Author Topic: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?  (Read 10209 times)

shelivesthedream

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Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« on: May 16, 2014, 12:28:07 PM »
I have been leading by example with my DH for some time now, but we are reaching a few sticking points. One of these is food. We are in our early twenties and our current living situation does not really allow us to have people over so we end up going out to restaurants to see friends, which is obviously rather expensive. However, this autumn we are finally going to have some private space of our own and so will be able to entertain. DH likes both food and socialising more than I do but I think a good Mustachian compromise over this aspect of spending could be to host dinner parties rather than go out to restaurants.

My typical spend on a restaurant meal (optional soft drink, usually vegetarian main course, optional pudding) is around £15. His (optional starter, wine, usually meaty main course, optional pudding) is £20-£25. If I could do a sit-down three-course dinner for four at home for £20 ($33) (excluding wine*), I would be very happy as that basically means four meals for the price of one. But I need some ideas!

I already have a couple of favourites:
- Serve soup (homemade) as a starter
- Candles on the table and ice in the water make everything fancier
- Lots of food is more important than really swish food

...but would love to quiz the Mustachian community on any other tips and recipes you might have. I need to make this superior to restaurant fanciness to really convince DH, but we are both fairly keen cooks and willing to spend time on prep for such an event.

*We budget for alcohol in a funny way as I don't drink any but we do joint expenses so it would come out of a different budgetary category than 'Social'

CommonCents

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2014, 12:48:32 PM »
Are your friends mainstream food eaters or can you serve them ethnic food?
Do you have a grill?

My suggestions:
You can get away with "cheaper" dishes if you appear to have also splurged on other dishes so it's more that you choose the cheaper one because the food goes together, than that you were trying to cut back.
If you serve appetizers plus desert, it'll feel fancy still.
When your friends (as good guests will do) ask what they can bring over, ask them to bring over wine.
Have filler sides: homemade bread, soup, rice or beans, etc.
Make meat in the entree (if any) not be the star of the dish.
Cheap app: Try things like making hummus from scratch, or making your own bruschetta

My recent meal last Sat, one dinner pescetarian:
Appetizer: Homemade guacamole with chips.  Bowl was basically licked clean and recipe requested.
Entree: Grilled pesto shrimp on a bed of jalapeno cilantro scallion lime rice.
(Rice the filler, shrimp the fancy bit.  Buy it frozen on sale.)
Side dishes: Grilled veggies: Marinated eggplant, olive oil brushed zuchini & squash (very cheap); white bean salad (very cheap and totally demolished)
Drinks: Wine.  They asked if they could bring over.
Desert: Fancy cupcakes.  They asked if they could bring over.

Dinner a few weeks back:
Grilled chicken with a black bean mango cilantro lime salsa.
Same rice as above.
Desert: Homemade apple pie
Can't remember if we had an appetizer.  Again, guest insisted on bringing the drinks over (a bottle of belgian beer, a bottle of wine).

Bonus, if you invite folks over often, then folks should either start returning the favor, or insisting that they pick up the check while out.

ETA:
skinnytaste.com for the salsa, rice, shrimp and grilled chicken recipe (we made it two ways, with hers and with a family teriyaki recipe)
smittenkitchen.com for hummus recipe
http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/quick_and_easy_white_bean_salad/ for the white bean salad, but use cider vinegar for the wine vinegar, add a few minced garlic cloves and switch in fresh parsely for the spices
http://southernfood.about.com/od/grillfruitveggie/r/bl30627e.htm for the eggplant marinade from a fellow mustachian
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 01:01:38 PM by CommonCents »

Gin1984

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2014, 12:57:01 PM »
Are your friends mainstream food eaters or can you serve them ethnic food?
Do you have a grill?

