w/garlic and fresh rosemary. Then roast veges to go with it. Small potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes and squash....
    Easy to do. Just cut up all then spread on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle w/EVOO and salt, then roast. I also add raw beets, unpeeled and just cut up like the rest. If you have a Trader Joes in your village, p/u their Kosher breasts. I love 'em. I also get their cranbeery/apple chutney and spiced apple slices/sauce to round up meal. Then one of their apple pies w/a dollop of really good vanilla ice cream. YUM :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Kitchen Queen

      I ditto the roasted veggies. I did 3 different ones yesterday (brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli) and it took about 5 minutes prep per veggie, and about 30 minutes to cook. Carrots are good too. And I absolutely love roasted sweet potatoes wedges w/sage.

      And note, many Jewish people that don't eat pork also won't eat shellfish. No shrimp, lobster or clams for my kosher-observant grandmother!

    2. Simplify with something you can make a day or even two before.There is a great moussaca recipe in the New York Times Cookbook, IT can be made days ahead of time frozen and baked the day of. Serve with a salad and Hot bread and a simple desert.Be sure to have two so they can repeat

      7 Replies
      1. re: Rickw

        Moussaka is a risk if any of the Jewish guests do keep kosher or otherwise observe Jewish dietary laws (i.e. no pork or shellfish). It combines meat and dairy, which is strictly forbidden.

        1. re: rednails

          can you explain this more? i'm fascinated. why the no mix of meat and dairy? i learn so much on this board.

          1. re: lollya

            It's the most fundamental rule of (now ancient) Jewish dietary laws. Never mix meat and dairy at the same meal. I can't give you the textbook reason right now, but I bet if you go on the Kosher board and ask the question you'll get the best answer. I have a book at home called "The Jewish Book of Why" which would give me the correct way to articulate it. And as I noted above, no shellfish either.

            Just as an example, my maternal grandparents were Orthodox Jews. My grandmother had 6--yes, 6--set of dishes: 2 for every day, 2 for company and 2 for Passover. Four sets of silverware--2 for every day, 2 for Passover. Ditto for pots n pans. (Orthodox Jews change everything for Passover.) Separate sets for meat and dairy. It made things interesting when she passed away and all her stuff got divided up.

            1. re: rednails

              I believe the kosher mix of meat & milk comes from an Old Testament Bible verse about not cooking a kid (goat) in its mother's milk. The Moslems also eat halel meat, which I believe is slaughtered the same way, just not salted and soaked. Someone help me out - do Moslems also observe the milk & meat restrictions as well?

              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                That's right. The way that verse was explained to me, it was about avoiding cruelty/disrespect to the animals.

                I haven't noticed that rule being in play in Muslim cooking, but neither can I remember dairy ever being served. I do know they cook the beef absolutely to death and then some--I have yet to meet a Westerner who can deal with the paste-like results.

                1. re: foiegras

                  Very interesting... I'm a vegetarian so i get that. Thanks for the explanation.

                2. re: Diane in Bexley

                  Muslims don't observe that - they do obviously use yogurt sauce all over their meats.

        2. Button - it would be easier to recommend if we knew a little more of your resources. Are you in Australia? If so, are you able to cook on an outdoor grill? Also, will your guests all be able to sit down or will this be a buffet where some will be eating off their laps?

          1. Do you really have to have that dinner party that weekend? It seems that waiting 3-4 more weeks would be easier on you and you would be better able to deal with a menu and sudden whims or aversions to foods. You will feel a lot better then and right now you do not need the strain. Unless one of the guests is in precarious health and might not make it through another month you should not do this at this time.

            1. Maybe this is a time where you could order some great take out from a restaurant, or something prepared from a high end grocery? And just make the cocktails - or serve champagne :)

              For something easy if you have to cook, what about steaks on the grill that the men could cook when they get there. Maybe make a sauce for the steaks if you are feeling up to it. And serve the roasted veggies on the side. For dessert - ice cream sundaes everyone can assemble themselves. Can't get much easier. Good luck. I can remember being in the early weeks of pregnancy and coming home from work and going directly to bed. We survived on cereal for those first few weeks!

