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Need ideas for a fancy meal on a TIGHT budget


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Hiya.... I have to feed 20 ppl on a $150CDN budget (About $130USD).... Rack of lamb has been requested, so that already puts a dent in the budget. Besides that, I have french onion soup (which is relatively cheap), and a mushroom risotto.... Do you guys have any other ideas of what I could make? Thanks ^___^

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Hiya.... I have to feed 20 ppl on a $150CDN budget (About $130USD).... Rack of lamb has been requested, so that already puts a dent in the budget.  Besides that, I have french onion soup (which is relatively cheap), and a mushroom risotto.... Do you guys have any other ideas of what I could make?  Thanks ^___^

Tomato salad with basil and balsamic drizzle

Baked Ziti with ricotta and sweet sausage marinara

Lamb shanks w caponata over rosemary polenta

Lemon Ice

Came out to about a 100.00 for 18 last year

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Your budget is currently $7.50/person (is this before or after Ontario tax and GST?) and requested does not mean mandatory: dump the lamb racks and go with another protein.

More details on the how and the why of the event would be nice, rather than a blanket call for ideas. When is this event to be held, how many courses are you planning for…

The soup you've selected doesn't exactly scream "summertime" to me so perhaps something lighter, unless you're serving in a nicely air-conditioned environment. And if the racks are insisted upon, ask for more money.

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Breast of lamb is usually not too expensive so a Navarrin of Lamb is a possibility, although not exactly summery food.

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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That cut of lamb here (NJ) will run 15.99 a lb. For your budget I don't think the portions would be enough for a small appy. Could go with shanks or the leg. Maybe you could do a Greek theme - grilled leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary, grilled eggplant, roasted potatoes - maybe some kind of shrimp or fish appy. I think epicurious recently had Mediterranean meal ideas. If you are looking for fancy on a budget you'll have to really focus on presentation.

When is the party, what's it for, where is it being held?

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Hit your local farmer's markets. Sweet corn, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, basil, zuchini, leeks, and peppers should be in season. You should also find lots of greens like chinese broccoli, green beans, bok choi etc. Beets are in season. Potatoes are starting to come in. Basically, it's veggie time. You should have no trouble preparing a veggie heavy meal for 20 on your budget at this time of year.

Your biggest issue will be meat prices. If you know what animals are raised locally for meat, that will help. When you're dealing with cooking for 20, things like a leg of lamb, a whole ham, a whole turkey or a whole goose are your friend. It's worth doing some research on this, because locally grown animals tend to be very tasty *and* less expensive than grocery store meat.

Once you know how many dishes you want and what protein you can get reasonably, poke us again. There are just too many good things you can do with food at this time of year :), even on a small budget.

Emily

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Have you priced good gruyere lately? Bag the onion soup for a nice, cool vichysoise. Leeks and potatoes and chicken stock are cheap.

The leg o' lamb sounds like a good lamb compromise and would go great with the risotto.

Salad. Cheese. Bread.

Cheep. Filling. Good.

Fresh Peaches chilled in wine for dessert, with some upscale cookies for crunch.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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And what's your definition of "fancy"?

Thought about other things you could make:

- Tramonto's watermelon amuse-bouche.

- tiradito (you pick the fish, but suggest sea bass, halibut or salmon)

- salmon confit (multiple plating opportunities)

- quail

- a ushio-jiru (Japanese clear soup) in place of the onion one; nice way to use the fish trimmings or you can go nuts and get some clams

- the old berries suspended in rosé aspic trick

I'm also thinking about fun things to do with oxtail, but can only come up with plating ideas right now and not an entire dish.

Did you budget for wines?

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I was going to suggest bone marrow as a dish.. You could do something with either chicken or veal liver.. And quail is a good thing too.. Make your own pasta and do like a wild mushroom cream.. Oooo or mushroom marrow risotto.. Short rib ravioli or something.. I also think beets are unusual to have at someones house..Make like a goat and beet or if you want to spend the loot a good blue cheese salad.. I saw this recipe actually for a cold beet pasta.. Make pasta using a beet puree and then you can serve cream fraiche and paddle fish eggs.. Or you think of something with the beet pasta.. Pea soup with bacon and creme fraiche..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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...

Fresh Peaches chilled in wine for dessert, with some upscale cookies for crunch.

Other peach dessert ideas if they are still plentiful and good right now. Here they are a good value and good quality at local farmer's markets.

Chilled Peach Wine Soup drizzled with Raspberry Coulis and served with some good crisp elegant cookies

Cream Puffs filled with Peach Mousse and served with a raspberry sauce

Peach sorbet and raspberry granita layered into parfait glasses with whipped cream in between the layers. Serve with a good crisp elegant cookie.

(to help your budget, frozen raspberries can be used for the raspberry elements. For the raspberry sauces/coulis, kirsch is a great element to add)

Buttermilk or fresh bay leaf panna cotta with a red wine/blackberry sauce. Crisp cookie on the side.

In general, cookies are not expensive to make although they do take time. A trio of three elegent French, Italian or Austrian cookies with a homemade sorbet or ice cream could be very impressive and not very expensive.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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What exactly is 'fancy'? Does it have to have a French or Italian name to be fancy?

Rack of lamb... Pretty much the most expensive cut of meat you can get, I'd sub this out for something else (leg of lamb, shoulder). Roast nice and slow with herbs and garlic.

Soup - I'll second the recommendation for vichysoisse, and add cold beet soup w/ cucumbers (aka cold Borshch, but they might not like it if you call it that).

