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Weeknight Dinner Party Challenge

Hello... this is my first post here. I have read many posts over the years and gained invaluable information! I am finally venturing into posting to get some much-needed advice. I am planning a dinner at home for my parents and my future in-laws to meet for the first time. Its going to be a weeknight, so I am looking for something I can make the night before, and then just heat up that day. But there are some added limitations: the in-laws keep semi-kosher, so no pork, shellfish, or meat + milk together. Also, they're not big fans of chicken. So the options are kind of...really limited. I have considered doing a veggie lasagna, or possibly a beef stew, like Marcella Hazan's beef with vegetables in red wine. But I'm not thrilled with either option. I'm wondering if chowhounders have any other suggestions? Many thanks.

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  1. You indicate "no shell fish", I would guess that leaves other fish as a possibility.
    Here's a recipe that is very close to one my wife prepares, and it's very good.


    Just make sure your fish is fresh ...

    1. Hmmm. Turkey Parmesan, and assemble it ahead of time?

      1 Reply
      1. re: jvanderh

        No meat and milk/dairy together.

      2. I would say there are two ways to go. Either plan a meal that's vegetarian or plan a meal that has no dairy. You should be able to find out from your husband if his parents are the meat at every meal type in which case you have your answer--no dairy. Are they the formal meal type--then maybe a pot roast rather than stew. Your options really are not that limited, you just need a clear idea of what they would be happiest eating and then do that. I see this as a time to be safe rather than adventurous....it's nerve wracking enough to have two sets of parents to dinner!

        1. Braised beef short ribs, which are both homey and elegant, would fill the bill--and they're even better when prepared a day or two ahead of the time.
          You can serve them w/mashed potatoes made w/chicken stock (or the actual potato cooking water, a technique used by the kosher sister of a friend).

          1 Reply
          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            I was going to suggest osso bucco, but don't know how kosher veal shank is. The short ribs is an excellent idea. Any stew-like prep (bourguignon, pot au feu, oxtail, etc etc) works great done ahead, and as ncw points out, gets better the next day or so.
            Mashed or rice a nice side.

          2. Thank you for these ideas! The short ribs in particular sound terrific.

            1 Reply
            1. re: graphiteheart

              If you've been reading for some time, you might have come across jfood's short rib recipe. I just made it again for a dinner party, and had rave reviews! Here's the link:

            2. How about lamb chops marinated with olive oil and rosemary?
              Sides: mesclun salad, oven roasted potatoes, and glazed carrots.
              Dessert: chocolate chip cookies with vanilla bean ice cream
              Lamb can marinate ahead of time, and grilled to order. Salad's easy to do. Potatoes you can just throw in the oven with olive oil and some seasoning, and the carrots are can be done while the potatoes are cooking. Dessert can be made a couple of days early, and I usualy by my ice cream from a local shop or Breyer's will work, too. Good luck!

              3 Replies
              1. re: attran99

                Honest question, because I don't know- is having ice cream for dessert and lamb as the entree OK (because of the meat and dairy together restriction)?

                1. re: 4Snisl

                  From www.jewfaq.org: One must wait a significant amount of time between eating meat and dairy. Opinions differ, and vary from three to six hours after meat. This is because fatty residues and meat particles tend to cling to the mouth. From dairy to meat, however, one need only rinse one's mouth and eat a neutral solid like bread, unless the dairy product in question is also of a type that tends to stick in the mouth.

                  That's why it's easiest to just assume the meal is dairy free or vegetarian.

              2. a non-dairy/parve dessert we love is the olive oil citrus cake from Rustic Fruit Desserts. It's easy to find the recipe online and will keep just fine if you make it ahead.

                1. if you decide to go dairy, how about:
                  toasted ravioli or a vegetarian minestrone
                  broccoli al limone
                  garlic parmesan polenta with a mushroom and eggplant ragu
                  amaretto biscotti and/or tiramisu

                  1. I think something that is quite delicious and super easy is fish packets. You can put them together the night before and then just pop them in the oven when you are ready for dinner. I serve them with rice or thick slices of crusty artisan bread and olive oil with balsamic vinegar. It can also be quite a light meal, which is nice if you like to serve dessert to your company.



                    You could also do a whole roast fish which might be quite impressive. If you are looking for something for family style, perhaps a pasta tossed with pesto, roast turkey and various vegetables would be nice. You could always use salmon instead of turkey too.

                    1. This is easy!

                      Option 1: Try Chinese, and substitute beef for pork. There are TONS of options that work just dandy with beef or, if you cut ir right, chicken.

                      Option 2: There are tons of insanely good Mediterranean recipes that don't have these things mixed.

                      I'm doing a dinner party next week using Paula Wolfert's Slow Mediterranean as my main source. Of the 11 recipes total that I am making, exactly ONE would be excluded by the semi0kosher requirement.

                      Just choose a cuisine that doesn't do lots of cream/cheese/butter or pork, and it's home free!

                      1. Bouchon's Beouf Bourguignon.is TO DIE FOR and is even better the day after, too.

                        1. You could go the other way and do a veggie-dairy meal, which makes your dessert easier.

                          For example, try Indian food; stewed food often tastes better the second day, so all you'd need to do is make the rice on the day of the dinner.

                          Say chickpea curry with a tomato based sauce, spinach and paneer, steamed saffron rice, papadums and chutney on the side, and sliced tomatoes, cucumber and onions sprinkled with chaat masala for a salad.

                          1. I don't do a lot of prep work ahead of time, but one of my favorite weeknight dinner party menus is marinated flank steak cooked on the grill (easy and fast), potato, a salad, then sorbet with fruit for desert.

                            Oh, and get your fiance to help! It will impress both sides of the family. Congrats on your engagement.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ellaf

                              If you go for sorbet, check the label. Many of them have milk products.

                            2. The suggestions for a braised beef such as short ribs or beef bourgignon are ideal because they can be cooked ahead (indeed improve overnight) and should meet your inlaws dietary needs. If you don't want to do mashed potatoes made with chicken stock, you could serve the meat with "parve" noodles. For dessert, consider an angel food cake with fresh fruit or fruit sauce. If you want a starter, go with a fancy salad (no cheese though) or a dairy-free soup.

                              1. Why don't you go hardcore Jewish and do a beef brisket, potato latkes, sauteed cabbage and black and white cookies for dessert?