Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ten for Dinner

It is often said that the secret to good cooking is mise en place, the French phrase that signifies having everything prepared - measured, washed, chopped, grated, sliced, minced, etc. and placed in appropriate vessels in waiting for use. This is true.

But what about the secret to cooking for a large group (for me, anything more than five)? For me, this is all about making and continually updating a very detailed schedule.

Last night, we had ten for dinner, and I made four appetizers and a four-course meal including sides, altogether twelve or thirteen separate items including the bread, which I baked. Obviously, this required planning and time: spreading the work out over five days made it possible, and having my trusty schedule helped with the final execution. The guests seemed happy and so was I.

Apple tart with bourbon caaramel sauce on bottom and top
Of course, it helps a lot to have a beautiful table and flowers, and J did her normal great job.

Table with heirloom presentation plates from J's late Aunt Sophie
Also, it helps to have help for the actual meal, so you can spend time with your guests. We had a bar tender/general helper whom we have hired before, and that made a huge difference. Not only did he help in serving, but by 11:30 the kitchen was clean and everything we had used was set out waiting to be stored: what a relief!

Finally, there is no substitute for great guests, which we had. Each invitee had substantive interaction with every other, just what you hope for in a gathering of this size.

Still reading? Here's the menu for the evening and the detailed schedule that I used.
Dinner 12.6.13

Toasts with smoked ricotta and sun-dried tomatoes
Toasts with tapenade
Bar nuts Union Square Café

Caramelized fennel soup
Slow cooked loin of pork with port cherry sauce
French beans and snow peas with hazelnut and orange
Squished Yukon gold potatoes
Artisan greens salad with shredded Trappist cheese

Caramel covered apple tart with ginger ice cream

Ordre du Jour

Days before
Make ginger ice cream

Make and freeze gougeres

Make tapenade and ricotta spread
Day before
Make soup

Make bread dough

Make tart dough and line pan

Salt and sugar rub pork roast; place in fridge in large ziploc
Complete and bake bread
Pre cook tart shell
Slice and microwave apples
Make caramel, coat bottom of tart
Assemble and bake tart
Small oven to 250
Season pork with pepper, tie together with bones and put into 250 oven
By 6:00
Make French beans

Make sauce

Prepare bar nuts

Make salad dressing

Get ice
Big oven to 425

Toast bread
Guests arrive

Serve cocktails

Assemble and serve toasts

Heat and serve gougeres
Boil potatoes
Potatoes out of water
Potatoes squished and put into oven

Heat soup
Soup served
Pork under broiler
Pork, sides and sauce served
Assemble and serve salad
Caramel onto tart, then serve tart with ice cream
Serve coffee and tea and after dinner drinks

Bobby Jay

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