We entertain for dinner pretty often, or at least we used to until my brains got sucked out of my head when #4 was born a few months ago. But I expect our hospitality days will return someday. I find that it’s an ongoing challenge to plan a dinner party menu that gives me time to be with our guests but doesn’t involve Campbell’s condensed soup baking in a casserole dish. We had important dinner guests last night (prospective in-laws : )) and I realized that I have forgotten my groove. Or maybe I never had it.
But anyway, as I see it, here is the challenge of a good dinner party recipe repertoire:
(1) Allows for almost complete prep the night before. I NEVER have time the day-of to prepare ingredients, because I am too busy trying to prevent the trashing of our house and to tire out the kids for an earlier bedtime.
(2) Is ready to serve about one hour after guests arrive, but requires minimal cooking time during that final hour when dinner guests are here.
(3) Does not cost a fortune.
(4) Is seasonal and colorful and fresh and delicious.
That is a superhuman set of requirements, my friends, but we are superhuman and we know it, so here is one menu that has worked well for me in the past:
Hot appetizer of pesto pizza squares: ready to go dough, ready to spread pesto, bakeable so minimal hands on, always tasty and hard to mess up; basically any appetizer with a Pillsbury dough base is easy and great, and who has to know that the Doughboy helped?
Antipasto-ish blend: roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, chunks of salami and squares of mozzarella or provolone, whatever; served cold so can be all ready the night before
Salad: sliced tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil over lettuce w/balsamic and olive oil, minimal ingredients all of which can be prepped the night before
Meat: Italian marinaded pork tenderloin (often on sale)–marinade the day before or buy marinaded, only requires about an hour of roasting just before time to serve
Starch: angel hair pasta w/butter and garlic or risotto
Garlic bread warmed at the last minute, when the pork comes out
This menu has flavorful, colorful and simple ingredients, it goes well together, and I wasn’t in the kitchen much. Also, I thought it was easy to delegate parts–eg: someone else can compile the salad, stir the risotto, or carve the tenderloin while we chat.
If you have a repertoire, even just the names of dishes or the general theme, please share. Don’t you love learning Home Economics through trial and (lots of) error?