As I’ve shared previously, perfection doesn’t exist, even when hosting a great dinner party. This doesn’t excuse you, however, from creating a plan for your evening. Nowhere is a solid roadmap more important than when designing your menu; the meal is the anchor for the entire experience.
Planning and executing a dinner party menu can be hassle-free and fun if you follow these few easy rules:
- Don’t cook something you’ve never made before, even if you consider yourself a master chef. A dinner party isn’t the time to experiment with a new recipe. Why? Because confidence comes with experience. The more experience you have cooking a recipe, the more comfortable you’ll feel about making it and how it will turn out. When cooking something new, the unexpected can cause unwanted stress. If you’re anxious about the food, that is reflected in the tone of the evening, making it challenging to enjoy spending time with your guests.
- It’s not necessary to make the whole meal yourself. It’s perfectly acceptable to buy some elements of your dinner, especially if you’re preparing the main course. Pick up dessert from your favorite bakery. Order a gorgeous cheese and charcuterie display from your preferred caterer. By no means does this imply you aren’t a whiz in the kitchen; quite the contrary. It asserts that you value your time and expertise, and enables you to focus on other elements of entertaining like sprucing up your home and attending your own party.
(Side note: If you’re buying dessert or appetizers, and on a budget, it’s better to buy less of quality product than more of mediocre fare.)
- Create a timeline once you’ve figured out your meal. The timeline should include what day you’re shopping for your ingredients and picking up store-bought items, such as your dessert. Most importantly, it should include the timeline for cooking and prepping the meal. For example, if dinner is at 7:00pm, and t he lasagna takes 45 minutes to cook and needs 15 minutes to cool, you’d preheat the oven at 5:45pm. Put the lasagna in the oven at 6:00pm and take it out to cool at 6:45pm. By 7:00pm you’re ready to eat. Even include what time you’re going to dress and prepare yourself for the evening. Having a schedule keeps you on task and on time.
Following these simple rules will take the stress and panic out of planning and executing your menu. It also gives you the confidence you need to be the relaxed, fun host or hostess your guests have come to see.