HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Looking for ideas for a Sunday Supper for 30

A couple of times a year we host a group of musicians for performances. After the performance, I serve a light supper. This one will be in early September so it is still quite warm here in Arizona. One of my "work-arounds" is an open floorplan. For the most part, having the piano very close to the open kitchen makes my cooking especially pleasant with lots of music. However, for these Sunday suppers, it means that I cannot do kitchen work during the performance.

To date I have served: a soup supper with about five choices, a salad buffet, a grits bar with different toppings and I don't remember what else. All were well-received, this is a very appreciative non-picky group. I am toying with a Taco Bar but something is preventing me from becoming enthused about this idea (and I don't know what it is).

I have a large kitchen and use it for serving this informal buffet meal. There is a big island as well as 15' long peninsula and we have plenty of seating. It is the menu which has me struggling. The food must either be plated and cold or be able to be held at temperature for about 1 1/2 hours. Supper commences directly after the last musical selection; at most, I have about 10 minutes to get set up. Of course there are the offers to help, refrigerator door homesteaders, etc to complicate matters but I ply them with beer/wine/etc so I can get cracking with what needs to happen.

I need inspiration from the Chowhound community because I am weary of summer's heat and feel like I have a bad case of "the blahs". Thanks in advance, you've never let me down yet.

Edit: Just remembered that I have also done a French picnic, BBQed pork spread and Mediterranean meal for this group. I would rather not repeat any dishes that have already appeared. Anything fussy or requiring a lot of last minute attention or assembly is out.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I think the taco bar sounds great. If ground beef doesn't thrill you, how about shredded pork, shredded chicken, or shredded beef? With add-ins like cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, green onion, rice, black beans, assorted salsas, and on and on, it's a great meal for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. You can serve warm corn and flour tortillas, rather than crisp shells. And, everything can be done in advance.

    2 Replies
    1. re: critter101

      The taco bar sounds awesome! Maybe the OP just needs to think of variations for more "exciting" toppings- like a corn/cilantro/lime/red onion salsa, a baja style cabbage slaw, cotija cheese crumbles, mixing cilantro and green onion into the rice, a tomatillo salsa, fried pickled jalapenos for garnish..... Tacos can be really creative! And everything can be made ahead- just turn on the oven to warm the tortillas last minute. Micheladas, coronas with lime and agua frescas to drink.

      1. re: Ttrockwood

        Yum, sounds like Sunday Supper to me!

    2. People always like Italian. You could do a few room temperature pasta dishes that you could make ahead. With a salad or two. Lots of choices.....

      1. What about Momofuku bo ssam?

        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/mag...

        Though the recipe says one will feed 6 to 10 I think two big ones with additional sides might do the trick. I think if you wrapped the meat in foil and then in a towel and into a cooler (a tip I learned using our smoker), it would have plenty of heat for its last blast in the oven.

        Here are some apps and sides, alot of which appear to be prepped ahead of time and served room temp.

        Sounds like fun and I know you entertain with great aplomb!

        ETA: the first time I did this, it was not as moist as I'd have liked. So next time I went with my trusty meat thermometer and it was perfect.

        1 Reply
        1. Baked potato bar with assorted toppings

          Macaroni & cheese bar with assorted toppings. You can make mac & cheese, bake it off right before guests arrive then leave in a warm low temp oven until serving time. All toppings can be made ahead like sautéed mushrooms & onions, sliced or crumbled Italian sausage, chorizo or Andouille sausage, bacon, oven roasted cherry tomatoes w/garlic & rosemary, roasted green chiles, oven roasted eggplant, etc. Serve with a green salad.

          Sandwich bar or prepared sandwich assortment with a veggie tray & dip. I recently made muffuletta for 30 people which was very well received. Best to make the night before or early the day of serving to give the flavors a chance to meld.

          Grilled jerk chicken – grill the evening before or morning of then reheat in a low oven wrapped in foil while the event is going on. Serve with a few cold salads.

          1. I favor Middle Eastern/Balkan for large groups because I can do EVERYTHING ahead of time. First a cold buffet of "the usual suspects"---tabbouleh, hummos, baba ganooj, cucumbers in yogurt, olives, pita, tomatoes, cheeses, fatoosh salad etc. For your purposes, these would be refrigerated and you would have only to set them out. Meanwhile, if your oven could be quietly working at 300* during the 90-minute performance, the moussaka that you made yesterday could be slowly heating and the spankorizo (cooked rice and chopped spinach flavored with lemon juice and cinnamon) could be staying hot in a slow-cooker. Sherbets and small fresh fruits (little bunches of grapes) would be nice for dessert.

