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College student dinner party

My friends and I are graduating in a couple weeks, so I wanted to make dinner for them one last time before finals and graduation ceremonies kick in. I've made dinner for them many times before , but this time I want to have a more special spread. Of course, the limitation is that I will be somewhat limited on time (given the upcoming finals), and I am working with both a small kitchen and small budget.

Things I'm thinking about making are roasted asparagus, rosemary flatbread, some sort of chicken, strawberry shortcake for dessert...

I'll be cooking for about 8-9 people, one vegetarian in the group, and one girl who has the taste buds of a 6-year-old boy (ie she's scared of most green things, thinks chicken fingers are a food group, and likes food as "basic" as possible). We are all big potato lovers. The food doesn't have to be terribly impressive, given that most of us eat things like Trader Joe's tamales or ramen half of the nights of the week.

Any ideas and recipes would be very much appreciated!

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  1. How about a oven fried chicken kiev? Take boneless chicken breast halves, butterfly & pound thin and coat interior with a heavily herbed butter and folded/rolled (this can be done well ahead and held in the fridge). When ready to cook, let chicken sit out for a bit to get some of the chill off, roll in a little flour, dip in beaten egg, roll in crushed corn flakes, then bake in a medium-hot oven (375 or so) in a lightly greased dish large enough the individual portions aren't touching one another.

    1. "one girl who has the taste buds of a 6-year-old boy (ie she's scared of most green things, thinks chicken fingers are a food group, and likes food as "basic" as possible)."
      apparently you know my sister ;) seriously, though, i think it's a touching and generous gesture to do this for your friends. good for you!

      i was going to suggest polenta with mushroom ragu as a side, which is filling, relatively inexpensive, and would satisfy your veg friend while everyone else eats the chicken (or whatever protein you end up serving)...but then i saw your potato comment. you should consider this potato gratin...


      it's always a hit, it's easy to make, it's hearty & satisfying, and i think it would be a great complement to the rosemary flat bread, asparagus & a chicken dish. if you want to, you can substitute Swiss, Emmentaler, or a combo of Fontina & Parmigiano for the Gruyère...and if you don't like cumin (or you're concerned that "my sister" might have an issue with it) substitute a teaspoon of minced fresh thyme or rosemary and some freshly grated nutmeg.

      1. What about scalloped potatoes? They are so yummy, a treat I rarely have time for, and I really love this recipe:


        If you don't want to use fennel, just increase the number of potatoes.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Full tummy

          so funny- I was planning on making scalloped potatoes to go with a ham steak tomorrow, but am going out of town the next day and was also trying to figure out what to do with some fennel I unexpectedly had left over. Perfect!

          1. re: DGresh

            I really enjoy the fennel in the recipe, and it makes it healthy... well, I like to think so, hahahaha.

        2. I think a baked potato bar might be a lot of fun. Have butter, herbed butter and sour cream, plus bowls of add-ins. Off the top of my head, bacon, cheese, sauteed mushrooms, chives, steamed broccoli. Serve with a tray of roasted vegetables.

          2 Replies
            1. re: smtucker

              This is a nice idea but I think the cost of something like this as well as the time to put it together is a little more than the OP wanted when they said "limited on time." You have a bunch of additions that you need to prep and cook (cook bacon, chop chives, steamed broccoli, put them all in bowls with spoons) and then not everyone will eat everything, AND you have to deal with leftovers, AND you have to cook 8 or 9 potatoes... it's just not worth the time and effort.

              On the other hand, I think scalloped potatoes is a great idea. It's easy, it's all made in one dish, and you can save, even freeze any leftovers.

            2. Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I like them all.

              Re: baked potato bar -- the same thought had occurred to me! The one problem is that I'm not personally very fond of baked potatoes. Still, it's definitely an option as I'm sure my friends would enjoy it thoroughly

              3 Replies
              1. re: betterbeheaven

                oh, then one small tenderloin for you. Potatoes for everyone else!