Side dishes - risotto is relatively inexpensive to make, always a crowd pleaser. You can also make other grain dishes, buckwheat kasha, polenta, quinoa risotto... Mashed potatoes are always good, not sure if they qualify as 'fancy' though (call it potato purée!).

Vegetables - grilled veggies are usually pretty popular, can also boil them, either way to finish toss them in a vinaigrette with herbs - easy, tastes good.

Greens - mesclun salad, homemade lemon-herb dressing (lemon juice, dijon mustard, shallots, emulsify olive oil into the liquid, finish with fresh chopped herbs, season with a touch of salt and sugar/honey)

Appetisers - blini with eggplant caviar, bruschetta on crostini, miniature chicken salad sandwiches, tuiles filled with salmon mousse, hummous and crudités...

Dessert - whatever berries you can find with simple crème chantilly, or maybe sabayon made with a sweet white or rosé wine. Good vanilla iced cream with peaches, if your skills are up to it you can try making some french macarons filled with chocolate ganache...

Honestly though, making a 'fancy' meal has little to do with what you make, and everything to do with how you make it....

Edited by Mikeb19 (log)
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I agree, get rid of the rack of lamb and do another cut. The rissotto would do well with it a leg or shoulder.

Lose the onion soup unless it's required and serve a salad as a first with mesclun and some nice fresh vegetable garnish. I would keep it light this time of year.

Perhaps a sorbet with fresh berries for dessert.

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What exactly is 'fancy'?  Does it have to have a French or Italian name to be fancy?

I say he should make whatever he wants, post a description and we on eGullet can translate or name the dish for him.

Think how much better "Penne Rigato Bolognese" tastes than "pasta with meat sauce." :laugh:

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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...

Think how much better "Penne Rigato Bolognese" tastes than "pasta with meat sauce." :laugh:

"Pasta with meat sauce" is fancy talk for "spaghetti with meat sauce"... :laugh:

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Think how much better "Penne Rigato Bolognese" tastes than "pasta with meat sauce." :laugh:

Lol, so true. Especially for some pretentious types... Honestly, some of the best dishes I've ever had are just down to earth, simple dishes with simple names. I've also had some terrible 'fancy' dishes. Good food is good no matter what you call it or how you dress it up, I'd rather have good tasting food that looks like garbage than fancy looking food that tastes like garbage.

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I agree, get rid of the rack of lamb and do another cut. The rissotto would do well with it a leg or shoulder.

Lose the onion soup unless it's required and serve a salad as a first with mesclun and some nice fresh vegetable garnish. I would keep it light this time of year.

Perhaps a sorbet with fresh berries for dessert.

If you plate the lamb w/rissotto I would add some colorful roasted (or grilled) veggies to offset. Fancy name : A melange of season fresh vegtables ?

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Reading above about the beets...multi-colored beets look real neat with some arugula or other green, and fried goat cheese always manages to impress. If you're really pressed for $$ go with some simple roasted veggies.

Gnocchi can always evoke a good response. Even more so if they're stuffed. I like using peas or Edamome, the contrast of the bright green colors is really nice, and I like mine best in a simple white sauce spiked with a cheese of your choosing, I generally use Manchego or Reggiano.

If you do Marrow, just clean the bones and then roast them, serve with a lot of bruschetta about the plate, maybe some herbs stuck in the bone for more vertical interest. Or, extract the marrow after soaking to get rid of the blood, then poach and create a mousse, that way you can serve each plat with a little quenelle of Marrow.

Little corn puddings, crisped on the griddle before serving

Parmeson crisp cups filled with a little creme fresh and herbs

Cheese plate with port poached figs, almonds,

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Hi, thanks for all the options.... My budget got expanded after talking with the coordinator... The dinner is actually a suprise for the girls on our co-ed softball team.... our team is probably the ONLY team with a 50/50 split of men and women.... anyway, it's been a tough season, but the guys wanted to show our appreciation for the hard work the girls put in to work on their game.....

Anyway, these ideas sound great; I know the menu isn't a usual summertime one, but for some reason they REALLY insisted on rack of lamb.... I originally wanted to do a lemongrass chicken soup, but a few people wanted French onion soup.... the vichysoise sounds like a great idea, and I'd love to make it if I didn't have to do this all tomorrow = S I should have checked the forum earlier, but this week was REALLY busy. Oh wellz, I just want to thank you all for taking the time to reply to this thread. I'll definitely save the ideas for future events...... ^___^

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Hi, thanks for all the options.... My budget got expanded after talking with the coordinator... The dinner is actually a suprise for the girls on our co-ed softball team.... our team is probably the ONLY team with a 50/50 split of men and women.... anyway, it's been a tough season, but the guys wanted to show our appreciation for the hard work the girls put in to work on their game.....

Anyway, these ideas sound great; I know the menu isn't a usual summertime one, but for some reason they REALLY insisted on rack of lamb....  I originally wanted to do a lemongrass chicken soup, but a few people wanted French onion soup.... the vichysoise sounds like a great idea, and I'd love to make it if I didn't have to do this all tomorrow = S  I should have checked the forum earlier, but this week was REALLY busy.  Oh wellz, I just want to thank you all for taking the time to reply to this thread.  I'll definitely save the ideas for future events...... ^___^

I'm late arriving at this thread and your client had his heart set on lamb but, just for the record, I really like to use [rock Cornish] game hens on such occasions. They're inexpensive, easily timed en masse, already portioned and can be 'tarted up' by simply sliding a sage (or other) leaf under the skin, stuffing with aromatics and perhaps glazing. I don't know what they cost in your area but they're rarely more than a couple of USD here and that leaves a good amount for other courses and sides.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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