Some will say that creating an impact with food is not their style and would rather buy it than make it. For me, cooking and creating is part of my make-up plan. I especially like to cook with you (my guest) in mind. Whether it is for a large crowd or intimate gathering, I have some ideas that may make you rethink how easy it is to entertain with style.
The first thing I do after the event and date has been set is work on a guest list and send invites out. Next priority is a menu. Will there be a theme? Such as cultural cooking with a mixture of flavors (Italian, Mexican, French, Asian, American or a fusion of all). Several ideas to this menu will be deciding how you will display the food. Will it be a sit-down casual dinner, a full buffet line, a casual setting of food all around the entertaining area (which works well with large groups of people)? Other than the easy entertaining of an intimate dinner party and knowing exactly how many guests you are serving, a set menu of time, space and calculation is much more apparent than working with the unexpected "open house" where food may be prepared with guests in mind but not knowing how many guests will be eating or arriving. The number obviously will fluctuate if I extend an open invitation with no RSVP required. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on serving a large group of guests coming to your home for an "open house" for, let's say, a friendship gathering.
Recently, I had a large group of guests come to an evening open house that invitations had been sent out, we called it "Small Plates" with no RSVP was required. Most people know that when I cook, it is big and for an army. We served around 75 guests arriving at different times during the evening hours. The "small plates" idea would allow someone who could eat as little as possible (grazing) or have enough for a full meal if they wanted (heavy appetizers). It was very important to prepare a menu that would allow room-temperature items so that I could enjoy the party and guests too.
Let's start with the menu: Don't repeat a main ingredient. For example, don't serve a shrimp appetizer and shrimp main dish. Consider the colors of the food that will be served together and make sure there is variety, like leafy green, yellow (corn for instance), red could be bell pepper or strawberries; brown could be meat, bread, pastas, etc. or white for potato or desserts. You can have a lot of fun with this in your preplanning notebook. Offer both hot and cold foods on a buffet. Go ahead and mix textures such as a crisp potato galette served with a soft vegetable puree as side dishes. I usually prep the food the day before to allow an easy plan of action the day-of. Many foods can be made a day in advance and heated with ease a few minutes prior to serving.
This was the menu:
Salmon- poached with light cream, mushroom and leek sauce, topped with dill
Savory Tartlets - Leek, mushroom, gruyere and fontana cheese; Sundried tomato, spinach, basil, fresh tomato and feta cheese; and Southwestern, black and pinto bean, Pico di Gallo (fresh tomato, onion, cilantro, salt, jalapeno and lime), fresh corn, black olives, hot pepper jack, and sharp cheddar cheeses.
Fava Bean Wonton- served with yogurt dill and cucumber sauce
Five Tomato Salsa- (very chunky) cherry red and yellow tomato heirloom, mixed lightly with jalapeno, red onion, lime and cilantro
Grilled tenderloin- warm to cool, thinly sliced, served with horseradish
Bowtie pasta- with mini shrimp
Chicken pasta- with grapes and poppy seed dressing
Chicken skewers- marinated chicken with a choice of curry coconut tomato sauce or sweet and spicy peanut chutney
Salad - Three bean, cilantro, corn, onion and cumin
Brie cheese- with a hot pepper jelly overtop
Rolls, chips and crackers - served to compliment some of the dips and meats provided
Desserts: Pound cake- with sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream
Chocolate cake -with ganache chocolate fudge cut in 2" squares
While prepping for this event, I made a quick video to show you exactly how to make my original Savory Tartlets:
The leftovers were picked up by my area Police Department who sent a squad car over to pick up and share with their precinct. That way, nothing was wasted and everyone can enjoy a party- also showing some appreciation for what they do for us.