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Seafood Main Course for 8 That Doesn't Break the Bank?

Alright folks,

I may be asking for things that are mutally exclusive, but this weekend my wife and I will be hosting a gathering for my fishing buddies and their wives, for a total of 8 of us. Given that we're a "fishing" group (i.e., spend a lot of time drinking and eating and occasionally fishing), I would like to do a seafood dish, but here are the caveats:

a.) I don't want spend all of my time in the kitchen or at the grill while my friends are visiting. Ideally it's a dish I can do most of the prep before they arrive;

b.) It shouldn't be too expensive, like maybe $10 - $12 a plate (not including wine and so forth);

c.) If it's a one pot type meal, even better.

I should point out that in LA it's supposed to be hot this weekend and we'll be outside, so ideally I have something a bit "light" and summery. I will have a couple of salads as sides.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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  1. Probably not suitable for the weather, but mussels are cheap and a no brainer to cook -- sauté garlic celery & shallots in a big pot, load in the mussels, splash in wine, lid on & presto. Lots of good bread & plenty of muscadet and you're all set.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rjbh20

      That went through my head too, but you're right, it may not be right for the weather. Thanks.

      1. re: rjbh20

        Mussels would certainly fit the one pot meal criteria. And man, you sure can't beat the price.

        1. re: rjbh20

          I recently saw an episode of ATK where they steamed mussels for a crowd in a roasting pan in the oven. Makes sense for a large quantity. http://www.americastestkitchen.com/ep...

          1. re: CindyJ

            NOw through AUgust is the time for mussels. They are at their best & cheapest right now. Mussels Marinara... Big bowl of Linguini w/ parmesan & butter, Greek salad (tomatoes, Feta, red onions, cucumbers, V&O & Basil) & a nice crusty bread.

        2. Peel 'n eat shrimp served with a variety of sauces/dips
          Slaw and another green salad
          Baked potatoes with several topping choices
          Cobbler and watermelon

          Spread your patio table with newspapers

          1. How about a Nicoise Salad, made with fresh salmon, instead of tuna. Everything can be prepared ahead, and just assembled on a large platter for service. Ina Garten has a great recipe. I've recommended it many times. Google Ina's roasted salmon Nicoise Salad. Serve with some great bread, chilled wine, and it's perfect.

            3 Replies
            1. re: critter101

              Oh, I'll check that out. Anything Ina makes is great.

              1. re: EarlyBird

                I was going to recommend the same thing. Most of it can be done ahead and the whole thing can be served at room temperature. Plus it's just really pretty! Here's the one I did for a party earlier this month, using local lake trout instead of salmon.

                Here's Ina recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                Note that there is a mistake in the recipe -- when you make the marinade for the salmon, do NOT add the lemon juice, just the zest. It's meant to be a paste, not a liquid marinade. Apparently if you watch the video, she doesn't add any juice, but the error hasn't been corrected.

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  Thanks a million. Beautiful photos.

            2. I live on the other coast but we do a lowcountry boil for this type of thing! It hits all three of your points

              We also do perloo / pilau that is easy and inexpensive
              Something like


              2 Replies
              1. re: LaLa

                Definately the seafood boil! Totally perfect, a seafood based one pot meal that is also fun with a group!

                1. re: LaLa

                  LaLa, this looks like a winner! I think I'll go with this one.

                  Thanks to all for your ideas and help.

                2. Roasted Red Pepper Crab pasta. Make your pasta.

                  Dice roasted peppers: I smoke bushels in the Fall and freeze, but canned works. Saute some garlic in butter and add the roasted peppers. Add a sweet onion diced or mushrooms diced if you like. Add canned crab meat or cleaned shrimp or both. Add sour cream and cheese (we like a mix of Italian hard cheeses), stir and serve. Add cooked pasta and stir until coated. Simple and stretches a pound or two of seafood.

                  And this flounder recipe--without the bok choy but shredded potato in it's place--is a good one we like. http://www.ucook.com/Recipes/RecipeFu...

                  1. Ina Garten makes a Scallop Gratin that you can prep ahead of time- it's basically a compound butter over seafood. You can get to this point and wrap until it's ready to pop into a hot oven.
                    Ina makes it in individual gratin dishes (which I have and love), but it can certainly be made in a casserole dish.

                    I've made it with scallops and shrimp, but any other similarly cooking fish can be added as well.


                    1. I would think about a seafood Paella. I have a couple nephews who have that for their birthday meal. The beauty is you use what is available and affordable.
                      Shrimp, crab legs, fish, always some smoked sausage in the mix. Timing is important , adding ingredients in time with their cooking requirements .. One Pot Meal.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: genoO

                        That passed through my head too, Gino, but I don't have a proper paella dish. Hmm.. Maybe I can use my massive cast iron pan?