            29 Replies
            1. re: Querencia

              I love everyone's answers but this is my favorite idea. I have been to a hasty New Year's Eve buffet that was an Israeli version of this meal. (The caterer couldn't make it at the last minute.)

              1. re: Berheenia

                No offense to Querencia or you either but I would have little to eat with a menu like that. ACtually that's not so. To be polite, I'd take tiny bits of most of those things. Except for olives, tomatoes and cheeses, I pretty actively don't like those things. I don't think I'm completely alone in that. Just sayin'.

                1. re: c oliver

                  no offense meant here either, but i feel like americans make/serve hummus and tabbouleh because they can't think of anything else. i see humus at least 80% of the time i go to parties.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Interesting theory. I agree that hummus is ubiquitous, but I think because it's perceived as a healthful option (and the things you normally serve it with --vegetables or pita bread--tend to be perceived as more healthful options). Also, most people with dietary restrictions (vegan, vegetarian, kosher, halal, etc.) will usually eat hummus without objection. Sadly, most of the hummus I've tasted at parties is store-bought, bad hummus. :( Good, homemade hummus is most certainly welcome!

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      with about a billion other options, why not show a little ingenuity? (+ i don't care for tahini, lol.)

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        I wasn't suggesting going to Trader Joe's or Costco and buying ready made tubs of hummous and trays of wraps. I see you are in the Greater Boston and surprised you haven't discovered the better options in Brookline-West Roxbury and Cambridge-Watertown areas. There are some excellent near eastern bakeries and shops that show a great deal of 'ingenuity'.

                        1. re: Berheenia

                          i do plenty of middle-eastern/balkan and med-rim foods, many from paula wolfert books, but hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, etc. are so tired for me, sorry.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            gee,
                            for me, hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, etc done well, are always delicious. add adas polo to the list and some ghormeh sabzi if you want some adventure.
                            i especially like that they are terrific at room temperature

                            also, they are dishes that respond well to being made with good ingredients (i.e. DRIED beans, high-quality evoo, well-roasted tahini).

                            i'm happy to make most of my meal out of those dishes as long as the beans didn't come from a can. (and i'm a picky eater)

                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                      "i see humus at least 80% of the time i go to parties."

                      I see beer and wine at +90%.

                      There's a reason some things become ubiquitous.

                      1. re: pedalfaster

                        right. as far as food goes, much of it has to do with lack of imagination on the part of the host. hummus, pasta salad, and lasagne spring immediately to mind.

                        <<yawn>>.

                        equating food with beverages here is silly. i see water served at most functions and have no problem with that!

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          but is it because the hummus and what you are seeing is not made from scratch? a good amount of what you are calling "hum drum" is really good when made from scratch, with care and with a point of view.

                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                            whether it's from scratch or not is not my point, lol. if i go to 12 holiday parties, i will see hummus at 11 of them and tabbouleh too. they are often on buffets where they have little bearing on the other foods as well. the omnipresence is tiresome. people want to serve something "vegetarian" and "healthy" and come up with hummus. not every party host comes to chowhound for ideas, ya know?

                            p.s. i offered menu options to the op and expressed an opinion about something else -- both actions i thought were within the parameters of this board. not sure why i became a lightning rod. those of you happy to eat hummus at every party can be sure there will be more for you since i won't be having any, lol.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Sure, I get your point and not everyone is a foodie as some of us. Sometimes those things that we find tiresome are big hits with the crowd.

                              I don't think I see babaganoush at most dinner parties, I also suggested that as well.

                              1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                I agree with hotoy about the prevalence of hummus (and I'm not a fan of that stuff either.... even when it's homemade and great, etc. etc.), but I *wish* there were more tabbouleh to be seen, which I'd prefer over hummus.

                                Parsley-heavy, tho, as opposed to couscous.

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I'm so friggin' tired of hummus. But there's a lot of bad tabbouleh out there, with under-rinsed gritty parsley, under-ripe tomatoes and icky dressings. Love good tabbouleh, but I've been finding a lot of restaurants aren't putting enough love or care into their tabbouleh prep (edit: of course, the rinsing issue is fixed when you're making your own tabbouleh!).

