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When you have guests coming or just want to have a few friends over, an easy, informal buffet ensures that everybody, hosts and guests alike, can enjoy a home-cooked meal and a night filled with catch-up chatter. Chili, beloved by most, is perfect.

Guests can load up their bowls as they like -- with chili and black beans (vegetarians might choose the beans on their own), plus mix-ins such as avocado, cheddar cheese, scallions, and crunchy tortilla chips. A romaine salad on the side is ideal, holding up longer than one made with more delicate lettuces.

Plan to make the chili a few days in advance. As it cooks, you can prepare homemade cookie dough to freeze. On the night prior to the buffet, just pop the preformed dough into the oven. After everyone's had chili, swap the setup for a platter of cookies and a couple of pints of ice cream, and dessert is served.

Chili Con Carne

Black Beans

Crisp Romaine Salad

Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinammon Cookies

Chili Buffet Cook's Countdown

2 to 3 Days Before

Make the chili. Refrigerate. Prepare the cookie dough, roll into balls, and freeze.

Day Of

Soak the black beans early in the morning. Clean and store the salad greens. Cook the beans. Prepare the add-ins for the chili.

Just Before Serving

Bake the cookies. Reheat chili. Dress the salad.

Shopping List

1 lemon

4 ripe Hass avocados

2 heads romaine lettuce

3 carrots

8 ounces radishes

1 large white onion

1 medium white onion

1 small red onion

1 bunch scallions

6 garlic cloves

3 ancho chiles (dried poblano chiles)

Semisweet chocolate chips

Smooth peanut butter

Roasted, salted peanuts

Salted corn tortilla chips

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes

1 pound dried black beans

Eggs and unsalted butter

Sharp orange cheddar

4 ounces pork (such as shoulder or chops)

2 pounds boneless chuck steak

Chocolate or vanilla ice cream

2 bottles beer (12 ounces each)

Pantry Items

Extra-virgin olive oil

White and red wine vinegars

Flour

Baking soda

Light-brown sugar

Granulated sugar

Ground cinnamon

Dried oregano

Ground cumin

Bay leaf

Pure vanilla extract

Vegetable oil

Comments (3)

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January 5, 2019
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Anonymous
October 1, 2008
This is a wonderful idea for a party! I have lots of vegetarian friends, so I'd add Amy's canned vegetarian chili to the line-up. Also--our favorite way to eat chili is over hominy... just thought I'd throw that out there. :) (Sour cream's a good add too! Thanks!)
Anonymous
February 3, 2008
Add sour cream to the condiments to serve with chili