What should I cook for a dinner party with a bunch of restrictions?
August 6, 2019 12:41 PM   Subscribe

What should I cook for a dinner party tomorrow night, with the following dietary restrictions?

I'm back with another dinner party puzzle. Tomorrow night we're having a bunch of friends over for dinner, and I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to neatly thread all of the dietary needles that they're bringing with them. They include:

- One vegan
- One vegetarian who's finicky about cheese
- One pescatarian who hates chocolate
- One person who is allergic to shellfish
- One person who is currently not eating any pasta, bread, or white sugars (but rice and potatoes are fine)
- One person who hates mushrooms

Given those constraints, what would you serve? Assume access to a good American grocery store, and a high level of competence and confidence in the kitchen. I'm not opposed to making two versions of the same dish (I did this with lasagna a few weeks ago, making one regular lasagna and one vegan one), although it'd be cool if this could be avoided. I'm also not opposed to making at least one or two things that not everyone can eat, but I'd like for at least most of what I'm cooking to sit comfortably within the overlapping area of this Venn diagrams.
posted by saladin to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'd cook up some sambar, dosa (with potatoes and onions), and have some chutneys (cilantro/coconut and tamarind).

Vegan, no shellfish, rice/bean (dosa mix in box unless you're prepared to ferment the batter tonight)

I'm sure you could also get some yummy appetizer/dessert stuff at shop too.

Have fun with whatever you decide

Edited to add - use peanut oil instead of ghee to keep vegan
posted by PistachioRoux at 12:46 PM on August 6, 2019

There are Indian simmer sauces that are vegan. Throw in (boiled) potatoes, chickpeas, and the green of your choice (peas work well). Serve with rice and naan (although one won't eat the naan).
posted by Apoch at 12:49 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Vegan Paella, hold the mushrooms, would make an excellent main dish. You can surround that with a lot of spanish side dishes -- tortilla patata, serrano ham, cheeses, olives, etc -- that allows people to eat the things they do eat and ignore the things they don't eat.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:52 PM on August 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I am glad you said the one person was fine with potatoes, as I would totally rock a baked potato bar. You can have cheese set out for the two (or three?) who would be interested, vegan chili, green onions, vegan sour cream (I haven't had so, I'm less sure here), steamed broccoli, barbecue sauce (watch out for honey as ingredient, if that's an issue), chopped tomatoes, um... bacon or pulled pork would be a bit outside for most of the guests, but are awesome on potatoes if you don't mind having multiple items in bowls.

So much great fruit out there now, peaches and/or berries in a loose crumble could be delightful.
posted by dawg-proud at 12:53 PM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I would probably do some kind of "taco bar": shredded chicken or ground beef, refried beans, cheese, salsa, guacamole, various veggies (sauteed peppers/onions, raw tomatoes, shredded lettuce), then people can build their own tacos. Easy for vegans, meat eaters, gluten free.
posted by rozee at 12:54 PM on August 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I have a pescatarian step-daughter, a husband with 100 allergies, and don't eat most carbs myself. To cover everyone during our Sunday night dinners I like to make bibimbap (everyone assembles their own bowl with beef for meat eaters, tofu or shrimp for the pescatarian) or tacos (taco salad for the carb haters.)
posted by vespabelle at 12:54 PM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Polenta with vegetables in a red sauce and parmesan on the side - you can make a good polenta using nutritional yeast and olive oil instead of cheese and butter.

Alternatively, polenta with lightly breaded pan-fried tofu and gravy.
posted by Frowner at 12:54 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

This Peanut Stew recipe is a delicious crowd pleaser. I have made it for so many groups, and it’s a hit every time. It’s hardy enough to please vegans and meat eaters. You can make a batch of rice on the side so that folks can pop a scoop in their bowl.
posted by TrarNoir at 12:55 PM on August 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

If persian isnt too far outside of your culinary comfort zone you could do a tadig with persian style stew (this butter bean recipe looks good and is vegan minus the egg) ive also made this veggie khoresh bademjan a bunch and its a real winner.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:57 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Vegan slow-cooker paella

2 onions, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
½ head garlic, minced
1 can chick peas, drained
1 (sm) can diced tomatoes & juice
1 pkg vegetarian chorizo
1 pkg sun dried tomatoes
Salt, pepper, oregano, saffron,
smoked paprika
3 c. converted rice
6 c. water (hot)

Cook in crock pot 2½ hr on HIGH, then add

1 jar artichoke hearts
½ bag frozen peas
Chopped parsley
posted by rikschell at 1:09 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

maybe a farrotto? here's an example recipe, and substitute what you may need to:

posted by alchemist at 1:16 PM on August 6, 2019

One-pan farro with tomatoes (cheese on the side, of course).

