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Make Ahead, Elegant Dinner for 30

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My SIL is getting married in 3 weeks and I'm coordinating the food for her....I have a bit of experience in planning & cooking for crowds, but would like some fresh, crowd-appeal evening/dinner options that I can prep ahead of time. The more I can do ahead of time, the better!


I'm pretty comfortable w/ this kind of stuff- I just need some new ideas that are elegant and interesting but also fit the other criteria (see below). I feel like I've made everything so many times for various big family functions that I need some new ideas.



-Group of 25-30 adults

-Healthy crowd with more exotic tastes- so a traditional lasagna idea is a no-go;

-Options/Toppings/Fussiness is a good thing for this group

-Must have protein (a few hypoglycemics)

-If possible a dairy free option (the bride to is dairy free, but I usually always pull her portion or prep w/ out dairy).


Ideas & recipes welcome! I am also planning a lunch and reception/appetizer meals, but have those covered. This will be a sit-down meal...



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Will this be served as a sit down, or as a buffet?

What are your options for cooking, keeping warm, display etc?



I catered for a long time....let me mull it over!


Its at my IL's house- very large home w/ big open spaces...so I'm not trying to be a caterer who preps out of site and presents when ready. :)


Their kitchen has 2 ovens, 6 burner range top, 2 huge islands etc- so a great work space, but not commercial for sure and no food warmers, or serving dishes- so its more like I'm having 30 people over for dinner, at someone elses house. :)


My guess is that given 30 people and the need for several tables, we'll serve buffet-style but folks will be seated. So not formal, but not apps & drinks while milling about.

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I don't have any specific ideas, but it seems like some kind of ethnic theme (for example, Greek) might be a good place to start.


I was thinking Indian might work well, perhaps a chaat bar as part of it? Not sure if that would be considered elegant, but would give lots of toppings/options. I'm afraid I can't be of more help with details, as I've only experienced one of these at an Indian buffet a while back.

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I love the Greek idea. Stuffed grape leaves, olives, cheeses, maybe skewers of meat and veggies - different options. They could be marinated and made up before hand so it would just be sticking them under the broiler for a few minutes to cook them. Or cook ahead of time and reheat.

These meat pies look delicious and classy. Roasted potatoes, pasta salad.


Yum! Making myself hungry!

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That sounds fun - I love cooking for crowds, but not usually that elegant! I would think perhaps a whole cooked beef tenderloin? The ones that sit in the oven until done that you don't have to mess with? We do one with a spicy red wine sauce served on top that is yummy.


If you do Greek, you could do a greek pasta salad with orzo in advance and then just add some more dressing and feta when it's time to serve. And baklava of course!


If you don't know about this site - they are fabulous cooks and have lots of great advice.



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Hmmm- nothing has hit the spot yet, but thank you for suggestions! I appreciate the PM's w/ yummy recipes as well- YUM!!!


OK- one more thing...the bride to be is pregnant (will be 11 weeks at wedding) and obviously pretty finicky with food and even thinking about food at times. I'm thinking ethnic foods might be risky....

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Hmm - my post got lost.


If you do this a lot, you've probably done the whole beef tenderloin. I like the recipe where you put it in the 500 degree oven and then turn the oven off. It is very hands off until time to serve. We serve ours with a spicy red wine sauce. You could also offer a blue cheese sauce, or a mushroom sauce.


Also, if you haven't been there, this forum is full of amazing cooks who give wonderful advice.



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Here's a website and one of the salad recipes we used to self-cater a recent family wedding. http://www.party-recipes-and-ideas.com/tomato-salad-recipe.html We also used several appetizer and side dish recipes from this site.


We also got smoked beef from a local barbecue place for a really low price instead of a main dish, and used an idea from Pinterest (raspberries stuffed with white and black chocolate chips), another punch from Pinterest - http://wouldbewritersguild.com/blog/2008/07/15/why-i-keep-getting-invited-to-parties/, a family cheesy cornbread recipe (it fit with the gluten-free rustic elegant theme), and a gluten free cake.

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I went to a lovely wedding last summer that had a buffet (it is buffet, right?) set up on different round tables throughout the room. Each table had two proteins, a salad of different sorts, a vegetable and a starch. The proteins that I remember were swedish meatballs, orange dijon chicken, shrimp, etc. all which are things that could be prepared ahead. You could set up tables with different ethnic foods and even a dairy free table. I know you're tired of the preparing the same old meals, but if they are tried and true maybe you should work on presenting them in a different set-up instead and don't worry about pleasing the fussy people. If you offer a few different types of salads, they can just eat those.

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Can you do a pasta and something like chicken Parm? Salad, a fancier bread and an asparagus dish could dress it up?


Salmon packets could be an option-salmon in parchment with asparagus or fresh green beans. It would easy to prep and just stick them all in the oven.


Here in NC BBQ is exceedingly common, even at fancy sit-down weddings (with Senators present). Do you have a traditional local food like that?


Do you have servers?


If you watch cable, then you might try watching that "four weddings" show. You might get a better idea as to what is trendy at the moment. Here is a fairly recent article on wedding food trends: http://m.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/wedding-food-a-new-marriage-of-sustainable-and-trendy/2012/07/09/gJQAc3bHbW_story.html.


Eta: I took the fussy comment to mean that these were upscale foodie types who prefer "fussy" food, not that the people were fussy eaters?

Edited by Mrs Mungo
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Mexican shredded beef with peppers served over johnnycakes


For this I roast the beef in wine, tomato sauce, several jalapenos as well as sweet papers, onions, salt, and pepper. Roast until fork tender.


The johnnycakes are fussy and last minute, so you might want to make cornbread instead (dairy-free recipe). Johnnycakes are simply cornmeal with salt and hot water, soaked ten minutes, then fried on a skillet.

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Our wedding was a similar set-up only I decided to do the food mostly myself with only my best friend as help! We did it at my parents house, for about 35 people.



We had various spreads, Hummus, an amazing hot artichoke dip, homemade bruschetta, with toasted bread, pita triangles and an assortment of crackers as well as sliced bell peppers, celery, carrots, and probably more.


Then I did a huge mixed baby green salad with a homemade vinagrette, a giant cheese platter, and fruit salad, and oven roasted had asparagus and beans, with olive oil and garlic sprinkled over them before roasting, then truffle infused butter just before serving.


We had originally planned for my Dad to cook Beef and Pork tenderloin on the grill, but because it had been drizzling, and set up ended up being more complicated then planned we ordered sliced smoked chicken and a huge Brisket from a local restaurant.


Everything but the meat was homemade from scratch, the guests of all tastes and demographics seemed pleased and happy and full.


It was a good thing too, since my poor dad ended up bringing huge fans from his shop and obsessively drying the grass all that afternoon. :001_smile:



Here is a picture of the table, but with caveats.......The bread in the middle of the table was pulled off sliced diagonally and toasted, for bruschetta. The squares of dinner rolls were also re arranged to look less slab like, and the table was filled in with flowers, more fruit and just in general looked a lot better than this picture! (for some reason that is one good picture we didn't get)




And just for fun, these are two of my favorite pictures from all of them that day. Sitting around my mom's kitchen table with the women I love preparing food for such a special night was just...........awesome.




Edited by jeninok
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We had Middle Eastern for our wedding -- hummous, tabbouleh, falafel, pita, babaganoush, salad, lamb kabobs... It was lovely. Almost everything was at room temperature. The colors were great, and it was almost entirely dairy-free (feta cheese, but that is mostly optional).

Edited by mommymonster
Verb tense!
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