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prep ahead dinner for 8 help!

Hi. I've got dinner for 8 tomorrow night at my house. Not only do I have a 3 and 1 year old, but my kitchen is open to the dining area so I'd like to do most of the work before everyone arrives (today or tomorrow day) as I can't stand feeding people while staring at the giant mess I've made. I don't want to do something super casual like tacos or pizza... I'd like it to be somewhat refined. Any suggestions? There are no dietary restrictions and I have a moderate budget.

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  1. What I would do:

    Chili (I usually make it with a chuck roast, which I cut into 1/2" cubes, and ground ancho chile; you can do it with ground meat to save some time), with cheese, cilantro, diced raw onion served on the side, plus a salad. Buy dessert: ice cream and good brownies.

    Or substitute pasta with Bolognese for the chili. I use a combo of ground beef and ground pork.

    You could serve a cheese platter with crackers and some nuts, or a more complete antipasto, before people sit down to eat. Then you won't need a seated first course.

    1. Braises can be made at least a day ahead of time, and benefit from it, too! With the weather getting chilly, it would be terrific to serve, say, a brisket or pork roast with roasted squash.

      1. What about chicken and artichoke hearts braised in white wine and herbs with a large oven pilaf for the main? You could start with easy tomato and pesto bruschetta (toppings and bruschetta bases can be made ahead, as can the braise, and the pilaf can be timed to be coming out of the oven as dinner is called), then moving onto a good green salad? And then buy a tart or chocolate dessert or two at a good patisserie.

        1. I do dinner for 8 every week, and have an almost 3 year old and a 19 month old. It's totally do-able. My advice, either use your crock pot or your oven, or both.

          If the weather is cool-ish, I use my oven. A nice roast, or even roast chickens (you'll want 2), roasted veggies, and potatoes (baked, mashed, or roasted) are great.

          This week, I'm making a leg of lamb, roasted brussel sprouts with apples, and rice pilaf. The lamb goes in 2-3 hours before everyone arrives, the brussel sprouts 45 minutes before dinner is served, and the rice gets cooked ahead of time, then reheated in a frying pan with some oil, stock, and almonds.

          Oh, and I'll have baked my bread earlier that morning.

          Dessert is store-bought. ;)

          2 Replies
          1. re: tzurriz

            That sounds great. I can do a good roast chicken but have never tried to roast 2. What temp and how long? I love to cook, but am at my worst when I have to have a plan! lol!

            1. re: kbpacer

              Do 2 chickens exactly the same as you do one, just use a bigger pan or 2 pans. No need to adjust time or temp. :)

          2. You could even keep up with the Cookbook of the Month for this one...I have 2 young kids as well and work full time, so I am a pro at the prep/cook ahead and this meal works well.

            Barefoot Contessa's Indonesian Ginger Chicken. You can prep and marinate tonight, just goes in the oven tomorrow.

            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

            Basmati Rice or rice pilaf or couscous, which is super easy and quick.

            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

            Roasted brussels sprouts, or other vegetables. Vegetables can be cut up and prepped today, or tonight as I always do, or tomorrow earlier in the day.

            Or another Barefoot Contessa vegetable dish that I love it Sting Beans with Shallots. The shallot sauce can be made today and tossed with blanced or steamed vegetables (I usually use string beans or broccoli).

            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...