Welcome to what for most of us is the Cookingist Part of the Year! December is for me always a mish mosh of entertaining, holiday meals, and on-the-fly dinners in between. Let’s hone in on the big meals, the meals you’ll hopefully be sharing with friends and family.
Let’s talk a bit about menu planning. Here are some basic notes, and for more in depth tips, click here.
1. Write everything down.
2. Organize those tasks over time. Decide what you will do three days before, what you will do the night before, what you will do the day of. You can shop for non-perishables any time. Most produce, meat, and poultry can be bought three to four days before your event, but do buy fish the day before.
3. Start by thinking of a general theme or cuisine (Italian), whether you’re going for a hot meal or a room temperature meal (a good idea if you’re new to entertaining), and the kind of occasion it is, and build your menu from there.
4. Make thorough shopping lists from the recipes you’ll be making. Buy everything you can as early as you can, and of course perishable items like fish or berries need to wait until the day before or the day of. Organize your shopping list accordingly.
5. Less is more. That means fewer dishes (easier on you) and reasonable amounts of food so the table feels generous but not ridiculous.
6. Make everything ahead that you can. All of those, “Oh I can do that at the last minute” jobs start to mount up, and the last minute is never long enough.
7. Set up the table and the buffet and the bar, if applicable, the day before. Put out the glasses, put out the ice bucket, put out the platters you will be using with post-its on each plate identifying which food will go in which dish, put the serving utensils next to their appropriate dish, set the table of stack up the plates and utensils, arrange the flowers.
8. Think about letting people bring a dish, or maybe getting one or two prepared dishes to lighten your load.
9. Think about a featured cocktail (alcoholic or not, or the option of both versions) for the evening.
Okay, on to the recipes!