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Please Help! Dinner Tonight for 12!

Please help! I just found out that I need to make a dinner for the in-laws TONIGHT for 12... I don't have much time to shop, cook, and get home to clean too. I was thinking of baked potatoes (easy, cheap, and everyone can suit themselves with the toppings) and some oven roasted veggies, but I am lost for a main... pasta, ham, turkey, roast beef are all on the menu over the next few days, so those are out. Maybe a stuffed chicken breast or steak roulade? Any suggestions would be very welcome! I am trying to stay "plain" to suit many tastes and ages. THANK YOU! and Merry Christmas!

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  1. baked potatoes take a long time to cook though... and roulades involve prep and chop time.

    what about something like burgers or tacos, with an assortment of toppings,and a black bean soup to start. or a shrimp stir-fry, buy the veggies already chopped? even grilled cheese and tomato soup might be a nice homey meal. maybe onion soup, salad and quiche.

    people will probably be eating lots of complicated meals over the next few days. stick the k.i.s.s. principle and don't kill yourself.

    1. I would do a semi home made meal, probably Italian, using refrigerated stuffed pasta, and a quick homemade sauce and the oven roasted vegetables, If you can purchase good Italian sausages you can roast them too and throw them in the sauce. Italian bread and a quick salad would round out the meal.

      1. I was going to suggest a self-serve banh mi bar along with a variety of sides but that's not quite within the season. See what's available and already prepped at the grocer, but one thing that you could do so long as no one has a fish allergy is bake a whole salmon. Make a salt crust if you want or just do it simply, cover the head with some dill and pull the skin just before service.

        When do you smack the person who volunteered you in the first place?

        1 Reply
        1. re: wattacetti

          Both of these suggestions sound tasty, but a little time consuming.
          The salmon dish seems simple enough, but to do this for the first time two days before Xmas and under the gun sounds like torture to me.
          A simple braised chicken dish might work. Get thighs, bone in or not, and season well. Start with onions, add olives and/or tomato and go from there.
          This goes well over bulghur, rice or small pastas and is super easy. One pot cooking!
          Good luck, and I agree, you should get to smack SOMEONE for this predicament.

        2. If your local supermarket has pre-made stuffed chicken breasts (perhaps with spinach and goat cheese), that might be easiest - relieving you of a lot of prep time, as hotoynoodle said about the roulades. A simple pan-sear after seasoning, and then into the oven to finish cooking while you make a quick white wine sauce.

          1. Baked potatoes takes less than an hour in the oven to bake..and and you could pound out, stuff and pan sear roulades while they're cooking...I did roulades for 38 people a few weeks ago, the most time consuming is the pounding out of the meat, but you're only doing 12. I did mine with sirloin, stuffed with garlic & spinach, pan seared & a red wine reduction..It went over big & I got a lot of compliments...Serve with a simple salad. If you have at least an 1 1/2 hours (will take less but giving yourself extra), you can make this meal

            1. We typically do a "soup" smorgasboard in such situations -- i.e., a selection of 2 or 3 soups, such as chili, some sort of cream soup like vichysoisse, and a soup based on a clear broth (chicken noodle, minestrone). Serve with some bread (bought at the bakery) and a salad. Especially if the weather where you are located is cold & snowy today, this is a cozy menu. (We are having family over for dinner on Boxing Day & that is what we will be doing.)

              1. Pasta with a quick sauce, you can even add sauteed ground meat of some sort if you think you need to "beef" up the sauce.
                Perhaps a green veggie: beans, brocoli, bell peppers on the side,
                A full tossed salad, Italian bread.
                Dessert: store bought or a variety of fruit and cheese.
                Don't forget the wine.
                Buon Appitito!

                1. Pork tenderloins.....Sear on top of the stove...finish in the oven...Don't over cook!.....Rest, slice serve....Or serve it sliced "cold" with a sauce/mustard or two..

                  Have Fun & Enjoy!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    Excellent idea on the pork tenderloin, Uncle Bob! This is one of my favorite recipes with a mustard sauce. I never marinate the tenderloin(s) per the recipe; prefer it relatively simple with the sauce on the plate and the slices of tenderloin on top.


                    And yes - you *can* leave the sauce in a bowl on the counter - no need to refrigerate it.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      Thanks Miss Linda!! There's a lot of good ideas/good eats here for the OP to choose from!!!
                      They make me hungry for sure!!!

                  2. If it were me, and they don't have the courtesy to give you more notice, it would be KFC with the paper plates and individual wrapped spoon/fork thingies. Sorry, 12 hours notice don't cut it.

                    1. Agreed - that's awfully short notice, and you are VERY nice to accommodate the group. If there is a good Italian deli or specialty foods store or section near you, I would organize what we call the nosh, or others might call a grazing meal. Raid said purveyor for a selection of interesting cheeses, meats (salami, prosciutto, etc.), maybe some pickled or marinated veg (mushrooms, roasted peppers, for ex), some cold roasted veg, a mustard or two, lots of excellent bread, fruit absolutely , and some lovely store-made cookies or other desserts to round it out. Will cost more, but is easier on you and the grazing aspect makes for a leisurely meal that suits a variety of tastes and needs.

                      1. Ah I've been here. Hopefully you at least like them.

                        I'd just do a one-pot wonder like Guiness beef stew or chili. You can try a more interesting spin by making white chili with ground chicken / turkey / pork, a can or two of whole tomatoes broken up, sweet pepper (either red or green would be Christmasy, if you celebrate), cumin, cinnamon, and white beans (i.e. great northern).

                        Toss together a salad or have one of your twelve assistants do so. (I'm personally fixated on winter caprese salad, right now, where you roast cherry tomatoes in a pan with olive oil and garlic, toss with fresh mozzarella -- those tiny balls if you can find them -- and basil.) Serve it all with good, store bought bread or those baked potatoes of yours if you don't have the bread on hand. (Of course you know that you can nuke the potatoes until halway cooked and finish in the oven, saving time.)

                        Try not to stress, paisley. Take deep breaths. :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cimui

                          I got here too late to offer a suggestion, but love your idea of the winter caprese salad! Never thought of that, and will try it soon. Thank you, cimui. (I think I would have done penne with sausage and cream, and a salad and good bread.)

                        2. I'm a day late (frequently happens) but if it was the in-laws then I assume you have a partner. Why wasn't he/she involved in this? Someone cleans while someone cooks. 21st century, ya know :)