                1. re: betterbeheaven

                  Change it to a mashed potato bar. I've seen this done with over-sized martini glasses, but in your case you'd probably want bowls! In addition to smtucker's add-ins, maybe a big bowl of roasted garlic thinned with OO so guests can drizzle it on, chili (either red or white), gravy, buttery sauteed cabbage (kind of like an exploded pierogi), caramelized onions.

                  1. re: betterbeheaven

                    Double baked potato bar! Then the potatoes are more creamy to begin with!

                  2. on Saturday, I did a fava/garbanzo bean puree, topped with olives and feta for an appetizer, and burgers for the main.

                    1. My college age son brought a frittata to a pot-luck NYE dinner this year as an appetizer, and it was a big hit. They can be served in wedges, at room temp. His had bacon and shrimp in it, but you could make a vegie one, including potatoes. Or make a couple, one with meat, and one without. Total time to prepare & cook is probably under 1/2 hour, depending upon which ingredients you use, and how much prep is involved.

                      1. I've always liked just simple roast chicken or greek roasted chicken and you could serve it with greek lemon pototoes.

                        Other suggestions for potatoes- Pommes anna or pommes dauphinaise. Classical french dishes that most people don't make often.

                        You could pick up some sort of veggie cutlet for the vegetarian.

                        1. One of my husband's favorite chicken dishes is my Pecan Chicken Fettuccine:

                          1 box fettuccine
                          1 rotisserie chicken, pull chicken off skin and bones
                          1 package mushrooms, sliced
                          1/2 cup chopped green onion
                          1 small package chopped pecans

                          Start fettuccine boiling. Sautee chicken, mushrooms, green onion, and pecans in olive oil 5-8 minutes.

                          1 pint half and half, or cream
                          1/4 stick butter
                          1/2 cup parmesan
                          Garlic powder and salt

                          Heat sauce ingredients and whisk every now and then over medium heat.

                          Serve fettuccine topped with sauce and chicken sautee mixture.

                          For more "basic," I do a cream of mushroom chicken that is chicken breasts and mushrooms sauteed in butter, add 2 Tbsp flour for thickening. Stir in flour well, then add 1 1/2 pints half and half or cream, and a splash of sherry or apple juice. Serve by itself or over risotto.

                          1. When you say small kitchen, I'm assuming you mean space-wise? I.e. do you have a full-sized stove with an oven?

                            When I first started throwing dinner parties, I had many of the same limitations. If you have an oven, you can do roast chicken (I would do two for 8-9 people) in one pan, and roasted root veggies (potatoes/carrots/parsnips/sweet potatoes) in another. You can serve it with a nice green salad and crusty bread. Even your picky friend should like the roast chicken and the roasted potatoes/veggies :-)

                            If you feel like you need another dish for the vegetarian, make steamed asparagus on the stovetop, while the other stuff is roasting. I just saw some local asparagus at my local market yesterday (and I'm in Madison, WI), so I'm pretty sure it's in season. You can also roast it, but if you do the other options, you might not have room in your oven. Also, it sounds like you are thinking about doing a starter of rosemary flatbread and strawberry shortcake for dessert, so she should have enough to eat.

                            For a simple and delicious roast chicken recipe, I like Marcella Hazan's Chicken with two lemons. Here's a link a recent thread which has the recipe, which couldn't be easier:


                            There's a thread going on roasting potatoes/root veggies here:


                            For a salad, I would do a leafy green lettuce (green leaf or red leaf), scallions, cherry tomatoes (cut in half), and a diced avocado if you can find a nice ripe one. Toss with a red wine vinaigrette (1 generous tsp dijon mustard, 2 T red wine vinegar, 8 T olive oil or to taste, salt and pepper -- proportions can be adjusted for the amount of dressing you think you need).

                            I've made this meal or similar many times for friends when an inexpensive and easy meal was needed, and it's basic but the home cooking shines through.

                            Good luck with your dinner and be sure to report back on what you decide to make!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: DanaB

                              I do have a full-sized oven, stove, etc. I meant small in terms of space, and I also wanted to indicate that I don't have a lot of equipment beyond the basics.

