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Dinner Party for 20

What are your best ideas or an easy, but yummy make-ahead dinner for 20??

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  1. Anything braised would be good- boeuf bourginon, coq au vin, braised short ribs. Can be be made entirely in advance and reheated.

    1. Could you offer more detail? Is it sit-down at one table or casual buffet and all over the place? Do you want multiple main course options? Vegetarian? And do you like certain kinds of equipment (smoker, grill, crockpot)?

      For make-ahead, I think first of lasagna; various casserole options; chili; and beef stew. But you have to play to your tastes and equipment and space.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bada Bing

        I am doing a buffet... I am thinking along the lines of a simple, but really delicious meal, rather than a buffet with a lot of different things going on. I've just never cooked for this many before. And since people won't be sitting at a table, I feel like that plays into what I serve... ie, nothing complicated to eat.

      2. Ceasar salad, herbed pork loin, Potato Gratin and roasted geen beans. The beans cook while the pork and potatoes rest. Everything can be prepped before dinner and you can enjoy your guests. I also found a recipe for butternut squash gratin with blue cheese that was a hit, if you prefer squash over potato. Both are equally good. Enjoy your party.

        1. A large roast, of beef, turkey, leg of lamb or even ham works well at buffets. Some can even be served at room temp, like a beef tenderloin. You can have biscuits, pita bread, and other accompaniments that go along with it as sides.

          Most roasts can be done ahead and reheated, after slicing as well. Large trays of macaroni, lasagne, enchiladas and the like are also great to make ahead, then just heat up on the day of. Having a warming tray is great in these situations as well.

          Large bowls of green and fruit salads always seem to go over big, too. And you can even do bars, like a taco bar, or baked potato bar, with all the fixings set out, like a crock pot of baked beans or chili to go with it. It mainly just takes some organization to pull it off. Good luck, and let me know if you need any specific recipes.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Phurstluv

            I don't think there's any type of meat or poultry roast that does not suffer when reheated. The flavor changes for the worse. Better to let it come to room temperature, then put hot gravy over it. Also, in this case, where people will not be seated around a table, it would be better to avoid foods that require the diner to cut them with a knife.

          2. What's your budget? Meat, fish or sea foods? Anything you want to stay away from? Is there a theme?

            1. You could also go the direction of paella. Or a jambalaya. Big tray of roasted veggies. Nice salad. Some crusty bread. Optionally, a soup if you feel up to it.

              Or a few trays of enchiladas - meat, chicken, cheese. I think you could also do something where people get to assemble like a taco bar.

              Stuffed Peppers
              Satay or Teriyaki w/ Rice and Veggies

              1 Reply
              1. re: Emme

                Oh yea, Jambalaya is a great crowd dish. I have an old but great recipe if you need it.

              2. Since folks aren't going to be sitting at a table, then you'll want to serve things that don't need to be cut with a knife, because that's very precarious to do with a plate balanced on the lap. I do 2-3 gatherings a year where I've got folks standing or seated and eating, and I like to do dishes such as baked ziti (basically a deconstructed lasagne), chicken Marbella where the meat is pre-cut into bite-sized pieces, a cold buffet with ham biscuits or ham rolls as the meat course, or a chicken salad, meditterranean style grilled chicken kabobs that have been taken off the skewers and tossed into a cous-cous type salad. Basically, my idea is to go with either finger or fork food, nothing that needs a spoon or a knife.

                1. Lasagna.

                  Cut pork shoulder into chunks, make carnitas and taco bar.

                  Nacho cheese in a slow cooker, or beans, or butternut squash soup.

                  1. If your guests aren't going to be seated at tables, it's easier to serve something you don't need to cut with a knife. A hot pasta dish and a salad are good options. For dessert, you could serve a tray of cookies or bars, with or without ice cream. You can even buy dessert at a nice bakery. You can make pasta and dessert the day before, and salad the day of.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jay F

                      Glad I read to the end of this. Definitely fork only.

                    2. If you like salmon, grilling simple salmon filets on cedar planks work well (seasoning them as you wish, topping with lemon slices). You can cook it the day before and refrigerate. It can be served cold, room temp, or reheated. I make a sauce from Lawry's Caribbean Jerk marinade that goes over the top. You could make a fruited wild rice salad (served at room temperature)....or coconut rice. A simple green salad, some hawaiian rolls....and you are good to go.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: cooking_geek

                        What about a chicken cacciatore made w/ boneless breasts and thighs, with pasta and salad? It's a one-fork marvel meal; another could be lamb stew with a big salad and great bread. The important thing is since you're using laps for tables, don't make it too drippy. White cacciatore would work really well, and then you could use some fresh tomatoes and roasted garlic to make a non-runny pasta salad. One big napkin, one big plate, and a fork. done and done.

                        1. re: mamachef

                          "One big napkin, one big plate, and a fork. done and done."

                          Once at a party like this, I bought really big napkins, ~2 feet square, and invited everyone to tuck them in at their neck.

                          1. re: Jay F

                            exactly, Jay - it's informal anyway.