HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Fall inspired chicken dish for a crowd??

Need to make an entree for 40+ people with the following criteria.

-It's a "Harvest Potluck" not a sit down meal so ease in eating a plus but not mandatory.
-Must be chicken, no exceptions. Any part is fine-thighs, breast etc but bone in might be messier to eat.
-Looking for fall inspired as that is theme of the potluck. The other items that are being are served are things like butternut squash risotto, roasted root veggies, salad with cranberries/walnuts, etc
-Made in advance a plus. Not necessarily a day or two in advance but the morning of would be ideal. Maybe something that can be assembled in the am and then popped in the oven.

When the guest list was under 20 we thought stuffed breasts but now that it's over 40 that is way too much work!


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. A friend of mine often makes thighs in the oven with olive oil and lemon and oregano. If you use BL/SL thighs you could fit quite a bit on a baking sheet or roasting pan.

    They also should not be that difficult to eat (maybe cut in bite-size pieces). I suppose adding some capers to that mix could be nice, too....or garlic.

    5 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      Oops. I forgot about the "fall-inspired" part. This has decidedly summery flavors. My bad.

        1. re: weezieduzzit

          True dat -- and who's to say you can't use lemon or lemon zest in the fall :-)

          Rosemary might work, too, or marjoram (close to oregano).

          1. re: linguafood

            The zest instead of juice would be a great way to go, good thinkin'. With some baby creamy potatoes cooked with it....

            1. re: linguafood

              agreed, doesn't sound too summery to me. Simple and yummy

      1. On the healthy delicious site there is an apple cider braised thighs recipe that is magnificent, easy and best made the day before. Could be made with smaller pieces of boneless thighs.

        3 Replies
        1. re: magiesmom

          Yep, I was going to recommend something involving apples.

            1. re: magiesmom

              Love this! I'll make it just for us!

            2. Chicken Marbella, which is ideal for skin-on thighs. The rest of your menu does not seem friendly to eating while standing.
              I think bone-in is easier to eat standing up than the rest of the menu, none of which is finger food. CM can be marinated for a day or more beforehand, then baked on sheet pans the day of. It is great hot or room temp. I like to add onion to the marinade but also, I make a point of pushing the solids off the chicken and into the pan liquid before baking, so nothing scorches. Though I have a sweet tooth, I use less than half the brown sugar called for in the Silver Palate recipe, which is readily found online. Don't crowd the pan, so the skin browns evenly and the sauce (which is outstanding) reduces sufficiently.

              7 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                I find Marbella , which I like if the sugar is cut by half, but it feels really wintery to me. For fall I prefer apples or pears with chicken.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Menu out of my control, sorry. Also in no way was asking for nor expecting finger food. It's a dinner party.

                  The party is not sit down in the sense of everyone sitting down at one table at the same time but no one will have to stand to eat unless they choose. But some of the seating could be awkward, ie while sitting on a couch.

                  1. re: foodieX2

                    I think the rest of the menu sounds quite conducive to eating standing up. If the vegetables and the meat are cut up prior to serving, only a fork will be necessary.

                  2. re: greygarious

                    Updated Chicken Marbella.

                    I know the recipe gets hated on by some but I like it and so does virtually everyone to whom I've served it. Over the years, I'm made many of the modifications that CI suggests in its updated version:


                    1. re: tcamp

                      When I click on that link it takes me to the mobile site, not the recipe. I'll take a look when get home and use my lap top. Thanks!

                      1. re: tcamp

                        I have not made their version but saw that ATK episode several times and think it is one of their very worst recipe re-do attempts. There is no reason for turning the marinade into a paste that is then put atop the browned chicken skin, which means that skin will be flabby when finished.