On the side, serve a green salad, maybe with sliced sugar snap peas, cucumbers, and radishes (or whatever local veggies are looking great).

For a starter, an antipasto plate (or plates, to keep things separate) with sliced prosciutto, nice cheese, good quality pickled vegetables/giardiniera, crusty bread with roasted garlic for spreading and olive oil for dipping, plus some olive tapenade.

For dessert, almond-crisped peaches, subbing coconut oil or a vegan butter for the butter, plus whipped cream and whipped coconut cream to top.

(Or, to be honest, with my friends we've just been getting a bunch of fancy ice creams/sorbets and digging in.)
posted by CiaoMela at 1:46 PM on August 6, 2019

I'd cook this vegetable tagine served with couscous. The combination of curry powder and cinnamon is unbelievable, and I cannot recommened the sliced almonds for texture enough.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:58 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seems like nobody has a problem with alcohol? Then a good way to make things classy is a nice champagne cocktail to start (Kir?), and some kind of slightly boozy sorbet in the middle somewhere (lime/agave/tequila?)...
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 2:34 PM on August 6, 2019

Pineapple fried rice with cashews and mixed veggies (the bagged frozen peas/carrots mix works great!). Add tofu if everyone is okay with it. Alternatively, make a separate pan that also contains egg. Garnish the dish with fresh chopped cilantro (on the side if not everyone likes it), fresh tomatoes and cucumber slices and lime wedges. (Use GF soy sauce or tamari to avoid wheat).

AND!!! Serve it along with a "make your own" spring rolls bar!

If you want to add an additional "appetizer" - little bowls of steamed edamame would work well.
posted by augustinetill at 3:17 PM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I made this Crispy Tofu with Sesame Noodles using brown rice spaghetti when I had to feed a vegan, a gluten free person, and a person allergic to tree nuts (and also my picky daughter).

We had sautéed green beans and fruit sorbet for dessert.
posted by padraigin at 3:17 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

It doesn't look too difficult, if you go for a vegan meal. I'd look for inspiration in the Guardian's New Vegan column, and serve rice + 2-3 dishes, with at least one being super simple, such as steamed greens. And some sauces and condiments.
You could add in a very simple fish or meat dish, but I don't think it's necessary.
And then just seasonal fruits for dessert.
posted by mumimor at 4:08 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Taco bar, with black beans and fish (and/or chicken too) as the filling options, and flour tortillas and lettuce leaves for shells. Rice side dish, and a zucchini and corn saute side dish.
posted by AliceBlue at 4:25 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do you have a Dutch oven? If so, make a dolsot bibibap in the Dutch oven. I don’t have the stone clay pots but was able to successfully mimic the crispy Korean rice dish at home! Make different sides and let people top as they please.
posted by inevitability at 4:47 PM on August 6, 2019

Frowner’s polenta suggestion reminded me of the amazing ratatouille recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Make sure the tomato paste is vegan/shellfish free (I assume most/all are, but haven’t checked myself). Serve with crusty French bread that’s vegan and maybe some roasted potatoes if you think the non-bread eater needs a starch, and with sausage for whoever can/wants to eat it if you like.

I agree that an easy fruit crisp/crumble made with coconut oil instead of butter would be a great dessert option.
posted by bananacabana at 7:11 PM on August 6, 2019

I make a curried sweet potato stew that's very similar to the Peanut Stew linked above, which is my absolute go-to for vegan meals and is so good. That as a main course, roasted broccoli as a side dish, and perhaps a salad. Or if that's all together too much veggies for you, sub out one of the sides for a hearty bread (for everyone except the non-bread-eater) or brown rice.
posted by Lady Li at 11:21 PM on August 6, 2019

Another good side dish is a roasted sweet potato - buy small sweet potatoes or cut them up, rub with oil and sprinkle salt, bake at 375 or 425 or so for an hour or so.
posted by Lady Li at 11:23 PM on August 6, 2019

If beans and gluten are OK, this sweet potato and black bean chili is amazing. Sub vegetable broth for the beer, if necessary. Serve w/ any combination of the following on the side: tortilla chips, corn bread, shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, lime, and avocado.
posted by asnowballschance at 6:02 AM on August 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

What did you make? Inquiring minds!
posted by CiaoMela at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2019

Response by poster: These were all fabulous answers, thanks everyone. We ended up going the taco bar route for sheer simplicity but I'll be coming back to this well for future dinner parties with this obnoxious crowd.
posted by saladin at 7:11 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

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