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BBQ/Pool Party - Looking for suggestions for what to serve!

BBQ and pool party coming next month.

Guest of honor does not eat red meat - only chicken or fish. Looking for very simple, uncomplicated (the ten layer goat cheese/truffle oil/pig liver whosewhatsi is not good for this crowd ;) fare for approximately 10 people.

We want to provide more than enough food for everyone but are on a very limited budget - looking for ways to make a delicious, ample meal (maybe appetizers, 2 mains and sides with dessert) without breaking the bank. I know there will be cost involved, but am looking for smart shopping here.

We were considering a paella on the grill but don't have a pot large enough...or maybe some kind of coconut scented rice with seafood? I know the seafood can get expensive but we have a store here that is fairly reasonable. I just don't want the meal to consist of 10lbs. of scallops...more like we make the scallops (for ex.) an appetizer and then have something else for a main...

Does that make sense?

Thoughts please?! Open to mostly any cuisine - simple though -

Thank you!!!

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  1. Paella on the grill sounds awkward even if you had a pot large enough, unless your grill is considerably larger than ours. How about making a stove top rice dish with all the usual paella flavorings and veggies and serving this as a side? Then you could grill chicken and shrimp to be served on top of the rice. You wouldn't get that toasty bottom that paella should have but you'd have the flavors. A nice green salad would round things out. Having both chicken and shrimp might be considered "two mains" although I never make more than one main dish for just about any event unless I have guests with dietary restrictions of some sort. Why make things that much more difficult for yourself?

    1. I agree that paella may prove to be awkward on the grill, especially if you've never done it before.

      Some other suggestions could be lemon pepper chicken, or chicken kabobs, grilled fished tacos. Grilled bbq chicken pizza, stuffed mushrooms, marinated grilled veggies

      for dessert grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Sandwich_Sister

        mandycat you're right about the grill - it's a small gas weber circa 199? I like your idea a lot, unfortunately the problem is our apartment is so small that we don't bother putting the stove or the oven on in the summer (unless it's quick for tea or something) because the apartment turns into a sauna! We are lucky in that we only share the property with one family, and have an outside and a pool, so I am hoping to keep everything (people, cooking, etc.) outside! :)

        You are right about the main dish thing...perhaps one is enough...

        Sandwich- chicken kabobs sound interesting...tacos too though I'm afraid the guest of honor will eat...oh...50 of them...and still not be full... ;) Any recs for marinades for the chicken?

        1. re: lovessushi

          Something you might want to consider is grilled chicken fajitas made w/ lg. flour tortillas, red, yellow and green bell peppers, and onions, building a whole Mexican-themed meal around it; ceviche appetizer, maybe served in pretty martini glasses, along w/ cotija cheese and roasted chiles on lg. corn tortilla chips, fajitas, Mexican rice with raisins and onions and pumpkin seed garnish, beans, a platter of assorted melons and cucumber doused with lime and sprinkled w/ salt and chili powder. For dessert you could serve churros w/ dulce de leche dip and strawberries.
          Anyway you do it, heading toward a culture where meat isn't the total mainstay usually works well when planning a budget- that includes anything Asian, Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean, and for some reason a theme tends to make things easier to streamline.

          1. re: mamachef

            That's a great idea mamachef - the crowd LOVES Mexican anything...this is a definite possiblity - going to run by bf who will be doing most of the cooking and see what he thinks!

      2. Was at a BBQ just yesterday. One guest brought a green salad that had crushed dry ramen noodle in it (and the flavoring spices as part of the dressing ingredients). Novel idea, nice crunch.

        1 Reply
        1. re: porker

          I had something like that at a party recently too! It was an Asian slaw, made with the pre-cut broccoli slaw that you buy in a bag, crushed dry ramen noodles, and a dressing made with the ramen noodle seasoning pack, peanut butter, apple cider vinegar, and maybe brown sugar? I'm sure there are recipes all over the internet for it. I've heard of it several times, just never made it myself b/c I'm not a fan of vinegar.

          With that, you could serve chicken satay, sweet cilantro-coconut rice, and spiced carrots.

        2. Bacon wrapped shrimp, stuffed hot peppers on the grill, beer can chickens, lots of roasted veggies, baked beans
          low country boil

          7 Replies
          1. re: LaLa

            Porker that sounds interesting. Lala I like the baked beans idea...would sausage work well with that? Maybe potatoes?

            Keep the ideas coming! Thanks!!

            1. re: lovessushi

              Bumping this up - sorry... but we are still looking for ideas. Bf isn't feeling Mexican. He wants to make a giant amount of wings as an appetizer...and then...I don't know...we are still lost! Thankfully we have a while left to decide.

