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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.

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  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.