What shall I feed the playful masses?
February 26, 2009 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I need more ideas for "game night" food! I've done curry and chili in the past, and am tossing around lasagna and gumbo as possibilities in the future, but want more options. Since every cooking question is special, there is

Every so often there happens to be a gathering of 5-7 people in the house I'm living in. Not every one shows up at the same time, or eats at the same time, so it's not quite a dinner where I can expect every one to sit down and focus 20 or 30 minutes on "meal time".

Curry and chili were smashing successes because I could spend an hour hanging around the kitchen, adding more ingredients, tasting and spicing. I stuck the bread in the oven (naan and corn, respectively), and when it was done whoever was hungry grabbed a bowl and served themselves.

I experiment and improvise a lot when I cook. The curry was based on several recipes and vague memories of how my husband does it. The chili was based on several recipes and what sounded good.

basic criteria:
- flexible, forgiving, scalable.
- reheats well/makes good leftovers
- doesn't rely on meat* or exotic ingredients (the spice selection is limited)
- doesn't need side dishes (bread/rice/basic pasta are fine)
- don't need food-processor/blender or electric mixer/kitchenaid

* sometimes a vegetarian shows up, sometimes not. I can use TVP in place of ground beef, and chicken when she's not around, but want to avoid recipes where each person gets their own steak/chicken breast/piece of fish

Bonus points:
- doesn't need constant attention
- includes garlic
posted by itesser to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
-Soup would offer endless possibilities.
-Baked potato bar: you set out the baked potatoes and a variety of toppings. You could even start baking them at a few different times to have hot and fresh ones for each wave of guests.
-Enchiladas w/ side of rice
-Manicotti and crusty bread
-Baked mac & cheese
posted by serazin at 6:55 PM on February 26, 2009

A crockpot would also offer many, many possibilities. You don't have to tend it past the initial adding of whatever you're cooking and it keeps the food warm so people eating at different times don't have to re-heat it.

A second suggestion would be to do breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, sausage, eggs, and toast are all easy quick fixes. Or just make up some waffle batter and let everyone tend their own waffle when they're hungry.
posted by Gneisskate at 7:02 PM on February 26, 2009

Taco bar!

- Taco shells
- Ground turkey or beef, seasoned to taste
- Refried beans (for veggie friend's main sustenance, and everyone else's enjoyment)
- Salsa / diced tomatoes
- Lettuce
- Cheese
- Sour cream

Chips and salsa on the side.

I do this all the time for college-type gatherings. Bonus- it's super easy *and* relatively cheap. People love it.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:03 PM on February 26, 2009

Breakfast for dinner is always fun, but I'd like to try to tie the foods in theme wise... so for clarification, is game night a sports thing, a role playing game thing, or is game night more a scatergories sort of thing?
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:10 PM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: oooh, baked potato bar might be fun. They're a favorite of mine, and of course I'd throw sweet potatoes in there, too.

The biggest obstacle for that (or taco bar) might be the lack of, well, bar space for setting out mass quantities of options... but taco bar would be a reason to make refried beans again.

There is a slow-cooker, though!
posted by itesser at 7:34 PM on February 26, 2009

Mussels are easy and delicious.
2 bags of mussels (each bag the size of a cantaloupe) will feed about 6 people.

Here's my amazing recipe for Thai-style mussels, which is unbelievably delicious, super-easy and a total crowd pleaser. You just eyeball/taste the quantities, you really can't go wrong.
I last cooked this for a gathering in 2003 and just last week someone said, "Remember that night you made mussels? I miss that night."

Soak the mussels in cold water for 10 minutes and discard any that stay open.
Scrub any weird stuff off the remaining ones.

Diagonal-cut a baguette (or two) into little crostini things and put them on a cookie sheet to lightly toast in the oven. You can rub on a little garlic if you feel sassy, but it's not really needed.

In a big pot, saute a chopped onion and lots of garlic (a whole head, roughly chopped, would be fine).
Dump in 2 cans of coconut milk.
Squeeze in 2-3 limes.
Add a spoon of red chili pepper flakes to taste.
Lots of salt & pepper.
1/4 of a bottle of white wine.
You're basically making a soup in which to steam the mussels. Taste it and re-season to balance the flavours for tangy, salty, spicy, and creamy.

When the soup concoction tastes nice, dump in the mussels and cover the pot.
Wait 10-15 minutes.
The mussels will steam open. Discard any mussels that did not open.
You can leave this warming on the stove all evening- mussels don't really over-cook.

To serve, give each person a soup bowl balanced on a dinner plate. Fill the bowl with mussels and a generous ladle of the soup. Put some bread around the edges of the plate. Eat the mussels, sop up the soup with bread (and a spoon). REALLY YUMMY.

If you start with appetizers, move on to the mussels dish, and accompany it with salad (maybe a spinach-mango salad with a sweet/tangy dressing, or some plain steamed snow peas or edamame or something like that), you'll be golden.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:17 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ooh, an awesome idea from Canada: a poutine bar is awesome!

