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Oct 20, 2009 07:19 AM

My First Dinner Party for Anyone Other than Family - and on a Budget

On Thursday I was be having a dinner party at my new apartment with 5 people and this will be first time cooking for a group indoors other than my family. I am pretty much at a loss as far as the menu - all I know is that I would like to stay away from ethnic food since I do not have much experience preparing it. I am in Boston and not completely sure about what veggies are in season here right now. I would like to serve 1 appetizer (possibly an antipasto plate) a main dish (considering pork or chicken) with a starch and veggie side. I am on a fairly tight budget but might be willing to splurge for the right item. It is very cold here right now so the grill is not an option. Any suggestions or direction would be very helpful!

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  1. Assuming that you do not consider Italian food "ethnic," I would suggest Chicken parmagianna for the main course, served with a side of pasta and some sort of green vegetable or salad. Instead of an antipasto starter, you might start with a soup based on in-season vegetables, such as butternut squash. This would be a fairly inexpensive meal and easy to prepare largely in advance, so that you can spend time with your guests.

    1 Reply
    1. re: masha

      Like the butternut squash soup idea as well - I actually made a huge batch this weekend that is currently in the freezer I was planning to save it but it may be a perfect time to use!

    2. Are you comfortable with roasting a chicken? That is a relatively inexpensive way to serve a crowd. You can add potatoes and root veggies (carrots, parsnips etc) to the roasting pan as well.

      Since you are in Boston( I am too), I will also suggest my favorite inexpensive meal- Mussels! Mussels are so cheap here and easy to find. A big pot of steamed mussels in garlic parsley and wine with crust y bread is a fun, informal meal . You can get enough mussels for five people for less than ten bucks.

      2 Replies
      1. re: cassoulady

        I have never roasted a chicken before - and will only have about an hour after work so not sure if that is enough time or if it takes longer. I do love cooking mussels but wasn't sure that this was a good time to buy them, will keep this in mind as an idea.

        1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

          skip the chicken if you have not done it, it sound like you will be on a tight schedule. Mussels, salad, bread and a simple dessert might work then.

      2. Is there something that you have made a few times before and are confident making? Especially something that can be wholly or largely done ahead? Your guests will enjoy themselves the most if you are unstressed and able to thoroughly enjoy the evening, much more so than a razzle-dazzle meal and a frazzled you.

        Veggies in season in the Boston area are greens (kale, chard, etc), cabbage, turnips, squashes (acorn, butternut, etc), potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, parnips, carrots. Also pears, pomegranates, apples, cranberries.

        A lovely fall meal could be the World's Best Cabbage recipe from Molly Stevens' All About Braising (linked below) with lots of extra carrots, a boneless pork loin (not tenderloin) brushed with Dijon mustard and roasted in with the cabbage, and mashed potatoes or wild rice (which has the advantage that you can cook it earlier in the day and gently reheat with a little chicken broth before serving). I love the idea of butternut squash soup to start. Or you could do a salad with mixed greens, pomegranate seeds, crumbled goat cheese and toasted pistachios. Apple or pear crisp for dessert.

        1. I have made this Alton Brown chicken with 40 cloves of garlic for friends and family on various occasions and it is always a big hit. You can even partially make it the night before and when you get home from work, just stick it in the oven to finish cooking. I have done that several times and I can let you know how if you are interested.

          You can serve it with rice, orzo pasta (I sometimes make it with lemon orzo), couscous or mashed potatoes -- basically any starch. And then a vegetable.

          2 Replies
          1. re: valerie

            I would like to hear how to prepare partially ahead of time and then finish in the oven the next day. Thanks!

            1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

              In a dutch oven, I brown the chicken on both sides and then arrange it back in the dutch oven. Let it cool and then refrigerate overnight. Next day, add the garlic, oil, thyme and bake in the oven for about an hour or until chicken is cooked through.

          2. I you want to do chicken, this dish can be prepared the day ahead, then reheated slowly. you can then make some veggies and a salad
            Easy and always a hit and I think comes in at a low price point ( stock, cream, lemon and chicken and taragon is all you need)