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Need an idea to serve ladies for lunch

I'm at a loss for what to make. I'm having a "doesn't come around often enough" lunch with some great girlfriends. I want to make a really nice, from scratch lunch that will still allow me time to chat and visit. If the dish has to be finished while friends are in the kitchen that is fine too. I was originally thinking Caesar salad with parmesan chicken breast but it's freezing here (as much of the country) and salad just doesn't speak to the season.

The biggest restriction is nothing overtly egg-y (so no quiche, strata, soufflé, etc.)

Just not sure what direction to head. Soup and homemade bread? Pasta? Chicken Paprikash? Any help appreciated!!!

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  1. And it doesn't have to be "dainty"...they all workout and are incredibly fit.

    5 Replies
    1. re: gourmanda

      beef bourguignon or duck confit. both are better made ahead and just need to be reheated for lunch. you can still serve a wintery salad with peppery greens and noodles with the beef or rice with the duck.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I'm with you on this idea

        Make something hearty that tastes better the next day and serve with good bread and butter and a tasty crunchy salad.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          yes, that's how I'd go hotoy. A wonderful make ahead stew like beef bourguignon, coq au vin, silver palate's chicken and prunes, etc. Serve with great bread or maybe homemade biscuits, a simple green salad, and a warm apple crumble. So many great one pot stews and so satisfying on a winter afternoon.

        2. re: gourmanda

          If you can do bread, you are golden! Do a good chicken or beef and vegetable soup with your bread.

          Make this cake. http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-cranb...
          I just did it for a gathering of friends and it was a HUGE hit! I'll be making it again soon.

          1. re: onrushpam

            I made this cake last night for stocking stuffer gifts for girlfriends (along with brown butter pistachio toffee). I baked them in mini loaf pans and they are really good. I hope my friends like them as much as I did! Thanks for the link. I am going to make these lagain for Christmas morning snacking along with Carole Walter's streusel topped coffee cake. I hadn't planned on making the cake until my SO discovered the toffee and snarfed down half of it before I realized what he had done. Grrr

        3. How about a platter of roasted veggies, drizzled with a nice balsamic? You can roast all the veggies ahead and serve the platter at room temp.

          For a protein, maybe a whole poached or roasted salmon? Once again, you can do it ahead of time and serve room temp, or just warm quickly prior to serving.

          These, plus a great loaf of bread and some bubbly would make a simple, but delicious and elegant lunch.

          4 Replies
          1. re: TorontoJo

            this sounds so summery to me. it's icing and snowing outside right now here so i just made up a pot of braised goat, lol. i do NOT want room temp or cold food. :)

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Ha, fair enough. Then a big old dutch oven of braised short ribs would do the trick for me. :o)

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  I agree -- this one! http://food52.com/recipes/8578-short-...

                  Serve on top of microwave polenta (cook's illustrated method, googleable on Chow) with butter & blue cheese.

            2. Soup and homemade bread sounds very doable to me and practical for the season. Another pretty hands-off suggestion would be a roasted meat (chicken, beef, lamb, etc) with an assemble-and-bake side (potatoes au gratin, roasted red potatoes, gruyere macaroni and cheese), and a quick vegetable sautéed or a salad.

              1. Butternut squash or cream of tomato soup (made the day before and reheated), cheese muffins and a winter salad of cabbage, shredded apple and carrot topped with pomegranate seeds and dressed with a vinaigrette made of white balsamic and fine olive oil.

                Then cheesecake or other rich dessert.

                5 Replies
                1. re: sueatmo

                  I'm really liking that salad idea!

                  1. re: gourmanda


                    Here's where I found it. I served it several times last winter. It is very good.

                    1. re: sueatmo

                      Ha! When I Googled for a recipe, that's one of two sites I hit on that looked good. Thank you for pasting the link! The other recipe called for lemon and I picked up some Sicilian Lemon White balsamic vinegar the other day. Since you've made the salad, what do you think of that instead of regular balsamic?

                      1. re: gourmanda

                        I have a great fondness for White Balsamic vinegar and that is what I almost always use. I've never seen Sicilian Lemon White balsamic vinegar. Where did you find it?

                        1. re: sueatmo

                          We have a lovely local store here called The Olive Scene...so many different olive oils and vinegars! It's a dangerous place ;)

                2. I like the soup idea. Creamy cauliflower with warm bread would be nice on a cold day. Or French onion-keep warm on the stove and broil right before serving. Both would be with be nice with a salad.

                  Chili bars are fun as are taco bars. Can be done in advance and it's fun to come up with creative toppings.

                  Or how about bring the fun into the kitchen and do make your own individual pizzas? You go creative for toppings-steak and blue cheese; caramelized onions, walnuts and goat cheese; assorted mushrooms with shaved parm.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: foodieX2

                      Chili and taco bars are a great idea. One that our counter-surfing dog would embrace enthusiastically ;)

                      Onion soup is in the running--thanks for the idea!

