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Dinner party menu ideas and advice please!

I'm having a couple friends over for dinner and was looking for some advice about what to serve. I don't really know much about how to pair foods and courses. Seafood and lamb are off the table but those are pretty much the only restrictions.

I'd like to keep it simple. For some reason I keep thinking of this white bean spread on a crostini for an appetizer (I think I saw it when I was researching Xmas menu ideas and can't stop thinking about it) but if it doesn't fit the rest of the menu I can ditch it.

I want to do some kind of braised meat with veggies. Or roast chicken. Both guests like potatoes and cheese so maybe some niced mashed potatoes or potato gratin. Also, my kids (5 & 2) would like this kind of thing.

And for dessert I'd like to make something in a 9in springform pan that isn't a cheesecake. I know this sounds insane but I have this pan that I paid too much money for when I made pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving. I really want to use the pan so I feel like I'm getting my money's worth but I'm nervous about making cheesecake for this.

Any advice from the experts that hang out here would be appreciated.

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  1. That white bean crostini--maybe with a little fried sage on top--would be the perfect start to an Italian meal, though you might want to make it part of an antipasto with veggies and such. If you want to skip the first course and such, you could then move on to beef braised in Italian red wine--Bugialli has a wonderful recipe. Potatoes would be a typical accompaniment--maybe mashed with Parmesan? And for dessert how about a rice pie?

    3 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      I love the idea of Italian and those suggestions - antipasto and beef braised in wine - are wonderful. Thank you.

      1. re: escondido123

        I love roasted garlic mashed potatoes.....cut the top off a head of garlic, drizzle just a little olive oil over the top of the head, sprinkle with salt and pepper (I use fresh ground), wrap the whole head of garlic in aluminum foil, and roast at 350 for about 30-45 minutes. Let cool. Pull peel off and mash the soft cloves of garlic. Cook red potatoes (or you can really use whatever potatoes you want, I just like red ones, because I like to leave the skins on. When the potatoes are cooked, scrape the mashed garlic on top of them. Add some butter to your taste, and salt and pepper. Mash the potatoes with a masher (not a mixer.) when they are the mashed, add a little sour cream, some chopped chives or scallions, and about 1/2 cup (or more if you want) Parmasean cheese. I just served these at a dinner party for a few friends and family on Sunday, with meat loaf, and everyone loved them.

        1. re: sunflwrsdh

          I find that roasted flavor a little strong and sweet so I just put a good number of peeled cloves in with the boiling potatoes and mash them along with everything else. I thin it may take less time too though it is a different flavor.

      2. You certainly can't go wrong with roast chicken, mashed potatoes and a green veg or salad. Or if you want to go the braised route (nice because you can make it the day before), osso bucco or "porkobucco", which is osso bucco made with pork shank instead of veal shank -- pork being quite a bit cheaper and IMO equally delicious. Don't leave off the gremolata in either case, it really makes the dish. Or a friend made this braised short ribs recipe for me recently and it was really really good: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/br... Mashed potatoes go well with any of these, and maybe a simple arugula salad. Can't speak to dessert -- no sweet tooth!

        1 Reply
        1. re: GretchenS

          No sweet tooth! I'm so jealous. Thank you for the suggestions. I will definitely consider short ribs and a salad is what I was leaving out.

        2. What about roast chicken and then using the dripping to make these crash hot potatoes, instead of the oil? I add garlic to the roasting pan, too. Oh, and when the potatoes come out of the oven, the last time, I added shredded gruyere and it melted on top--so good.

          http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...

          Add a side salad.

          For dessert, you could do this chocolate mousse cake (so simple and decadent):

          http://www.chow.com/recipes/11244-cho...

          Or galleygirl's pear tart. It's always a big hit, much better than you think it'll be from the basic ingredients.

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2836...

          3 Replies
          1. re: chowser

            I'm surprised to see a link to pioneerwoman. I love that site and I've used it a lot since I've been teaching myself to cook - her photos of each step have been so helpful to me. I haven't seen her mentioned here so I'm glad you did and can't wait to check out that recipe. And the pear tart sounds awesome. Thanks!

            1. re: chowser

              I was thinking about the crash potatoes.

              1. re: wekick

                Yeah. they're even better than you think they'll be, and easy to do, plus IRL not many people have seen them so they can't get over how good they are when I make it.

            2. I agree, I think the white bean starter is great as an idea, so roll with it. From there, into roast chicken or (love this as suggested below) braised short ribs. I am a potatoes a gratin person and know that holds well, as well as being a fantastic leftover.

              You can make a titramisu in a springform, if chocolate mousse as suggested is a non start, not all folks love or can eat it.

              Congrats on this new step into entertaining!

              4 Replies
              1. re: Quine

                Thank you for the feedback on the white bean starter, I was afraid I was barking up the wrong tree with that one. I've never made potatoes gratin and it sounds wonderful so this would be a good opportunity (and I have time to test it out before the dinner date). Also, tiramasu is mine and my husband's absolutely favorite dessert so I might have to make that. I never thought of it. Thank you!

                1. re: ursalita

                  Great that you have time to test!!! I wanted to suggest that.. I always think I should be the guinea pig of my experiments! A good way to introduce new things to your children as well, before the Big Day.
                  Nothing offsets a dinner party so much as a toddler screaming "No Mommy don't make me eat that!" Actual experience! I have no idea if Mom was feeding child dinner food (I was a guest and could only hear that exchange, as said child was not a dinner guest)
                  Relax, have FUN, enjoy your guests, they can't enjoy if you can't!

                  1. re: Quine

                    I can't imagine my children screaming that at the table. Especially since the main part of the meal will consist of some type of meat, potatoes and cheese - can't go wrong with that. They always eat with us and if they don't like it, there's always bread and butter or something similar to fill them up. I've been making their food since they started solids, In fact, my youngest has never had jarred baby food. Sorry to go off on a tangent, I've just always included my kids at dinner parties (in my home) and at restaurants and stuff. It doesn't always work out perfectly but they have to learn sometime.

                    1. re: ursalita

                      Fantastic!!! Tiger Mom of food! I applaud you!
                      My folks had the attitude(after baby food jars-stuff. But I am an old geezer. Dr Spock ruled, tis a shame) of this is what we are eating, you can eat it as well, nor not. This meal is not going to change, we will not let you starve. Yes, you must honestly taste some. I think my brother lived on mashed potatoes for years! Stubborn sort, folks won.

              2. Somewhere I have a recipe for a spinach lasagna made in a springform pan, which I haven't made in years but which I remember being very tasty and impressive-looking. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, I can try to dig it up for you.

                1 Reply
                1. re: darklyglimmer

                  Go for it glimmer! I am sure more that the OP would love to see it!!!