Freezer fries
Cheese curds are the standard, but poutine is also great with grated sharp cheddar, bits of brie, or crumbled bleu
Brown gravy (from a package) - keep it very warm so it melts the cheese

You can also add:
Crumbled bacon
Caramelized onions
Roasted garlic (wrap a clove in tinfoil & a little glug of oil, seal it up like a Hershey's kiss, leave it in the oven while you cook the fries, then squeeze out the cloves)
Ready-made aioli
Something a little sweet, maybe a ready-made mango chutney, maybe thinned with a bit of maple syrup
Something spicy, maybe Tabasco or chili flakes
And of course, ketchup & vinegar for the purists.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:24 PM on February 26, 2009

If you've done chili in the past, some Jambalaya might go over well.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:06 AM on February 27, 2009

My monthly roleplaying group does a supper when we meet, too. And we've done several of the meals mentioned upthread (potato and taco bars, chili, breakfast for supper).

I would also suggest that Boy/Girl Scout classic, the hobo packet. Easily customizable, don't take that long to cook in the oven, and can easily be kept warm. There's several recipes online; I like the varieties suggested here.

For breakfast, consider doing another Girl Scout classic, the Ziploc Omlette. (For a more "omlette-y" texture (the above creates more of a scrambled eggs texture), add a little milk or cream to the ingredients.)

There's also good ol' pasta and sauce. You can prepare a good pasta and then offer a variety of sauces and toppings.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:53 AM on February 27, 2009

We do this all the time for University of Memphis basketball games (Go Tigers!). Last year during March Madness I had to get creative when we kept winning, and hopefully this year will be the same. Here's my list:

Taco Bar - This is great, people ask for this one
Chili, with cornbread
Jambalaya - Make it meatless, have sausage-shrimp-chicken on the side for meat-eaters.
Baked Potato Soup, with various toppings on the side such as cheese, green onions, bacon, etc. There's a great, easy recipe on Recipezaar, I just used canned potatos.
Stir Fry with rice on the side.

I like the baked potato bar mentioned above and will add that to my list this year.
posted by raisingsand at 6:00 AM on February 27, 2009

This might sound a little posh for game day food, but it's essentially just Mac n Cheese on steroids:

Castellane with Mascarpone and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

The recipe is very easy to make, and makes a ton. Really delicious and filling. You might get some ribbing from your buds about the frilly food, until they taste it and start fighting over the last serving.

Suggested alterations: don't bother baking the cherry tomatoes, add some (pre-cooked) chopped sausages right before you bake, increase the mascarpone by 1.5x, and replace the parmesean with romano or asiago for some extra kick. If you want to prep it in advance so that you can just throw it in the oven when you want it, just follow the recipe up until the last paragraph then throw the baking dish with the pasta in the fridge covered with saran wrap until you're ready to bake.

One precaution: do NOT forget to set aside the 1.5c of pasta water before you drain the pasta. The starch in the water acts as a thickening agent when added right before baking, and it's what makes this dish so incredibly thick and creamy.
posted by reticulatedspline at 6:25 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

My biggest concern with Game Night (that I do often, and, in fact tomorrow!) is what might be called "logistics" or "ease of running". I don't want to be constantly working in the kitchen while my guests sit in the living room. That's not being a good host. So chili is ideal because I can make it, and set it aside. Takes a few minutes to heat up, then serve. I've done osso buco with risotto, but the constant stirring was too much.

Seconding "make your own tacos" (which I've done). Whether it's a sit-down dinner or not. All the ingredients can be made ahead of time.

I've also done manicotti (email me if you need a recipe - it's long, and I'm not at home right now). The only thing that took an extra few minutes was garlic bread.

Stew would be another good idea. Bittman has a great/easy recipe in "How to Cook Everything".
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:01 AM on February 27, 2009

My two favorite vegetarian options for these kinds of situations are enchiladas and moroccan roasted vegetables.

For enchiladas, spoon canned/jarred enchilada sauce on tortillas, fill with refried beans, chopped bell and/or spicy peppers, cheese, onions, maybe tomatoes, maybe rice, or whatever else sounds good. Roll them up and put them seam-side down in a baking dish, then pour more sauce all over the top and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, then take the foil off so the cheese can brown a bit. Serve with rice, sour cream, salsa, chips, etc. If you cover it back up with foil and leave it in the oven with the heat turned off, this will still be tasty all night. (Black bean and sweet potato enchiladas have been a big hit with many of my non-vegetarian friends, too, if you can google up a recipe. I don't think you use the normal enchilada sauce.)

For moroccan roasted vegetables, I use the Moosewood recipe and it's delicious. Make a big pot of couscous to serve it over, and take to heart their suggestion of topping with raisins, feta cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and almonds. Everyone can add toppings to their own bowl as they desire, but I totally recommend all of them. The veggies are good hot, cold, or at room temperature, so you could keep them covered with foil in a low oven, in a crockpot once they're roasted, or just out on the counter for people to serve themselves.
posted by vytae at 8:22 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have deep frying parties all the time. (I grew up in the South). Friends bring over one item each in a large enough quantity for everyone to have a taste. I make three batters; beer batter, spicy batter, and sweet batter. Everything can go in at least one of the batters. Throw it in a deep fryer or a large pot of oil, and you have dinner. I usually keep the deep fryer going so people can make whatever they want whenever they want.

Some of the best foods have been pizza, pickles, french fries, taquitos, and candy bars. We've also tried hamburgers (ok but not great), pb&js (horrible beyond belief), twinkies (okay), bananas (yum!), and starbursts candy (super yum!).
posted by mandapanda at 11:31 AM on February 27, 2009

My husband makes enchilada casserole for his d&d group. Basically, all the enchilada ingredients but instead of making single enchiladas, he just layers the ingredients in a baking dish. Super easy. Also, spaghetti and "meat" sauce are good.
posted by lannanh at 5:14 PM on December 27, 2009

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