                      1. re: gourmanda

                        You can also do chili bar with baked potatoes as the base...

                    2. Personally, I would do soup (but I really love soup). A good friend of mine, for her Christmas Eve gathering a couple of years ago made several batches of soup ahead of time and also made homemade bread bowls. So the day off she pretty much just had to reheat everything. I think French onion, potato leek, or beef stew do nicely in them. Finish it off with some simply dressed field greens to take away from the heaviness and that's about all you need. Plus soups and stews always seem to taste better the next day.

                      1. oh you're gonna have such fun-girlfriends are a blast :)

                        I've got a huge pot of MH's Bolognese on the stove simmering away all day. it smells delish in here. also by the time my darling comes home fresh home made garlic bread will be done baking. it's doable for you and your girls and all you'd have to do is make a salad and a batch of peanut butter cookies, beverages and you're off to a great day.

                        1. I am not sure if you would consider this too eggy but I am dying to try it. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/din... I think it would be delicious with a salad.
                          I made one with arugula, asian pear, walnuts with pomegranate molasses dressing with crispy parsnips. It was a huge hit!
                          Roasted salmon, quinoa salad and a green salad.
                          Croque Monsieur with a crisp salad.
                          You could make some with ham and some with vegetables, ie asparagus.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: DowntownJosie


                            Here's a link to that NYT recipe with directional pictures. I've made it several times. It is very rich but delicious. I don't remember the original recipe having nutmeg, but perhaps that slight change is how this cook can name it after herself!


                            1. re: nemo

                              That looks and sounds delicious!

                              1. re: nemo

                                Impressive! Great idea for a vegetarian main too.....
                                (Wheels churning, several veggies will be at xmas this year...)

                                1. re: nemo

                                  Thank you. I am dying to try it. I have a delicious spicy peach and pepper jam that would go very well with it. I would also pair it with a crisp salad.

                              2. my favorite lunch-of-the-day idea in this weather is tomato bisque and small toasted cheese sandwiches, with or without bacon or ham. kind of fun, and kid like, but can be made for adults with excellent cheese and breads, and applewood smoked bacon (or excellent ham). poached pears for dessert - simple and elegant.

                                what time are we eating????

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: rmarisco

                                  Soup & Guacamole bacon grilled cheese sandwiches on hearty bread...poached apples or pears with spiced Greek yogurt and oatmeal crumble for dessert.

                                  Soup, apples/pears, crumble & yogurt can be made the day before or two.

                                  1. re: rmarisco

                                    I would definitely come to your house! I love both tomato soup and cheese sandwiches.

                                    1. re: rmarisco

                                      I thought of this immediately. It's cold outside! Nothing better than dressed up (or not...) comfort food.

                                    2. What a nice idea! Instead of a hearty soup and bread, what about two or three fancy "tea" sandwiches (smoked salmon, chicken salad, etc.) and an elegant soup, like butternut squash or shrimp bisque? Then everything can be done in advance. Just follow up with a really spectacular dessert! Or a risotto and salad might be a nice option... you can have it mostly done and then finish it with everyone there.

                                      Or, if you want everyone hanging out together in the kitchen, how about a make-your-own panini set-up? Could be fun if everyone's got a nice glass of wine.

                                      It's worth checking out some of Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa's lunch menus. She's big on fancy-but-casual lunches.

                                      1. It really is hard to beat soup and homemade bread.

                                        Shrimp remoulade needs to be prepared and chilled ahead of time. If you want something hot as well, you could serve soup as a starter and / or warm bread. Maybe -- tomato basil or squash soup, then shrimp remoulade on a bed of lettuce with fruit salad.

                                        1. Salad nicoise- but served hot.
                                          Its a gorgeous presentation-
                                          On large platter put a layer of salad greens, then line up roasted fingerling potatoes, assorted olives, sauteed or roasted green beans, poached or seared tuna or salmon- sprinkle capers over the fish
                                          A side of basalmic vinegrette made with white basalmic and plenty of black pepper. All of the components can be made earlier in the day and held in a warm oven.

                                          1. I have some friends who for their Christmas party do a pot of minestrone soup. It's not terribly fancy but everyone loves it. Maybe pair that with an antipasto platter (I use a southern living recipe), some nice homemade rolls, and confections.

                                            1. I find it really interesting that you mention Chicken Paprikash as one of the options. I'm from a Hungarian family and Chicken Paprikash is served as a special meal because it involves making the homemade Galuksa (noodle/dumplings) to go with it. It is not something that I would group with a pasta dish or soup and bread for a lunch with the ladies. I am not being critical, just curious.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Springhaze2

                                                It just sounds homey, comforting and warm. And special because I do put time and care into making it :)

                                                1. re: gourmanda

                                                  It is certainly one of my favorite dishes.