My suggestions:
You can get away with "cheaper" dishes if you appear to have also splurged on other dishes so it's more that you choose the cheaper one because the food goes together, than that you were trying to cut back.
If you serve appetizers plus desert, it'll feel fancy still.
When your friends (as good guests will do) ask what they can bring over, ask them to bring over wine.
Have filler sides: homemade bread, soup, rice or beans, etc.
Make meat in the entree (if any) not be the star of the dish.
Cheap app: Try things like making hummus from scratch, or making your own bruschetta

My recent meal last Sat, one dinner pescetarian:
Appetizer: Homemade guacamole with chips.  Bowl was basically licked clean and recipe requested.
Entree: Grilled pesto shrimp on a bed of jalapeno cilantro scallion lime rice.
(Rice the filler, shrimp the fancy bit.  Buy it frozen on sale.)
Side dishes: Grilled veggies: Marinated eggplant, olive oil brushed zuchini & squash (very cheap); white bean salad (very cheap and totally demolished)
Drinks: Wine.  They asked if they could bring over.
Desert: Fancy cupcakes.  They asked if they could bring over.

Dinner a few weeks back:
Grilled chicken with a black bean mango cilantro lime salsa.
Same rice as above.
Desert: Homemade apple pie
Can't remember if we had an appetizer.  Again, guest insisted on bringing the drinks over (a bottle of belgian beer, a bottle of wine).

Bonus, if you invite folks over often, then folks should either start returning the favor, or insisting that they pick up the check while out.
I NEED that recipe!  Please?

CommonCents

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2014, 01:04:15 PM »
I NEED that recipe!  Please?

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2010/01/scallion-cilantro-rice-with-habaneros.html

It says habaneros, but I use jalapenos.

This website has OOODLES of good recipes, such that DH doesn't even notice I've started feeding him healthier food that's lower calories than our usual fare....  :)

Elaine

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2014, 01:04:35 PM »
I used to cook for groups of 50 or 60 on a shoestring. Here are some favorite party foods (I take this to mean finger foods). Some recipes are on my blog, but if you can't find something just message me and I'll send you a recipe for it. I find that people at parties (unless it is a sit down at a formal table party) prefer a wide variety of finger foods to a multi-course traditional meal.

Dumplings and dipping sauce, Deviled Eggs, Breaded Portobello Bites, Olive Tapanade, Jalapeno Potato Skins, Sweet Potato Cakes, Leek Fritters, Gnocchi Bites with Marinara Dipping sauce, Vegetable Croquettes, Fried Cheese Grits (cube and set polenta/grits and fry them), Spring Rolls, Thai Lettuce Wraps with minced chicken or veg, Shrimp Kebabs, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Bacon wrapped mozarella, small stuffed mushrooms, roasted pepper spread...

I could go on forever...

former player

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2014, 01:32:35 PM »
I don't think I've come across anyone yet who turns their nose up at home cooking: you can go as fancy as you want but basics (fish pie, casserole, roast chicken) done well from scratch always go down well as far as I can tell.

A selection of Mediterranean-style starters is a great way to do things: they can be prepared in advance, so that you can be sitting talking with your friends rather than having to concentrate on cooking, they are tasty, cheap and healthy (lots of little bits gets around food allergy/intolerance issues), and they create a great informal way of getting the social occasion going with people passing things around and having lots of different food items to talk about.  Plus, you can introduce a complementary main as you go along without having to clear anything except empty starter dishes, and it is all very easy.  Try guacamole (all you need for this is avocado and lime juice), hummous (chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini (sesame seed) paste), tzatziki (plain greek yogurt with garlic and cucumber), aubergine dip (chargrilled aubergines with garlic), tomato salad (sliced ripe tomatoes, a little olive oil, pepper and chopped basil).  Toasted pitta bred, cut into halves, to scoop it all up with.  Add in some skewers of grilled meat or fish as a main once starters are diminishing: you can add chunks of veg (red peppers, mushrooms) to the skewers and no-one will notice you are stretching a little meat a long way.  A dish of rice with the skewers will make sure no-one goes hungry.

socaso

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2014, 01:50:41 PM »
I often get good prices on beef or pork shoulder and doing a roast always seems to thrill people. I think no one does this at home. I do the beef roast in my Dutch oven with a bit of red wine and some fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme and garlic, salt and pepper. It's delicious. With the pork shoulder I've done a few variations that were popular. All originate in the slow cooker. After you slow cook the pork you can shred it with forks and do a variety of things. I've done pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ sandwiches and carnitas tacos.

