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Nice meal to share with family - Rehersal dinner

I'm thinking of making something nice for the family for our rehearsal dinner in November. What do you think I should make? We have around 12-15 people.

maybe some fish or something like an entire tenderloin (lamb, pork or beef).
or a braised meat thing that can be quickly finished/sear in the pan/oven?
I am thinking of easy-medium as far as fussiness, after all, i got to get ready in the morning..

a starch to go with this dish? I'm thinking pasta, is that tacky? I can make some tortellinis...

I'll make a nice soup or something to start. Moms like soups...

any interesting ideas you have lately is welcome! Thanks!!
Restaurants are just not that great in my area... unless we get a taco truck =)

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  1. First, congratulations!

    A braise would be nice because so many of them are better reheated so you could make it a day or two before. You might want to browse the COTM threads from when we did Molly Stevens' All Arout Braising to see if anything appeals. Here is the master: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3301...

    You could likewise roast a beef tenderloin the day before or morning of and slice and serve it cold with horseradish sauce, accompanied by wild rice pilaf with mushrooms, leeks and diced carrots (veggies prepped day before or that morning) and a salad with pomegranates (in season then) and toasted pecans. If that appeals, it would be worth ordering your wild rice from this place, it is the real deal and MILES better than what you can buy at the store. http://www.christmaspoint.com/

    Whatever you decide, make it really easy on yourself and accept all offers of help. Believe me, you will be overwhelmed with everything you have to do at that point!

    1. Are you planning on doing a buffet or having everyone around a table passing food? Any vegetarians? I'd be hesitant to do any big roasts because the timing needs and the fact that you can't make them ahead of time. Also, the time it will take to slice those suckers for 12-15. I agree with Gretchen to go for a nice braised meat. Then your starch can be rice, pasta or potatoes that's just tossed in a little butter and parsley. Add a green salad and maybe go crazy on the dessert with a tiramisu.

      1. Another idea is a whole poached salmon -- a friend does one covered with overlapping thinly sliced cucumbers for a really nice presentation, and a dill sauce on the side. It can be done in advance and served cold or at room temperature. For November a braise might be nicer, but if you're doing soup as a starter, this might be a good contrast.

        1. I agree with Gretchen. Go for a braise like Chicken Cacciatore or Swiss Steak or maybe short ribs. A little fancier than a pot roast but still easy. Comfort foods always put people at ease. They are stressing, too.

          Serve it with pasta or potatoes. You could mash the potatoes or bake them or roast them. Even a gratin. I would go with mashed potatoes but because it is somewhat festive, maybe garlic mashed potatoes.

          1. I have had two rehearsal dinner and had a hand in another one in the last couple of years. We tried on all three to have them be casual, sort of opposite of the wedding. You don't want to compete with the wedding. You will be amazed how busy you are that day and really for the days ahead. Each one was for 35 people.
            The first was for my sister's son. She semi catered. We have really good Italian place that made a couple of big trays of baked pasta and a really great salad. We made desserts and had drinks. (Beer, wine and margaritas) She had tables inside and out. I left the rehearsal early to set up and heat the pasta.
            The next one was pulled pork from a local BBQ place that is really good. We bought by the pound and bought our own bread and made our sides which could be anything made well ahead. Desserts were bite sized pastries from the French bakery, not quite to our theme but it was what the bride liked. We had Beer wine and plantation punch in antique wide mouth canning jars. We had candles hanging in the trees and all over the yard.
            The last one we did was Kabobs that our local butcher shop makes up very reasonably. They were beef tenderloin and I got them unseasoned. We had red potatoes cut up and roasted with onions and rosemary, a huge green salad. My BIL grilled the Kabobs while we were gone to the rehearsal. The dessert(they wanted a grooms cake) was twinkie tiramisu that we made ahead and assembled into a twinkie wedding cake. We had a big table (two together)for the wedding party and spouses and had end to end folding tables for the rest of the guests. I collected stray sugar bowls from thrift shops and made small arrangement of flowers at all the tables and old pattern glass and hurricane lamps too for lots of candles. We used glass votives from Walmart Don't forget the music.
            Usually I make everything I serve but it was great to say to one of the kids Go pick up the (Meat, dessert, whatever) and not have to worry about those parts of the meal.