                        1. re: EarlyBird

                          I had to google paella dish, I did not know about such a thing. I don't know why cast iron would not work.

                          1. re: EarlyBird

                            Paella pan not required. Large saute pan will work just fine. Enjoy your weekend!

                            1. re: gourmanda

                              Paella is a great dish to do outdoors and always a crowdpleaser.....but it does require alot of constant attention. Since the OP doesn't want to spend alot of time manning the grill, this may not be the ideal dish for this occasion.

                              1. re: Science Chick

                                Constant attention? Quite the opposite, which is why I consider it a good option for entertaining.

                                1. re: gourmanda

                                  I agree. Paella is an easy dish that requires little attention. In fact giving it attention probably means you are stirring to much and will never develop the crust that makes Paella so damned good. What is traditional? Very few of us would recognize the origins of the dish... so put whatever you want in there and enjoy! It also is a great campfire recipe!

                                  1. re: gourmanda

                                    I thought it needed constant stirring/broth addition similar to risotto.......

                                    1. re: Science Chick

                                      I think this is the recipe I usually use as a reference. Takes a little time in the beginning to make the sofrito and brown the meat, but that can be done a day or two in advance. FWIW, I don't find it necessary to constantly stir risotto.

                                    2. re: gourmanda

                                      I would caution the OP against making paella for a crowd for the first time ever though.... It can take a few tries to figure out your own pan/fire/technique/ingredients...

                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                        I figured that. Also, thought I have a massive cast iron pan, it still may not be big enough for a paella to satisfy eight. But I should try it on my own, though. I love paella.

                            2. I don't know how much your friends eat (or if you like to debone fish table side), but trout is affordable and easy to grill outside. I like to stuff mine with smoked bacon (precooked a bit) and fresh tarragon (I grow it in my garden, otherwise it's hard to find), season liberally with salt and pepper, and brush with olive oil. I trout should feed two, and I think a trout costs about $5 or less. Biggest expense will be the smoked bacon and finding tarragon spears.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lsy_eats

                                Oops, I misread and thought you wanted to grill outside. In the summer you can buy fresh oregon shrimp meat, so I'd probably make a shrimp alfredo with fresh pasta.

                              2. I believe sockeye is still running. It's also a bargain if you get it at CostCo. Grill up a couple of large fillets and serve with something like a sorrel sauce and you will have a winner on your hands.

                                1. most fish would only take 5 - 10 minutes on the grill, so how would you be wasting all of your time? or you could go with a big salad, clams and linguini and fruit salad finish.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Bellachefa

                                    I think grilling could be a great way to do it. I am not anti-grilling. Thanks for the suggestions.

                                    1. re: EarlyBird

                                      I love a nice grilled pineapple salsa to accompany grilled fish, which you can prep the day before.

                                  2. How about shrimp etouffee or chicken and shrimp jamalaya? You can serve them with salad and maybe corn on the cob for summery sides.

                                    1. Make a batch of gazpacho (Ina Garten recipe) - garnish with shrimp, crab of lobster on top. SO refreshing - a side salad and a great loaf of crusty garlic bread -
                                      Add Rose to drink and fresh fruit and a cheese plate for dessert and you have my perfect summer meal.

                                      1. I also have friends over this weekend and plan to serve a similar meal to what you are thinking:

                                        For appies: homemade gravlax on rye with all the trimmings; to drink - Lillet or very cold shot of vodka
                                        For main: gazpacho followed by Paella, both from Casas' book; to drink - red Sangria, also Casas recipe
                                        For dessert: Japanese cheesecake and coffee

                                        1. I recently served Red Snapper "a la Veracruzana" to my friends and got rave reviews. It was so easy, because I made the sauce ahead of time, and only had to cook the fish filets in the sauce for a few minutes. It is a tomato based sauce with green olives, capers (and raisins if you want). Lots of recipes on line.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: MazDee

                                            This is on of the easiest prep methods- prep sauce, pour over fish when ready to bake.
                                            I love most any seafood "a la Veracruzana", mussels especially.

                                              1. I'm fairly certain you get fresh sardines in so cal, those are usually really cheap and easy/fast to grill. Serve a few per person with a chimmichuri sauce and grilled veggies, and something like a tabouli or grain based hearty salad.
                                                Or you could do grilled calamari steaks- those literally take seconds! Serve with a chunky fresh raw tomato basil sauce and a good drizzle of basalmic.
                                                Spot prawns are probably pricey but if you go with sardines or calamari steaks for the entree you could do a few of those too- such great visual drama if nothing else ;)

                                                1. I like fish tacos. Grill whatever fish you can get your hands on; cod, salmon, baramundi, hake; maybe not trout. Tortillas. Pico di gallo or salsa verde and some salad can be made ahead. Good with beer, or whatever wine you've got going :)
                                                  Total grill time = 10 minutes.
                                                  Otherwise, a riff on paella. Rice and seafood; add pork products and poultry as you like. Everything can be prepped ahead of time, up to, and including, sauteeing everything. Finish cooking on the grill.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: KarenDW

                                                    We just did a large group dinner and grilled fish tacos were easy, delicious and fun for all. Marinate fish ahead of time and grill for just a few minutes. Serve with large bowl of guac, chipotle/lime crema, shredded cabbage with cilantro, pickled red onions, steamed corn tortillas. Viola! Side salads (maybe cold sesame noodles?) to round things up and you should be good to go.

