Entertaining and menu planning may seem tricky, but the execution doesn’t have to be all that intimidating. It just takes a lot of thought and timing. You have to take into account what the dishes are, how many people are attending, and when dinner is supposed to be served (along with a whole host of other things to consider). But all this planning can be spread out over a whole month. Now I just had my “Holiday Feast” the other day and here was my schedule. The day was busy, but I still got to spend time with my guests before dinner and take part in the festivities (i.e. – drink booze).
3 weeks prior: send out invitations. Hopefully you will hear back relatively quickly about who can and cannot attend.
2 weeks prior: finalize menu. Here’s what was decided: Roasted pork shoulder, marinated turkey breast, bread pudding with mushrooms and roasted peppers, roasted fennel and carrots, rapini with fried apples, egg nog, cranberry cheesecake, holiday biscotti, and sugar plums. Now that I actually see it written out, that’s a lot of food. Even more so because it was also a potluck. I will do posts on all this stuff soon with a focus on the more holiday-ish items first.
1 week prior: finalize attendees, buy supplies and groceries. Alright so it wasn’t completely finalized and it hovered anywhere between 12 -18. It finally ended up at 13.
4 days prior: clean house, iron table linens. Now cleaning the house is a daily thing, but I did a major cleaning on this day. I ironed the napkins and prepped them so that I could fold the “birds of paradise” relatively quickly. I like this fold because it looks nice and is relatively easy to do.
3 days prior: buy fresh ingredients (fruit and vegetables), make cranberry compote. The cranberry compote could even be made the week before.
2 days prior: make cranberry cheesecake, bake biscotti. Making this now lets the cheesecake set up in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Just cover it with plastic wrap after it cools. The biscotti should stay fresh for several days.
1 day prior: blanche rapini, peel carrots, make sugar plums, assemble bread pudding. The sugar plums need some time to dry out a little before rolling in sugar. The bread pudding can sit and all the flavors can marry while sitting in the refrigerator. Plus the bread can really soak up the custard.
6 hours prior: roll the sugar plums in sugar, fold napkins, set the table. At this point, I still didn’t know how many. My best guess was 12, which was nice because everyone could sit at the table.
3 hours prior: start holiday music playlist, attend to early attendees, make beer bread, drink beer. Now we asked folks to arrive at 3:00pm with dinner to be served at 6:00. Not everyone will show at the start which is fine.
2 hours prior: attend to early attendees, roast fennel and carrots, drink wine, eat cheese. Serve appetizer dishes that guests brought.
1 hour prior: attend to attendees, bake bread pudding, make egg nog, drink egg nog. Egg nog is usually a big draw because of all the booze I use Martha Stewart’s recipe, which has 3 c. bourbon, 2 c. cognac, and 1 c. rum.
30 minutes prior: light candles on the table, make rapini and fried apples, place fennel in oven to reheat, finalize drink orders, drink more egg nog. Everything is coming together and all your hard work and planning is paying off. Hopefully you won’t be too tipsy at this point.
I know this looks like a lot and that you’ll be in the kitchen and not enjoying anyone, but everyone always ends up in the kitchen anyway so you won’t be missing out. You won’t really be missing out if you prep everything ahead of time. Just pop into the kitchen to take out the bread and pop some veggies into the oven. Then you have an hour to play with your guests before the next thing goes into the oven.