dinner party for 10 or 12, dishes that heat up well?


I am planning a festive fall dinner party for about 10 people. I am not a very accomplished home cook, but I do have a few dishes that I do well and find simple:
-Seared Skirt Steak (I copied a Mario Batali rub recipe w/ brown sugar...sear in super hot grill pan and finish in oven)
-Roasted vegetables (Ina Garten style carrots, broccoli or brussel sprouts)
-Salads (I like Boston Bibb w/ a mustard vinagrete and maybe goat cheese & cranberries & nuts)
-I also do play offs off burrata & peaches or tomato mozzarella (but worried this is too summery).

Would this be doable? I know I will get stressed out if I"m cooking the steak when people arrive, so I'm wondering if I can do this and the vegetables a couple hours earlier, and then just reheat? If so, any suggestions for how best to reheat?

Would I need more than this? I am planning on having someone come over to help me out with clearing and dishes, but would love any suggestions.

Also worried that menu is lacking something really "fresh" or something really indulgent and totally yummy.

Thank you in advance for any help!

Heather Warburton
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ktr October 27, 2014
Since you dinner is fall themed, I would also throw a bottle of apple cider in a pan or the crockpot with some cinnamon, oranges, cloves and other mulling spices and let that simmer away. Or if you are more of a wine person, you could make mulled wine.
Also a couple great, easy fall desserts are apple or pear crisp and baked apples.
Heather W. October 27, 2014
Those sound delicious. Would you put any liquor with the apple cider as a cocktail, like rum? Or just on its own? It sounds amazing either way.

I actually do an amazing apple crumble in mini individual baking pans--I had forgotten about that!! Thank you!
ktr October 30, 2014
I do sometimes add some rum to my cider. If I know there are going to be kids or adults that don't drink around, then I just serve the rum on the side and anyone that wants can add it to their cup.
Manhattan T. October 27, 2014
I'm having a dinner party for 12 this weekend and am making either of these go-to recipes that couldn't be more dependable, flavor-wise. In both cases, the flavor improves when made 2 days (!!!) in advance and reheated. I've made both several times to rave reviews, and Ina Garten and Daniel Boulud wouldn't lead you (and have never led me) astray;-). A lovely salad and hunk of bread and you're freed up to worry about atmosphere instead of kitchen duty. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/beef-bourguignon-recipe.html
Heather W. October 27, 2014
Thank you Manhattan Tart!! I've seen Ina make the beef bourguignon before and she makes it look so easy! I'm so glad it is a dependable recipe for you. And good to know they get better the day after.

What else are you making for your dinner party? Do you have anyone help you w/ cleanup or what's your plan for that? Mine has ballooned to 14/15 ppl.
Nancy October 25, 2014
Endorse replacing the steak (stress for a big group) with roasted meat. Haven't read all your recipes so pls forgive if I double-up on something already suggested, but BRAISED meats heat up beutifully and taste even better after some day(s) to let flavors blend. Classic brisket, boeuf bourgignon, chicken tagine, Persian chicken recipes (with walnut & pomegranate), Arabic chicken recipes (with loads of sliced simmered onions), crown roast of lamb (for indulgence and celebration). For other rich touches - a salad with nuts and good dried fruit, a frozen dessert (lemon cake, parfait), a boozy trifle, or - for dessert or last course - aged Parmesan with vin santo or Port to drink on the side. Good luck and let us know how it goes ;) (NOT the same as Vonnegut's phrase).
Heather W. October 27, 2014
Thank you Nancy! Thinking braised meats too! The persian chicken recipe sounds so relish (and really seasonal and cozy) too. I love boozy trifles! and my boyfriend has an addiction to parmesan so he will love that parmesan /port idea!

Thank you!
nutcakes October 24, 2014
I can't reply to your reply so here is a new post for your questions to me.

-about the steak, you could do a thick steak, sear and hold aside to finish in the oven like a restaurant would do yes. Any cut 1-1/4 inch to 2 inches thick. But you still are dealing with checking when the steak is done. It will need to rest 8 minutes, then be sliced. For reheating meat, you will usually want to go with a completely cooked piece like a stew or braise. But it seems like you are trying to do something more interesting. I do think a great short rib dish is not a usual everyday dish and can be done the day ahead and even improves. That will go with carrot soup or roasted veggies too. I like short ribs in wine.

