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dinner party menu help

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

I'm serving 8 at my house next weekend. My dinner table only seats 4 so 4 people will be eating off the coffee table - so, things that you can serve in the kitchen and that people can eat easily, like out of bowls, tend to work better. I've got someone coming that doesn't generally eat pork, and someone coming that doesn't eat seafood. I'd also like something where I can do a lot of the work that afternoon so I'm able to hang out with everyone - so something that I can stick in the oven that cooks for a while, or that you prep in advance and then comes together quickly, would be ideal.

I don't want to go too simple too because I don't have some of these folks over too often, but I also don't want the dinner to get too out of hand $ wise.

Any ideas?

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  1. Here are a couple of options:

    1. Crab or shrimp bisque.



    2. La Garbure Landaise - a French duck confit/savoy cabbage, bean soup. Special, easy to make ahead of time. There is a really good recipe in Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ourhomeworks

      what about something braised like beef short ribs or lamb shoulder, could easily be served in a bowl over potatoes or rice etc.

      there is a thread all about short ribs right now.

      I have recently started braising foods like chicken and beef and it is easy, and the flavors are wonderful and everything is so juicy and delicious. All the hard work is mostly done ahead of time.

    2. Osso buco and saffron risotto.

      1. Homemade chicken or turkey tettrazini with spinach, red onion & orange salad and grilled asparagus. You can prepare the casserole in advance, use all homemade ingredients (roasted poultry, bechamel sauce) or "outsource" the sauce or poultry. The asparagus could be served hot or at room temp. You can do this plated as a "knife & fork" supper or as a buffet.

        1. A hearty winter vegetable curry with hunks of crusty bread and a bitter greens salad? Or perhaps kale, white bean, and butternut squash soup with oven roasted radicchio wedges and balsamic reduction, again crusty bread and salad. Both are easy and can be prepped in advance. Just keep the curry or the soup in your slow cooker.

          1. Blanquette de veau? Too pricey? I love one-bowl meals, even for a party. I made a stuffed pasta dish once, but can't put my hands on the recipe. It was a ground chicken mixture piped into penne (I used my cookie gun) and baked in a cream sauce. Very bowl friendly.

            I like the curry ideas, too. There are lots of chicken renditions as well if you know your guests prefer meat.

            2 Replies
            1. re: nemo

              Wow! I'd forgotten about that stuffed pasta, but it's one of the best pasta dishes I've ever tried, period.

              Here's a link to the one I"ve tried:


              1. re: btnfood

                Hey, btn, thanks for posting this recipe. I would trust any recipe from Mary Sue and Susan, but that one sounds particularly delicious, and based upon your high recommendation and my fond memory of whatever it was that I cooked, I need to try the milliken/feniger version this week.

            2. Any chance you can borrow and find room for a card table, instead of feeding 4 of your guests at the coffee table (move the coffee table into the bedroom if need be, and push the chairs, sofa in the living room back a bit)? It seems to me that your menu and your guests comfort are really constrained by seating them at the coffee table.

              If you are not forced to do a 1 bowl meal, I'd be inclined to recommend a roast of some sort -- chicken, turkey, or lamb, served witih oven roast potatoes, and other sides, which would leave you plenty of time to socialize with your guests and still fit within your budgetary and dietary constraints.

              2 Replies
              1. re: masha

                Some of my most enjoyable dinner parties have been those served on my coffee table. My dining table only seats 6, but I have a 40-inch-square marble coffee table that works very comfortably when I have 8 people. Three sit on the sofa, two on each of two chairs, and the remaining three on large pillows on the floor or, if one prefers, on a small footstool. Depending on the dinner, I'll either serve buffet-style from the dining table or plop down a large one-dish dinner such as paella in the center of the coffee table and everyone just digs in. Perhaps because of the informality of it, people invariably have a terrific time. There have even been occasions when I've asked a group of six whether they'd prefer to eat at the dining table or on the coffee table and they've chosen the coffee table. Under the right circumstances, it can be a very fun way to entertain.

                1. re: JoanN

                  i think the point was that the people would be split up. i think wherever you sit is fine but trying to keep people as much together as possible would be best. :)
                  the food ideas sound great.
                  oh and a beef bourguignonne (sp?) with noodles could be done in a bowl and be yummy. or a stroganoff. or chicken paprikash.

              2. thanks so much for the suggestions! love the idea of the stuffed pasta and of the braise...you've given me some great ideas! will let you know how it goes!

                1. Thanks everyone for your help, the dinner party was a success! Took everyone's advice and had everyone eat off the coffee table and served a braise - perfect!

                  Here are the recipes I made to rave reviews, in case anyone wants them! :-)


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mrsricho

                    sounds like a fabulous and comfortable/comforting winter menu. glad it was fun!