Some of my friends have asked me, "How do you cook for 48 (or more) people for dinner without getting stressed out? "
I PLAN! Some might say I obsess. I make lots of lists, spread out the tasks, start early, and do some recipes that can me made weeks ahead and frozen.
I thought I'd share some of my "tricks" that help me plan and execute a party, so I can relax and have a good time too! Last year, I had time for a nap before the party!
My first task was really to set the date, and create a "doable" menu. By doable, I mean are there dishes I can make ahead? What is last minute? Will I have fridge/freezer space? Enough for vegetarians to choose from? Some new dishes, and and "tried and true". What worked last year?
So here is what I came up with: *** I reserve the right to change something at the last minute if I can't find an ingredient, or can't fit one more thing in the fridges (my only fear).
Panzarotti (filled phyllo dough triangles)
Baked Brie with fig jam
Cheese tray/pecorino with Italian honey
Hot Crab dip
Antipasti of marinated/grilled veggies
Assorted flatbreads, crackers, crostini
David's Fabulous Caesar Salad
Pancetta-wrapped pork roasts with fig-port reduction sauce (requested re-run)
Lamb meatballs with mint pesto
Baked Cippolini with apricots, chestnuts, and cognac
Palma's Stuffed mushrooms
Black and White Cake
Panna cotta with toppings
Chocolate dipped Caramels with sea salt
This menu gives me 18 dishes to make (in quantity), BUT, 9 of them are do ahead, and only 6 (mostly easy appetizes to put on trays) need to be done the DAY OF the party. I also have great cooks as houseguests, that have offered to keep me in coffee or wine on Friday.
So I've done a week-by-week countdown:
7 weeks before:
Start emptying freezer
Call and book 2 kitchen helpers for the day of the event (Robin and Nina were FABULOUS last year, and asked to come back anytime for the Slow Trav people!) THIS is money well-spent! They come early, and I have everything written out for them. "At 7:30 put meatballs in top oven at 350 for ___ minutes..." All platters, etc. are marked with what food goes on it. They clean up as they go. They stay til dessert is out, and they have run several loads of dishes. This year that will be REALLY important, as we'll have 48 chargers, dinner plates, pasta plates, and salad plates! The only time I even need to go into the kitchen is to boil the ravioli, and tell them when we want to serve dessert! I get to enjoy!
6 weeks before:
Rent tables, chairs, tablecloths
Decide on dishes for each table (we're using mine)
Decide on centerpieces for each table (from stuff I have)
FInd napkin rings, napkins, salt & pepper, water glasses for each table (from my stash)
Make and freeze lamb meatballs and mint pesto
Make panzarrotti and freeze
**Check on serving platters/bowls/utensils for each dish
** I have typed menu into computer. I copy it, and in colored ink, type what platter each dish will need. Then I copy it AGAIN and write WHEN I can make it, marking those to do far ahead and freeze in one color, Thursday before the party in another color, Friday another color, etc.
5 weeks before:
Make and freeze 3 pans of artichoke-lemon pesto lasagna
Order special treat wine
Clean my pantry (optional, but it needed it!)
Make MORE room in freezer!
Think about entertainment...DUH
4 weeks before: (WHOA...that's THIS week!)
Dip caramels in dark chocolate and sea salt
Buy paper plates/napkins for appetizers & dessert
make dozens of pear-gorgonzola ravioli and freeze
I'll keep this current the next four weeks!