More ideas:
My 'go to' easy elegant dinner party dish is really simple but as impressive as a restaurant dish--it IS a restaurant dish. Salmon with Thai Curry Sauce. It is assembled as a tower with a scoop of Basmati (or Jasmine) rice on the bottom, Then the salmon, some sauce drizzled around the plate and topped with an Asian Slaw. If you know how to roast salmon, do it without flavorings as you can cook the salmon any way. The rice is done easiest in a rice cooker, but the oven is foolproof and will hold it on low, or stovetop is fine of course. Do the sauce a day ahead and reheat gently. (Leftovers work on beef, chicken or veggies too.) Add the curry paste more or less to taste for hotness. Triple the sauce for 10 to 12, very simple to make in one pot. If you think anyone will want less sauce, just dot it around the plate and pass separately, some people will like more. Cut and bag the finely shredded napa cabbage up to a day ahead. Just add the cucumber, mint and cilantro an hour before guests arrive (gently tear the mint so as not to blacken it.) Then toss with the soy and vinegar just before serving. Have someone help you assemble: rice, salmon, sauce, slaw, peanut topping (or toasted sesame seeds work) (my sister helped me last and formed the rice is a ramekin and turned it onto the plate.) That's a one dish meal. If you wanted to start with a small cup of carrot soup you could, flavor with ginger. But not needed. Keep before dinner nibbles simple. I'd serve some cashews (seasoned like Trader Joe's thai ones), and seasoned edamame, for instance. Maybe add an Asian flavors seasoned tofu dip with crackers. I don't see the burrata working here. Something like deviled eggs topped with tobiko, caviar or salmon roe. Even a purchased liver pate. This is sooo easy, just make yourself a timeline.

A more rustic dish but one that can be doubled, made the day before and reheats well is a great chicken and sausage rice dish from Fine Cooking. See the pic this is very pretty (I use red bell pepper) with deep flavors. You could use boneless thighs for easier eating (I have done it and even cut them up and larger chunks of breast) and in that case you would use chicken broth for all or part of the water. Make 3 batches, everyone likes extra sausage. Cook each separately if you like, leave the rice on the moist side, and combine in a large roasting pan, cover with foil and chill. You can reheat gently in the 300F oven for 45 minutes. I often toss frozen peas on during the last 10 minutes for color and freshness. Now you can have a nice salad or whatever Mediterranean or Spanish flavors to add. The cup of carrot soup works too. Any citrus fruit in salad or dessert is nice. Grapefruit and avocado salad with bibb lettuce would be great. Your burrata with fruit should work. I often serve with Molly Katzen's Orange and Radish Salad. The lemon cake mentioned with be perfect, maybe even with a scoop of sorbet.


Even if you don't use it this time, these are two fantastic pretty simple dishes I've made again and again if you want to expand your repertoire.

Add indulgence with a dessert, maybe purchased, but know that most cakes improve overnight if wrapped airtight.
Heather W. October 27, 2014
I love your ideas! Thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful reply. I love, love, love your salad ideas--grapefruit and avocado are two of my favorites. I also love the seasoned cashews idea a la Trader Joes for hors d'oeuvres.

I unexpectedly had to travel this week for work so now am totally behind and didn't get to do a trial run of my recipes (still travelling). I think short ribs will be OK though.

