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Dec 1, 2009 09:09 AM

Dinner Party Dilemma

My roommate and I volunteered to host a Holiday dinner party, and we're having issues deciding what to make. We were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner party and wanted to reciprocate, but the girl that made the Thanksgiving feast is a fabulous cook, and we're feeling a little intimidated. I also like to cook a lot, but there are a lot of different palates that will be attending, and some serious limitations. My family usually makes lamb for Christmas, but the majority of people attending won't touch it. One person doesn't eat ham, and another won't touch roast beef. I am thinking of doing a pork roast or cornish hens (although I've never made cornish hens before, they seem festive and everyone would eat them). Also, vegetables are a sticking point in this group- one person doesn't like beets, one doesn't like brussels sprouts, and one girl hates onions. Any suggestions for a vegetable side dish other than a green salad?
Would it be considered rude to simply serve multiple vegetables that I was aware some people didn't enjoy as long as there was something that each person would eat?
Thanks for your suggestions!

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  1. Unfortunately, not everyone likes everything but no worries; now that you know what people don't like, the rest is easy. Cornish hens are a great idea, as is chicken and pasta. If only one person won't touch roast beef, perhaps you might consider doing it up buffet style and do two mains, such as the beef and something else so that your guests can take what they want. Cornish hens are easy to cook by the way...

    Other vegetable options include roasted winter squash with shallots & dried cherries(butternut or acorn), sauted chard or other greens like spinach; cabbage cooked with red or sweet potatoes, corn pudding, apple cider glazed carrots, broccoli with lemon butter sauce, or peas with pearl onions. There is nothing wrong with serving multiple dishes; after all, holidays are about excess....

    1. It is definitely not rude to serve multiple side dishes that some people might not like as long as there is something for everyone. On the other hand, it's a lot of work. Cornish hens are a great idea, you could serve with mashed potatoes (pretty universally liked) these carrots and a fancy green salad and it would be pretty and I'd think everyone would love it.

      1. It is good of you to concern yourself with what your guest likes and dislikes are, but don't worry yourself too much. You must also like to cook the food you decide to present. And I always have 2 meats and a pasta dish when serving larger parties. Have two warm veggie options and a seasonal salad. And I have this friend who always says he doesn't like this or that and then he eats it at my house and loves it. I would do a roast beef and either the hens or stuffed pork chops. Don't stress. Just give yourself plenty of time and things will work out well for you.

        1. hmmmm... No lamb, no ham, no beef. Tough one. What about coq au vin? It's considered a festive dish (even though it's just basically "chicken stew), and the great advantage in this particular case is that it tastes even better warmed over, which means you can make it a day or two ahead of time. Tons of recipes on the web. Depending on how traditional/old fashioned you want to be, coq au vin is made with red wine, so the chicken is stained dark when served, and traditional coq au vin does not contain carrots. Parsley egg noodles (big fat ones) or new potatoes make a nice starch side, then whatever holiday vegetables turn you on. And yes. I'd offer more than one veggie choice. And if you bake, maybe a nice eggnog cheesecake for dessert? Also made in advance.

          Such a menu will pretty much leave you with the day of the party to focus on the table, a fairly simple first course, and relaxing. Be kind to yourself!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1


            I was going to suggest Coq au Vin as well. This is a luscious, flavorful, and hearty dish you can just feel the love that went into it.

            I would personally go with Julia Child's version (link above), or Alton Brown's

            You really cannot go wrong with this recipe. Plus, be sure to make it at least a day in advance so that the flavors will meld together. And the beauty of it doing it in advance is that you have more time to spend with your guests!

            1. re: Tehama

              I looked over both of those recipes, and offer this one (also from Julia Child) as a more traditional choice:
              The problem with that particular Julia Child recipe is that she was cooking in a major network studio, and it looks to me like someone forgot to pick up some tomato paste. The above recipe includes it. I've made coq au vin with and without tomato paste (simply forgot it), and the tomato paste does bring a richness to the sauce that just isn't there without it. And picky picky picky, I don't like Alton Brown's recipe because it has carrots in it. Do use a whole cut up chicken with the skin on, but remove the excess "belly fat" from the cavity, or Alton Brown's suggestion of legs and thighs is far more appealing than using skinned chicken breasts. This is a luxurious full flavored dish and the skin of the chicken, along with both white and dark meat lend a fullness to the flavor that only using specific parts cannot bring to the dish. Enjoy!

          2. Don't be intimidated. Just keep it simple and within your limitations with everything well seasoned, and I'm sure your dinner party will be a success. First, Cornish hens are a great idea, easy to prepare, and indeed are festive. They take the same prep as roast chicken. A rice pilaf or roast potatoes, and a green bean simmered with tomatoes (a la Provençal) are a tasty accompaniments. I used to make a green bean and red bell pepper sauté along the same lines till even I got tired of it. Good Luck and have fun!