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Advice on a dinner menu

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So it isn't exactly summer but I was hoping to get some advice on a dinner menu for this weekend. I am having family over and would like to do something that is fun, suitable for the outdoors but also something that won't require a lot of last-minute cooking.

I like to follow themes when I cook so I can't do pasta, I would need to do a Tuscan pasta and round it out with appropriate sides. You know the drill.

Anyway, here are my thoughts. Advise as you are able and feel free to suggest menus I had not considered;

- Kafta Kebab (minced lamb) on the grill with hummus, tabbouleh, Lebanese pickles, pilaf, etc.

- T. Keller's fried chicken with simple salad (maybe a caesar) and Cherry pie (very All-American)

- Bo Ssam from Momofuku (what to serve with it?)

- Fish Tacos (again; how do I round it out?)

- Thai. I want authentic flavors but my family doesn't manage heat well so suggestions please. Satay? Soups? Curries?

Is this enough to go on? What would you serve for an outside meal?

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  1. Fried chicken sounds good, very summery ... what about cole slaw instead of salad?

    1. The first thing I think about when considering an outdoor meal is barbecue...pulled pork, brisket, ribs, chicken, you get the idea. You can cook the meat earlier and keep warm in an oven. One thing that worked well for us when we had a large group for a birthday dinner is we cooked our meat on the grill just a tad bit under cooked then put it in a foil lined cooler to keep warm and finish cooking using the residual heat. Also it was perfect for transporting. Sides are easy; corn on cob, cole slaw, potato salad or potatoes cooked in the coals of the grill, pasta salad, mixed veg salad, etc. Add some rolls and you're set.

      The second thing is a picnic; fried chicken, ham biscuits, various salads, fresh fruit etc.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Cherylptw

        I can't say enough good things about Tyler's Ultimate Pulled Pork and the sauce that goes with it. I plan on making it for every outdoor meal for the rest of the summer. :D

        Thai seems hard to me - you can make curries ahead of time (and it's easy to manage heat with them), but I wouldn't want to try keeping curries, rice, etc all warm at the same time. Perhaps you have access to stuff I don't.

        Fish tacos can be rounded out with sort of southwest-ish flavors - perhaps some black beans w/ some cumin and a bit of chipotle or ancho (not too much, for your fam's sake) and a corn salad, if you can find any decent fresh corn this time of year?

        1. re: nickblesch

          I make a blk. bean and corn salad that is always a big hit. I love the chipotle vinagarette. I like to serve it with a grilled flank steak. You could add some guacamole, chips, and a cheese dip.

          1. re: JEN10

            I totally blanked on guacamole. /blush Also, if you can find decent tomatoes or tomatillos, a nice salsa is always good.

      2. I love the shatteringly crisp skin of fried chicken, but you lose that when it gets cold, which is why I am not a big fan of it as picnic fare. Similarly, unless you have a tortilla warmer, the tacos can go a little flat.

        I like cheryl's idea of undercooking barbecue a bit. Personally I would go with the kofta kebab and possibly heat up pita bread on the grill just before serving. The mezze will be fine at room temperature. If you want to do bo ssam you can serve the typical banchan like glass noodles or kimchi, or you could tweaks on American sides like rice vinegar cole slaw or miso butter grilled corn, though I'd still have kimchi for the ssam.

        If you were to do Thai, I would consider something like grilled beef salad, satay, papaya/catfish salad, summer rolls, coconut rice, pasta salad in peanut sauce and a simple fruit dessert. You could do red curry mussels and baguettes as a starter if you think those will go before they get cold.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JungMann

          A lot of people (including me) love cold fried chicken ... but it sounds like Ernie is just taking the food out to the backyard rather than on a picnic? I love it hot too, but in my book there is no bad fried chicken (assuming it was made well to start with). Fried chicken also holds heat really well ... take-out can still be perfect after a 20-minute drive ... and now I'm making myself hungry ;)

          Cole slaw is great with a sweet vinegar dressing--lighter & probably safer in the heat too.

          1. re: foiegras

            I love cold fried chicken also, but it doesn't have to be cold as in out of the fridge, I was thinking more like room temperature or chicken that has not been refrigerated after cooking.

        2. I love Mexican food, and that's the best one for outdoor bbq/picnic for me. I make pink pinto beans in the crockpot that are to die for. And then onto the bbq, chicken, steak or pork. So many recipes for filling flour and corn tortillas, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, onions, chiles, etc. Easy food and so delicious. Drinks too, from the simplest margarita to letting your imagination with fruits run wild. Guacamole, salsas, watermelon and fruit cups. All so fresh and delicous. Mexican slaw made with cabbage, rice vinegar, onions,jalapenos, a little mayo, cilantro. sooo good.

          1. How about yakitori. Marinated chicken on a skewer. You could make up a bunch and let everyone cook their own. In Japan, they have street vendors selling it on the corners. It is usually done with a hibachi but a grill would work. Food Network has a recipe for it. They recommend white meat but the stuff I had in japan was dark meat. I have seen recipes calling for other things on the kebab. I suppose you could do that too. You could do a teriyaki marinade with chicken and pineapple.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tonka11_99

              I had thought about this. Thanks for the suggestion. I thought Izakaya-style dishes might go over well.