                                                  2. I'd do a cheap cioppino. Go easy on the scallops and shrimp, heavier on the mussels, add a good firm white fish (what's fresh and affordable), and cut the broth with good veggies, too. Good bread for sopping up the broth.

                                                    A cold light red wine with that (or white wine) and you're good to go.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: pinehurst

                                                      Ciopino or the similar French fish stew Cotriade is easier to prepare than paella. With paella you've got to get the crispy rice correct so it does take a little more attention.

                                                      1. re: zackly

                                                        or Gauzetto... the Mediterranean is full of cioppino like soup and stews...

                                                    2. This marinated fish recipe is always well liked. Easy to make and it's supposed to be room temp when served so you can make ahead,
                                                      You can use any white fish I used tilapia and catfish

                                                      1. There is an outstanding recipe for Oven-Steamed Halibut with Carrots, Lemon, & Thyme in "Radically Simple," this month's COTM. You make it the day before and serve it cold. Sounds weird, but it's delicious, and a pretty presentation as well.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                          What do you and your buddies fish for? That's the key question IMO. If it's trout don't serve trout etc.
                                                          I'd make a LARGE amount of seafood lasagna. Two large oven proof glass rectangular casserole dishes.
                                                          Make a LOT of classic white sauce with lots of fresh fine chopped tarragon etc. Layer of white sauce>layer of lasagna>layer of white sauce to which you have sprinkled some smoked salmon or lox>more white sauce with even more assorted seafood bits sprinkled on. Push the boat out! Mussels/clams/calamari/octupus.... You get the idea. Now the secret ingredient: Some very finely sliced kielbasa or andouille sausage added to each layer. Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and chile flakes are your friends. Lots of lemon wedges available. Lots of chilled Pinot Gris.
                                                          Hint: Before you put the lasagna/s in the oven slice through to establish the portions. This will allow you to serve 'pre-cut' portions.

                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                            >>>Hint: Before you put the lasagna/s in the oven slice through to establish the portions. This will allow you to serve 'pre-cut' portions.<<<

                                                            Excellent, Puffin! Even when I let it rest, my lasagna doesn't come out of the dish in nice serving pieces.

                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                              That sounds terrific. My wife was going to make her famous (meat) lasagna, but we decided against it as it's not "Summer food" that we're going for. But mein gott! I'm going to have to try that when the weather cools down.

                                                              Thanks for the idea. To answer your question: here in So. Cal the typical fish we catch are assorted rockfish, white fish, and now that the water temperature is rising, we're going to be getting into yellow tail, yellow fin tuna and other exciting species that come up from Mexico.

                                                          2. One of my favorite summer seafood dishes is a Marinated Calamari Salad. The squid get a quick sear after the marinade. Add lots of sweet onions and multicolored peppers. (The veggies are even better if you grill them before you cut them up.) Dressed with lemon juice and really good olive oil.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                              1. Be careful with mussels many people don't like them. I frequently prepare scampi for a crowd when I want something simple that almost everyone loves. Big shrimp, wild caught if you can get them, & garlic butter. Make a pot of rice, perhaps a salad or corn on the cob. It couldn't be much easier.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. It sounds as if you are thinking picnic-type things but for a hot entree I would suggest a good Shrimp Creole on white rice. Make the sauce a day or two ahead---heat it in a crock pot and add the shelled raw shrimp---let it cook in the sauce. Use a big electric rice cooker for the rice. Very little work when guests are present.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                                    +1 on the rice cooker!
                                                                    I've eaten more rice b/c I have a rice cooker in the last few years than ever before.
                                                                    What's the common rice used with a shrimp creole? In 'Creole country'.
                                                                    I'm going on a Cajun cooking voyage of discovery. Never cooked a single Cajun dish.
                                                                    Do you all have any links to all things Cajun cooking? Forums etc.

                                                                  2. crack open a bottle of Rose and make some Bourride.... the cost will be whatever fish you decided to use... easy to make, fantastic full flavors and yum... http://eattillyoubleed.com/2013/07/bo...

