We're doing our first big group dinner in our house, and I wanted to get input on the menu. The party's not for another month, so we've got lots of time to futz with the food. Right now we are looking at about 10-15 people, all in their 20's and with the exception of my BF and I, not very adventurous eaters. (Def. meat and potatoes types...though living in the Chesapeake Bay area they all love seafood as well) And absolutely everything either needs to be cooked in advance or outside because our house is pretty small and heats up quickly when we use the kitchen. We have a fairly large charcoal grill and a big portable propane stove with a griddle. We also want to keep the cost of this meal under control. The guests are bringing all the beverages, so we've just got to get their bellies full.
Menu at the moment:
Spinach dip in bread bowl
veggie tray (for dipping and just eating)
chips and dip (perhaps ina's pan fried onion dip I've heard so much about)
crab stuffed mushrooms <grill - perhaps very lightly foiled or in a disposable pan?>
Slow grilled/roasted pork shoulder (something along the lines of the zuni mock porchetta, but on the grill with low indirect heat, and probably a slightly different flavor profile on the herby rub.) <grill>
Brats <griddle with a big pile of onions...then into a pan with beer to hold (still on griddle)>
(rolls/ciabatta and cheese and condiments provided with these to make various porky/sausagey sandwiches)
Corn on the cob <steamed on propane stove. no room on the grill>
cucumber salad (creamy, but with a vinegar twang)
Pasta salad (vinegar based)
Fruit salad / sliced watermelon
so what else? What instead? And how many pounds of pork do we need for a group of 15, split pretty evenly male/female, with some big eaters among the guys? (assuming we make ~10 brats) Any changes you'd make to cooking methods? And I'd love to have the excuse to make an extravagant dessert (I love to bake) but it seemed excessive with all the fatty porky goodness to whip out a big pie or cake something at the end.
The only problem with oysters is that they are out of season (at my fishmonger anyway) and would be a bit beyond our budget in any case. though I've always wanted to try grilled shellfish. do you just lay them directly on the grate or do you put them on/in something? If they just go directly on the grates, how do you get them back off without burning yourself or tipping them and losing the lovely fishy juices (or the meat itself)?
Gotta agree about corn on the cob. Shucking is a mess, boiling that much water takes time, eating is messy, the remains are messy...I savor fresh corn when I can do it for just the two of us. Maybe I'm a fun killer! Love the idea of a cucumber salad, though.
Marinated (fill in the blanks: cauliflower florets, green beans, carrots) make a nice substitution for the crudite (and eliminates the need for dip) or as a substitute for another kind of salad. You can make that a day in advance and let the vegetables marinate. A tomato and watermelon salad is always great.
I've never known anyone to refuse a great cake or pie, no matter how much they've eaten, especially when homemade. Peaches are in season, so a fresh peach pie or cobbler. You can make the cobbler ahead and serve cool or at room temperature.
Getting the water boiling on our propane stove won't really be an issue...that thing is a monster.
this is what we have: http://www.campchef.com/catalog/item/...
I agree that it is messy...especially since I'm used to being able to shuck the corn at the bottom of the garden and just throw the husks over the fence to the horses. Things are little different in my little townhouse than they were where I grew up! But the points about corn are duly noted...that might take some discussion. Corn on the cob is so much a part of an outdoor summer meal that it'd be hard to give it up.
And excellent point about the cake...who complains that there's dessert? And it's def. the kind of party where everybody will probably hang around until late, so there's lots of time to get hungry again. Sadly though...no peaches. My BF can't stand them. Traumatic childhood experience involving an entire bushel of peaches. His brother won't eat them either.
Maybe a mixed berry pie or cobbler of some sort?
Ohhh...maybe some semi-pickled dilly beans! that would be good...
and I LOVE the cornbread idea. I was thinking that we might need something starchy for those that don't go the sandwich route with their meat.
Make a jello cake or a coconut cake. Both are insanely easy and cheap to make, whether you use mix or make from scratch. With both cakes, bake a white cake according to directions.
Jello cake: Take whatever your preferred jello flavor is (strawberry goes over really well and I've been dying to try lemon), a small box, and mix according to directions BUT cut the cold water in half. Poke holes in warm cake and pour. Yes, use it ALL. The liquid jello should fill a cereal bowl up to almost the top. Once cooled, frost with whipped cream.
Coconut cake: Add flake coconut to cake batter, a couple good handfuls. While cake is still warm, poke holes and pour cream of coconut over. Use a good amount, the cake will soak up a LOT. Cool, and again, frost with whipped cream.
I suggest doing these as a 9x13 cake instead of layers, since you soak them while they're still warm. If you serve them when they're fresh out of the fridge, they're actually very refreshing.
Edited to add: These are all excellent if made the day before.
For the brats, I'd recommend doing a pre-grill parboil in beer (2-4 bottles), 1/2 stick of butter and 1/2 a chopped onion. Throw them back in the bath to keep moist when you are done.(just leave it on the grill) I also posted a recipe for my ultimate brat and sauerkraut cooking method in a different link.
Your sides look good but other things to consider are a good coleslaw and a good potato salad.
Coleslaw is definitely a contender (see my hemming and hawing below), but I think potato salad and pasta salad is overkill. And the BF specially requested the pasta salad, so pasta it is.
And yes...that brat bath sounds just about perfect. Due to grill space constraints, we're going to do the brats on our outdoor griddle (see stove link above for what I'm talking about) They won't have that lovely smoky 'grill' flavor, but I think we can still get a good sear crust on the outside for that snappy texture. Any thoughts?
As for the sauerkraut method you linked to...wow. That looks damn tasty, but I think for this party we'll just keep the brats with the onions for simplicity. But next time, with a smaller group, that kraut is coming out.