Thank you!!
Michele October 24, 2014
Roasted carrot soup sounds really wonderful, very seasonal. If you added some crusty bread or croutons you could cut back on the portions size for the main course. I think the suggestion of short ribs is brilliant and more forgiving than steak. I think you have a good plan now so good luck with your trial run!
Michele October 24, 2014
Tacos would be great! Anything where people can assemble the food themselves is fun and breaks with expectation. But if you want to keep a fall flavor maybe something like a beef stew with mashed potatoes (or you can kick it up a notch and make beef stroganoff which isn't as difficult as you might think......basically good beef with mushroom, some wine and cream), chili with baked potatoes, lasagna, mac and cheese, pork tenderloins http://www.barefootcontessa.com/recipes.aspx?RecipeID=114&S=0 . Depending on how much time you have to prepare (are you at work all day the day of, etc.) I don't think it is cheating to buy parts of the meal prepared - pre-cooked chickens, etc. and make them yours. Just keep it simple.
You might want to look at Ina Garten's cookbooks. Her whole philosophy is not to fuss and have the food taste good. I haven't met a recipe of hers that wasn't foolproof and delicious and she has great menu ideas. Also, why not think in terms of separate dishes? Maybe serve a soup and then have a lighter (warmer weather) meal, Mediterranean style. Just choose what you are comfortable preparing so you enjoy the evening, which in turn will pass to your guests.
BTW I write all this with a vast amount of experience to draw upon, being over ambitious and determined: the meal one of the vegetarian courses was found 2 days later in the oven: the turkey cooked with giblets (on 2 occasions); the duck and blackberry sauce that set fire to the oven and more. Great memories, but stressful!!! So, go simple and enjoy your dinner party. And don't forget to do a backward timeline, to aid in the timing.
Heather W. October 24, 2014

Thanks again for your inspiration and great advice! Abbie suggested beef short ribs to do in advance, which I love and sounds similar in flavor / feel to a beef stroganoff. I agree that I don't think it's cheating to buy parts of the meal. I adore Ina and love that she always says "buy one thing pre-made" to cut the stress in half. I also love the idea of soup--I happen to be pretty good at a roasted carrot soup! Well see. This sunday I am going to do some "prep" to test flavors and re-heating, because that will definitely make me feel more comfortable.

Your story is absolutely amazing--do you know how many times I have burned things?! Backwards timeline is a great idea-so helpful as I always underestimate!

I will keep you guys posted on how Sunday turns out for my test day. Thanks for all the great ideas!!
ktr October 27, 2014
We do something similar with chili when my very large family gets together - make a huge pot and then let guests add pasta, cheese, sour cream, avocado, corn bread, etc to their liking.
Or, if I'm feeling lazy, I make a pan of lasagna, garlic bread, salad and a dessert.
Michele October 24, 2014
The most important thing with the whole meal is that you provide your guests with a great evening of food and company (including you!) and you don't end up frazzled in the process (either from exhaustion or nerves). I think your menu looks good but looks a little labor intensive if you are planning to do everything yourself, even doing it in advance. I would change the steak (for all the reasons nutcakes stated) and possibly simplify what you are making. I am also not sure if I would make roasted vegetables as they can overcook. Get a guest to bring dessert, or do ice cream with hot chocolate sauce or lots of toppings to make sundaes. Do things as simply as possible so you enjoy yourself.
Heather W. October 24, 2014
Michele, I agree entirely, and it's actually why I posted to this forum (which is so insanely helpful and reassuring!!). I've done dinner parties in the past where I think I have everything under control, and then at the last minute I'm still cooking things and I get very frazzled. I want to be able to have some apps out and be able to pour wine for people, and go intermittently back and forth to the kitchen.

Are there any ideas for how you would simplify things? I'm fine "totally chanting the menu." Tacos? I grew up in a family where for our big meals we really did things mediterrean style--tomato & mozzarella, endive salads, prociutto and melon, maybe a simple pasta. So I think more in "separate dishes" as opposed to meals. (Also, all of those dishes are more hot weather, so that's why I'm stuck)

Any suggestions of things that have worked for you / someone you know, I would so love to hear! Thank you for your advice and encouragement!
nutcakes October 24, 2014
You can't cook the steak to the correct temp and then reheat it or it will be overcooked and dry. It would be better to do it an hour ahead and serve it at room temp. I personally have not seared steak and then finished it later and I would hesitate to try it on guests without testing. I'm really doubtful of that working well on a flank steak because it is practically done after a sear anyway. I think it would finish cooking as it rests, making it possibly overcooked if you try to heat it up again.
Heather W. October 24, 2014
Thank you so much for the advice! This is what I was worried about. I actually do a skirt steak not a flank steak (labeled it wrong the first time). One time I did it and it worked well, another time it was a bit dry when finished in the oven. Would there be another cut of steak that you would suggest instead? Is there another piece of meat you can reheat?

