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Need pre-Christmas, pre-prep dinner idea's please...

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Our teen is having her tonsils removed on the 23rd, so our normal family get together with my family AND my husbands family have to be moved up to the weekend before. Unfortunately, the best day for everyone was on Sunday, SO, we're hosting a brunch for 17 with my husbands family that morning (which includes 4 toddlers and a 5 mos. old great dane puppy!), then having my family of at least 13 here for dinner that evening.

Brunch will be relatively simple since I'm planning on having a strata and potato casserole assembled the night before so all I have to do is pop them in the oven that morning. I will also have muffins and scones baked the day before, and my sis in law will be bringing a fruit tray and sweet rolls. Easy!

I would like to come up with something other than a traditional Christmas dinner to prepare for that evening (since they all will be doing that at their own homes a few days later), that can be made in advance and warmed in the oven, or something that I can have simmering all day so I won't be in a frenzy trying to clean up from brunch when the first group leaves, then trying to get dinner prepared for the second group. My family is a pretty simple bunch that only tries anything other than traditional American food when they come to our home, so I would like to make something delicious that they've never had before.

My husband suggested that I make a big pot of Jambalaya, but my mother isn't big on spicy foods. Some other idea's I've had are Seafood Lasagna, Cuban Pork (with easy sides), Coq Au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, or Cioppino. I would love some other suggestions and possible recipes.

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  1. The soup would be great because you can do it all ahead and add in the seafood at the end. Every year I do a tortellini soup, some roasted bell peppers, sliced meats and cheeses. I like to include a couple salads that I switch up each year. Like a roasted tomato and white bean salad, a salmon and grapefruit salad, or a panzanella type salad. Bread is a must of course with all of this yumminess. Just a few ideas to get you going.

    1. I think short ribs are elegant and are better prepared a day or two before. There are plenty of recipes on CH.

      1. Have you thought of tamales?

        1. Seafood gumbo. Make it on the mild side and pass the Tabasco. Serve with French bread and cole slaw.

          1. I think jambalaya sounds great. We did it at Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit, with everyone. We made two pots, one spicy and one mild (you can find mild chorizo). It was the one dish that was scraped to the bottom. We did a side of ham, too.

            1. Not a lot of ideas for mains, but I made a whole bunch of sides for Thanksgiving all in advance, so all I had to to was warm them in the oven while my turkey was cooking. I made a corn casserole (from Food Network/Paula Deen) the night before. I sliced carrots, tossed in a olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh thyme, and a few cubes of butter the night before, covered with foil and baked them in the oven while the turkey was cooking. I also grilled some asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper and drizzled with some fresh lemon juice when done. The desserts and pies were made a few days before, so that I wouldn't have to worry about any of it that day.

              1. Short ribs sound good. Also, the veal ragout from the Silver Palate is a great do-ahead dish. I think it even freezes quite well. Its not too weird, but still a little different with the sage and mushrooms. Here's the recipe: http://homecooking.about.com/od/beefr...