For side dishes we've done roasted root vegetable salads that were very well received. We mix up what goes in them but carrots are almost always in there because they are cheap and sometimes turnips, parsnips and beets. A little sprinkle of blue cheese over the top makes them fancier and a little goes a long way so it's a pretty frugal addition.

Cassie

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2014, 03:12:44 PM »
I make a yummy homemade spaghetti and it feeds a lot of people without spending a lot of $. People usually ask what they can bring & I usually say salad, dessert or bread.  If you are having enough people you will just make the main course. Often people will also bring wine. If not I will have some.  Then when we get invited back we return the favor.  I make other things as well but this is really a good one that most people love & does not cost a lot.  I make it in the crock pot so I do not need to be home.

norabird

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2014, 03:18:29 PM »
I'm not sure how much endives cost, but the leaves make fancy dipping vehicles. Mmmm.

I also think mussels are 'fancy' and they don't break the bank. Check no one has a shellfish allergy though!

But don't get too caught up on needing to go gourmet, people love hanging out together and being fed, as long as you serve something tasty, what it is does not matter in the slightest, whether it's a casserole or a beef wellington people will have a good time.

Argyle

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2014, 05:04:30 PM »
If you are British, what people think is usual to bring over will differ, in my experience.  On the West Coast of the States, people often bring salad, dessert, etc.  But in Britain I've never known anyone to bring another course; they almost always bring wine.  (This is great because that's the expense you want to avoid.)

People are generally impressed if you make things that you usually see store-bought, especially ethnic food.  Having a Mexican meal and making the tortillas and corn chips is a hit, they taste miles better than store-bought, and they're dirt cheap. Here's an excellenr tortilla recipe: http://whatscookingamerica.net/CynthiaPineda/Tortilla/TortillaMaking.htm.  Similarly guacamole, etc.

Homemade pizzas (including the crust, of course) can also be wonderful.  Also pasta.

m8547

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2014, 08:25:18 PM »
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-carrots-recipe.html
I made these for a pot luck once, and they were a hit. Twelve people ate all four pounds of carrots! Cost me less than $4.

curler

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2014, 10:16:18 PM »
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-carrots-recipe.html
I made these for a pot luck once, and they were a hit. Twelve people ate all four pounds of carrots! Cost me less than $4.
Should those carrots be served hot or cold?

juanofthesedays

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2014, 10:20:28 PM »
Simple answer to fancy: a thin salted meat wrapped around a tasty fresh vegetable.

My two favorites are prosciutto wrapped asparagus (seriously awesome and cheap if you buy from deli) and a close runner up seeded jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese wrapped in bacon. Both take a little prep time but can be made night before, thrown on grill, and served to happy peeps in no time.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2014, 02:39:24 AM »
Thank you for all the ideas! To be honest, the fancy-pants-ness is to get my DH on board and make him feel like it's not a second-best option, not because I feel the need to impress my friends with our culinary prowess!

As Argyle says, in Britain people don't usually bring food to a dinner party - it's assumed that the host has planned a coordinated meal and if you bring something it might not go and it's rude for the host to ask you to bring something specific. However, people do usually bring wine (or chocolates) without telling you in advance, so you have to plan to buy wine in case no one brings anything but people almost always do so you can save the wine you bought for another time.

Commoncents, I really like the idea of poshing up rice. We have some very mainstream friends but others who are more adventurous, and we eat a lot of ethnic food ourselves - for the mainstream ones, I might try baking bread rolls. The cheap vegetable side dishes are also very helpful, especially the bean salad. I can't eat onions or garlic, so I might have to start getting creative with those recipes! I don't think we will have a grill in our new place, just a hob and an oven.

Socaso, ooh, a roast is a great idea! Potatoes and carrots are so cheap, but they're just what one eats with roast meat. And I'm a dab hand at apple crumble, which is a perfect accompaniment, even if it doesn't seem very fancy on its own. I will DEFINITELY suggest this to DH!

stripey

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2014, 04:27:20 AM »
(In Australia, at least) it's pretty easy to do straight-forward Japanese 'sushi'/bento meals as all the staples are readily available. I've certainly done it for large groups at home... depending on the group you can sometimes do a 'make your own maki sushi roll' where guests have a go at choosing fillings, etc. Things like miso soup are easy to serve as sides, with beverages including (decent) green tea, or for alcoholic ideas find some saki or some plum wine (if you can).