              1. Apologies, I could have provided a few more details. I am in Australia so the barbeque is an option. I'll probably seat everyone (dining table for 8 will push to 10), and plenty of good alcohol will be on hand (something I am usually very keen on).

                1. If you can bbq how about kebabs (perhaps lamb with red onion, mushrooms, red bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash) with couscous and/or rice. Greek salad (make ahead and let the veggies marinate). Make it participatory (you said casual, right?) and have everyone grill their own. Everything else is on the table.

                  Appetizers could be hummus with pita bread and a nice tapenade, with a variety of olives.

                  1. I suggest you choose a menu that requires very little prep time so you aren't on your feet for hours peeling, chopping, etc.

                    How about a leg of lamb on the grill (hubby can man the grill!) served with a mint pesto. Serve with a potato salad (buy the tiny pink potatoes so they don't have to be peeled) dressed with a mustard viniagrette, or couscous, and maybe a green bean salad or just a crisp green salad with a special dressing. Buy the dessert or allow a guest to bring it, if offered.

                    Keep it simple and enjoy. Good luck!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Terrie H.

                      The Leg of lamb sounds like a great idea, if your spouse knows how to grill.

                      You can also prepare a lasagna with out meat. It can be prepared the day before. It is festive and I think everyone loves lasagna. It can be pared with a salad and garlic bread.

                      You can do a fun desert of Root Beer Floats.

                    2. If your guests are kosher, then don't do a Leg of Lamb, do a shoulder. The hind part of the animal is not kosher, this one I don't remember why, sorry.

                      1. Thanks so much for all your suggestions, as well as the lesson on kosher cooking! Luckily for me its simply a matter of no pork or shellfish (I checked with my mother in law last night). Im keen on the roast idea, accompanied by roast veggies, as the prep can be done earlier. I also love lasagne, and could make that the day before - Im thinking a chicken lasagne, otherwise it will be a little heavy on the meat. A good green salad, some good wine, some fresh strawberries and cherries with a bought cake and Im pretty much there. I'll leave the starters to my husband.

                        Root beer floats - sounds fascinating! An American thing perhaps, as Ive never heard of them. Can you explain a little more?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: button

                          put a few scoops of vanilla ice cream into a glass or mug and pour root beer on top. it fizzes a lot - be careful. serve with straw and spoon. delicious! sort of a 1950s pep rally/all American after school thing.

                          1. re: dtud

                            You can also do Coke floats. We used to order them at Carvel all the time.

                        2. there you go, I do know what they are, we call them spiders in Australia, a concept no doubt stolen from the US at some point. I loved them as a kid. Dont ask me where the word 'spider' comes from.

                          1. The float would be a fun item. Many of the upscale resteraunts in San Diego offered them for Resteraunt Week.
                            Good Luck

                            1. Whilst Ive got a few American ears available - what is a broiler? I think its our equivalent to a grill, but not sure as it seems to used in lots of different contexts. Apologies for the simplistic questions.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: button

                                The broiler is the top burner. gas or electric on the stove, instead of grilling, the heat is above and very close to the material.

                                I prefer grilling instead of broiling, the house stays cooler and less smokey. My mom and grandma used to broil steaks, I like to grill them. I do broil shrimp and scallops, it is a fast way of cooking in the oven.

                                What country are you in?

                                1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                  Just to clarify a tiny bit -- the broiler is the top element IN the oven, not on the stovetop.

                                  1. re: TorontoJo

                                    Thank you, it would be hard to broil a steak on the stove from description, Thank you for catching that crucial typo!

                              2. Thanks for the explanation. Im in Melbourne, Australia, where it is stinking hot - makes for back to front reading on a US webaite (ie: lots of talk of winter comfort food at the moment).

                                1. Another easy chicken dish is Chicken Marbella. If you do a Google search, you will find the recipe. It's very easy and always a huge hit.

                                  1. Here are two fantastic fail proof recipes using the “herb’s de provence” combination of herbs.

                                    ROASTED CHICKEN WITH HERBS DE PROVENCE:

                                    Marinating for about 6 hours is best (overnight marinating is too long...the acid from the lemon starts to cook the bird and break everything down ). Roast it in the conventional oven at 375 degree’s uncovered for 1 hour and fifteen minutes.