            1. As an aside, I'd like to mention idea of having the rehearsal and dinner TWO days before rather than the day before. Our daughter did that two years ago and it was so much nicer than having them back to back. The day before everyone was on their own for dinner.

              1. hi guys,

                thank you for your thoughtful responses. Who doesn't love a good braise in the winter? I definitely want to make beef; we will have some aversion to seafood or lamb...

                we are having our wedding semi casual. my dad's friend, who is a Chinese chef will be catering our wedding, simply because it is just so much more economical to feed 100 ppl Chinese food of lobster, fillet and lamb chops than a measly few ounces of well decorated meat from a glitzy french catering company. I want to make serious food, like a meal you would have for christmas or cooking to impress a hot date (or the relatives-in-law)...

                I am eyeing a beef tenderloin, and maybe 2/3 beef wellingtons for around 20 (increased since i last posted) like this one. maybe i can make it deconstructed? or would it take away from experience?


                otherwise, any tips to "dress-up" a braise?

                1 Reply
                1. re: jeniyo

                  If you want to do beef wellington, it can be done ahead of time, refrigerated at different stages, or even made whole and frozen. I don't know if you plan to make your own puff pastry, but if not, Trader Joe's has a great one that is back in stock for the season.

                  OTOH, I think braises are wonderful and, as you said, who doesn't love them? A boeuf bourgignon or even short ribs would be great. Serve it over polenta, wild mushrooms. It's also easy to make ahead and you'll do less work the day before your wedding. The week of the wedding is crazy enough as it is.

                2. Hi Jeniyo! Congratulations on the upcoming wedding.

                  I think your best bet, now that you will have about 20 people to feed, is a large roast, or two. I love braises too, and I have an outstanding beef short ribs recipe that does not take more than a day to put together. But I am trying to picture browning 40 short ribs!! That would take a while, in addition to having several large DOs on hand to get it all done!!

                  A tenderloin, a NY strip roast, a pork rib roast, a leg of lamb, even the salmon dish that Pia suggested all sound like much less prep work & time on your part. You can season them ahead of time, let them air chill in your fridge for a while, then roast or grill them ahead of time. (Not sure why DCfoodblog states that you can't. I do all the time.)

                  Let me know, I have several good recipes for roasts if you're interested.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    thanks! i would love to try your braised short rib recipe and maybe the tenderloin roast also.

                    i have never made a wellington before actually, i will test it out this weekend to see how well this holds up.

                    i know! i must be crazy. i'm also making goodies for the dessert table. I love feeding people. too bad, I'm the one who's getting married.

                    1. re: jeniyo

                      If you're doing Wellington, maybe consider individual ones? You can control the amount of meat that goes into each one and if you buy the meat in quantity (at Costco or a similar place) it might not be terribly expensive. I put mushroom duxelles in my Beef Wellington -- you can even skip the pate and do this, and it tastes perfectly good with regular white mushrooms or you can mix in some rehydrated dried fancier mushrooms for flavor. You can get someone to help you assemble them earlier in the day and bake them a little while before the meal.

                      1. re: Pia

                        Wait, YOU are getting married, Jeniyo?? Oh my, you are not thinking clearly. Trust me, I love to feed people too. But, you need help with this, there's no way the bride should be hosting and cooking for 20 people the day before her wedding!! That's crazy!! Why aren't the groom's family pitching in? Traditionally, they pay for the rehearsal dinner. I know, times are different now and not everyone goes the traditional route anymore, and that's all fine and good, but that is waaaaaaay to much work for you to do the day before your nuptials.

