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Jan 23, 2011 02:03 PM

Dinner for a crowd -- preferably somewhat cheap!

In our circle of friends, we are the only ones with a place large enough to entertain and for everyone to get together in, and I am also known as the one who "can cook." We have a friend who is coming to visit from out of town this coming weekend, and our house has been designated as the location where we'll be having a party. That means that I'm tasked with providing dinner for about 10 people. I don't mind doing it, and I expect to spend several hours getting everything together, but I just need some ideas. I've done pulled pork bbq sammiches with coleslaw, corn bread, and baked beans before, BLT sammiches, tortilla soup, etc for them before. I don't mind going a little more complex, but strong ethnic flavors will probably scare these guys away. I'm basically looking for some rendition of man-food that can be served buffet style and will be delicious and somewhat inexpensive. I'd like to spend under $75 when all is said and done if possible. Dessert is cinnamon sweet rolls with cream cheese frosting and maybe some type of cookies or ice cream sandwiches made from said cookies.


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  1. Lasagna and baked ziti, with and without meat are always crowd pleasers, or eggplant parmesan.
    Or a big pot of chili with a lot of toppings and a big salad. All of these also have the benefit of being great make aheads that leave you social time with your guests.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      I'd love to do lasagna or chili, but I do not have any go-to recipes for these (and frankly have tried MANY for each) and I have had very poor success with these. I'm too scared of a flop to try something new on this particular occasion.

        1. re: c oliver

          It really won't. It's so good.

          If, however, making fresh pasta for company puts you off, I also use Marcella's Bolognese and Besciamella combo when I make baked ziti (actually, I use cavatappi--the same thing, only squiggly).

          I like it with a nice salad, also dressed according to Marcella.

    2. I made these chicken pot pies over the weekend and they were pretty good. I made 4 pies, but had enough filling to do at least 8. I froze the rest.

      Not exactly buffet style, but you can make them ahead of time and then bake them all at once when it's time.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Azizeh

        I'm not sure that I have enough of the right dishes for pot pies for all of my guests. And hubby doesn't like them. :(

        I'm so picky! Sorry!

      2. I would go with cut up Baked Chicken or Roasted Chickens....or a full Loin of Pork. both are inexpensive presently in the markets @ under two bucks per pound. Salad, Rice or Potatoes, Vegetables some nice Crusty Bread should easily bring you in under $75. If you really want to fool them, get some Popeye's Fried Chicken for a buck a piece.

        12 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          I really like this idea! I was thinking of getting a pork loin at costco this week to make a bunch of irish bacon. I could just grab and extra and brine it beforehand.

          Then mashed potatoes, gravy, roast broccoli, a big green salad with goat cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes, and freshly made croutons, oh my!

          This is a great option. Any great recipes for pork loin? It's so lean you really have to keep on it, no? I have a gallon baggy full of hypodermic needles that I use to inject butter into turkey breasts. Perhaps I could use this method (rosemary infused maybe?) on the loin to help keep it moist.

          1. re: LaureltQ

            I'm a simple guy, so I like to use Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper mostly.....Rosemary and other herbs maybe, but my experience is there are many that fresh herbs are not enjoyed by most....especially guys. I also like to use dry rubs from the Szeged company, the Rib Rub specifically.


            For a whole loin, I cut it in half, season liberally over night if possible, then remove fro the fridge a couple of hours before I plan to roast.... I pan sear, then transfer to a rack over a sheet pan allowing as much separation as possible between the two pieces of meat.....roast low and slow @ 225 for about 2-2.5 hours or 150*,shut off oven and it rises to 160* .....comes out moist and tender and I see no reason to wet brine, as it's almost impossible to overcook the meat this way.. Cutting into two pieces of meat makes it easier to fit into the oven and it also makes it easier to slice on the cutting board. I like to slice into 1/4 inch slices and fan out on a platter with the vegetables in the middle. For Loin specifically, I do not mind a short brine of an hour or two, but I am not a fan of 12+ hour overnight turns the meat into a texture of delicatessen or boiled ham in my opinion and not preferred.

            1. re: LaureltQ

              Pork loin braised in milk keeps it moist, succulent, and offers a rich and creamy sauce that isn't very different from gravy in the end, too.

              1. re: LaureltQ

                This is from Ina Garten's "Parties!"
                Or, Marcella Hazan's loin of pork in milk (already mentioned here) is very good.

                1. re: LaureltQ

                  I posted a recipe for pork loin earlier today. You put it in a cooking bag and dump 1 Cup each brown sugar, dried apples, dried apricots, dried prunes, and 1/2 cup wine. Cook to desired doneness. Serve sliced on a platter surrounded with the fruit, with rice. I never make this any more, but it was always the first dish to disappear any time I served it or folks I gave the recipe did. Came from the NY Times magazine years ago. If you don't like sweet meat dishes for dinner, nevermind! <Emily Litella voice off>

                  1. re: mcf

                    Oh that sounds good -- perfect, in fact, for a winter dinner soon.

                  2. re: LaureltQ

                    I make Italian style pork loin, it's a family favorite:

                    Take your pork loin or your very long one cut in half so you have two.
                    Dip in beaten egg.
                    Bread in a mixture of bread crumbs/fresh grated parmesean.
                    Brown each piece on all sides in a pan with some hot olive oil.
                    When done, put in a deep pan, something like a turkey roaster. Cover very generously with either homemade marinara sauce or a good quality one like Rao's.
                    Cover with pan lid, or tightly with foil. Bake about two hours until done. Uncover, top with thin slices of mozzarella cheese and bake 10 more minutes uncovered until cheese melts.

                    When ready to serve, slice the meat and put it on a platter with some more grated parmesean on top.

                    Serve the sauce in separate grave bowls. Serve with pasta, green salad, garlic bread.

                    1. re: LaureltQ

                      LaurelQ - How do you make Irish bacon?

                      1. re: buttertart

                        The same way you'd cure normal pork belly Bacon, but use a pork loin. Its similar to Canadian Bacon but less freakishly round.

                        1. re: LaureltQ

                          Real Canadian "back bacon" is loin and isn't round. And it isn't that peameal stuff rolled in cornmeal or whatever either that some Americans are convinced is the real deal - that's a different item entirely. Do you have a recipe?

                            1. re: LaureltQ

                              Very interesting, thanks! If I can ever get space in my fridge, this will be on the list of things to try.

                  3. How about a "nostalgia" meal of sloppy joes on rolls with home-made tater tots and a nice crisp salad or cole slaw? Make the joes from whatever cut of meat is on sale this week, grinding it either at home or asking the in store butcher to do it for you.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: smtucker

                      I love making sloppy joes, but it feels like more of a weeknight meal to me. And I kind of feel like this is something my guests may make for themselves already, which kind of reduces the wow-factor.

                      1. re: LaureltQ

                        Ah, you didn't mention wow, just "man-food." I am impressed that your friends make their own tater-tots!

                        How about a polenta with a braised meat sauce over the top? Or a roasted turkey with all the sides that you like? A true Texas-style chili with cornbread and a few fresh salsas, and an avocado salad?

                        1. re: smtucker

                          Hahahaha, of course they don't make their own tater tots, I doubt they grind their own meat or even make the sauce from scratch, but it's still the same "meal."

                    2. Giada's Chicken Tettrazini is her husband Todd's favorite, she says. It's really delicious. I make it with penne instead of spaghetti. Add a large salad and crusty bread. It feeds a lot of people. Not quite sure it would go for ten, but you could make two platters.