                        From the second time I made CM, I have slowely browned the thighs, skin side down only, on the stovetop until well-rendered before flipping them over and putting them into the baking dish. Though I've mentioned this on other threads, I omitted it here since it adds work when making a lot of chicken.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          Interesting. I confess I'm a terrible recipe follower but this updated version works for me w/o the flabby skin problem you describe. I do put a fairly small amount of the paste back on top of the chicken, preferring to stir in into the sauce in the pan. Also, I keep the liquid amounts scant.

                      1. re: juliejulez

                        Thanks JJ, they all sound great. The first two might be too much as they are both stove top but the last one sounds intriguing with the maple and rosemary and can be done in the oven. It could also be a nice foil for the risotto.

                        1. re: foodieX2

                          Yeah the third one is very easy, I've made a variation of it before. It's very forgiving too, which is important with 40 servings... that way if it slightly overcooks it'll still be tasty.

                      2. I would take the meat off the bone and serve cubed or shredded chicken. Your guests will appreciate it. Personnaly i would make a dinner that does not require a knife. How about chicken thighs braised with apple cider and calvados, you could add onions and cabbage and or mushrooms. I have made a dish similar for 100 and it was a huge success.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Gloriaa

                          Did you shred or cube the thighs in that recipe for a 100 people? Seems odd and a lot of extra work! I think it would be more appetizing and easier keeping them whole.

                          1. re: foodieX2

                            I smoked chicken breasts(in my smoker)removed the meat and shredded( I certainly didn't shred into tiny pieces) in long wide strips and used the bones to make stock then sauce. Of course chicken on the bone is nicer, or in one piece, but if you have to eat on a couch, standing up I think it much nicer to eat with just a fork. I served it with chive and mustard spaetzle. It is delicious and my most requested meal, I have been catering for years. I wish I didn't have to make it as often as requested.

                        2. I made this for a crowd of expat college students one Thanksgiving and it was a big hit. Very easy to make ahead as instructed.


                          4 Replies
                            1. re: Berheenia

                              That does look good. I'm a little surprised that the veggies and chicken go in at the same time. It always seems like butternut squash takes a while to roast to the right texture.

                              I'm going to give that a try as I have both butternut and brussel sprouts at home.

                              1. re: tcamp

                                I like this dish but find it to be very underseasoned/borderline bland. When I made it, I upped all the spices (including the ginger) and added quite a bit of salt and pepper. I also added cayenne for some kick.

                                I think it could also be improved by pre-marinating the chicken in the yogurt mixture and using whole milk yogurt. And that is WAY too much oil called for.

                              2. re: Berheenia

                                Ooooh, this what you meant when you said you sent me a recipe! Getting my threads confused, lol!

                                This sounds really good and easy to do for a crowd, thank you!!

                              3. Musakhan is one of the first chicken dishes I make when the weather turns cooler. All you need to do is toss the chicken with spices (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom), sumac and salt, lay on a layer of flat bread and onions and roast until everything is crisp. The warm spices are reminiscent of apple pie, pumpkins and fall while the sumac keeps everything bright.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: JungMann

                                  Delicious. How many of those would I need to make for 40+ people? Also if I had to roast on stages does it keep well/ok to serve room temp? Also estimated time to roast so I can back into timing to see if its feasible?

                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                    There are different ways to make it. I make mine using a spatchcocked chicken rubbed with allspice, cinnamon, coriander, Aleppo pepper, nutmeg, black pepper, parsley, garlic powder and a pinch of cardamom beneath the skin and plenty of salt and sumac on the outside. Roast for 30-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and both bread and chicken is crisp. This needs to be served immediately while the bread is crisp. Alternative versions will use ground chicken and toasted pine nuts on pizza dough, which is probably quicker and which you can reheat on a pizza stone. Alternatively you can poach the chicken the night prior, shred it, toss it with your spices and wrap that mixture in flat bread to bake basted with olive oil until hot and crisp, maybe 20 minutes. I prefer the first version because the onions caramelize in the chicken drippings and the bread soaks up all the delicious seasoning from the chicken before it becomes crisp. You don't get that with the wrap version, though I have served that before at large parties because it is quick and sits well. Even easier would be to stuff pitas with caramelized onions, pine nuts and the cooked ground chicken mixture. All you'd have to do is heat them for 15 minutes in the oven and quarter them to serve them like ara'yes.

