Festive meal for 25 people...what to make??
I think simple and easy to prep, no fuss when people arrive..
pasta (big pot of sauce) or lasagna, salad + bread
chili, rice, toppings... jalapeno, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, (beans if vegetarians are there)- you could also have chips and tortillas, for make your tacos/nachos
chicken marsala- (a little more expensive, but delicious and easy.. after you cook it, you can put in oven on low heat cover and it stays fine, serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.
pork - you could have sandwiches -- buns, homemade slaw, baked beans, green bean casserole, deviled eggs.. or you could even do the taco thing with pork too..
you can make snacky items, if you feel like messing with and depending how crafty, you can buy little individual aluminium cups and make baby mac&cheese, chicken pot pies, meat loafs.. You layer little individual meat loaf and top with mashed poatoes!!!
big pot of chicken red curry with coconut milk.. super easy and it's something that gets better the longer it sits and can make in crock pot... have cilantro, jalapenos, peanuts for garnish.
If you choose to do the pork butt/shoulder, try Zuni's mock porchetta: http://cookingzuni.blogspot.com/2008/...
Coq au Vin actually isn't too hard for a large crowd; I think I did it for 18 a couple of years ago.
Maybe eggplant parmesan? Would be a nice twist instead of lasagna.
Pork butt (shoulder) a la Momofuku's "bo ssam!" I made it for 15 people using one 7 lb boneless. You'd need two for 25. Everybody loved it. There's a good, descriptive article by Sam Sifton with recipe & photo. Google bo ssam NY Times.
You do a dry brine overnight, then cook it all day. You put on another rub near the end, other than that you can leave it alone. It comes out with an amazing lacquered crust -- sweet, salty & smoky. Tell the butcher to leave the fat cap on. The meat falls apart with a fork or tongs, and it practically melts in your mouth. Guests make their own wraps with rice in bibb or butter lettuce leaves.
Rather than using the recommended 2 sauces I laid out a whole bunch of condiments which made it more fun. Everyone had different favorites. Bowls of minced herbs - cilantro, mint, thai basil (if you have it) - sliced cucumbers and chopped peanuts. In lieu of kimchi I used Vietnamese pickled daikon & carrots because they're so much easier to make: sugar, rice vinegar, water and a bit of salt. There's a recipe for the pickles (called do chua) at Vietworld Kitchen, where I also found a good recipe for nuoc cham, the dipping sauce made from fish sauce (which I also served). For spicy I had a bottle of sriracha, but sliced hot peppers would be nice too. And on a whim I mixed some sesame oil into hoisin sauce. The more the merrier. Since a lot of these flavors were unfamiliar to some of my guests, I advised them to taste a bit of each then go back for the ones they liked. Surprisingly, even the least adventurous eaters went back for seconds... and thirds.
My layout was surely overkill -- you can easily omit most of them. Or just use the sauces specified in the recipe. Better yet, create your own! And obviously this meal bears no resemblance to actual Korean bo ssam, especially with my decidedly non-Korean additions. I'm only calling it that as a reference to the Times article.
The table looked so pretty with a big bowl of fluffy white rice & a basket of lettuce leaves on a big cloth napkin, surrounded by lots of colorful little bowls. I was able to do most of the work in advance, freeing me up to enjoy myself.
This meal was festive, fun, and absolutely delicious. It's an interactive meal, quite informal, which immediately puts people at ease. I highly recommend it!
Bo ssam is great and quite easy - I bought the rice (because I suck at making rice) - the recommended sauces are really good though - add more condiments if you want, but the ginger scallion sauce especially is really great - then look up a korean marinade for shrimp and grill some or saute them - or chicken, for those people who don't eat pork.
Or, I have a great recipe for white chicken chili which I serve with fried polenta (or call it corn meal mush or grits, or whatever). It's excellent.
Honestly, I would do a discada if you want some variety. Here is a how-to http://visualrecipes.com/recipe-detai... There are lots of different ways to do it, using lots of different meats and vegetables. I have even seen one with shrimp.. Youtube has a zillion videos. Fun, easy and not much clean up -- which is good with 25 people. You could even put out salsa and guacamole for seasonings.
Traditionally discada was made with a large plow disc with the center hole filled in. You can use a wok as in the link above.