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Need Dinner Party Help! (starter/main)

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(long time lurker, first time poster/noob)

I'm hosting a competitive dinner party with my sister. We're each cooking a start, main, and dessert for 4 guests (6 including ourselves). Small proportions are in.

My theme is "Land - Water - Air"

The only thing I have finalized is the dessert. It's the "Land part of my theme." I plan on doing chocolate covered bacon with homemade Nutella ice cream. Our guests are ~20 years old, so they won't have complex palates and will love something like that.

That leaves starter and main. I was leaning towards doing some kind of seafood starter and some kind of bird for the main. And that's where I'm looking for some inspiration/ideas! I prefer something that I can do most of the prepping before hand.

Thanks.

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  1. You could do Martha Stewart's sushi cake for the starter (sea) http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/s...

    And for the main (air), how about a delicious chicken satay or chicken teriyaki on skewers? You can make some fun dipping sauces like sriracha mayo, peanut sauce, pineapple chutney, garlic aioli, etc. Serve with coconut rice that has been molded in small bowls sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Or maybe a cold noodle salad, since your app. will have rice.

    You could also try adapting this recipe for Asian-spiced hot wings to whole chicken pieces: http://culinspiration.wordpress.com/2...

    Both can be done ahead!

    1. Another option, following a different theme:

      Seared scallops in leek-butter-white wine sauce
      Coq au vin for the main, served up with spaetzle or mashed potatoes.

      1. I was thinking seared scallops as well, but if you have the younger palate...

        For starter, maybe Crab Cakes with a Creamy Red Pepper Aioli.
        For main, a delectable juicy Roasted Chicken (loves Ina's Perfect Roast Chicken) and Roasted Potatoes or Gruyere Gratin. Was also thinking Gougeres (also of the air). Simplicity done well is unbeatable.

        1. I just had an idea for "air"--- how about a savory souffle? I feel like that would KILL the competition with its *wow* factor, and I believe it can be prepped ahead.

          This recipe looked good: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

          or this: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

          or:
          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

          Good luck!

          1. I was thinking perhaps Mussels for your appetizer as they are just so easy to make, and the broth can be made well ahead of time. You could do a tomato based broth, perhaps a beer/fennel broth, or even a white wine and mushroom broth. Mussels are such a great easy appetizer to make and are always fun to eat.

            For a main course you could do a savory chicken bread pudding. It would be easy to make a head, and then just heat and serve.

            1. For a more elegant Air option, try cornish game hens, quail or duck. You can buy pre-made duck confit legs at most stores now. Game hens come frozen and you can thaw, air dry / brine and roast easily, or broil quail with some fat like pieces of foie, chicken livers or even bacon, which helps prevent them from drying out.

              I do like the souffle idea, and they are pretty easy to make, but require last minute hands on cooking for success.

              For a seafood starter, if you're guests are not into sushi, you can wow them with ceviche, using ultra fresh shrimp & scallops, with a spiked chili lime marinade, served in martini glasses. You can get loads of ideas and recipes just by googling ceviche.

              1. Crab rangoon and coconut shrimp are usually well-received starters when I make them, especially among the younger crowd. They are just this side of out of the ordinary. If you want to elevate it a bit, there is a recipe for gravlax posted by MMRuth that would wow, or perhaps mussels in a Thai coconut broth would be good.

                For main, the roast chicken is the easiest, most sure-fire hit. I have also stuffed boursin under the skin for a bit of decadence. An updated chicken pot pie, perhaps with a touch of spice from Sriracha, chorizos or chilies might also be good.