These tips are going to seem a bit “off” to you. They are from a book written in 1952… The Just A Minute Cookbook and it was one of Bertie’s faves. All my Bertie’s loved to entertain and Dinner Parties were always an occasion. Fancy Shamntzy.
I’m not a “Dinner Party” kind of gal. I’d rather BBQ and serve chicken and fix-ens on the back patio.
What my Bertie’s taught me was the “elegance of effortlessness” – Or – Make your dinner party looks just plain easy.
A few excerpts from this cookbook:
The number of minutes it takes to cook the main dish doesn’t necessarily determine how quickly a meal reaches the table. Before you prepare a meal, study your menu and plan your approach.
Save steps and minutes by assembling all ingredients before you start. Then cut corners wherever you can. Remember that you can do two things at once. For instance, while the onions are browning, wash the salad greens or prepare the vegetable.
Your guests can work and like it, too.
They like the idea of participation and it gets odd jobs done. While they are sipping cocktails, get them interested in doing such things as grinding coffee, shelling peas, husking corn and they just love mixing more cocktails. All of this in the living room—not underfoot in the kitchen. Meanwhile, you can make the French dressing in a wooden salad bowl right in the living room while you, too, are sipping your own martini.
You can also get them to help wash the dishes but it makes for a better evening if they simply help clear off the table, scrape and rinse the plates. Then it’s no job at all to do the real washing later or the next morning yourself.
Cultivate all sorts of short cuts and tricks to make your life in the kitchen easier. Invent your own and try these—
PEACHES—can be sliced more quickly this way: hold the whole peach in left hand and slice in sections from top to bottom all the way around before loosening from stone.
TOOTH PICKS—to put through cloves of garlic so they can he easily found and removed before serving a dish.
Some tips I’ve picked up from “My Bertie’s”:
* - Pull out and label every single serving dish you will need for your party. If you are serving chips – get out the bowl and drop a sticky-note label on it. If you are serving pickles, rolls, meat – anything… make sure you label every serving dish.
* - Pull out every serving utensil you will need. I mean if you need a pickle fork – go find that little devil now and drop it into the bowl you are going to use for pickles. Do it right now before you forget.
* - Pull out the wine goblets (or plastic cups in my case) and make sure they are clean and ready to go. If you are using wine charms so guests will “know which glass is theirs”… put ‘em out as well. I have a sharpie marker right next to the stack of cups – so my guests can mark theirs right away. Choose where you are going to serve drinks… and fill that space with everything you necessary. If you will have lemons for iced tea, make sure you have the dish (with a label) ready to serve them.
The marker works perfectly unless – you have a funny (NOT) friend who marks every glass/cup with the same name – Mine. *giggle*
One of the best reasons for pulling out this serve-ware – is to help you “imagine” (way ahead of time) the look and feel of your party. And it helps to know you have enough serving dishes on hand.
And… (I’ve got a lot of “Ands”) you will be able to start making a list of “ingredients” for the food you will be serving. This is super important – so take note!
Print out the recipe for each “dish” – even if it’s chips (well, you don’t need a recipe for chips), you need to go right to the pantry, fridge or freezer right now and make sure you have all (ALL) the ingredients.
Once you have your shopping list made…. let’s look at the ingredients one at a time.
If your recipe calls for something that can be cooked ahead and stuffed in the freezer… then by all means “Get ‘er Done”. I don’t mean you have to cook the entire meal… but some of the ingredients can be cooked ahead.
Why not saute’ the onions and freeze them? Why not make the mashed potatoes ahead and heat em up on party day in the oven (adding a nice crispy golden top)?
Why NOT do as much as possible ahead of time? You will enjoy your Dinner Party so much more when you are relaxed.
I did have a “leftover” party for some friends recently… and the “reheating” did not go well. I was reheating everything in the microwave – one dish at a time. My counter was covered with dishes… and I kept loosing track of what needed to be reheated next (or more reheating needed).
Some of these dishes were the (can you say Glass?) Corelle brand/style serving dishes. Lids were slipping off in my rush to “reheat” and finally one dish landed on a lid from another dish and the whole “enchilada” when smashing on the floor. I shouted an expletive that is not meant for company and hubby came rushing in. I gave him the “eye” (something My Bertie’s taught me) and he knew to be silent and just “fix it”. Fix it he did and the party was a success.