Breakfasts are a fabulous entertaining events too on a weekend. Some of my most enthusiastic review have been from doing a cooked breakfast and they require relatively little effort. Eggs and bacon take pretty much no time too cook. Most people absolutely LOVE well-made home-cooked baked beans (you can slow-cook them overnight, wake to the smell of your breakfast, then finish off a dish of them in the oven to get a baked crust whilst cooking other things). Mushrooms cooked with a bit of spinach. Toast (or try making your own crumpets! So much better than purchased). Try making home-made yoghurt (cheap and wonderful), and serve with fruit. Serve with tea and/or decent quality French press coffee. Or champagne, if you and your friends are into that sort of thing.


RetiredAt63

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2014, 12:53:00 PM »
More generally, cooking something that people would not cook for themselves is usually a hit.  It never hurts to try out a recipe beforehand if you are not sure of it.

lbdance

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2014, 04:20:43 PM »
Sounds like you have a bit of a plan now. I think it all depends on what 'restaurant' you would be trying to replace. Does he have a favourite genre of food?
Another alternative is to go for the homemade replacement of 'fast food'
You can  make really delicious homemade pizza for example, with a few specialty items, as they do go far when spread out on a pizza. (And you can easily cater for a variety of food preferences) Then make a decadent chocolate mousse or cheesecake for dessert. (Which can be made in advance so less work on the night)

One of my fallbacks is lasagne. A little meat goes a long way, also you can pack in plenty of veges as a filler. Served with some garlic bread / salad there is plenty of food and it doesn't cost much.
Making bread is relatively easy. I have found I prefer to make some styles of bread and have more success with some recipes than others. Be prepared to experiment. One thing I am looking forward to when I am RE is having the time to find a good sourdough starter (and being able to remember to feed it!)

Good luck with your DH, I'm sure you can make this work.

Argyle

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2014, 04:37:54 PM »
Just to clarify, on the West Coast of the States, the potluck rules.  So someone invites you to dinner and you say dutifully, "Great, what can I bring?"  And they say, "How about a salad?" (or whatever).  So they get to dictate what gets brought.  I think it's a tolerable tradition for informal meals but often kind of a pain — every time you get invited somewhere, it means more work for you.  So there are big advantages to the British tradition, OP!

Annamal

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2014, 04:50:44 PM »
I have issues with onions and often substitute leeks (especially for soups), is this something that works for you or is it the entire allium family?

feelingroovy

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2014, 05:38:36 PM »
The things that come to mind for me that come across as fancy, but are not expensive are:

risotto
roasted vegetables, with any sort of herb thrown in
frittata

We've served all at dinner parties.

plantingourpennies

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2014, 07:08:43 PM »
For some reason, tacos have always been a huge hit when we have people over.  Super easy to make, but the presentation is impressive with tons of little bowls with all the various toppings spread out for people to customize to their hearts content.  The bonus is that I generally try and do this when avocados and limes are in season and I've sourced them from some of our neighbors and friends' yards.  The other bonus is that there are usually so many leftover toppings I get to eat taco salad for a couple lunches that week.  mmmm...

Agree that having desserts after and some nice ambiance definitely fancies the get together up a bit.  I did angel food cake once, which was surprisingly inexpensive to make, though it did take time to make from scratch.  That was nice to do when strawberries were in season for the toppings and people were so impressed it was all from scratch. 

DollarBill

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2014, 07:21:11 AM »
I always think it’s interesting how some of the food we like always have fancy names…the fancier the name the more it cost. Does the name/price make it taste better? Did the food industry do this to trick us to spend more or did we do it to ourselves trying to be fancy?