              1. re: lovessushi

                How about chicken and shrimp and beef skewers with a peanut dipping sauce. If you have a rice cooker, you can make coconut or cilantro rice without heating up the kitchen. Also have a big fruit salad or some grilled veggies--I grill these the day before & wrap in foil & just heat up in the foil on the side of the grill.
                Or how about turkey burgers?

                1. re: lovessushi

                  For your main, you might consider an entree salad with grilled seafood. I recently made one, with shrimp that had been brushed with seasoned olive oil, grilled, tossed with greens, grape tomatoes, red peppers, all tossed in a citrus, mayonnaise dressing. It was very refreshing for a hot day, and did not involve nearly as much seafood as would a traditional entree. The shrimp can be grilled in advance, which may help if your grill is small.

                  Perhaps you could also have some sort of second, red meat entree, which the guest of honor might not eat, but that other guests would enjoy.

                  1. re: lovessushi

                    What kind of wings is th BF feeling?

                    1. re: lovessushi

                      I just had a BBQ for about 30 ppl. I didn't want to be cooking the *whole* time, so this is what I served:

                      --Homeade goat cheese spread; cheddar; and Castello Blue-- with grapes and cherries, crackers (make the spread the day before and the whole thing is easy to set up right before everyone arrives).

                      --Bruschetta with: rosemary, lemon white bean dip (from Bittman) and Tomato Salad (heirlooms, basil/ tarragon/chives, goat cheese with balsamic and EVOO)--also easy to put together before everyone arrives.

                      --Chicken drumsticks--marinated two days before and grilled prior to arrival. Keep warm in a pan, reduce marinade on stove top (all this also before guests). Prior to serving, warm chicken in oven (or on grill if kitchen's too hot) and top with reduced marinade.

                      --Leg of lamb kabobs--cut leg into kabobs, cover with EVOO, garlic, fresh herbs, S&P--let marinate for a day or two. Day of--skewer them early and then grill at supper time. [if your guest of honor does not eat lamb and the chicken is not enough, you could do same with swordfish, tuna, etc.]

                      Grilled veggies--mini peppers, red onion, mushrooms, eggplant. Grill early and keep warm. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh herbs over top.

                      Pineapple, cucumber and tomato salad with Asian dressing (from Epicurious, tripled the recipe or so). Dress right be fore serving.

                      All this can be done ahead. When you are ready to eat, fire up the grill, grill the lambies, heat up the chicken, and dress the salad. You are good to go.

                      Some folks brought sides, too so I wasn't worried about any starches. If I had needed one, I may have done a rice dish--which can also be done ahead.

                      Have fun!


                    2. re: lovessushi

                      Pork Shoulder. I smoke mine for pulled pork, but even without a smoker, you can do Cuban style "pernil". Pork Shoulder is about $1 a pound, a 12lb whole shoulder will feed a bunch of people. If you can keep your heat low on the grill (300 or less), you can set it up, let it cook for 10-14 hours with very little upkeep. It will have a beautiful crust, huge deep flavor. You can slice, pull, have on a plate or sandwiches. Serve with rice and beans.

                  2. In your situation, I would have chicken sausage and chicken hot dogs available for the guest of honor. I would have regular hot dogs and sausages for anyone else that doesn't share the guest of honors standards.

                    Have some potato salad. I often buy the potato salad at the grocery store and add some more potato to it and sliced hard boiled eggs, maybe even some more onion. My store usually puts too much dressing on their potato salad.

                    I would certainly have some beer and wine available and sodas. If you don't mind dealing with it, smoothies would be great on a summer afternoon although, I suspect tequila or something might end up in there.

                    1. loves sushi - how about some sushi appetizers - (maybe you can make yourself or outsource) and then a yakitori feast - all kinds of small skewers - eaten in courses - just keep em coming.
                      chicken -
                      shrimp -
                      and then you could do fruit for desert.
                      there is a great recipe out there for a yogurt panna cotta - that is amazing!

                      1. how about
                        A Mexican Menu
                        grilled corn with lime butter
                        hearts of palm salad
                        grilled quesadillas - some with shrimp, some with chicken, some with beans
                        grilled fajitas
                        grilled fruit with mexican crema

                        1. I'd make some side dishes ahead of time. A lot of things get better after sitting overnight. Black bean & corn salad. Greek Couscous salad. And these things don't suffer outside in the heat the way a green salad can. Your kitchen won't heat up and you won't have to prep everything the day of the event.

