When I started my personal chef business here in Tucson, I promised my good friend, Mimi, that I would never be too busy to continue to entertain her, her husband Joe, and the rest of my friends. So have I kept my promise? You bet! My “get togethers” may not be as frequent as they were before starting my business, but I still make time for my friends. And no matter how busy you are, you can too. Here are a few helpful tips and a sample menu of what I recently served to a group of 10 for a casual backyard supper!
1. Decide the number of people you want to invite. That will determine the type of menu you want to prepare, the amount of time it will take, complexity, etc. HINT: A menu doesn’t have to be complex to be impressive. The way to impress your guests, even with the simplest menu, is how you present the food!
2. Take the time to develop a menu and a grocery list. Include the beverage list as a part of the planning process. HINT: This step will save you so much time in the long run and relieve unneeded stress!
3. Grocery shop 2-3 days ahead of time.
4. Determine what you can prepare ahead of time and prep as much as you can the day before and a few hours before guests arrive. HINT: You’ll have a much better time at your own party if you can get as much done ahead of time.
5. Assign someone to attend the bar or set up as a “serve yourself” so that you’re not responsible for every aspect of the party. Have your partner or a good friend help!
6. Have the bar set up ahead of time. You can do it the day before. Don’t forget to make ice or buy some!
7. Have all of your glassware, silver, plates, napkins, etc., ready to go and set out.
Here is an example of a recent menu that I served to my friends. There were 10 of us and we ate outside on our patio on an amazing April evening. Along with the menu is how and when I prepared it. Also, I have a tendency to serve buffet style when I host a lot of folks, especially if it is casual like this one! You can either set up a separate table or have a separate area from the dining table. As long as the food in close proximity, it works great!
Caprese Salad (Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Fresh Red Ripe Tomatoes, Fresh Basil Drizzled with Olive Oil). This refreshing dish makes a great, colorful presentation. I take a large platter and weave my cheese, tomato, basil which I line on the plate until the plate is filled. You can slice the cheese the night before. Then assemble the platter at least 2-3 hours ahead of time. Before serving is when you’ll drizzle the olive oil and season with salt and pepper!
3-Bean Salad with Shallots Tossed with a Light Vinaigrette (My bean salad consists of fresh green beans, garbanzo beans and red kidney beans) Cook the green beans the night before. I use low sodium canned garbanzo beans and kidney beans which saves me a lot of time. The night before, I assemble the beans in a bowl along with the shallots or green onions so that the flavor has time to infuse. The next day I toss my salad with olive oil, champagne or sherry vinegar, and season with garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. I then refrigerate it until an hour before I serve. Make sure and toss well before serving. I served it in a beautiful glass bowl and topped with a few green onions.
Teriyaki Grilled Pork Tenderloin Served with an Avocado & Mango “Salsa” The night before, I peel and chop the mangos.
On the morning of my party, I marinate my pork tenderloin in an already prepared marinade. One of my favorites is Yoshimas.
About an hour or so before the guests arrive, I grill the tenderloin to medium rare. I take it off the grill, let it rest for 10 minutes and then slice it. I place it in a baking dish with leftover marinate that I boiled off. I place it in a warm oven. By the time I serve it, it will be the perfect temperature!
Also, about 30 minutes to one hour before guests arrive, I am making my salsa, which is simply cubed avocado, mango, and thinly sliced red onion tossed with a small amount of olive oil and salt to taste. To give it some added kick, I zest a lemon on top and toss. I served the pork on a nice china serving platter sprinkled with sesame seeds and I served the “salsa” in a nice glass bowl.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries served with ice cream or frozen yogurt I made the chocolate-dipped strawberries the morning of my party. To make your strawberries look special and “fancy,” drizzle with white chocolate after you dip the strawberries in chocolate and they’ve had time to set. I served my strawberries on a nice glass platter with a white paper doily!
Beverages of Choice – Prosecco, margaritas, water, beer, diet soda