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make ahead and elegant dinner party-- can these words go together?

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having another couple over for dinner this weekend. The catch? we're trying to do an adults-only dinner after the kids go to bed. There will be time earlier in the day for prep, but we'll only have a few minutes right before for last-minute assembly. Any good ideas for dishes? I'm drawing a blank and am sick of kid-friendly roast chicken, lasagna, etc...

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  1. take a look at the chicken fateh recipe i posted on this thread years ago. All the prep can be done ahead and then you just have to reheat, combine, and serve. This is one of my go-to dinner party dishes and always gets raves. It's delicious.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/270971

    1. Beef Wellingtons can be made the day before and just fired in the oven when you want them. You can also do any sauce for it ahead of time and dishes like potatoes au gratin hold very well. I would suggest you cook the veges to order.

      1. how about a rich meat ragu (beef, veal or lamb)? it's even better when made a couple of days in advance because it gives the flavor time to develop. you can serve it over polenta (which you can also make ahead), or pasta, which will only take a few minutes to prepare before mealtime. serve it with a salad (i'd go for some peppery or slightly bitter greens), and you're set.

        1. I swear by buffets for dinner parties. You can do every bit of it ahead of time while being as fancy and dramatic as you want., and people like helping themselves. You can theme this---for example, Middle Eastern with hummos, baba ganooj, tabbouleh, cucumbers in yogurt, fattoush, Greek olives, sliced tomatoes etc, as many dishes as you want for cold, and then for hot a big moussaka and some spanakorizo (cooked rice and cooked spinach mixed, flavored with cinnamon and lemon juice), maybe some chicken baked in a pomegranate Fessenjan kind of sauce, plenty of pita, and for dessert homemade baklava, fruit sorbets, Medjool dates, etc. Or do a Swedish smorgasbord. If you have a few days of lead time you can have everything made and in freezer or refrig. A buffet would also work for a communal effort with people bringing stuff.