If not steak, do you have any suggestions of dishes that can be made in advance or are easy to assemble? I do a roasted salmon dish well, but worried that may be boring. I also do a seared chicken thighs (finished in oven) quite well too, but think that can get messy eating with bones.

Thank you for this help!!! Any further advice would be so appreciated :)
lem M. October 24, 2014
sounds like a great menu!
I would also serve some decent bread or roast potato wedges along with the other vegetables for a starchy side; mashed potatoes might also be very nice.
And for dessert: just ask one of your guests to bring it, usually there is someone who loves baking and just helping in general!
Heather W. October 24, 2014
I love the idea of some good bread (thinking rustic type of bread, thick slices, that kind that tears so well!)

Great call about dessert. People always ask me what they should bring!!!
Regine October 22, 2014
Heather, I think that a "starch" is missing. I would add something like rice pilaf or orzo (i.e., drizzled with olive oil and some parmesan) or even a nice baked macaroni and cheese dish. Either of these 3 dishes can be prepared in advance. For the mac and cheese , you could prepare it the day before and bake it maybe one hour before your guests arrive. But this is just me because I am a "starchy" type of girl. LOL
Heather W. October 24, 2014
Thanks Regine. My friend said the same thing. I really like the idea of orzo. So easy, and so delish.

Thank you for the great idea!
sexyLAMBCHOPx October 22, 2014
Check out this flank steak recipe, its one of my favorites on this site. It is amazing served at room temperature or warm up in a low oven. I have used skirt steak more than flank with great results. You could deconstruct the recipe entrée. https://food52.com/recipes/13349-flank-steak-on-texas-toast-with-chimichurri
Heather W. October 24, 2014
That recipe sounds amazing. I am obsessed with vinegar so anything that has it in a recipe is good by me!!! Thank you for this great idea. I agree that flank steak is good warm temperature too.
Susan W. October 22, 2014
I think your menu sounds perfect. Is there any way that person who is going to help clear could come and cook the steak for you so you could relax? If not, Abbie's idea of testing a small steak is a good one.
Heather W. October 24, 2014
Thank you Susan! My friend and neighbor will come by ahead of time (she lives one apt unit down from me) so I could potentially have her help and or store anything at her apt, which is great. Thanks for your input!!
aargersi October 22, 2014
Heather your menu sounds very good - I would suggest a test for the steaks - do a small one, sear and then rest and see if it's OK finishing in the oven (make sure it doesn't dry out or overcook) in theory it sounds fine though! It can be finishing as soon as the veggies are done. I do the buratta / peach thing too, but you probably can't get very good peaches any more - what about switching to plums or pears? Down here the pears are excellent right now. Between a leafy salad and whatever fruit you land on, plus the buratta,it sounds like you have fresh and indulgent covered! Not sure if you have put and thought into dessert - you are already doing a lot, so think about a purchased dessert or one that you can make ahead. I have made this lemon cake several times - it's fine a day ahead and SO good:

Heather W. October 24, 2014
Abbie, Thank you so much for your encouragement and this great reply! I love the idea of doing plums or pears with burrata. I was also thinking figs could be nice, maybe with some roasted walnuts on the side. I will head to the farmers market or whole foods a couple days before and test them out to see which tastes the ripest / freshest.

I am definitely going to make or buy a dessert. I love the lemon cake idea b/c It sounds like it can even be served on napkins. (I like the idea of not having to do more plates.) I am rethinking the steaks and vegetables though....some feedback here has me rethinking things.

