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I am having dinner guests and I'm scared

I am having my neighbors over for a casual dinner tomorrow night. I am a decent cook, but hosting really stresses me out. I wanted to invite them because they had us over for dinner a while ago and I'd like to reciprocate. There will be a lot of kids, so for appetizers I plan on putting fruit and cheese and nuts, nothing fancy. I am definitely going to make a stovetop mac & cheese.
I'm just wondering if any of you have suggestions for a protein. I am leaning toward roasting chicken, but I don't really want to deal with carving the chicken when I am supposed to socialize. It takes two chickens to just feed my piggy family so that means three chickens!
I don't need any written-out recipes unless you particularly want to provide one, but if you could throw out an idea of something fairly kid-friendly that I could put together for four adults and five kids I'd love to hear.

Thanks and yes I will comb previous threads too!

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  1. How about pork tenderloin, some sort of roasted broccoli, and a lemon risotto?

    The broccoli manages itself, the pork tenderloin you have to be sure not to overcook, but that should be fine if you have a thermometer, and the risotto can be made ahead a little bit and then have a little extra stock added in at the end to loosen it up.

    1. Since you don't want to do any last-minute prep, I'd go with a braised meat main or roasted chicken parts. Braised short ribs of beef are delicious but could get pricey for a crowd. You could also do oven-braised pork ribs, with any number of spices or sauces (that would go great with mac and cheese too). However, if you prefer to stick with chicken, just roast parts rather than a whole one to avoid carving.

      3 Replies
        1. re: biondanonima

          I second the roasted chicken parts; easier for you. I don't know how picky your guest (or family, for that matter) might be but I'd add a side of green beans. I'm southern so that usually means they will be cooked in some kind of pork product (bacon, ham, smoked pork etc.) but you could blanch them then sauté them up in olive oil, chopped onions, garlic and canned tomatoes (or something along those lines) Another easy dish and pairs perfectly with both the chicken and mac.

          1. re: biondanonima

            I *third* the idea of roasted chicken parts. If you're cooking for a large crowd, a hunk of beef can get really expensive. Chicken parts don't require any carving, they're already portioned out in appropriate servings, you can serve them family style and let people help themselves, kids like chicken, and they're easy and quicker to cook than whole chickens.

            If you get chicken thighs and drumsticks for example, not only are they the cheapest option, you resolve the problem of cooking the dark meat long enough without drying out the white meat, and as was said, kids love drumsticks. And you won't have to be as worried as you would be with chicken breasts that they might overcook (dark meat is much more forgiving).

          2. I love the buttermilk baked chicken parts on smitten kitchen, and kids love the drumsticks. That and roasted veggies is a simple feast.

            4 Replies
            1. re: magiesmom

              I agree with magiesmom - buttermilk roast chicken parts would be perfect.
              And it is a great choice with the mac & cheese. Make a big salad, roast some brussels sprouts while the chicken's cooking. Ice cream and cookies for dessert.

                1. re: magiesmom

                  Yeah, last time my niece was here with her young son, I ended up making mac and cheese, and mac salad, and he ate so much of both that we laughed! Veggies not so much.

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    I didn't think of that! One of my sons always loved Brussels sprouts, the other wouldn't touch 'em.

                    Make that roasted green beans. Most kids will eat those.

              1. Maybe some sort of breaded chicken dish, with boneless chicken? Or else roasted chicken parts, as others have suggested. I agree that roasting a whole chicken and having to carve it doesn't sound like a good plan in this circumstance. You want something that can be eaten straight out of the oven.

                1. I agree with a braise. Get a nice big piece of chuck and braise it. Serve over egg noodles or polenta, for example. Serve a veg or two on the side. Or maybe a nice tossed salad.
                  Other ideas include spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna.