Anolon Academy

Dinner party menu planning

Plan A…Plus!

The key to a successful event is planning, beginning with the menu. Take care to balance dishes that require last minute active work with dishes that can be made in advance and / or cooked “passively” (i.e. in the oven, requiring no hands-on). Consider the cooking space available (4 burners, 6 burners, one oven, two ovens, etc.) and the requirements of each dish.

Balancing Act

When deciding appetizers for a dinner party, consider lighter fare so guests aren’t overly stuffed with heavy rich snacks when they sit down to the beautiful meal you’ve prepared. Foods like specialty Italian and French olives, pickled carrots, cherry tomatoes and spiced nuts offer variety and flavor but won’t spoil appetites for the main event.

A basic balanced menu will include a protein such as fish, poultry, pork, lamb, beef, or even quinoa and tofu, a grain (i.e. rice, potatoes, bread) and a vegetable. Build a dinner menu starting from these basics, and fill out the meal from there as you like – add a second vegetable or perhaps include bread in addition to a rice dish.

Think of the menu as a “whole”, so that individual dishes complement each other to create overall balance in flavor and texture. If you’re serving chicken with a cream sauce, then don’t also serve scalloped potatoes (also a creamy dish). Or, if you’re serving salad with tomatoes, then avoid sliced tomatoes as the second vegetable. Crispy chicken with roasted potatoes is a lot of crunch – try mashed potatoes instead.

Location, Location, Location

And remember your oven space! When planning your menu, keep in mind the oven space available and plan the menu accordingly. If you’re serving warm appetizers, don’t fall so in love with them that you don’t cut the supply when it’s time to convert the oven to dinner use – no matter what your guests say!

Think through the details in advance to lay the ground work for success – the host should also enjoy the party, and thorough planning from the beginning is a giant step towards a joyful event