                                  1. re: prima

                                    One of the reasons I hate to make it. That damn, gritty parsley :-D

                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      I switched to growing and buying flat Italian parsley for that reason. :)

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        Do you have plumbing? An ice water bath, followed by a shower under the faucet and a salad spinner finish - exhausting.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            Ice water bath and salad spinning are too much work for me, too. My vegetables are only rinsed in ordinary tap water and drained in a colander, unless I'm prepping for Thanksgiving, Xmas or Easter.

                                          2. re: Bellachefa

                                            Hey, it's too much work for me (and apparently for many), but it's Sherri -- an accomplished and more-than-capable cook--who is doing the cooking!

                                            Sherri is exactly the kind of person at whose house I might be willing to try some of these typically mishandled dishes!

                                            I hope she prepares the whole Middle Eastern spread and then invites us all over. Except that she'll have to change the title to "Sunday Supper for 60" or something.

                                            I enjoy musical performances in intimate garden settings!

                                            ~TDQ

                                          3. re: linguafood

                                            Ugh, there is nothing quite like the sensation of dirt between your teeth when you're eating salad.

                                            I give gritty greens a quick rinse then sit them in a bath of lukewarm water…not sure why it works but I seem to get more dirt out that way - it settles to the bottom of the bowl.

                                            1. re: maplesugar

                                              My mom used to wash salad greens in the sink (pre-salad spinner days, I guess), and always let the lettuce sit in warm water.... and she added salt. Supposedly, that made the dirt and any creepy-crawlies get out.

                                              Not sure if there's any substance to that. I use pretty cold water and my salad spinner, but parsley's still a bitch to clean.

                                          4. re: prima

                                            Ha! So many intense opinions here (we are, afterall, chowhounds). I detest tabbouleh. Maybe I'm the victim of too much bad tabbouleh (it always seems to be out of balance with one ingredient dominating over all of the others--and, yes, the frequent texture problem), but I never order it and never eat it unless doing so out of politeness.

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              I hear ya. Lots of crappy versions of tabbouleh, tzatziki, babaganoush, Greek salad, Caesar salad, potato salad and so on to avoid out there! While I love a good version, I find most versions are meh or worse.

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I personally have never made my own tabbouleh I've seen people bring it from the local publix grocery store which wasn't bad. and there are some restaurants in town that make a good one.

                                                I think hummus is one of those things that chowhounders might get sick of. It's popular and it's easy to just pick up sabra from the grocery store for an event or party. It is usually appreciated when I make my own version. A coworker who is gluten free appreciated that with the veggies. because the salad that was brought was tossed in a dressing she can't eat.

                                                I think it goes back to who you are making the food for. I wouldn't include hummus to a group of foodies but for a party with mixed company it does go over well.

                                                When you have a dinner party which includes different taste, or foodie and picky you must make sure everyone is covered.

                                                But I am in agreement the hummus can be ho hum.

                                                Also I've never had the gritty parsely you are all speaking off.

                              2. re: c oliver

                                Oliver, did you miss that there is a hot meat entree, moussaka, with an accompanying rice dish? The cold buffet is just the first course.

                                1. re: Querencia

                                  Unfortunately I don't like moussaka either :(

                            2. re: Querencia

                              I like this idea I would change it up a little bit.

                              Maybe a Salad course of Fattoush Salad

                              I would make lamb meatballs with a yogurt dipping sauce or tzaki
                              This are excellent: http://www.chow.com/recipes/13432-lam...

                              Bababaganoush, whipped feta and pepper dip, a spicy hummus, baked pita, dippers. I'd put olives by themselves since I know so many people that don't like them. However OP mentioned that these people aren't picky.

                            3. How about a Spanish tapas buffet? Not that I have any idea how to execute such a thing, but maybe these links would give you some ideas? Plus, maybe some gazpacho (I hope that's not duplicative since you've already done a soup buffet...)

                              http://spanishfood.about.com/od/holid...

                              http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Host-a...

                              http://www.tienda.com/recipes/menus/t...

                              And then you can offer sangria wine and sherry to those refrigerator door homesteaders.

                              Or, I wonder if you could go Southeast Asian with some combo green papaya salad, spring rolls, bun salad, and assemble your own banh mi sandwiches. http://www.thekitchn.com/fresh-way-to... Maybe banh mi is too complicated. Maybe larb/lettuce wraps? Plus tom kha gai (I always think of soup as easy to keep warm...)

                              ~TDQ

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                What about good old deep fried chicken? Two or three 'flavors': Cajun, KFC, Chinese style sweet and sour?
                                A few types of cold slaw. A couple of types of potato salad. I go with a german style for one.
                                You can make it all even the day before.
                                With the chicken just give it a blast in the oven before serving.

