I am cooking dinner for 30 - 35 University of Alabama graphic design students this weekend. I need some suggestions. Here are the rules: 1. The dinner needs to be something I can make a day ahead 2. Budget is not large, but not small...so nothing too fancy 3. These are students, so they will like anything but really want to impress with attention to quality and detail


  • Posted by: Table9
  • January 20, 2011


Table9 January 22, 2011
The dinner was a hit! I decided to go with lasagne, but a vegetable lasagne without red sauce, a strawberry and cucumber spinach salad with poppyseed dressing and warm olive oil drizzles baguettes. I made the lasagne and chopped all the strawberries and cucumbers a day ahead. It was a cinch to put together for the dinner. Thanks for all your suggestions. They are always so helpful!
Kayb January 21, 2011
Runaway Spoon's wildcard winner Pastitsio would be a hit. My 21-year-old pronounced it "outstanding," an accolade I don't often get from her
CaryNC January 20, 2011
As a graduate student I was thrilled to get any free meal. I would go with lasagna but use a meatless sauce and have a meat sauce available on the side. Maybe layer some thinly slice (lengthwise) zucchini in the middle. A big salad and some bread. Everyone's happy.
nutcakes January 20, 2011
I did a meal for a crowd once for a mixted group, meat eaters, a couple vegetarians and a vegan. I started with an appetizer table (because it was an occasion) them we had an arroz con pollo with chicken and sausage--this is a beautiful dish with the rich yellow rice and I add green peas. It reheats well. For the vegetarians I had a simple couscous with mixed sauteed veggies that I whipped up. Also I had an eggplant gratin with feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives--everyone loves this and it reheats well. Also Mollie Katzan's Morroccan Orange-Walnut salad--a beautiful juicy salad with mixed romaine and spinach, red onion, radish and oranges marinated in honey and cinnamon. All these dishes present beautifully and go well together. For dessert I did a rustic apple and pear tart on puff pastry with orange-almond cream and strusel and chocolate custard tarts. Let me know if you are interested in any recipes. I do monthly lunches for a crowd and the arroz con pollo was a huge hit. I've also done baked ziti, another crowd pleaser.
betteirene January 20, 2011
Think about chicken Marengo made with boneless (but not skinless) chicken thighs: http://www.food52.com/recipes/7639_chicken_a_la_marengo (the chicken could also be replaced by Italian sausage or short ribs) along with a similar but vegetarian braise of tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers and mushrooms. The braises can be made in batches ahead of time and placed in reusable/disposable covered aluminum catering pans, as can the polenta or rice pilaf you might serve alongside, and then re-heated in a moderate oven about an hour before serving. A simple green salad with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette, a basket of French bread slices or rolls and http://www.food52.com/recipes/1374_lazy_marys_lemon_tart would round out the buffet menu nicely and easily.

Because bell peppers provide the underlying flavor of this menu, you might use them in a graphic-artsy food-pun way to garnish your entrees and your table: Use a variety of peppers in a variety of colors and use knives and canape cutters to illustrate the concepts of line, shape, color, form and texture.
innoabrd January 20, 2011
And here's a pic of the best koshary place in Cairo. Just round the corner from where we lived!
innoabrd January 20, 2011
One of my best for massive numbers (OK, 30 isn't massive. I've done this for 400+, but your idea of massive might be different from mine...) is Koshary. In Egyptian Arabic, koshary means 'mixed-up'. Koshary is real common-man's food--a mixture of rice, pasta, lentils and a tomato sauce, topped with a few chick peas and crispy fried onions. It's delicious, cheap, filling and always a crowd pleaser. I've even done this for high school students and they loved it. It's also vegetarian.

You can do most everything ahead of time and then assemble on order. the dishing out is part of the fun. In Cairo koshary restaurants, the server is on a raised dais with massive stainless vats of the ingredients in front of him. With a slotted spoon and great flourish, he tosses the various ingredients into your bowl.

I generally serve it with a hot (hot!) sauce and a garlic vinegar on the tables for folks to doctor it themselves.

With koshary as a main, you could then do some nice platters of mezze, depending on your inclination. The koshary is so cheap that you could spend some bucks on nice platters of tabulah, babaganough, even wara ee'inab (stuffed grape leaves) where you could show off a bit.

Clifford Wright has a good Koshary recipe and Egyptian tomato sauce recipe:
Soozll January 20, 2011
I think I'd go with Chicken Marbella. It can be made completely a couple days before and can be reheated, if you choose, the day of. It's an outstanding entree and really very easy to prepare. You can use individual pieces of chicken, not just quarters, and divide the breast pieces in half if they're large. Here's the link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/CHICKEN-MARBELLA-SILVER-PALATE-COOKBOOK-1277030

Will there be vegetarians in the group? You may want to consider that, too. Lot's of food/lifestyle experimentation in the college years! Maybe a dish that includes legumes that will serve as an entree as well as a side for a meat course will cover both.
healthierkitchen January 20, 2011
oh boy, lots of typos above. So sorry.
healthierkitchen January 20, 2011
I would probably provide one meat/chicken entree and one vegetarian. there have been some great ones suggested. If you like the lasagne idea, maybe a butternut squash one (I have a recipe here) or Ellie Krieger (and many others I'm sure) do rolled lasagna noodles with spinach and ricotta along with tomato sauce. Really pretty presentation. Also, the mujaddara that one the contest last week is delicious, but I don't know how extensively you can double/ triple/quadruple that recipe.
hardlikearmour January 20, 2011
How about something like this. Easy to expand. Pork butt is pretty cheap, and a lot can be done ahead.

Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas (Tinga) With Homemade Chorizo

Serves 4 to 6. Published March 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

In all, the trimmed pork should weigh about 2½ pounds—1 1/2 pounds for the tinga and 1 pound for the chorizo mixture. Tinga is traditionally served on tostadas (crisp fried corn tortillas), but you can also use the meat in tacos and burritos or simply served over rice. Make sure to buy tortillas made only with corn, lime, and salt—preservatives will compromise quality. For tips on baking tostadas, see How to Bake Tostadas (related). Our winning brand of ready-made tostadas, Mission, is also an excellent choice. We prefer the complex flavor of chipotle powder, but two minced canned chipotle chiles can be used in its place. The pork can be prepared through step 1 and refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days. The tostadas can be made up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container.

2 pounds boneless pork butt , trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces (see note)
2 medium onions , 1 quartered and 1 chopped fine
5 medium garlic cloves , 3 peeled and smashed and 2 minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon ground chipotle powder (see note)
2 bay leaves
1 pound boneless pork butt , trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch pieces (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon hot paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle powder (see note)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas (see note)
table salt
queso fresco or feta cheese
fresh cilantro leaves
sour cream
Diced avocado
Lime wedges

1. FOR THE TINGA: Bring 1 1/2 pounds of trimmed pork, quartered onion, smashed garlic cloves, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 cups water to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to surface. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook until pork is tender, 75 to 90 minutes. Drain pork, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Discard onion, garlic, and thyme. Return pork to saucepan and, using potato masher, mash until shredded into rough ½-inch pieces (see Step-by-Step below); set aside.

2.TO MAKE CHORIZO: Place remaining 1 pound of pork pieces on large plate in single layer and freeze until firm but still pliable, about 15 minutes. Once firm, toss pork with 1 teaspoon table salt, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder, 3/4 teaspoon hot paprika, 3/4 teaspoon chipotle powder, 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin in medium bowl. Place half of chorizo mixture in food processor and pulse until meat is finely chopped, 8 to 10 one-second pulses. Transfer to bowl and repeat with remaining chorizo mixture.

3. Heat olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chorizo mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly crisp and no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer meat to paper-towel lined plate, leaving rendered fat in skillet. Add shredded pork (from step 1), chopped onion, and oregano; cook, stirring often, until pork is well browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. Stir in tomato sauce, chipotle powder, reserved pork cooking liquid, chorizo mixture, and bay leaves; simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves and season with salt to taste.

5. TO FRY TOSTADAS: Heat vegetable oil in 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees. Using fork, poke center of each tortilla 3 or 4 times (to prevent puffing and allow for even cooking). Fry 1 at a time, holding metal potato masher in upright position on top of tortilla to keep it submerged (see photo below), until crisp and lightly browned, 45 to 60 seconds (no flipping is necessary). Drain on paper towel-lined plate and season with salt to taste. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

6. TO SERVE: Spoon small amount of shredded pork onto center of each tostada and serve, passing garnishes separately.

brandon January 20, 2011
Ive had to do this before too, and you can never go wrong with something braised. For college kids a st louis rack of pork ribs should be well recieved. Better yet, once you do all the prep work you can leave it in the oven and forget it for 4 or 5 hours. Season them heavily with a dry rub and roast at 250 covered. after the first 2 hours start basting them with your sauce every hour to 45 minutes. for side dishes, make some salad, potato salad, pot luck dishes that can be served cold or room temp and you will save yourself a lot of stress. You can make everything the day before and just warm the ribs up when your guests arrive.
Fantastic M. January 20, 2011
Like you said, depends on the fish. I'm not up on current fish prices, but you can use any flat fish (flounder, sole, fluke, tilapia), or something like trout fillet if you prefer round fish.
I'm pretty sure something like tilapia would be inexpensive.

You can use either parchment paper or (less expensive) heavy tin foil to make the pouches. From a graphic design perspective, depends on the look you are going for.
Foil is good for being artistic and is much easier to crimp around the edge than the parchment paper.

Table9 January 20, 2011
The fish idea is great, do you think it would be costly? I guess it depend on the fish?
Table9 January 20, 2011
I love lasagne too, but i thought they probably have that a lot so I was thinking maybe something like lasagne with a punch!
Fantastic M. January 20, 2011
How about constructing 30 servings of fish en papillote. You can make them ahead and pop them in the oven when you are ready. Takes only a few minutes to cook.

The students would probably appreciate a well made little packet of fish and veggies.
It's very graphic design-y.
gourmetmamma January 20, 2011
A big pan of lasagne, ceasar salad (prep the day before and put together at the last moment) and loaves of crusty garlic bread. Order dessert at the bakery. Thinking of appetizer......Will they be there for more than one meal? Turkey dinners are great and the leftovers make soup, sands, and salads. Hope you have fun!
Table9 January 20, 2011
That sounds delicious. Do you cook it on the stovetop of in the oven?
jwolfsthal January 20, 2011
one great bulk dish is a thai style curry with chicken and potatos. You need a lot of chicken stock, some canned curry mixes (which are excellent), lots of chicken meat (bonned thights work great) and a combination of potatos(sweet and white) carrots, onions, garlic, and coconut milk.
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