Dinner Party Menu: June
Even for those that love to cook, putting together a full menu for a dinner party, barbecue, or any group gathering is daunting. More so today than ever probably, because there are literally 73 million recipes out there. Maybe more. Pairing the right flavors and themes is important, as is considering how much work and time everything is going to take. So, starting today, I will be doing a monthly dinner party series that will feature my recommendation for an entertaining menu that month. So you don’t have to!
In my early cooking/’entertaining’ days, I would just pick my favorite things to make with complete disregard for timing and execution feasibility. I would spend hours running around the kitchen getting everything ready, and more often than not miss the cocktail hour once our friends arrived (don’t worry I was drinking wine in the kitchen). I quickly learned that’s not the way to entertain and you have to think these things through when picking the menu. So, I’ve adopted a few rules to consider as I make recipe decisions:
- Make ahead is best. Recipes where you can do some part of it ahead of time, then just finish up the final steps once guests arrived is ideal.
- Ina Garten’s genius tip: don’t make any more than 2 (3 at most) items off your menu. So if you make the main dish and a side, buy the appetizer and dessert.
- Don’t go fancy with the appetizer. Something simple to nibble on while having a drink is all you need. 99.5% of the time I do a cheese plate.
- Consider the season. Don’t serve beef bourguignon in the summer, or grilled lemon chicken in the winter.
- Always serve dessert.
And that’s it! For June (and most Summer months), I opt for something on the grill to keep it light, fun, and to inject you with that unmistakable smell of summer on the grill.
Appetizer: Block of cream cheese topped with red pepper jelly, serve with crackers
Side 1: Grilled Vegetable Salad (sorry for the old terrible photos here)
Side 2: Buy a twice-baked from the deli case or simple baked sweet potato
Dessert: Bakery-bought cookie platter
- Store-bought cream cheese and pepper jelly can be assembled a couple hours in advance and stored in the fridge
- Marinate the pork the day before, or the chicken the morning of; simply grill once ready to eat
- Have vegetables chopped and in grill pan when guests arrive. Start grilling them about 20-30 minutes before you put on the meat. Very little maintenance once they start cooking. Toss in the balsamic, cheese, and basil when ready to serve (PS this can be done early too – we’ve eaten this at room temperature plenty of times and it’s just as delicious)
- I would buy a twice baked or sweet potato from Whole Foods or Central Market, or simply pop some sweet potatoes in the oven at 350 for one hour. Serve with butter.
- A variety of cookies is NEVER a bad idea.