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Around here (Lowell, MA), a very generous banh mi can be had for $3.50. With some noodle and green salads, and fruit on the side, one of them can easily feed 2 people. For that kind of money, I'd buy rather than make the sandwiches, if only for the sake of the shatteringly-crisp baguettes.

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    I just think that banh mi made many hours before aren't going to be all that good. There's enough stuff in it to make it soggy pretty quickly.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      The place I go to layers the components such that vegetables don't contact the bread directly, so they are fine for a couple of hours. After that, the crust is less crispy but the inside isn't soggy. For the OP's purposes, they should be picked up as late as possible and a request tendered that they not be made until the hour before being picked up.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        The place we get our Banh Mi's at, they will pack the pickled vegetables separately, if you ask, so you can assemble them when you are ready to eat. So all you have to do is warm the sandwiches in the oven, then add the pickled bits.

                                        You could always get or make spring rolls in addition, some cut up fruits and dinner is DONE. Dessert (baked goods or ice cream) can be done way ahead of time.

                                    2. re: greygarious

                                      OMG - I was going to suggest a banh mi bar!

                                  2. The size of the gathering lends itself to a big pot of jambalaya and rice...onions, peppers, tomatoes, shrimp, chicken, sausage...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: tim irvine

                                      Jambalaya is my go to for many occasions. It can be made mild or spicy, vegetarian, kosher, halal, you name it.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        And Neiman Marcus bars are my traditional post Jambalaya dessert, ever since I encountered the combination 30+ years ago at Treebeard's in Houston.

                                    2. The taco bar is a totally workable idea, but if it's not something that floats your boat, one of the best large-group meals I've had was a tarted up salad bar. I'm in AZ too and I'm not always in the mood for something like tacos when it's 114. The salad bar had chicken (cooked ahead), bacon which I believe she recrisped right before serving, tons of veggies, olives, peoperoncinis, homemade croutons, etc, and she put out a variety of both homemade and purchased dressings. I was thinking some garbanzo beans marinated in lemon, OO, and oregano and some salami might be nice additions. This might be in line with your salad buffet? You could certainly do a pasta salad option and watermelon/feta/kalamata or anything else that sounds appealing too.

                                      1. A bunch of different lasagnas and perhaps a few tossed salads that stand up to sitting around.

                                        1. i'd go asian/southeast asian:

                                          all of these can be made in advance and served cold or room temp:

                                          papadum with spiced edamame dip
                                          chilled corn/coconut/curry soup
                                          deviled tea eggs
                                          fresh spring rolls with cilantro/mint/rice noodles/shrimp or salmon
                                          sesame cucumber salad
                                          peanut noodles with daikon and carrot
                                          banh mi "sliders"
                                          chicken and beef satay
                                          basmati rice fritters, cauliflower pakora and scallion pancakes can be held in a very low oven

                                          hot food:

                                          http://www.eatthelove.com/2014/01/kor...

                                          you can turn off the oven before the 45 mins cooking time to just keep these warm but not cooking

                                          cumin braised lamb can be held in a crockpot or covered in a roasting pan in the low oven.

                                          for dessert:

                                          fresh fruit
                                          cardamom banana custard
                                          lime/ginger cookies

                                          1. Perhaps people making their own nachos/dressing a flat corn tortilla would go over better. You live in Arizona, get some great chiles. Make a few sauces, some black beans, some refried beans, some corn salsa, some roasted garlic cloves, red onions caramelized, guacamole, some shredded chicken (even rotisserie chicken can work for this, if it is just too hot to cook the day before). Include a few interesting cheeses, to top it, like aged cheddar and things you grated yourself. Throw in some sour cream, some great sliced olives, diced tomatoes, a few hot sauces, pico de gallo, cilantro, lime, fresh corn off the cob and people can make exactly what they want.

                                            Dessert can be a simple ice cream cone. Have sugar and cake cones and let people dip their own. And bowls, as there is always someone who doesn't like cones.

                                            1. You-all have come through with great ideas! A thousand thanks. I do believe the "blahs" have fled and lots of thoughts are percolating right now. Before I make THE final decision, I have printed this entire thread to save for future suppers. With all this great input, I won't have to think very hard for the next one, you've done my work for me.

                                              My husband is pulling hard for the expanded/energized Taco Bar. We do have a lot of great Mexican products easily available locally so it may be the easiest option.

