I love having people over for dinner. It’s one of my absolute favourite ways to spend an evening. Good friends or family. Easy conversation. Appies. Wine.* First course. More wine. And so on, right through to dessert, which, in my opinion, should always be the crowning glory to a meal.
*Or maybe Prosecco. (Even though I’m the only one who seems to like it, I keep on offering it relentlessly with the hope that I can find a new convert–a Prosecco buddy, so to speak. Sigh. I’m working on it.)
As much as I love dinner partying, I have a love-hate relationship with menu planning. I agonize over it. Every. Single. Time. A regional meal–Greek? Italian? Middle Eastern? Maybe Thai. How about Asian-fusion? Do they like seafood? Should it be super casual or should I go all out?
And then I start looking. I scroll through my own recipes on this blog looking for inspiration. I head over to Pinterest and pin like crazy. I google. I pin some more. And this time I found:
- this roasted grape & gorgonzola stuffed chicken with balsamic reduction sounds amazing.
- this chicken thighs with blueberry chipotle sauce sure sounds interesting–blueberries and chipotle? Nice photo.
- meyer lemon tarts . Oh yes, with the swiss meringue on top too, please.
- Oh my. This warm lemon pudding cake baked in those cute teacups.
- roasted chicken with lemon and oregano. Okay, now this one sounds perfect. I could go with a lemon theme! Meyer lemons are readily available locally now. Lemon chicken, a citrus salad . . . a lemon dessert. The chicken recipe is from Bon Appetit so I can trust it.
And then I read the reviews. “Tasted like formaldehyde and old people” read one. “My whole family, except the dog, was disappointed,” commented another, and then this one, “This was the first recipe that I’ve tried from Bon Appetit, and I must say we’re off to a very bad start.”
Back to Square One. I have no more time to pin or google. It’s crunch time. I just go with what I know.
I’ve since devised Three Steps to Easy Menu Planning that, hopefully, I’ll remember next time I’m trying to make decisions.
One. Keep it simple. A simple menu, simple dishes, simple wholesome flavours. I’m here to enjoy my company, not to win a cooking competition.
Two. Cook what I know. Use tried and true dishes that I’ve made before.
Three. Plan and prep. Choose dishes that I can make ahead of time or at least make components of in advance.
So what did I finally come up with? Simple, tried and true, and it could all be prepped in advance.
1. Prosciutto-Wrapped Scallops with Blackberry Balsamic Drizzle
2. Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts and Parmesan
3. Spring Chicken Thighs
4. Oven Roasted Seasonal Vegetables–carrots, parsnips, yams, potatoes, yellow and red beets, fennel, onions, cauliflower tossed in oil and rosemary.
5. Raspberries with Lemon Cream in Phyllo Cups
And it was good. The best part? Hanging out with great friends. Easy conversation. Lots of laughs.