                        And individual wellingtons?? So, you're going to trim & cut up a whole tenderloin into 20 filets, then brown them all, then roll out enough puff pastry for all of them. Saute probably about 7 lbs of mushrooms. And then try to bake them all?? Wow, you are very ambitious. I have read mixed reviews on trying to do wellingtons ahead, some say they come out fine, even if you've frozen them, some say the pastry gets overdone while the meat remained cold in the middle, I don't know, it sounds a bit risky to me. I believe I read those on some threads on this board, so you may want to research that a bit before committing.

                        I will post you the short rib recipe in a bit. And if I were doing a tenderloin, I'd leave it whole, grill or roast it. Or you can even butterfly it, stuff with a mixture of mushrooms, garlic & spinach, and cook it that way. It would be pretty on the plates, no puff pastry to deal with!

                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          Well, I agree that I wouldn't cook my own rehearsal dinner either, but the individual Wellington idea isn't SO crazy if (1) you get a butcher to cut up the meat, (2) you use frozen (thawed) puff pastry and just cut it into rectangles using a pizza slicer, (3) you do the mushrooms a couple of days ahead -- they really don't take long, and (4) get help with assembling them. Or use pate and leave out the duxelles, no prep necessary. I do these for special occasions and they look fancy but they're really easy. Anyway, yes, the roast idea is easier and more practical, it's just that jeniyo seemed excited about wellington.

                          P.S., phurstluv: Gordon Hamersley has a cookbook! I must have known this once upon a time, but thanks for reminding me -- I'll see if the library has that. The recipe you posted sounds perfect for fall.

                  2. Here's the braised short rib recipe, Jeniyo. It's pretty straightforward, use the meaty ribs, not flanken style. Another tip is try not to use cold beer, but I do, since my DH has a beer fridge. And I don't use Guinness, only b/c he doesn't drink it. I usually use a real hoppy IPA, and it seems to taste just fine. Sometimes, I don't bother to degrease or reduce the sauce, I leave it in the oven a little longer. It just smells so good, that it's hard to wait that long and my family is usually pestering me, when is dinner?! And I've never made it ahead, for the same reasons, but it makes enough leftovers for my family so, I just take off the chilled fat before reheating it the next day. It's delicious, hope you and your family have a chance to try it and enjoy it.

                    Beef Short Ribs Braised in Dark Beer
                    with Bacon & Red Onions

                    from Bistro Cooking At Home, Gordon Hamersley
                    Serves 6

                    6 – 8 lbs bone in beef short ribs
                    Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
                    About 3 tbsp vegetable oil
                    ½ lb bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
                    2 medium red onions, cut crosswise into ½ inch rounds
                    2 tbsp tomato paste
                    2 bottles stout beer, such as Guinness
                    ¼ cup red wine vinegar
                    2 cups beef stock, or combo of beef stock & chicken broth

                    Heat the oven to 350. Trim excess fat off the ribs and season them on all sides with salt & pepper. In a large ovenproof pot, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil until very hot. Working in batches, brown the ribs well on all sides, adding more oil if needed. Remove the ribs from the pan. Pour off the rendered fat, but don’t clean the pot.

                    Add the bacon and cook until most of its fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another two minutes. Add the beer, vinegar and beef stock. Put the short ribs back into the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pot and cook the ribs in the oven until they are fork tender, about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Start checking the ribs after 1 ½ hours.

                    Take the lid off the pot and continue cooking the ribs for an additional 15 minutes, uncovered. Stop here if you are preparing this ahead. Cool the ribs in the liquid and refrigerate.

                    Very carefully, so as not to break apart the meat, transfer the meat and onions to a rimmed platter or sheet pan to keep warm. Degrease the cooking liquid if necessary. Bring it to a boil and cook until reduced by at least a third.

                    Divide the ribs and onions among 6 plates. Top with a spoonful of mashed potatoes and pour some of the cooking liquid over the top.