                                    3.5 lb whole chicken
                                    1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
                                    1⁄2 teaspoon ground pepper
                                    Fresh Lemon juice from 1 lemon (you can use juice from only 1⁄2 lemon if you don’t like it lemony)
                                    6 large garlic cloves crushed through the garlic press

                                    TWO OPTIONS FOR DRY HERBS:
                                    3-5 tablespoon’s of herb’s de provence
                                    1 tablespoon of Italian or Greek oregano, 2-3 tablespoons of rosemary, 1 teaspoon thyme

                                    2 tablespoons of Japanese Tamari (do not substitute with soy sauce)
                                    2 tablespoons of Italian red balsamic vinegar from Modena (do not substitute with other vinegars)
                                    1⁄2 to 3⁄4 teaspoon of coarse salt - OPTIONAL (careful not to over salt...there’s salt in the chicken stock as well as the Tamari)
                                    1 regular sized can of lower sodium chicken broth (around 14 fluid ounces), preferably organic. If you only have the regular sodium chicken broth then, do not add the optional coarse salt.
                                    1⁄2 cup of dry champagne (optional-try the recipe once without champagne-use more chicken broth in the roasting pan if you don’t use champagne)
                                    2-3 large potato’s peeled and cut in long thick sections / place in cold water until ready to use

                                    Drain potato’s and place in roasting pan.
                                    Wash and dry bird thoroughly then place in roasting pan over potato’s.
                                    In a jar or Tupperware bowl with lid combine all of the ingredients (except for the chicken broth and potato’s) and close tightly.
                                    Shake marinate for 30-60 seconds and let stand for 5 minutes.
                                    Slather and rub paste-like marinate over bird and potato’s inside and out and let stand covered in refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Try and cover the potato’s with bird as much as possible.
                                    Remove bird from refrigerator and let stand for 20 minutes prior to cooking.
                                    Preheat oven to 375 degree’s. Total cooking time is typically 75 minutes depending on size of bird.
                                    Mix 1⁄2 can of chicken broth with 1⁄2 to 1 cup of dry champagne (add more chicken broth when champagne is excluded)
                                    Pour chicken broth and champagne mixure in bottom of roasting pan and swish until blended
                                    Place roasting pan with chicken and potato’s on middle rack uncovered.
                                    Cook bird with breast side down for 30 minutes.
                                    Turn bird breast side up and then baste (baste once only-basting throughout the cooking time will make for soggy skin) top of bird with the liquid in bottom of pan. Add more heated chicken broth and champagne to pan if needed.
                                    Cook for another 40 minutes or until skin is relatively dark and crispy.
                                    Remove from oven and cover tightly with foil. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving. The au jus in the pan is very flavorful and does not need to be thickened with flour.

                                    This recipe is amazing with mashed potato’s as well. Use the juice from the bottom of the pan.

                                    HERBS DE PROVENCE BEER CAN CHICKEN: Get your grill heated to 375 degree’s. Beer can chicken stands are available but not necessary. Turn the burner off under the chicken for indirect cooking.

                                    Approximately 3.5lb whole chicken
                                    3-5 tablespoon’s of herb’s de provence
                                    kosher salt to taste
                                    3- tablespoons (or more...careful not to use too much, It could catch on fire. Use just enough olive oil so it’s not dripping all over) of extra virgin olive oil-works best because of it’s low burning point. Makes skin really crispy.
                                    Fresh ground pepper to taste

                                    Wash and dry chicken thoroughly inside and out.
                                    Rub olive oil all over bird inside and out
                                    Rub kosher salt inside and out to taste and finally pepper
                                    Rub herb’s de provence all over inside and out
                                    1⁄2 of a beer in the can (you can’t waste the other half so you must drink it)
                                    Place the bird over the can on the grill without any direct heat underneath (make sure that burner under bird is off) and prop up the legs in front of the bird
                                    Close grill lid and cook for 45 minutes before checking. Adjust temperature if needed when bird appears to be burning (not likely). Cook another 15-25 minutes or until juice from bird is clear.
                                    When bird is done, remove from grill and cover with foil and let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving

