Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Elegant Winter Dinner Menu

You may remember I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we were going to have our neighbors over for dinner. That was now a little over a week ago but I wanted to go back and post the menu because it turned out so wonderfully! Here's the menu, with links to the recipes on Epicurious:
Herb Green Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette, Avocados, Dried Cranberries, and Goat Cheese

Everything turned out perfectly and I would highly recommend the entire menu for a special dinner. It was a bit of work though, so plan to spend an entire afternoon in the kitchen. 

Usually I plan my menus, read through the recipes, and create my shopping list. After I purchase the ingredients, I don't think too much more about the preparations until two to three hours before dinner time. However, after numerous dinner parties I have learned that cooking fairly complex meals always takes much much longer than I have anticipated. This leaves me frantically running around like a crazy person when the guests arrive and everyone is starving by the time dinner is actually ready and on the table. I am always so upset with myself when dinner is late and it is always such a hassle when our small kitchen is filled to overflowing with dirty dishes even before dinner starts. Last Wednesday as I was getting ready for dinner with our neighbors, I decided to try a new method to see if I could actually get dinner ready on time. 

Once I had all the ingredients, I sat down with my recipes (early in the morning) and made a note of how long I thought each one would take - for preparation and for baking/cooking time. Then I added about 5 to 10 extra minutes for each step to give myself a little bit of wiggle room. Next, I calculated the time by which I wanted to be able to sit down to dinner and worked back from there, making myself a timeline to follow as I got dinner ready. Since several of the items would need to cook or bake right until the last minute, I tried to do as much as possible early in the afternoon so I could focus on those items in the last hour before dinner. Below are my notes for the day. It didn't turn out exactly as I had planned, but it helped a great deal. 

Early preparations to be completed between 1pm and 5pm:

Assemble the galettes and refrigerate them (be ready to bake them after dinner so they will be fresh and hot for dessert) - 30 minutes 
Make the caramel sauce for the galettes - 30 minutes 
Set the table - 15 minutes 
Prepare the Roast Vegetables side dish - 30 minutes to prep the veggies and 1 hour 30 minutes for baking time 
Make the herb butter for the green beans - 10 minutes
Prepare the ingredients for the game hens' sauce - 10 minutes 
Wash and cut up the green beans - 20 minutes 

Total prep time: 2 
hours 25 minutes 
Be sure to start these tasks by 3pm 

Dinner Timeline for the late afternoon:
5:35pm - start preparing the game hens, preheat the oven to 450 degrees
5:45pm - start the polenta 
5:50pm - start the game hen sauce 
6:10pm - put on the water for the green beans 
6:35pm - Cornish game hens should be done, prepare
 green salad 
6:40pm - put the roasted veggies back into the oven to reheat at 450 degrees 
6:45pm - the polenta should be finished 
6:50pm - plate the game hens and polenta 
6:55pm - put the roast veggies on the table 
7:00pm - sit down to the table and eat 

In reality the galettes took a lot longer to prep than I had anticipated (I should have allowed them 45 minutes to an hour) and I didn't start my prep work until closer to 4pm. However, it all worked out well and we were ready to sit down and eat by 7:15pm which was just about the time our company arrived. This was so much better than my previous dinner-party experiences that I will definitely be using my new method in the future. 

Here are some pictures from my cooking adventures. Sadly I was so preoccupied with cooking later in the day that I didn't get around to taking any pictures of the game hens. Oh well, I'll have to try for that next time. 

My all time favorite salad! Greens tossed with olive oil,
pomegranate vinaigrette, salt, and pepper. Topped with goat cheese
dried cranberries, and avocado slices. Yum Yum!

Chopped up root veggies.

Washing leeks in the sunshine!

Mixing up the vegetables, oil, rosemary, and salt.

Into the oven!

Yummy roasted root vegetables all ready to eat! 


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