A great dinner party takes a lot of hard work. To avoid feeling stressed out and exhausted, take some of the pressure off yourself with careful advance planning, staged preparation and smart menus that skip time-intensive dishes. The time you spend thinking through your evening's plans before the big day arrives pays off in the ease you feel when it actually does.
Familiar recipes provide reliable results. Experimenting with new foods and ingredients keeps the challenging fun in your cookery, but save the brand-new dishes for times when you don't have to put food in front of a group of guests. If you give frequent dinner parties, maintaining a computerized log of past dinner-party menus and what seemed popular gives you a convenient idea reference as you plan your courses. Your guest list also helps make your party an enjoyable experience, provided that you invite people who mix well together. If you know that one or more of your guests deal with food allergies and dietary restrictions, plan alternate options that match those requirements.
Get Ahead of Yourself
You can't shop for a dinner party until you know how many people you have to feed. Verify your guest list far in advance to head off the prospect of rushed shopping to accommodate last-minute acceptances. Use recipes on your computer, tablet or smartphone app to pull your ingredient list together and check it against what you already have on hand, including spices as well as proteins or vegetables. Shop as far in advance as you can and prepare as much ahead of time as possible, starting with the items that tolerate the earliest preparation and leaving the truly perishable items till last. Take advantage of flexible refrigerator drawers or compartments to store ingredients or chilled dishes at the right temperature once you finish preparing them. At least several days in advance, get the vacuuming out of the way and check your linens, china and flatware, verifying what needs cleaning and running laundry early enough to avoid last-minute ironing.
Home on the Range
Set the table early in the day and start your meal preparation sooner than you think you need to accommodate for any unforeseen events. Use your microwave to melt ingredients, leaving your range top free for parts of the preparation that can't go anywhere else. A quiet new dishwasher won't raise the noise level in your kitchen, but avoid running it while you're cooking, as the dishes will still be hot if the load finishes in time to use its contents to set the table.
Take the time to plan a musical selection that can play throughout the evening. If you know that some of your favorite music falls on one of your guests' less-favored list, skip it in favor of choices that contribute to a mellow mood. A wireless audio dock or connected home theater system can play tunes from various devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones, so you can take advantage of the full extent of your music library to fill in the gaps in conversation with suitably mellow music. Don't leave the playlist till the last minute, or you'll be playing one album or one group over and over all night or periodically rushing into another room to add more music to the entertainment roster.
Photo Credits: Anne Dale/Demand Media
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