                                    Please report back with your results.
                                    Alex Moncada

                                    1. If it's already "stinking hot," and you're pregnant, the LAST thing I'd do is to turn the oven on and roast anything. Hormone induced temperature elevations are bad enough. I whole-heartedly endorse the beer can chicken on the grill. It is as moist and flavorful as any oven-roasted bird I've done. I do reccomend purchasing a device that holds the can and balances thet chicken so that it does not fall over. Be sure to cook it over indirect heat, rather than directly over the coals, as the drippings can flare up. Look in the grill section of a hardware or kitchen store. Make or purchase (make it easy on yourself), 2 salads, such as cous cous, green salad or cold sesame noodle salad. Your desert sounds perfect. Put your feet up and have a cool iced tea. Enjoy.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: greenstate

                                        Yes, I see your point about the oven overheating the house.

                                        Although my Herbs de Provence Beer can chicken is outstanding, my Herbs de Provence (well actually it's my moms recipe) Roasted Chicken with Champagne is one of the very best I've ever tasted. It also works great with Roasted Turkey as well.

                                      2. I would go with the lamb kebob idea (on the grill) and make cous cous salad & also cucumber salad, which can both be made ahead of time. Serve with store bought pita, hummus & tabbouli.

                                        1. Ten people? Semi-elegant? Easy: bake a whole salmon. Serve with red, white, yellow or purple potatoes and green beans.

                                          If you have an outdoor grill, the salmon can be baked outsite. All you need to do is wrap it in foil and put an old cookie sheet on the grill. Flip it over once during cooking, giving it about fifteen minutes on each side, depending on the size of the fish. Let it rest a bit before removing the skin and bones and use a couple platters so you have half a salmon for each end of the table (or one for serving first and one for seconds kept warm in the oven).

                                          Do either a simple sour cream and dill sauce with a touch of horseradish and lemon juice or else go fancier and make a lemon bay sauce by making a roux with butter, flour and onion salt, adding a can of condensed milk and a bay leaf, and finally, after simmering it till smooth, adding lemon juice and stirring like crazy. The lemon curdles the milk and thickens the sauce. This sauce works beautifully on both salmon and potatoes.

                                          I believe the "no milk and meat" does not apply to fish, or otherwise there wouldn't be cream cheese and salmon on bagels.

                                          If the weather isn't right for the grill, you can bake the salmon in the oven.

                                          1. How was the dinner and what did you serve?

                                            1. Thanks for checking in! The dinner went really well, I ended up cutting a few corners (entree spent up big on marinated octopus, artichokes, salmon roulade, fancy salamis, and other tasty bits and peices). We bought a new barbeque about a week before the dinner so my husband cooked up some fantastic eye fillet, chicken fillets marinted in lemon and oregano, sea perch fillets and chilli and garlic prawns. I roasted some vegatables (cut up in small pieces - potato, pumpkin, zuccini, corn, onions) with lots of rosemary and garlic and made a big salad with spinach, beans, red onion and baby roma tomatoes, all served with warm ciabatta. Dessert - my mother in law's chocolate cheese cake and a huge bowl of strawberries, rasberries and blackberries. There were NO leftovers (and believe me, I didnt undercater) Husband was very grateful for all the effort and promised there will be no more entertaining until after the first trimester (when everyone will know and offer to bring a plate!)

                                              Lesson learnt - jewish couples in their sixties are capable of serious consumption.

                                              1. Hahaha - so true re consumption factor - although I have to say that my book club made up of 13 non-jewish women (not including myself) between the ages of 30 and 40ish do a good job of eating everything that's served. I am from the school of over serving (jewish background where Mom would take a pic of the food table before people could eat, like variety and generally am not comfortable unless it looks like there's enought food to serve an army) and I have rarely seen a group that eats so well and will eat anything that is served to them. They are actually a joy to serve because I am never worried about picky eating when they are over.

                                                1. As a chronic over-server and a keen eater Im always torn between having some leftovers (to enjoy later) and thinking everyone is going home hungry and unsatisfied (if there is no food left). Im half Australian half Sri Lankan and always dated Greek guys before marrying a Jew - so plenty of overserving history in that mix (Sri Lankans dont mind a big feed either).