                              I'm sure this will sound silly to all the seasoned cooks on this board, but I've never roasted a chicken and, frankly, the thought intimidates me! I would love to do it in the near future, but maybe not this time around.

                              Thanks for the ideas; I will report back :)

                              1. re: betterbeheaven

                                While I'd urge you to try the recipe, I can understand the hesitation to making it for the first time for company. The dish really isn't as hard as it seems, though :-)

                                As another alternative, do you have a BBQ? This recipe for bbq chicken is outstanding, and easy:


                                You could make it with grilled veggies instead of roasted ones, and serve steamed white rice on the side. If no bbq, the chicken cooks almost as well in the broiler. Grilled asparagus is outstanding, as are mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, etc.

                                1. re: betterbeheaven

                                  I, too, was intimidated by the thought of roasting poultry. My best tip is to get a meat thermometer. They usually have the temperatures marked for the type of meat. With poultry, you generally take the temperature from the thigh joint.

                                  Also, any juices from the poultry should "run clear", as in not pink or reddish in color.

                                  1. re: betterbeheaven

                                    Roast chicken is THE simplest thing on the planet. Don't be intimidated by it. All you need is a hot oven. I've found that the easiest (and best) way to roast a chicken is to wash it and put it in a roasting pan then season it with whatever spices you want. Then you turn the oven on to 400 degrees and put the chicken into the cold oven. Close the door and leave it alone for at least 60 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DURING THE COOKING TIME! If you want roasted vegetables put them around the chicken before you start.
                                    At the end of the hour, open the oven door and check the chicken and vegetables for doneness. They can sit there for another thirty minutes without being hurt. I made roast chicken and veggies for friends the other weekend and they raved about the chicken...

                                    1. re: betterbeheaven

                                      betterbeheaven, I second DanaB's recommendation for Marcella Hazan's chicken with two lemons, even knowing you've never roasted one before and find the idea intimidating. Here's why: The instructions in the recipe are quite detailed, even though it's a simple recipe, so there aren't a lot of traps to fall into. I recently recommended it to a friend who needed to cook two chickens for a family event of a similar number of people, who had never roasted a chicken before and was also a bit intimidated by it. She roasted her chickens (in two borrowed 9x13-inch baking pans), and reported that it was easy and turned out very well.

                                      One suggestion if you do make it: I think the easiest way to deal with flipping the chicken is to wad up a paper towel in each hand, and use them to hold the two ends of the bird.

                                  2. how about a big pan of enchiladas or chilies rellenos? can be prepared ahead and can easily accommodate some meatless servings. gee,and for college seniors maybe a pitcher of margaritas.

                                    1. I'll toss a few more ideas into the pot...

                                      You're intimidated by roasting a whole bird. I get it. You will get over that, but not when you're having company for dinner. Besides, for that many people you'd need more than one bird, so its not as simple as most of us think it is. Here's an easy roasting recipe that just involves a few simple ingredients tossed together and put in a hot oven: Roast Chicken Legs with Lemon and Thyme, http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... Personally, I think you could use a 450 oven and increase the roasting times, but you may be more comfortable following the exact instructions. Sprigs of thyme are easy to find at the grocer, but if you must, substitute with a teaspoon of dried thyme.

                                      I like the scalloped potato idea, but I also remember that the first few times I tried it the results were not what I wanted -- lumpy, semi-curdled cheese sauce and unevenly cooked spuds. Its not hard once you get it, and if you have a good recipe, but... Here's a recipe that, frankly, I have not tried but it looks pretty foolproof: Kartoffel-Käse Auflauf - Potato and cheese casserole, http://www.iofbonehealth.org/patients... Substitute parmesan for sbrinz and go ahead and bake it in the hot over used for the chicken, or else bake this to doneness in a 400 oven, increase the oven temp, then roast the chicken, return the potatoe casserole to the over after the chicken comes out and sits for a few minutes.

                                      I'd double both of these recipes for that many people. Serve with steamed veggies and maybe a salad. And be sure to have a few bottles of bubbly. Congratulations!!!