Hosting a supper club or any dinner party can be stressful. No matter how many times you have hosted a party there are challenges that can be daunting. Use the following six strategies and you can guarantee success:
There is nothing like a bit of planning to increase your chances of success. This involves writing a menu that you are comfortable with. After the menu is written I outline:
- Shopping list identifying:
- What you need to buy,
- Where you need to buy it
- When you buy it
- Schedule (with lots of details)
The old adage of: “How do you eat an elephant? – One bite at a time? The more you can break a task down the more doable it is.
Practice makes perfect. If you have made something before you are going to be better at it the next time you make it. With practice you know what will be a challenge during crunch time. If you are going to make a mistake it is best to make it while you still have time to fix it.
In the old days, when I wrote a supper club menu, I would have a Impromptu Friday Night dry run with the usual suspects. We had four other couples that we would call on a Friday afternoon at 3 pm and 9 out of 10 times they would show up at 7 pm that night for dinner. It was sort of amazing. The guys would be travelling the world for work, but Susan would call at 3 pm and magically they would appear for dinner just to be a guinea pig.
3. Cook Ahead
There are lots of dishes that are just as good or even better when made ahead. Our culinary team at Kraft would prepare an extensive menu for our annual holiday party. They would go into production up to a week in advance and then reheat them or even serve items at room temperature.
Soups and sauces can be made ahead. Spaghetti sauce is better when it is a day or two old. Ragu’s and stews are great made ahead. For large parties items like beef filet and roasted shrimp can be made a day ahead and served at room temperature. Put a bit of thought behind it and you can do lots of things in advance.
4. Day of Prep
This is where your “Mise En Place” comes into play. Loosely translated this is French for “put into place” and it is a cornerstone of every culinary school education. It is the way restaurants are able to turn out hundreds of meals in a few hours. It involves doing all of the preparation in advance, minimizing the “a la minute” cooking and focusing on assembly and presentation.
Your scheduling detail of your plan should clearly identify what you are going to do and when. Having your mise en place well thought out and in place is key. This can be easier said than done. My daughter recently told me how she tried to follow my mise en place for a romaine wedge salad. She said it looked easy on the video, https://youtu.be/htNhiMVfrpw but with a 4 year old running sprints through the kitchen and 5 month old needing to be fed she ran out of time. Guests just had to wait.
My father thought that one of my mother’s keys to cooking success was making her guests wait. He claimed that making folks wait was part of her strategy. By the time they got served they were so hungry even shoe leather would taste good.
5. Post Its
I am a real believer in have written notes and reminders strategically placed in the kitchen. I think it goes back to my education at an all boys catholic high school. The way I learned to study was to write cheat notes. I found that if I focused on condensing every thing I needed onto a 3 X 5 card shoved up my sleeve, come time for the test I didn’t need the card. Whether it is the process or the note itself, I like to have reminders that I can check in the heat of the moment to make sure.
6. Delegate During Crunch Time
So you have done all the planning, practice and preparation and its crunch time. There is that final 5 to 10 minutes where everything has to come together. This is where it is really good to have another set of hands. My son Brian is really good in the crunch. He has a great sense of what I am trying to do and with very little instruction steps in to pull things together. He also has a great eye for presentation.
At the other end of the spectrum is my buddy Jim. When it comes to cooking he is clueless, but tell him to stir something or to make sure something in the oven doesn’t burn and he is my guy. Putting some thought into what you are going to delegate and to whom is key.
With all of the above said don’t forget that the reason you are having is a party is to have a good time. Follow the 6 strategies outlined above and you will have time to enjoy your guests and serve a great meal. Impromptu Friday Nights is about having a good time socializing over a meal with friends. Make sure you enjoy the process and the event.
If you enjoy this blog and similar other stories/supper club lessons subscribe to get future blogs at www.impromptufridaynights.com/blog and be on the look out for my book Impromptu Friday Nights a Guide to Supper Clubs. Morgan James Publishing published the Kindle-Version on September 5, 2017 and the hard copy coming out January 30, 2018.