                                              2. Soup and homemade bread sound perfect for such a gathering. So many ways to go, but I'm a big fan of Italian Wedding soup and variations there of. Mini meatballs with pasta and broth.

                                                Either a tossed salad with balsamic and olive oil or an antipasti plater to start, soup and bread for main, and a nice rich dessert. A glass of bubbly for the main, and coffee with desert.

                                                1. Cuban Pork Sandwiches, you could make some homemade roast pork, shred it up, then add a good quality ham, some spicy mustard and pickles. Put it in some crusty bread and grill it on a panini press.

                                                  Maybe have some homemade guacamole served with different types of chips - corn, plantain, yucca, etc... and/or a chorizo queso.

                                                  Some spicy marinated shrimp with a corn salsa.

                                                  Rum punch/cocktails to wash it down.

                                                  1. I love to do savory crepes (chicken, mushrooms, gruyer, etc.) which isn't too eggy, I think. I usually pair it with a crisp salad - usually spinach with ruby red grapefruit, toasted nuts, and crumbled cheese, drizzled with a dressing using the juice from the same kind of grapefruit.

                                                    You can make the crepes ahead of time, keep them warm covered in the oven and just assemble the salad last minute.

                                                    I follow this with thin slivers of lemon curd pound cake, raspberry/Grand Marnier couli, and a puff of real whipped cream. Hit it with some confectioners sugar.

                                                    Of course - lots of champagne!!

                                                    Good luck with your menu and have fun!

                                                      1. So many great suggestions--thank you! Now I need to host a week of lunches :)

                                                        And thanks for the suggestion of bubbly...that will kick off the gathering (but end responsibly as everyone else has to drive home!).

                                                        Thank you!!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: gourmanda

                                                          Take some bone in chicken breast and make a nice chicken noodle, or rice soup, then take the cooked chicken breast and make a chicken salad with grapes and almonds on greens served with rolls.

                                                        2. Soup, stews, and chili are a copout for lazy cooks who do not want to showcase their skills. Or hide the lack thereof.

                                                          That little truism should be worth a response or two.

                                                          Mom would invite our teachers to lunch in the spring to check on our progress. Yes, the 50s and 60s were a little different. She would take slices of air dried ham and wrap them around a wine poached chicken breast. Cover in hollandaise or Mornay and have steamed asparagus on the side. A wedge of iceburg and a choice of rocquefort or thousand island. Our Jewish teachers had smoked turkey with air dried beef and wine reduction.

                                                          The best and worst was supper that night. My sister would revel in her progress while I would have to sit through my many failings. But I loved those wrapped turkey and chicken breasts.

                                                          16 Replies
                                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                            Here's my version of a Japanese Winter stew/meets Bouillabaisse: Make the bouillabaisse like the recipe suggests. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... Just substitute the 'fish stock' called for with 8 cups of white miso and 1 cup of Instant dashi.
                                                            For the 'rouille' substitute the water called for with white miso soup.
                                                            This is my original recipe (I think).
                                                            I've made it a few times for a special dinner and my guests finished off the large pot full.
                                                            It's hard to get really excellent fish I know. Even fresh-frozen fish is good. The key is to have small amount of as many different types of sea food/fish as you can.
                                                            I always add the shell fish/fish to the almost boiling soup literally a couple of minutes before serving.

                                                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                              I disagree. I think some of the simplest things to make are the hardest things to get right. A la omelet or a really good soup. Furthermore the poster clearly stated that she wanted to spend time with her company.

                                                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                Wow, this is so untrue. A really good soup or stew is perfection.
                                                                A wrapped chicken breast can be executed by a toddler.

                                                                1. re: magiesmom

                                                                  lol, as can a wedge salad.

                                                                  (also? blerg. i hate poached chicken.)

                                                                  even though good soups and braises are not "difificult" to those of us who actually *cook*, the average joe/jane doesn't make them often, if at all, because of the time involved, even if much of it is actually hands off.

                                                                  any time i have served duck confit everybody insists they could never make it -- even friends who cook well!

                                                                  if i have more than 4 people over, my menu involves as little a la minute cooking as possible. i'm never going to be grilling sandwiches for 10+, ladling mornay for that many or fiddling with crepes and risotto and such. i want to be enjoying the company of my friends.

                                                                  you have no idea how often people pester me for dinner and party invitations!

                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                    We have had this conversation before and I couldn't agree more. This is the time for toddler difficult menus.

                                                                    A classic Hot Brown is another make ahead that can be finished under the broiler. And atypical for a luncheon.