                                              Stay tuned. I promise to report.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Sherri

                                                If you do go mexican chunks of mango with lime juice and dusted in chili pepper on a skewer are fun as a dessert option- and could be made the day before. Or a savory combo like this one would be great as a side "salad" option. (And defrosted frozen mango would make your life easier and work great)
                                                http://gourmandeinthekitchen.com/2014...

                                                1. Being here in the Arizona heat as well, a taco bar sounds fantastic. There's just something about crunchy and cool that makes it that much better in the heat!

                                                  Maybe mix it up with fish tacos, lengua, as well as some chicken or beef. Have some assorted salsas and margaritas or cervezas and you're set. Yum. :)

                                                  1. I remember doing a large party for my toddlers that included lots of parents, pls out of own relatives. We grilled sausage and veggie kabobs. Separate skewers of chicken apple & cheese sausages and mixed marinated cubed vegetables like zucchini, peppers, onions,mushrooms. I also served a couple of large green salads, sliced breads. I'm sure there was more food, I'm not remembering all of it. We carted the meal up to a local playground so it kept well and was still delicious at room temp. I'm sure you could find more inspiration from just grilling up some of the farmers markets treasures to add to the menu.

                                                    1. I just finished drooling over - er - READING the May 2014 Dish of the Month thread - which was GALETTES! The savory ones sounded fabulous - and each would give you 8-10 slices. And do ahead [serve at room temp].

                                                      just adding this into the mix... I'm having friends from out of town next month, and am trying NOT to put one of these in every single meal while they're here!

                                                      1. There goes my eastern Mediterranean mezze suggestion... unless your previous Med meal was more the other end of the region.

                                                        Lots of nice spreads for pita -- muhammara, baba ghanoush, hummus, tzatziki -- with cut-up fresh vegetables and a few more protein-rich offerings like falafel or kebabs.

                                                        1. Do you have access to a couple of panini presses? You could do a sort of grourmet grilled cheese bar. Just get a bunch of different types of cheese and bread and other accompanying fillers (veggies, meat, spreads). All can be prepped and held in the refrigerator or counter until the party. Maybe a tomato soup held in a slow cooker to accompany it.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: EllieS

                                                            mmmmmm. cubano sandwiches on a panini press. my idea of heaven!

                                                            1. re: EllieS

                                                              I have a panini grill and max it will hold is two sandwiches. Doing 30 of them, even on two grills will take quite a while.

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                On Daisy Cooks, I remember her wrapping cubanos in foil, laying them on a sheet pan, inverting another sheet pan over the top, weighting with cast iron pans, and baking in the oven. Grill marks are vastly overrated, anyway....

                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                  Cool. Fifteen sandwiches.

                                                                  And to me (we have panina pretty much every week) the crispiness is a big part of its appeal.

                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    Clever. I will tuck this one away. There are so many great ideas on this post that I am covered for a long while. Thank you everyone for your input. WOW!

                                                                2. re: EllieS

                                                                  Instead of a hot sandwich, try a large pressed sandwich.made with different cheeses and meats, a relish and some roasted vegetables, all made ahead. Wrapped tightly and weighted down in the fridge overnight, it takes small slices to feed a lot of people.

                                                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                    Like this?

                                                                    https://food52.com/recipes/6896-pan-b...

                                                                    I'd thought about this but wondered if, when sliced, it would be too messy.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      When I had to serve a crowd, I used two large round loaves. Muffuletta fillings for the first; a turkey, Brie with vegs for the second. They sliced easily and neatly. They were a big hit.

                                                                3. Sherri, if it's a casual affair, try a Low Country Boil, the South's answer to a clam bake. I recently had a get together of 8 people, and since it was a warm summer evening, wanted something simple and fitting for the climate.

                                                                  It is simply smoked sausage (andouille is great), half ears of corn, red potatoes and shrimp boiled all together in a flavorful stock.

                                                                  In a massive pot, make a stock first out of shrimp shells, water and Zatarain's crab boil, and some mirepioux. Once that's very flavorful remove all of the solids and then boil the potatoes and sausage, then the corn and shrimp at the last minute making sure not to overcook the last two items.

                                                                  Drain the water/stock and the pour everything out on newsapers or butcher paper on your island. Set out a bottle of hot sauce and some crusty French bread and you're good. I served mine with a simple tomato salad and a cucumber, watermelon and feta salad. Great with beer and wine.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                    Sounds like it might be a tad hard to pull off immediately after the musical problem especially since she can't be cooking while it's going on. Love low country boil though. But I don't think even my biggest pot would hold enough to serve 30.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Oh! I did not catch that there were 30 people. Yikes. In that instance I say, call out for pizza.

