I have vivid memories of my mom making chicken cacciatore for company. Sometimes she'd prep it the day before and other times she'd drop it all in the pressure cooker right before guests arrived which gave enough time for some mingling before dinner.
When I was little it felt as if my parents were always having friends over. All the kids used to be served dinner while the adults had appetizers and then we'd be sent upstairs to play. I'd try to sneak down and peer around corners to take in what the adults were doing. It was pretty much always the same, they were sitting around the formal dining table for hours on end talking. Sometimes I'd get shoe-ed up stairs and other times I'd be allowed to sit on my dad's lap for a little bit.
At some point, one of the parents would come upstairs for teeth brushing in mass and to tuck 5-6-7 (basically, so many kids) into the sleeping bags all over my bedroom floor so they could keep hanging out until later into the evening.
I've got big dreams for a similar situation someday. We've had a flurry of friends announce new little ones these past few months and it has us all talking in excited tones about about how things are going to change. It's got those of us that don't have little ones on the way considering how we can support those that are making up nurseries. Since so many of us have been friends since college, it's just another transition like when we all graduated and moved to different places.
BTW, Yes I am over here buying baby presents months in advance of showers. Also already planning what I can cook to help them stock their freezers before the babes come.
We're really soaking in these pre-baby times, though. One of our expectant couples was in town for last month's family dinner and everyone was so excited to see that baby bump in person. This chicken cacciatore was part of what I served at last month's family dinner. 20 people in our 1,200 sq ft condo. We didn't even have a dining table that weekend, so we had 20 people on the floor, around the coffee table, and sitting on the couch. I always feel a moment of "I can't wait for our next house. I can't wait to have more space." You know what though, someday we'll laugh and wonder how we used to fit 20 people in this condo for dinner. We'll have a little more space for a bit and then we'll have those kids running around and it will feel like just as full of a house as when we were in the condo. I guess I better get used to it.
When I made this for family dinner last month, I actually made it in addition to the stracatto menu I am releasing next week.
However -- That is excessive. I do a lot of things that aren't normal for the average person to do, so don't do them or ever feel like you need to do them. Sometimes when I am cooking for 20 though, I would rather cook "normal" servings of more dishes than huge servings of just a couple of dishes. Not always, but sometimes.
Chicken Cacciatore + Roasted Carrot and Farro Salad
Family Dinner for 20
Guests arrived at 4:00 pm
Cooked for 1 hour that AM
Another 30 minutes right before guests arrived
The star of this show -- I got requests for an instant pot recipe, and so here we are. My mom used to make this Chicken Cacciatore in an old-school pressure cooker, so that will also work if you have one of those laying around. The most time consuming part of this dish is browning the meat. You don't want to skip this step since browning the meat slightly is what keeps all the juices inside the chicken while it pressure cooks.
Besides being delicious and quick to prepare, this is also a great dish to serve to guests because it tastes just as delicious (if not even better) when you serve it the day after. Just refrigerate and pop back into the instant pot on the warm function about 1 hour before guests arrive. You could also pop your entire serving dish in a low oven (200 degrees) for about 10-15 minutes.
To be quite honest, this salad ended up being completely unnecessary at our family dinner. I had asked someone to bring a simple green salad and they had. I had also made a small version of this to accommodate a vegetarian friend who ended up being sick and couldn't make it. This is a little bit heartier than a mixed green salad and could easily be a main course for her since I the majority of the meal I made for family dinner was meat-focused.
With all of that being said, this is still a BOMB salad and something that I would happily serve alongside this meal again. It is one of those salads that appears like a side to most of your guests and is really a main dish for some friends. If you have anyone vegan joining you, serve the cheese in a small dish on the side. They'll love it!
- Day-before/ Morning of
- Make Chicken Cacciatore. Refrigerate overnight. Can also be done right before guests arrive, up to you!
- Roast Carrots
- Cook Farro
- Make Dressing
- Right Before Guests Arrive
- Warm up Chicken Cacciatore (Warm setting on Instant Pot for 1 hour OR in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10-15 minutes)
- Warm up Roasted Carrots / Farro (If you want to serve warm. Cold is great too!)
- Cook Pasta or Polenta or just serve with copious amounts of crusty bread
- Slice Bread
What you are setting out on the table
- Plates, Forks, Knives
- Bowl of Chicken Cacciatore over Pasta or Polenta
- Salad Bowl full of Roasted Carrot and Farro Salad
- Sliced Bread
- Extras -- Grated Parmesan, chopped parsley, mini dish of red pepper flakes
- I made the Chicken Cacciatore in an 8 QT Instant Pot and did a single recipe. The recipe is 4 servings. You could maybe do 1.5 times the recipe in an 8QT Instant Pot, but not a double recipe. If you plan to make this for a larger group of people, I would suggest either making it the day before in multiple batches OR adding an additional side dish, so that people can take 1 piece of chicken instead of two and stretch the meal out.