American Idol says it’s all about picking the right song, I say it’s all about picking the right dinner party menus & recipes. I know when most of us think of having a dinner party the first thing that comes to mind is all the hard work involved: the guests enjoying themselves as you sweat it out in the kitchen all night and of course clean-up afterwards. Well, this is not your mama’s dinner party! I promise; with a little organization and preparation, you can actually focus as much on the hosting and enjoying time with your guests, as you do on the cooking.
When I’m planning a dinner party the first thing I do is send a note to anyone I haven’t had over before asking if there are any particular food allergies or aversions I should be aware of. The last thing you want to do is serve seafood to someone who has a seafood allergy. Talk about sweating it out in the kitchen! Once I have that information, I begin to plan my menu. I try to always pick a dessert I can make the day before and have all but one component of the meal consist of things that can be made ahead. I pick recipes that appeal to me, but that also can be made quickly and easily. So, for a first course hot or cold soup is a great idea, as it just needs to be plated. For a main course, I try to pick recipes that have short cooking times or can be made ahead and reheated or kept warm. In my experience it takes about 15 minutes for a first course to be completed, so something that cooks in that time frame is ideal. Salmon is one of my all-time favorites, as not only does it cook quickly, but it takes the same amount of time to cook one piece or ten pieces.
You can use the Kitchen Moxie Worksheet to keep track of the timing, oven temps, cooking times to save yourself having to reference several cookbooks on the actual evening. It’s like your own little dinner party “cheat sheet” and will help keep you on track. And if in your search you can’t find a recipe or menu that you think will work, check out our Go To Dinner Party Menus. They are full of great make ahead dishes – first, main courses and desserts that work well together and that allow you to enjoy the dinner party as much as your guests will!