                          In terms of meats, if you're serving chicken wings as an app you might want to do something different for the main. Tuna or other fish kebobs are always good and its easy to incorporate veggies. Cedar planked salmon is very easy and you can pick up the planks even at most local grocery stores summertime. Definitely grill some corn on the cob.

                          1. What about chicken souvlaki with tatsiki and some home made grilled naan?


                            I love this naan. You can make it in advanced (along with the chicken). Remove before you cook the chicken on the grill. When the chicken is done, grill the naan.


                            Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, onions.

                            1. My immediate thought was a taco/fajita bar, but you said no to Mexican. The guest of honor isn't a meat eater, but what about the rest? No burgers or dogs at a bbq almost sounds sacrilegious. One note on the wings. Wings starting and ending on the grill is a lot of work IMO. You really have to watch them and turn them constantly and they can quickly dry out. I find there much better baked in the oven, then mopped with sauce and put on the grill briefly to finish.

                              Here's my suggestion:
                              Cheese course, Bruschetta, chips & dips to start (can always be brought back out)
                              Buffalo & Teriyaki wings...with bleu cheese dressing of course
                              Grilled eggplant with roasted peppers and fresh buffalo mozzarella
                              Gazpacho (I saw an article that suggested gazpacho shooters. Served in a large shot glass with a nice cold shrimp
                              Some melon wrapped in proscuitto
                              Skewers of cubed chicken, swordfish, scallops, shrimp, with onions, peppers and tomato
                              Some people don't like the skewers deal, so maybe warm some tortillas on the grill.

                              I'm a carnivore, but sometimes lighter, refreshing things are the way to go. Especially if the party will be completely outside.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jhopp217

                                I am a big fan of multiple salads and a grilled entree. The components of the salads can be made ahead of time and dressed and tossed before serving. For a group of 50 guests I have done:
                                Watermelon, onion and feta and mint with olive oil and fig vinegar
                                Bite sized caprese salad with halved grape tomatoes, chunks of mozzarella, fresh basil
                                Tzatziki potato salad
                                Barley salad with mushrooms, tomatoes and scallions
                                Orzo salad with aoli, roasted peppers and arugula
                                Corn, tomato, black bean and basil
                                Linguini with Annie's Sesame Shitake Vinagrette and scallions
                                Israeli cous cous with chopped peppers, fresh mint, cumin and olive oil
                                Tossed locally grown greens with a light vinagrette
                                (I have not done all of these at one party!)

                                For the entrees I have done assorted burgers, with salmon burgers, tuna burgers turkey burgers and hamburgers. I serve these with assorted condiments - all labeled - and toppings like mango salsa, avacado, sliced onions. Another year I did assorted skewers, the small sizes, with marinated meats and shrimp; chicken in a green marinade of fresh herbs and olive oil, shrimp in a marinade of seasoned olive oil and steak tips. I made them small so people could try a few of each, sort of like a tasting menu. Both of these dinners were easy to cook because most of the prep was done ahead of time. I needed some help grilling and with 3 hot grills fired up, things were done quickly. People seem to like an assortment of foods to try and this way you can please most palates and most dietary requirements. For dessert I order a selection of scrumptious cupcakes.

                              2. Gazpacho is a good choice for an outdoor summer gathering- low cost, very easy to make, can be done in advance, and its savory coolness makes a nice contrast to most BBQ-type fare.

                                Chipotle mashed sweet potatoes, though now kind of passé, is still a crowd-pleaser. Simple. tasty, satisfying. And very inexpensive.

                                Sweet potato salad with smoked paprika is another of my favorites.

                                And there's always the American classic- sweet corn on the cob. Heavenly, nostalgic, and super cheap this time of year. You can grill it, or just drop it into a big pot of boiling water (sugared, not salted) and remove it from the heat. Covered, it'll stay hot for a good long time while you grill. You can offer a couple of flavored butters to dress it up if you want. For easy and tasty. it really doesn't get much better than that.

                                Any of these can serve a bunch of people for just a few dollars, so you can devote most of your budget to the main event.

                                1. There's this fantastic, tasty salad my co-worker showed me how to make. It's always a crowd-pleaser and easy! Plus for the bbq, it includes the "chips"!

                                  - Lettuce (usually romaine)
                                  - corn (canned or you can cut some from corn you grill)
                                  - tomatoes
                                  - shredded cheddar cheese
                                  - diced avocado
                                  - Frito's chili cheese corn chips

                                  Toss with El Torito's cilantro pepita dressing. If you have a Trader Joe's, I like their cilantro dressing in the cold case next to the bagged lettuce.

                                  I know on a hot day, just having a nice fruit plate with some in season grapes, strawberries, and watermelon and such is always welcome!