Tips For Planning The Perfect Dinner Party

LESS IS MORE

  • Remember, a persons’ stomach is about the size of their fist.
  • Excessive multi-tasking leads to mediocrity.
  • The more items on your menu the less you need of each thing.
  • Instead of dishing up this huge buffet do just two or three awesome sides that you know you can nail.

MAKE YOUR MENU AT THE MARKET
Hit the grocery store a couple weeks in advance to see what’s fresh and seasonal. Seasonal produce will always taste better and be more abundant. Try to stay a little flexible with menu planning so you can add something special that comes up at the market.

GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW
In other words, do what you’re good at. Don’t try to experiment on your guests. Cook the things that you enjoy cooking and you know will be a crowd pleaser. People coming to your house will be looking forward to that signature dish of yours, and if they don’t like it they can go somewhere else and eat.

DO AN INVENTORY OF THE ESSENTIALS
Sit down with your menu and guest list and make a list of items you’ll need and how much. Not just food but things like plates, cups, napkins, silverware, even toilet paper.

SCHEDULE YOUR PREP, THAWING AND SHOPPING
Break your list down by days of the week leading up to your event.  At the top of a page write down the days of the week.  Below each day write down the following tasks on the day it needs to be done:

  • When you plan to buy the highly perishable items you can’t buy ahead of time,
  • When to pull items out of the freezer
  • Prep work that can be done in advance

Hang this up on your fridge or tape it your kitchen cabinets and look at it everyday to make sure you’re on track.  Click Event Prep Sheet for a planning guide in PDF format.

ASK FOR HELP
Don’t dig yourself into a hole in the kitchen. Arrange help with some close friends or family and delegate the work, or make it easy and have a potluck. There’s no shame in that game. Potlucks give your guests the opportunity to shine as well. If you go with a potluck do a sign-up sheet that everyone can view.  This way you won’t end up with ten buckets of KFC.  Don’t forget to arrange help with the worst part, cleanup.

PREP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN ADVANCE

  • Peel potatoes the day before and keep them in water in the fridge.
  • Vegetables can be peeled and prepped the day before.
  • Cut and cook your turkey in pieces. This way you can make stock from the carcass a day ahead and have one less thing to deal with on the big day. A cut up turkey cooks quicker so it won’t dominate the oven all day.
  • Most side dishes can be put together in advance and will actually  taste better when assembled and refrigerated overnight.
  • Some dishes like enchiladas can be assembled well ahead, frozen, then thawed shortly  before the holiday.

TIME YOUR COOKING FROM THE END TO THE BEGINNING
This is part of going with what you know. It can be difficult knowing when you should put that roast in or when to put potatoes simmering. Start with the time you’d like to eat and plan your cooking backwards from there. This will give you a solid starting point for knowing when to put things in the oven.

RELAX, IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY
This is one piece of advice I still have trouble with.  When the details don’t come out right it drives me insane.  Don’t throw anything at anyone.  Step outside, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Pour another cocktail or glass of wine and know that it’s going to okay.  Keep a fire extinguisher close by just in case it isn’t.

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