Please help me plan a dinner for 25 strangers?
I need to cook a work-related dinner for about 25 people I've never met before. Most of them are women. I'd like to make everything ahead of time so that all I need to do on the night is to set out salads and heat the main dish in the oven. (I do have a smallish dual oven). I also have a crock pot and a rice cooker.
I'm thinking of chicken as the main protein since few people object to that. I have no idea if anyone is vegan/vegetarian/gluten intolerant.
Help me, Food52 geniuses!
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Also when it is just us 'girls' together, we want informal not formal.
Will you have servers or is this just you doing it alone? What is the group expecting? What is the purpose of the gathering? The answers to these questions might also illuminate your menu. Let us know how it turns out!
@sexyLAMBCHOPx - yeah, my answer could be seen that way. My friend and I (both feminists who love to eat) looked at our data (all the leftovers 3 years running) and decided that these women were more health conscious - that is, they ate their main meal at lunch. Also, we asked them and that is what they said. That way, we could get around our own ideas about women's rights to a hearty appetite and make food that would delight and be eaten by the end of the evening.
I like the Indian curry suggestion....I had been considering butter chicken with rice and some veggies...
Don't forget a protein for your vegan/vegetarians. How about chickpea tikka http://www.pataks.co.uk/recipes/chickpea-curry-in-the-slow-cooker.aspx It says it's sutiable for vegitarians, but if wanting a vegan friendly version, you would need to do something about the sugar.
- It’s easier for your guests if you offer dishes they can eat with just a fork or their fingers (be sure to have lots of paper napkins!), and don’t also require a knife and spoon
- Definitely offer vegetarian options – for such a big group, I’d recommend there should not be just one main dish that is not vegetarian
- “Make your own” is a great idea… warmed tacos, and a bunch of different veg and non-veg fillings (curry mentioned earlier is a great idea for one of them), and a few different side salads. I would avoid lettuce. Go for pasta or roasted vegetables - things easy to spear on a fork and don't splash dressing.
- Dessert: finger things, not cake that needs a new plate and a new fork or spoon
- “Signage” is really helpful – just little folded cards explaining any key ingredients (i.e., does or doesn’t have nuts, or is veg, or is not veg, etc.) I just use heavy white card stock, make folded tents, and try to print neatly. :-)
Curry is awesome, you can make vegetarian, vegan, meat, or better still a selection. Mild, you won't even know it's curry, to burn your taste buds off hot. Best of all, CURRY TASTES BETTER WHEN MADE THE DAY BEFORE. So you can get all your curry making chores done the day before, then make rice, cut up nan, and if you are feeling brave, fry up some popads.
My personal favourite oh-my-goodness,-I'm-cooking-for-boatloads-of-people-I-have-no-idea-their-dietary-preferences-menu looks like this:
- Very mild curry made from onions, chickpeas, and pataks mild curry paste. Maybe some tomatoes, maybe not. Fry onions, combine the rest, add water as needed, cook an hour or so.
-Spicy vegetarian curry like Aloo Gobi (easily made vegan)
-All the stuff in the back of my fridge extra spicy curry - which often has leftover roast beast (bones removed), loads of curry paste, onions, potatoes, lentils and other pulses, carrots... what have you.
-One spicy vegetable and pulse curry, probably vegan just in case.
At least one of each, meat, vegan, vegetarian, mild and spicy. Write up some labels of what's in it (including the make of curry paste if you didn't make your own - huge difference in dietary needs). Not all curry paste is vegan friendly!!! Pataks contains the fewest allergens and many of their curry pastes are soy free, animal free, nut free (but possible traces), &c. Jamie Oliver's book Food Revolution has some Kick-arse recipes for home made curry pastes, really easy ones with very few, readily available ingredients.
Make the curries the day(s) before, and reheated in slow cooker, oven, stove, whatever's available. I like oven best if you have enough pots for that.
Chutneys, also best made the day(s) before, or from a jar.
Salad is a great idea, with add-your-own dressing (lots of dietary problems with pre-dressed salad), as well as a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic for those of us who are super-sensitive to standard dressing ingredients (ie, vegans don't eat honey, mustard can contain bad things... &c).
I think papads are gluten free, but in case they aren't (or someone has issues with traces of gluten) I put some rice crackers out with some hummus (also made the day before, also vegan friendly).
Set it up like an Indian restaurant buffet, and sit back and watch them dig in.
Best of all, with curry you don't have to worry about getting the timing right for the different dishes, or carving the beast, or all those worrisome little details. Just heat and serve.
Best of all, if you don't think you're going to have enough, just open another can of chickpeas, fava beans, whatever beans you like and use it to bulk out the curry.
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