Thanks again for your amazing help!
aargersi October 24, 2014
Chiming in again :-) I see that you are open to changing the steak part out (and yeah - steak can be risky) so I thought I would throw this out there - a roasted dish is going to be much easier to prep in advance, even cook in advance and reheat. Thought #1 - beef short ribs. You can cook them the day before, just about any recipe (there are loads on this site) then let them cool, put them in the fridge, then re-heat an hour or so before your party. The nice thing about that is 1) no actual party day meat cooking and 2) the fridge time means you can remove fat solids before reheating and have a less fatty dish that still has all of the flavor.
Idea #2 - roasted chicken legs - you can get these all herbed and salted and prepped (or whatever) and pop them in the oven an hour or so before the party and just have them ready to roll ... Merrill's 40 cloves of garlic chicken is a good idea:

idea #3 - have a Food52 party and then all of the guests will insist on cooking :-)
Heather W. October 24, 2014
Abbie thanks again. This type of advice is SO helpful! The one thing I have learned from the hours logged watching Ina Garten is to never try out a new recipe when having a dinner party. I love both of your suggestions and think I will test these on Sunday when I have some time! I will feel more confident knowing I made it twice. Also, love the idea of how the short ribs become less fatty a day after--keeping things on the "lighter" end (even if it's indulgent) is important to me. Just to clarify, when you say "he fridge time means you can remove fat solids before reheating and have a less fatty dish that still has all of the flavor," how exactly do you remove the fat solids? Is this just the fat that coagulates? And do you remove all of it? Any clarification here would be amazing.

The 40 cloves idea WOULD be perfect (I'm a garlic lover) but my boyfriend is crazily allergic to it (ugh!) but I can certainly find another chicken leg recipe.

Thank you for chiming in again!!! :)
aargersi October 24, 2014
Yeah so when the dish has chilled, the fat will form a solid sheet on top (like how it does when you make / chill stock) and you can just lift it right out. You can chuck it or save it to roast potatoes in some time ...
Allergic to garlic is a bummer!
Heather W. October 29, 2014
Abbie, I have another question for you in regards to the short ribs. I really like the Dan Barber / Amanda Hesser recipe (here https://food52.com/recipes/9111-dan-barber-s-braised-short-ribs). My party has now balloned to 15 people (!) and I just am curious about how to actually cook the short ribs.

I understand that I will sear the short ribs in batches, but then finish them all (ideally in one dutch oven) in the oven. Should they all fit within one dutch oven? Or should I do two? Would any other pans or dishes work, and would it be OK to transfer the ingredients into another dish? (I'm thinking 2 brownie like dishes). Any help I would really appreciate!

About 1/3 of my guests do not eat meat (pescatarians), but I don't consider this a deal breaker. Would you do a different option for them (like a salmon) or do you think they will be fine w/ just sides? This is what I'm thinking:
-Beef Short Ribs
-Orzo with steamed asparagus tips, drizzled with olive oil s&p, and grated parmesan cheese
-Spinach or Bibb Lettuce salad (thinking w/ cranberries, maybe shaved carrots (I do them like papardelle pasta and a dijon vinaigrette
-Burrata w/ figs & pecans or walnuts
-Loaf of bread.

Any thoughts/ substitutions I would love to know. Thank you!
aargersi October 30, 2014
Heather - gotta love those ballooning parties! So depending on how meaty your ribs are, count on 1 fat one or 2 smaller ones per person, sounds like 10 rib eaters so I think you are looking at 1 very large pan or 2 smaller ones, so I guess the answer depends on the size of your Dutch oven. Transferring them to something they all fit into for re-heating should work fine. Then you could have them all in one pan on one rack in the oven, and roast you salmon in another pan on the other rack. You can get the salmon all prepped a few hours ahead - as long as you aren't adding a ton of citrus it won't turn into ceviche. Then both things can be humming along - one warming and one actually cooking - while you get the other dishes ready. I am stealing your burrata with figs and pecan idea, too! Let's see, the salad is make-ahead except for dressing. The burrata can be plated like an hour ahead and the bread set out, so all you would really be cooking at dinner time is the orzo - that sounds do-able! I was readin an article over the weekend about na Garten - whe writes out a timeline for what has to happen when for her dinner party day - I think that would help you out too ..

We can't wait to hear how it goes! When is the party?
Heather W. October 31, 2014
Thanks Abbie! This epic party is finally tomorrow! I've gotten the table done and the kitchen clean (cleaning out the fridge etc) and am planning on doing all of my prep later this afternoon.

Thank you so much for all your amazing help!!!
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