                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                        I wasn't trying to "yuck your yum" and Sherri's very accomplished entertainer but perhaps others might think 'oh, cool' and then get in way over their heads.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Oh I get it. For 30 people you'd need to put a fire under a claw foot bath tub.

                                                                  2. How about a temaki sushi (hand roll) buffet?

                                                                    All the prep can be done in advance and Guests can make their own rolls. Its also convenient to eat and can be served cold.

                                                                    For those that don't like raw fish, shredded chicken with mayo, salted grilled salmon, avocados, tamagoyaki, boiled shrimp, ginger pork can also be offered as fillings.

                                                                    Nice and cool for a summers day :)

                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Tokyoite

                                                                      Those are pretty! But for a crowd that large, it might be really expensive to buy sushi grade fish. I would totally do it for a smaller guest list though

                                                                    2. How about a Portuguese-inspired chicken supper? Churrasco chicken (or roasted chicken made with churrasco-type seasoning, or another roasted chicken you like), potato salad (olive oil and vinegar, rather than mayo-based, with lots of fresh herbs,) cole slaw, bean salad, and pasteis de natas for dessert.

                                                                      Not sure if you have any churrasco places where you live, but where I live in Canada, the purchased churrasco chickens are cheaper than raw chickens, so it makes more sense financially to buy take-out churrasco chickens for a group of 30. And the chicken tastes great warm, at room temp, or cold.

                                                                      1. I might serve a ham with a lot of salad side dishes that I made ahead and put in the refrigerator. My favorite way to cook ham is to put it in a 250 oven for about five hours, so you could time it to be ready at the end of the performance.

                                                                        1. OP here, two days after a wildly successful Sunday supper, to thank everyone for their thoughts/ideas/suggestions. As I mentioned earlier, I have printed this post for future reference since we will do this again (and again and again!)Thanks to everyone for giving me your expertise. Lots of great ideas here.
                                                                          My husband loved the original Taco Bar idea and once I got in the swing, I decided to follow that thought with his smiling agreement.

                                                                          All the original constraints applied with an added timing glitch that had the music running an hour over projected time. Thank goodness everything was "wait-friendly". Cold items were ziploc-ed in the fridge and four crockpots held hot food with three types of tortillas foil-wrapped, waiting in the warming drawer.

                                                                          A vegetarian-friendly filling of summer squashes, mushrooms, fresh corn and roasted chiles was a surprise hit. The two meat selections -- beer-braised shredded shortribs and pulled pork were close behind. The beans, made veg-friendly with no meat but some liquid smoke, were wonderful (if I may say so). Rancho Gordo is always reliable and their beans are marvelous.

                                                                          Toppings include: a tangy/creamy Mexican crema, four different cheeses: cotija, queso fresco, Monterey Jack (a nod to the gringos) and ???, six salsa choices from mild to fiery - signs and tasting spoons available to ease the choice, marinated red onions, fresh roasted Hatch chile slices, radishes & limes, Baja cabbage slaw and shredded romaine, rajas con crema (my personal favorite), shredded cilantro, guacamole (lots and lots of guacamole!) and others which escape my memory right now.

                                                                          The margarita shooters as a part of the dessert buffet were another hit. Everyone expects cake/cookies/fruit but hardly anyone expects gelled booze. Another "Do Again".

                                                                          Really careful organization and planning made this event a party for me too. There were no last minute cooking chores and everything was ready to serve in about 7 minutes. We served *lots* of beer and wine - our recycle bin testifies to that!

                                                                          Thanks again to you-all for wonderful inspiration. It should be noted that I used the Low Country Boil idea (modified, of course) for a celebratory dinner honoring a brand newly minted PhD friend. In addition to the potatoes, corn, shrimp and kielbasa, I added quartered onions, mussels and clams to the pot with two large platters of ribs and chicken. Although I made a salad, it was overkill as we ignored it completely in favor of dipping our treats in a lot of very messy garlic butter. Great dinner but would not have suited for 30 in my quarters. Thank you-all again. CH rocks!

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Sherri

                                                                            That sounds like a great dinner and a wonderful time!

                                                                            1. re: Sherri

                                                                              That sounds like a delicious raging success! And that vegetarian taco filling is such a great combo i'll have to make it myself soon...

                                                                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                I think tacos are just about the easiest way to serve diverse diets. Even vegans can eat.