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Dinner for 6 - drawing blanks - need help menu planning

I'm having some older relative-types over for dinner (one in their 70's, two in their early 80's) and I'm completely blanking on what to serve. The weather has been pretty warm, and it's throwing me. I know one is not a big red meat eater. Spicy is ok. I'm not sure what food preferences the others like. Curries are ok (thai, indian, etc). Chicken for sure is ok. Fish would likely be ok.

I was considering doing Indian take out and plating/serving, but I wasn't crazy about the expense of it all (would run about $75).

I can churn out a decent chicken pot pie, and was thinking about that route (I like the make-ahead aspect). I would make two, 9-inch pies, and perhaps serve a green salad as a starter, and then dessert. Very budget friendly. However, it's fairly warm right now (80's for highs/50's for low), and chicken pot pie doesn't exactly match the current weather!

I thought about a lasagna, but I think it may be too much dairy for one of the guests.

Those are all my ideas for now. I'm open to any and all ideas! TIA!

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  1. Hm, fairly open parameters here. Do you have outdoor cooking space? Any issues with wanting/needing softer, easy-to-chew foods?

    2 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      Softer/easy to chew foods aren't a concern...

      I don't have access to outdoor cooking (e.g. a grill) at this time.

      1. re: The Oracle

        Hm. Well, I agree that chicken pot pie doesn't seem terribly seasonal in 80-degree weather. I am a big fan of Indian food - if you want to save yourself some work, you could always order a variety of samosas/pakoras and maybe some naan from your favorite Indian takeout place, and then make rice, a chicken dish and a dal yourself. Indian food reheats well, IMO, so you could make the meat dish and dal a day ahead and just reheat before serving, that way all you'd have to do the day of is make rice.

        If you'd rather do something more casserole-like, you could go with a sauteed/grilled fish or chicken prep and then serve a vegetable gratin alongside, using whatever is in season where you are.

    2. I feel like a broken record since I recommend this all the time but it is really good and so easy. I make it for friends, family, and it's always a hit.

      Indonesian Ginger Chicken

      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

      The Basmati rice that Ina pairs it with is good but even plain white rice or basmati rice is good. It's all about the sauce on any rice that's good.

      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

      In warmer months, I like to make a cucumber salad to go with it...specifically this one -- sweet & sour cucumbers with dill. I like to add red onion to it.

      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

      1 Reply
      1. re: valerie

        That all looks fantastic!!

      2. How about that chicken adobo recipe from NYT with coconut milk---but crisp up the chicken under the broiler at the end?

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/mag...

        Serve with steamed rice and maybe a salad w/ peanut dressing? You could do dumplings, lumpia, edamame, etc. to start. A dessert with tropical fruit to finish.

        1. Another idea: make jerk chicken (I love Cook's Country's recipe and am happy to paraphrase), yellow rice, and a cooling slaw and serve ready-made Jamaican patties (like empanadas) as your starter. Coconut pana cotta for dessert.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ChristinaMason

            Great idea - would love the paraphrase!

            1. re: The Oracle

              Here ya go.

              Cook's Country Jerk Chicken, paraphrased:

              1 bunch scallions, chopped
              3 cloves garlic, peeled
              2 teaspoons ground allspice
              1 tablespoon dried thyme
              2 teaspoons table salt
              2 tablespoons molasses
              2 habanero chiles, stemmed
              1/4 cup oil
              3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
              1 lime, cut into wedges

              In the food processor, puree everything but the chicken and lime until almost a smooth paste. Wearing gloves or using a spoon (carefully!), rub 1 Tbsp. paste under the skin of each piece of chicken and seal in a Ziploc bag. Marinate 4 hrs. or up to 36 hrs. Broil, bake, or grill until crispy and the chicken juices run clear. Serve with lime wedges. This is a little on the salty side, so if you are sensitive to salt, you may want to cut back just slightly.

          2. What about some sort of chicken tagine, served with rice? Serve it with a Mediterranean style salad

            5 Replies
            1. re: Dave MP

              I've never attempted a tagine... but, something along those lines sounds perfect. Do you have any pointers for me?

              1. re: The Oracle

                Here is a nice basic one, can also add prunes for some sweetness
                http://m.foodnetwork.com/recipes/559956

                I would not make this in warm weather but I guess they do in Morocco. Serve with an orange and red onion salad.

                1. re: The Oracle

                  I like the Claudia Roden recipe for chicken tagine w/ preserved lemons and green olives.

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    I do too.

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      Imma hafta look that one up ;)

                2. A big hit with my older in-laws is taco's... I do a quick saute of diced chicken (thighs are best, breast OK just don't overcook), onions, peppers, jalapeno's, with cumin and maybe some chile, plus , several toppings (cheese, shredded cabbage or lettuce, tomatoes, etc). I do soft corn tortilla shells. I also make my secret sauce -- greek yogurt mixed with lime juice, cumin, chile, salt and pepper. To start, chips with guacamole and/or salsa. For a side, corn and bean salad.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: firecooked

                    Your secret sauce sounds tempting. I'll have to try that.

                  2. What about a nice Chicken Salad, maybe tarragon Chicken Salad with Grapes or something like that? You can serve it on a plate with some nice greens. For dessert, you could do a fruit cobbler or a nice fruit salad parfait.

                    I love the Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Salad recipes. The Veronique is really nice. She also did a nice balsamic fruit salad on a recent episode. It looked very refreshing.

                    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ba...

                    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                    1. I live in Miami. It's always hot - if I went with your logic I would never eat warm foods!

                      :) I would serve the chicken pot pie since your comfy with it

                      1. Where are you located? Is it cold (or cold-ish) weather there? If so, how about a chicken stew? Coq au Vin, or Fricassee, or Cacciatore? All are easy to execute, can be done ahead and are universally liked.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ChefJune

                          I'm in Southern California - sweaters get pulled out at night - to layer on top of t-shirts & shorts ;)

                        2. Can't remember where i saw this exactly, but it was a version of chicken pot pie- it was a baked puff pastry shell (they're sold this way), and it was filled with the pot pie filling in it ontop of a plate of salad with spinach, cherry tomatoes and walnuts. The salad made it feel more warm-weather somehow.

                          1. If you don't want to turn on your oven, here is a link to a chicken recipe that I have cooked several times. It goes well with a salad, vegetable, and a starch such as egg noodles.

                            Stovetop Roast Chicken with Lemon Herb Sauce.

                            http://myyearwithchris.wordpress.com/...

                            1. This chicken with orange raisin rice casserole that I posted over on the Chicken Casseroles thread is company-worthy.

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9305...

                              1. I'm 77 and I say go with the chicken pot pie. We love it and would eat it year round. I would serve the salad with the main dish. Then dessert.

                                1. UPDATE: Just wanted to report back that the dinner party was a hit. I ended up sticking with the chicken pot pie idea and it was huge hit with the entire group. I made the filling and crust the night before and assembled just prior. It worked out well with my pre-event time constraints and made entertaining hand-off in the kitchen.

                                  I started with a plated, simple green salad with bosc pears, cranberries, and a homemade vinaigrette. Next up was the pot pie, and to finish - lemon bundt cake for dessert.

                                  Thanks again for all the input and advise! I'm looking forward to using your ideas for future gatherings!