Risotto-Rice w/ broth
Frittata/Soufflé- omelet
Quiche-Egg pie
Hummus-bean dip
Foi-gras-goose liver
Caviar-fish eggs
Calamari-fried squid

I get some good ideas for food here: http://www.zergnet.com/?v=7

I don’t throw many parties but if I do I like to have the dishes maintenance free. Like casseroles, crock pot dishes, sides that can be served cold, desserts would be something like strawberry short cake or something similar. I’d rather enjoy the company instead of all the multitasking.  One of the favorites is cooking a pork butt end in the crock pot (Don’t use a spiral cut it will be a mess). Just line the bottom of the pot with brown sugar ½ inch worth add the pork then heavily pack more brown sugar on top of the pork and cook on high for 8-10 hrs until you can separate with fork. You can add a little liquid smoke but I don’t. I will suck out some of the juices so the outside of the pork will create a bark. You can use it to make sandwiches or just serve it as is.

If I was to throw a fancy party, I would use a lot of fresh herbs:
I’d make a big salad with some fresh made dressings.
Like…
Cucumber Herb Vinaigrette
Honey-Tahini Dressing
Creamy Cilantro-Avocado Dressing

Sides:
I like this edamame-black-bean-salad but I like to add corn and some fresh mint.
http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/edamame-black-bean-salad/02e66f21-849d-45c0-9e73-bdda751cac39
Mustard Herb Roasted Potatoes

Main dishes: Smoked meats, Pasta w/ mussels and wine sauce, Gumbo or Étouffée, chicken with mango salsa. You can even jazz up burgers with a herb mayonnaise. For steaks or grilled corn I like to use a basil garlic butter.

DrJohn

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #22 on: July 05, 2014, 12:04:35 PM »
(In Australia, at least) it's pretty easy to do straight-forward Japanese 'sushi'/bento meals as all the staples are readily available. I've certainly done it for large groups at home... depending on the group you can sometimes do a 'make your own maki sushi roll' where guests have a go at choosing fillings, etc. Things like miso soup are easy to serve as sides, with beverages including (decent) green tea, or for alcoholic ideas find some saki or some plum wine (if you can).

Breakfasts are a fabulous entertaining events too on a weekend. Some of my most enthusiastic review have been from doing a cooked breakfast and they require relatively little effort. Eggs and bacon take pretty much no time too cook. Most people absolutely LOVE well-made home-cooked baked beans (you can slow-cook them overnight, wake to the smell of your breakfast, then finish off a dish of them in the oven to get a baked crust whilst cooking other things). Mushrooms cooked with a bit of spinach. Toast (or try making your own crumpets! So much better than purchased). Try making home-made yoghurt (cheap and wonderful), and serve with fruit. Serve with tea and/or decent quality French press coffee. Or champagne, if you and your friends are into that sort of thing.

We went to a potluck brunch recently and took along Shakshuka.  Cheap and easy and very tasty.  The hosts have to let you use their stovetop to finish the eggs, but the results are quite impressive- looks good and very fragrant.  Don't finish in four pans as the article says, but use a big skillet with a lid instead.  Make sure everyting is nice and hot before you break the eggs and poach them in the dish itself.  You can make the night before and put it in the fridge.  Also makes a nice mid-week supper and freezes very well.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/apr/07/foodanddrink.shopping5

Goldielocks

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #23 on: July 05, 2014, 12:39:02 PM »
Homemade bread or rolls with pots of herbed butter.

Mexican flan with a bit of sliced seasonal mid price fruit on the side, like mango or apricots.  In little individual dishes this is fancy like creme brulé with the cost of cream.   Lots of cake/pudding recipes or steamed puddings that are traditional of can be flambe!  Speaking of which..

Pan seared minute steaks (pounded for tenderness), in butter! flambed with splash of brandy?

Fresh veggies like carrot potatoes.  Try pretty presentations like cuts, bundles, julienne.

Salad greens can just be lettuce with shredded red cabbage a sliver of carrot, and homemade vinaigrette.
Add a creamy soup?

Borrow pretty dishes.  Tablecloth.
 

