Our Christmas Dinner Party was Saturday evening and it was so much fun. 3 1/2 couples (one wife was out of town for granddaughter’s 1 year birthday) joined us for a perfect meal. I say perfect, not because it is the most perfect food choices or the pretties food choices, but because every.single.thing turned out just as I planned and all our guests loved it. Sweet Shark and I had a blast because everything was made ahead and we could enjoy our guests.
Here was our menu:
As a cook planning a dinner menu, I always take into consideration these guidelines.
- Compliment ~ if your entree is a meat, balance the appetizers or first courses with vegetables, seafood, cheese, or fruit. Don’t have too many appetizers: 1 central item with some nuts or chips is plenty. You don’t want to fill up your guests on nibbles before the meal. I choose the entree first and work around it. For your side dishes, 1 starch and 1 green vegetable compliments any protein.
- Texture, Taste and Temperature ~ have some things with crunch, some smooth, some creamy; have sweet, salty, a little citrus; serve some cold, some at room temperature and some hot items.
- Color ~ food should be pretty and colors should have some contrast. For example, if you are serving mashed potatoes, don’t have cauliflower as your vegetable. The food world offers the most beautiful natural colors, so take advantage of them, but don’t overdue it. Think about how flowers are combined to compliment an arrangement.
- Time ~ try not to use recipes that require last minute preparation. Yes, you can toss the salad, but all the components should be prepared ahead. The more items you can make ahead, the better hostess you will be and the more you will enjoy your own party. Guests do not feel comfortable when the hostess is stressed and running around crazy. For example, for our salad, I washed the greens, toasted the walnuts, sliced the shallots, and combined them early in the day. Everything went into a large plastic bag and back into the refrigerator. I made the vinaigrette about an hour before guests arrived and let it sit at room temperature. All I had to do was whisk the vinaigrette and toss it in the salad. Also, don’t forget to use your oven as a warming drawer.
- Portion Size ~ you don’t have to overwhelm your guests with huge portions, especially when you are serving several courses. Small bite-size appetizers. 4 – 6 ounces of meat is plenty. Soup ~ 1/2 cup portion. Salad ~ 1 cup portion. Think of sides in 1/2 – 1 cup portions or the size of your fist. Dessert can be served on a bread and butter plate or in small bowls. A thin slice of cake or pie will be more appreciated at the end of a meal than a giant piece fit for a linebacker.
I want to share our appetizer, Brie and Fig Tartlets, one of the easiest and tastiest little bites you will ever have. It’s crunchy, smooth, slightly sweet and salty at once. 4 ingredients, about 5 minutes to assemble, goes back into the fridge until ready to bake, and cooks in 8 minutes. And it’s pretty on a platter. One bite of goodness.
I always have at least two boxes of phyllo shells on hand for last minute appetizers or desserts. You can fill them with cheeses, salsa, a little chicken or crab salad, tapenade, the possibilities are endless. Here are three brands that I have on hand right now.
- 4 slices prosiutto
- 8 ounces Brie cheese
- 30 mini phyllo shells (2 boxes of 15-count)
- ½ cup fig preserves
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a rimmed sheet pan with foil and place the 4 prosciutto slices on the pan. Bake until crisp, about 6 - 8 minutes. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to cool. Dice into small pieces and set aside.
- Remove rind from Brie and cut into cubes, about ¾-inch.
- Place the mini-phyllo shells on a rimmed baking sheet. Place one cube of Brie into each shell. Spoon a teaspoon of fig preserves over the Brie.
- Bake shells in 375 degree oven for 8 - 10 minutes until Brie is melted.
- Remove shells from oven and garnish each shell with a pinch of the crisp prosciutto.
The rest of this week I’ll share the Shrimp Bisque recipe, the Short Rib recipe, and how to make 3 different desserts from one Fudge Brownie recipe.