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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.

                  1. make some kind of stew...beef brisket..or moroccan style stew..or chicken stew provencal style with white beans, tomatoes, etc..

                    1. Braised chicken thighs work well for having guests. The dish will be braising away for a while so you can be with your guests.
                      Lots of recipes out the and directions to go.

                      1. Roast Beef. Whpped (in mixer) potatoes with garlic/sour cream made ahead and baked in oven. Asparagus either steamed or roasted.

                        1. My kids love Mac and cheese so for birthdays I have made a do it yourself Mac and cheese bar:
                          Caramelized onions
                          Fried mushrooms orTRUFFLES
                          Roasted spicy jalapeños
                          Croutons or crunchy big crunchy garlicky breadcrumbs
                          Roasted cherry tomatoes
                          Peas, artichokes, spinach, asparagus
                          Crumbled Sausage
                          Braised beef
                          Hot dogs
                          Really there are so many choices. It is fun and everyone loves it. Then they can use the toppings to dress their salad. No need to worry what people's tastes are.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: DowntownJosie

                            I want to do this!

                            Just to clarify, do you have a big pot of already-cooked mac-and-cheese, and then people serve some in their bowl, and then add toppings? Or do you have people add their stuff into their own oven-safe bowl, and then bake each one?

                            1. re: Dave MP

                              I make a big batch of Mac and cheese and people top it as they want. The topping are all hot. I fry up chunky breadcrumbs in lots of garlic butter. I think baking individual ones individually would be cumbersome and overly complicated.

                            2. re: DowntownJosie

                              This is the perfect answer! This way the kids can pick what they like and its much more economical and low stress- the toppings can all be prepped ahead. With a big side salad or roasted veggies you're done. Some homemade cookies or brownies and spiked coffee for the grownups

                            3. What did they serve you when you went to their house? I'd use that as a gauge for what to serve them.

                              Do you know if the children are fussy eaters? What is the age range?

                              If you want to stick with chicken, I agree do cut up chicken pieces rather than whole chickens. I do a lemon, olive oil, herb and garlic rub on the chicken. If you have room in the oven, do a combo of roasted veggies like: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onion and garlic with similar seasonings of lemon, herb and garlic flavors in a separate pan. (I like rosemary and thyme for this.) Fresh herbs make a nice touch.

                              Or go with boneless chicken breasts. I have made this recipe several times to feed a crowd of adults and children.

                              1. DH says ham.

                                We always have mac and cheese with ham, so ham it must be with mac and cheese.

                                1. I would do a roast pork loin. I can't think of anything that is as easy to prepare, with a very delicious and classy payoff. Easy to slice. Everyone loves it.

                                  No need to go too overboard with seasonings. Salt and pepper (liberal) and a few cloves of garlic thrown into the pan. But if you feel like adding on a bit of something that you have on hand - like soy sauce or mustard etc. don't hold back!

                                  For a dinner party of that size I would go for 3-4lbs. The leftovers are wonderful!

                                  1. They gave kids, you're making them all dinner. They had you over and you are actually reciprocating. They love you already and you can do no wrong here. Trust me ;)

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: julesrules

                                      Thank you this was very helpful. Actually a of you were very helpful! The food was a hit but the kids are like scared of Food, I don't know any other way to explain it except they'd had most of what I served before but since it was in someone else's house they were like "umm I don't like this" to everything including milkshakes! Lol I give up. The parents had a blast.

                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                        Haha! Yeah some kids (people) are just like that. I don't worry about it too much, they won't starve! Hopefully this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship and soon the kids will have favourites at your place too :)

                                        1. re: iheartcooking

                                          Maybe at the next get together you should do a pot luck and weird picky kids can have food their parents made (and hasseled figuring out!) and you could do the yummy stuff for grown ups :)

                                          1. re: iheartcooking

                                            Omg..how old are their kids? I would die if my kid said that to someone!

                                            1. re: iheartcooking

                                              I wouldn't worry about the kids next time - make macaroni and cheese and a green salad on the side with ranch dressing. This is plenty of protein for them. If they don't like it (and there is no way they wouldn't) tough.

                                              Then do the rest of the salad as you want to do and make a meal for the adults. This is still catering to the kids which I don't approve of but it should make everyone happy.

                                          2. As other have said, definitely go with chicken parts rather than whole chickens. Here are 2 more suggestions...

                                            I just made this recently and my family (including 2 kids) all liked it. Sticky Chicken Drumsticks (though I used various parts, not just drumsticks). Triple or quadruple sauce amounts.


                                            Or, this Honey Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf was a big hit recently too. I'd use 3-4 lbs. of turkey (or we like ground chicken breast). I've made it twice in the past few weeks.


                                            1. Cut up chicken and do Bobbie's Chicken from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Ginger, mustard, broth.....

                                              1. Why not lasagna, which you can even make weeks ahead and freeze. I don't think anyone expects meat at every meal, so if you do a great big lasagna (give it a few days to thaw) you won't have to watch it in the oven. Make a big salad and garlic bread, and I think everyone will be happy. If you must, add a few meatballs on the side.

                                                1. Poor thing! I guess she never survived from the panic attact. I'd love to hear about it.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Monica

                                                    I survived heh! Went with a spatchcocked roast chicken which was easy to cut up. I think everyone's suggestions were great and I'm gonna try some of these out on my less freakishly picky kids.

                                                  2. I say Meatloaf! would be great with the mac and cheese. Simple (that which is simple is not easy).

                                                    1. If you're stressed out by hosting, consider side dishes that can be made in advance, rather than having multiple dishes cooking at once, so all you have to worry about at the last minute is the main course. Potato salad is inexpensive enough and easy enough to make to feed a large crowd without breaking the bank. Or macaroni salad. Green salad with ranch dressing since kids love ranch.