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Inexpensive catering menu suggestions. June

My good friend's son is getting married in June. Unfortunately her husband has lost his job so my sister and I have volunteered to do the food for the rehearsal dinner. I haven't ever done anything like this before and while I love to cook I am feeling a bit anxious about it.

Could anyone on this board give me some menu suggestions? July dinner for about 40 people? something inexpensive but fancy, not chicken. something we can perhaps make beforehand? We were possibly thinking crepes or a pasta bar or paella?

Any advice for the actual event?

Thanks very much

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  1. I don't think I would try doing crepes for such a large number of people.

    If you set it up like a large buffet, I would maybe go with a caesar and greek salad, you could do a pan of each of baked pasta like ziti or something vegetarian, greek moussaka and paella, a variety of breads and bread sticks, butter or flavored butters, and then some sort of fruit tray and dainty tray.

    This way you provide for a variety of likes and dislikes, something for people who like fish, meat and a vegetarian dish

    1 Reply
    1. re: salsailsa

      That is a great idea. If you want easy portioing you could make stuffed shells. Some veg - some with meat or you could do vegetarian shells and do peppers, sausage, chicken thighs (if you want), olives, onions and pepperoncini in a tomatoey wine sauce. All things can be bought in bulk and can keep in the oven while waiting to serve.

      Lots of bread. Lots of salad (plain) with well made dressing.

    2. I cater for a living. Ziti or lasagna, You can make veg or meat to make everyone happy. Also a good turkey tettrazini is good, vegetables casseroles you can make ahead and bake. Yes, ceasar, greek or just a nice simple wedges with a choice of dressing which can be fun. A pasta bar is fun, 3-4 sauces all easy and made ahead. A couple of pastas and just serve. Tortallini, maybe some angel hair or ziti, some meatballs, chicken and alfredo and and cheese sauce. all easy and make ahead and just heat. All reheat in the oven. A good Italian salad it that is what you like or caesar. Also a nice cheese platter or antipasto is easy and simple. Maybe make a couple of stuffed puffed pastrys with pesto or cheese and baked. Served room temp. Again done ahead. I like my vodka tomatoes sutffed or not and just marinated in vodka and served with plain. Simple but fun and easy. Some bruschetta with spinach, olive tapenade and mozz just baked, easy quick and cheap. A good bowl of shrimp with a spicy sauce marinated in lemon and garlic would be great. Make ahead.

      Small pizzas with polenta is great with simple topping cheese and peppers and onions. Served individually. I make stuffed portabellow with tomato, sausage and cheese ... like mini pizzas, also easy. Bread sticks wrapped with proscuitto and baked a few minutes. The list goes on ... What do you like or want. Paella is good but can be expensive depending on what you put in it..

      2 Replies
      1. re: kchurchill5

        I love your ideas! Lasagna is delish and to make it a litle bit more elegant.. make it as roll ups. It's a little bit more work, but it's not as messy to serve or eat.

        Another idea is to make spaghetti and meatballs and serve in ramekins. You can put a bit of spaghetti in each ramekin and top with a ladle of sauce and a meatball or two. It's easier for whoever is serving to just place a ramekin on the person's dish than to start scooping out spaghetti, sauce, and meatballs.

        For salad- set out a huge bowl of mixed greens. Then set out dishes of 'toppings' on lucite steps. Makes it look pretty that everything is on a different level. You can put out chopped roasted peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, olives, croutons, feta cheese, shredded carrots, roasted eggplant... whatever is on sale and easy to prepare. Next to the toppings set out a row of dressings each with a pretty ladle. In front of each dish of dressing, put a label- "balsamic vinaigrette- vegan" or "blue cheese dressing- dairy." makes it easy for everyone to enjoy the salad.. and the vegetarians in the group can make a main course salad.

        1. re: cheesecake17

          A fancy salad bar is always good to me! Makes everyone happy. You can buy some awesome small disposable ramiken like bowls, nice idea and put the spaghetti in but toss out.

      2. Two words...pork shoulder. I have 5 dozen recipes that fit this bill, let me know if you're interested and I'll post a few. It's really to feed a crowd....

        2 Replies
        1. re: hankstramm

          That is good, I like to bake a ham with a nice sweet glaze or even a roast turkey, but I love the pork.

          I would serve with 2 or 3 sauces to give people and option. BBQ, honey herbed mustard and a chutney

          Nice idea

          And how about a nice potato and mushroom casserole. Baked like scallops but a little cheese and mushrooms and onions to make it more flavorful. Still easy and make ahead.

          1. re: kchurchill5

            Yeah, a simple braised/roasted pork shoulder (a big one in the 15lb range) can cost $20 or so dollars and serve 2 dozen, if done right. Everyone doesn't need to eat it, but if 1/2 do, then you're stoked...People eating at $2-3 a head is always a good target--why do you think bbq pork is the standard in 1/2 the world?????

        2. As a Personal Chef, I do events like this all the time.

          "something inexpensive but fancy, not chicken. something we can perhaps make beforehand? We were possibly thinking crepes or a pasta bar or paella?"

          Like chicken, pasta comes immediately to mind - ziti baked in white sauce to be different - can be made ahead. A Pasta bar will be much more hassle unless you have chaffing dishes to keep two or three sauces hot, and a hot water station to revitalize pre-cooked pastas. Likewise crepes, even if you buy them. Eggplant parmesan (brine your eggplant slices first to keep them plump and tasty) is good and feeds a lot of people inexpensively.

          Paella for 40 is problematic unless you have a really LARGE paella pan. Making it in batches doesn't work so well.

          Several side dishes and a "carving" like a turkey or ham is probably easiest all around. The sides can mostly be made the day before, refrigerated and then re-heated. Simple sides like roasted baby potatoes and vegetables mean minimal pot watching and interaction,

          1. I agree w/ everyone's suggestion of baked pasta. I would only do two, though, one w/ meat, one w/out. You could make more unusual ones to dress up the occasion, eg. pastitsio vs baked ziti; roasted vegetable lasagna vs regular. Or you could do a chicken parmesan and eggplant parmesan, as Kiltedcook suggest. Have a big salad and some pita on the side. This could all be made in advance so you can enjoy yourself more during the rehearsal.

            2 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              Yes, for kilted cook ... eggplant parm is good ... FYI, alot of my friends don't like eggplant parm, so I make zuchinni parm. Same thing cooked less, same prep, thicker slices. Just a thought.

              All made in advance is right. But yes, 1 meat and one not.

              1. re: kchurchill5

                thank you all. This is my very first post here, although I browse often.

                These suggestions have helped me a lot.
                Thanks again.