                                                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                      Everyone is making me hungry but you're in a discussion so I am deleting my post.

                                                                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                        so bechamel and its cousins are "special" for you? something like a hot brown is a nap on a plate.

                                                                        not a lot of people want to eat like that anymore. sorry.

                                                                        i often beat a lonely drum here about menus heavy on starch and dairy. it's an american go-to, but not a favorite for me. after a few bites i lose all interest because it just tastes bland and feels soft. my palate is dead from it.

                                                                        ymmv. :)

                                                                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                        I know.
                                                                        But indianriverr thinks they are too easy, not impressive enough, not that they are too hard.

                                                                        I have had some pretty bad wedge salads, though, a good one os a treat.

                                                                    2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                      well I'll jump in and answer your untrue truism, Indian River, with another: nothing is lazier or less tasty than a chicken breast, no matter how you prepare it.

                                                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                                                          in his defense, chicken tasted different way back in the day. :)

                                                                        2. re: teezeetoo

                                                                          Yes to that! Except for Mr. Sueatmo's grilled bone in chicken breasts. They are wonderful. Otherwise, ho hum.

                                                                        3. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                          Lol. Didja catch your limit with that bait, IRF?

                                                                          1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                            You know me too well. Just stirring the pot.

                                                                            Cold snap took our temps into the 70's today. Another month before I start thinking of soups or stews.

                                                                            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                              HA! was watching dolphins-pats yesterday and it was over 80 in miami. won't even hit 20 today here in boston.

                                                                        4. Chicken and dumplings. Make all but the dumplings the day before, add dumplings as you heat the chicken.

                                                                          1. Corn chowder. Add chicken if you want meat. Spinach salad with mango and candied pecans. Crusty bread. Holiday cookies for dessert.

                                                                            1. A platter of roasted seasonal vegetables with a Mediterranean lamb & apricot tagine-like stew? (or beef or chicken, if there are those who aren't fans of lamb).

                                                                              1. I love the idea of a hearty soup and great bread. Easy to make ahead. Start with some nice appetizers. It's one of my favorite meals.

                                                                                1. Tuscan Soup and Cobb Salad. I put all the ingredients over chopped lettuce that's already been tossed with dressing. I sort the ingredients into stripes, leaving blue cheese on one end, and the chopped chicken and bacon on the other end, to accomodate my friends who are vegetarian (no chicken or bacon) or despise blue cheese.

                                                                                  1. Deviled eggs.....cheese platter with assorted crackers and a vegetable platter with dipping sauce.Seafood and chicken gumbo with cornbread muffins...baby spinach salad w/ nuts and fruit like sliced pears or mandarins and a sweet tart vinaigrette. After dinner coffee and homemade baked goodies like cookies...Bundt cake slices etc. Most of this meal can be made in advance.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                      OP doesn't want anything eggy or cold :(

                                                                                      1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                        So eliminate the deviled eggs, vegetable platter and do a hot bacon vinaigrette to toss the salad in. BTW those were merely suggestions. What is with the frown symbol?

                                                                                    2. Short ribs would be lovely and they're usually better reheated the next day! Pair them with a winter salad up thread and a bread and the meal would be delicious.

                                                                                      1. Here are three diverse suggestions:

                                                                                        broiled crabcakes with asparagus and a potato dish such as lyonnaise, au gratin, etc. crabcakes and potatoes can be prepared the night before.

                                                                                        pastitsio with caesar salad. pastitsio can be prepared the day before.

                                                                                        sauerbraten with red cabbage and potato/bread dumplings. all can be prepared before hand with the sauerbraten placed in the oven to cook the morning of the lunch, the dumplings boiled a little before your friends' arrival, and the red cabbage re-heated.

                                                                                        1. People are testy in this thread. OP, your luncheon is bringing out the worst in people! Now you have to do a party platter from Subway. ;)

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: deputygeorgie

                                                                                            Nope, not me. If anyone "brought out the worst" it was their own doing.

                                                                                          2. How about a nice warming chicken tortilla soup. You can have toppings on the side so each person can customize their own.

                                                                                            Maybe a nice creamy chunky tomato soup. I make mine with diced tomatoes for the chunk, but then blend in cream cheese for the creamy.

                                                                                            Another thought would be giant pasta shells stuffed with either an enchilada mixture or a taco mixture and topped with cheese and baked. Both can be done ahead of time.

                                                                                            I also like the idea of a fajita bar. Lots of fun toppings and you can be creative with sides.

                                                                                            1. You're serving ladies for lunch?

                                                                                              Well, while cannibalism is generally frowned on here in the States, I think the pot pies sound good.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: DoobieWah

                                                                                                Well it's not like she was going to find good recipes in "To Serve Man". That obviously doesn't cover ladies.