                                    For the whole chicken/pizza musakhan, I figure you get 5-7 servings per chicken/pizza. For the wrap and ara'yes versions of musakhan, figure 2 servings per piece of bread. If you google musakhan, there are a lot of pictures that might give you ideas for how to wrap or serve these in a way that works well

                                    1. re: JungMann

                                      Nice. What temperature do you roast at? Do you put the onions on top of, underneath, or in between pieces of flatbread?

                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                        I roast at 375, maybe 400 and will crank up to 425 at the end to crisp everything. I cover a sheet pan with a layer of flat bread, cover that with a layer of sliced onions and then lay the spatchcocked chicken over that so the onions caramelize in the chicken drippings and the bread soaks up the flavor. You don't want anything (bread or onions) too far afield from the chicken so either use a small tray or use chicken quarters since they spread out more than one chicken.

                                  2. re: JungMann

                                    This sounds fabulous - I'd never heard of it before, but I'm certainly going to give it a try now!

                                  3. You could make a large quantity of chicken cacciatore--close enough to Fall, it's "hunter's chicken, and Fall is hunting central. Make pheasant cacciatore if you're bold!

                                    Anyway, I usually brown whole thighs, then remove the skin but leave in the bones for the simmering portion in the oven. I also find that my old granite-wear oval turkey roaster is great for making massive quantities of this at the oven stage. If you make a day ahead (a good idea, in any case), you could also go in there and tear out the bones. I use dried porcini and sometimes some fresh mushrooms as well as other secret things in the red sauce. Marcella Hazan has a great recipe. Serve with wide egg noodles, ideally.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                      This would also be easy to keep warm in some crock pots.

                                      1. re: Bada Bing

                                        i always love chicken cacciatore!

                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                          The Guardian has a series, "How to cook the perfect..." and one of the classic dishes is chicken cacciatora: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandsty...

                                          By the way, there is no reason oregano can't go in autumnal dishes. Unlike basil, it is a hardy, long-lasting herb, and works very well with squash as a counterpoint to the sweetness.

                                        2. Here is a nice chicken in wine casserole, could easily be made bigger and in a large foil pan simmering in oven, reheat day of. It is a bit liquidy, would be nice overtop of your risotto. You can often buy carrots pre julienned now, so that would be helpful.

                                          Chicken in Wine:

                                          4-5 half chicken breasts (2 whole)
                                          Seasoned flour (about 1 cup with s&p)
                                          6 tbsp. oil
                                          2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
                                          1/2 cup chicken broth
                                          1/2 cup orange juice
                                          1/2 cup dry white wine
                                          1 tbsp. brown sugar
                                          4 carrots, sliced julienne style

                                          Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes. Shake in seasoned flour and brown in oil.
                                          Fry mushrooms in butter or olive oil. Combine remaining ingredients in
                                          large casserole. Add chicken and mushrooms.

                                          Cook at 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Serve over rice.

                                          1. So I have narrowed to down to magiemom apple braised chicken thighs and JJ's maple rosemary one. I am going to do a test run on one tomorrow night and the other on Friday and see what one will work the best for a crowd.

                                            Thank you all so much! I knew I could count on my fellow 'hounds.

                                            I will report back one the results.

                                            3 Replies
                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                And the winner is…..

                                                Magiemom's apple braised chicken thighs! While both dishes turned out quite well this one seem the most approachable for a crowd. I have two huge trays in my oven right now. Lets hope it comes out as well in such large quantities.

                                                The maple/rosemary in JJ's while very fall seemed a little risky for a group of 40. Both my husband and son loved it so I'll definitely make it again.

                                                thanks again everyone!

                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                  i think you chose well. those sounded delish.

                                                  rosemary can be tricky, as you have indicated.