                                                                    1. I'm surprised nobody mentioned fried fish - a simple dutch oven on your stove with a thermometer to fry it. You can keep the fried fish warm on a baking rack in your oven until everyone is ready to eat. Plus the batter stretches out the fish and makes the portions look much bigger than if they had been grilled/broiled instead. Make some fresh slaw or salad and a few other simple sides, like Corn on the cob, to go along with it, and you're done.

                                                                      1. Hey, it's Thurs...and the decision is???

                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Gail

                                                                          I'm going with the Low Country Boil, suggested by Lala.

                                                                          It seems to be perfect for the sitiuation: casual, easy to make, has seafood without being terribly expensive, a very "summer" dish, and will only require about 20 minutes of actual cooking time, most of which I don't need to watch.

                                                                          I'll start out with a vegetable and hummous platter and different cheeses and olives, and nuts. For sides, I'm making a cucumber salad with feta cheese and a dressing I make out of preserved lemon, anchovies, olive oil and different herbs, as well as a tomato/watermelon salad (weird but good) that includes mint.

                                                                          And we'll have beer, wine and tequila.

                                                                          For dessert it's ice cream, lemon cookies and coffee.

                                                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                              Make sure to get wild caught shrimp if possible. Gulf shrimp are great!

                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                Excellent! I've had this while living in the South. It was served on a table covered with newspapers...a fun party-atmosphere dinner. Don't forget lots of napkins and make sure you have a can of Old Bay to sprinkle into the cooking mix.

                                                                                  1. re: LaLa

                                                                                    Rather than pouring it all out on newspapers, which turned my wife off, we put down a lot of newspapers covered by butcher paper and poured it all out. Had Old Bay and Louisiana hot sauce at hand for everyone.

                                                                                    It was a great meal and everyone loved it. This is a novelty out here in Los Angeles. I didn't have a big outside cooker with a built in strainer, so I used my massive 13 1/4 quart Le Crueset and just poured all the cooking liquid out when it was done. If I say so myself, the "doneness" of the potatoes, andouille sausage, corn and shrimp were absolutely perfect, and a great summer time outdoor meal. Everybody loved it.

                                                                                    The simple tomato salad made of really good heirloom tomatoes and basil, and the cucumbers salad, were perfect sides.

                                                                                    Thanks again.

                                                                                    1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                      >>>Rather than pouring it all out on newspapers, which turned my wife off, we put down a lot of newspapers covered by butcher paper<<<

                                                                                      Aw, you went from "low country" to "high country".
                                                                                      Sounds like lots of fun!

                                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                        Lol....we don't uses newspaper either. I don't think you can tell from that picture but we have an actual huge serving pice that was made by a welder. Butcher paper is a great choice, too!

                                                                                        1. re: LaLa

                                                                                          I had it served on newspaper in a very nice, but casual restaurant. Glad you classed it up a bit too.

                                                                                    2. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                      Sounds perfect! And it will be a fun novelty for a southern CA group :)

                                                                                      And the "beer, wine, and tequila" gives me the giggles- like, a glass of tequila straight up??? Whoahza....

                                                                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                          Nice!! Sounds like it was an awesome meal!

                                                                                  2. An easy meal would be a seafood stew. I like to make stock from fish cleaned fish carcasses and shrimp shells. Can be done far in advanced and in short order in a pressure cooker

                                                                                    Add seafood to hot stock at the last minute. Serve with good crusty bread

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                      I actually do that on a regular basis with the heads and carcasses of fresh-caught fish. I will be going out this week in search of tuna and yellow tail, but we'll likely get into all sorts of rock fish as well, and that's when I make stock and freeze it.

                                                                                      It's awfully hot and humid in LA these days, so I would not want this dish right now. But the stock will be ready for me when the weather cools down.

                                                                                      Thanks for the idea. That's a beautiful looking shot.

                                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird


                                                                                        Hey, I live in Florida and temperature plays little into my food choices. I'd eat that bowl on a day in August and enjoy it thoroughly but preferably In doors with the AC running. It ranks up there with one of the best things I've ever eaten. The stock was fantastic

                                                                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                          That's wonderful. I always envy the wonderful offshore fish the south and east coast get. I think the best piece of fish I've ever had was grouper that was done perfectly at a hotel in the Gulf. Unbelieveable!

                                                                                          What kind of fish do you use for your stew?

                                                                                          I should point out, I had the event this past Saturday, and went with the Low Country Boil which Lala recommended, and it was a huge hit.

                                                                                          1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                            Sounds great EarlyBird

                                                                                            Some sections which made it in the pot at one time or another

                                                                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                              Beautiful. Is that pompano? Redfish?

                                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                Red snapper

                                                                                                The other two are yellowtail snapper and hogfish

                                                                                    2. make a fruits de mer platter...

                                                                                      You can prepare and keep it in the fridge hours before serving, makes a nice presentation, and fairly easy to clean up!