Gerard

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #24 on: July 05, 2014, 03:06:33 PM »
More generally, cooking something that people would not cook for themselves is usually a hit.  It never hurts to try out a recipe beforehand if you are not sure of it.
This. Ideally you make one thing that people talk about afterward, either because they wouldn't normally make or expect it at home, or there's something particularly fun, weird, or exotic about it. (If your guests go on to your SO about it, he'll be convinced.) The slow-cooked pork shoulder is a good idea. Also, anything inside something else (pie, samosa, ssam, tart, taco, spring roll) is for some reason more impressive than the thing by itself, as is any meal where you provide one dish (pilaf, pasta, tacos, Vietnamese noodle salad, Thai curry) and give people a *lot* of interesting options to customize their serving.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #25 on: July 05, 2014, 03:25:33 PM »
any meal where you provide one dish (pilaf, pasta, tacos, Vietnamese noodle salad, Thai curry) and give people a *lot* of interesting options to customize their serving.

Interesting. I love this idea, and serving things in individual pots. I'm going to make individual tarts soon and they always seem fancier than one big one!

Mr. Frugalwoods

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #26 on: July 05, 2014, 05:08:41 PM »
Homemade bread is a big win. Sooo cheap, you can do most of the work way ahead of time, and people think you are magic.  Makes the house smell amazing too!

For a main, one of my favorites is pasta puttanesca.  The anchovy gives it a deep (not fishy!) flavor that belies the ease of prep.  Plus it's meatless other than the bit of small fish so it's very economical.

kite

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #27 on: July 05, 2014, 06:10:27 PM »
Forget fancy.   People love getting together and love that you are willing to feed them.

iwasjustwondering

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #28 on: July 05, 2014, 06:17:57 PM »
For four people, I would do a big skillet dish with chicken breasts.  Chicken marsala.  Chicken piccata.  Make extra sauce, and serve it with egg noodles instead of rice (people freaking love egg noodles -- put some butter in with the noodles so they don't stick).

Here is a great chicken skillet recipe, with bacon and asparagus.  It's a little bland, so don't skimp on the lemon (or add a few splashes of wine): http://www.bhg.com/recipe/chicken-asparagus-and-bacon-skillet/

iwasjustwondering

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #29 on: July 05, 2014, 06:20:03 PM »
Forget fancy.   People love getting together and love that you are willing to feed them.

Yup, good point.  Just focus on having a good time.  You want good, but not obtrusive, music, wine, and to be relaxed yourself.  Make a big pot of spaghetti and meatballs or spaghetti carbonara.  Whatever you make, just throw yourself into it, and it will all work out.  Make things your guests wouldn't get at home.

chouchouu

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #30 on: July 06, 2014, 06:11:04 AM »
I host brunches because they are much cheaper than dinners. People drink less and you can invite more people. I managed about a dozen people on 30 euros. Basically I would have four large square serving trays for the food and a board for bread. To make it a bit ritzier I would buy nice bread from the morning market and wrap it in a white napkin. I would have a few pastries in a basket and an area set up for tea and French press coffee with a porcelain jug for milk and fresh squeezed orange juice. On the trays would be skewers with cherry tomato, basil and baby bocconini drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and breadsticks wrapped with pancetta. Another tray would have little shot glasses with berries, yogurt and granola on half the platter, the other side fresh cut fruit. I would also have smoked salmon and usually something hot such as scrambled eggs with wild French mushrooms. Because most of it is pre-prepared I found it much more relaxing than a dinner party and rarely served alcohol which can add up, even with the cheap stuff. Nobody noticed that I bought the cheap home brand smoked salmon, it all looks fancy served on a white porcelain platter with sprigs of dill and sliced lemon.

For dinner parties I like pan fried chicken breast served with melted butter, Fresh chopped tarragon, capers and semi cooked onion(about a minute in butter). I'd serve it with some fettuccine (add some chicken stock to the water) and green beans. I copied a meal I had at Carluccios for that one, its so quick and the tarragon and capers go so well together.

BFGirl

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Re: Ideas for fancy pants but affordable dinner party food?
« Reply #31 on: July 06, 2014, 11:42:11 AM »
Crepes are easy to make (but time consuming) and you can do a wide variety of fillings.  I saute mushrooms and spinach in olive oil and serve with cream cheese and smoked salmon all wrapped in a crepe.  Eggs and bacon are good in crepes.  I have also done chicken crepes before and for dessert get some berries, bananas, whipped cream and nutella and let everyone make their own crepes.  You can cook the crepes ahead of time and then do the fillings and sauces for the party.