Entertaining? Check!

Company’s Coming! Those words can evoke both great excitement and a sense of dread, sometimes at the same time!

With very limited entertaining over the past two and a half years, we may find ourselves having to relearn the fine art of hosting a houseful of visitors. It’s time to dust off the serving dishes, polish the silver, and count the coffee service.

Just as we all have different personalities and styles, so we also have diverse methods of approaching the challenge of entertaining. At El Gusto, we have created an efficient Entertaining Planner to help streamline the process from beginning to end and bring the joy back into filling the home with family and friends.

It is important to take a few minutes to plan every detail of your menu; our new Entertaining Planner will help you know where to start. This not only helps you to remember the little things, from garnishes to gravy; it is also a tremendous help for anyone else that may be helping you put the meal together.

First, decide on the basic menu. Many cooks choose to select their meat first, and structure the menu from there. You may have a large joint of meat that needs to be used up, or a new El Gusto recipe that you really want to try. From this first choice, it isn’t too difficult to select some side dishes to accompany the meat selection.

When planning each item, try to envision the final plate. Ensure you include different colours and textures to make the meal that much more appealing. This helps to avoid situations such as having an abundance of one colour, or every side dish needing a sauce.

Are there any special dietary needs among your visitors? Even if you’re not yet sure of the guest list, it is always a good idea to have at least one side dish that is clean and free of sauce or topping. This might include roasted vegetables or a salad with dressing on the side. One option is to set aside a serving or two of plain vegetables, before adding anything that includes common allergens. Anybody sensitive is sure to appreciate the gesture.

If you have multiple cooks in the family, delegate the jobs ahead of time, and mark them on your planner. For a family with more than one cook in-house, entertaining can be a fun team exercise, with one chef manning the grill, another creating a dessert masterpiece, while a junior chef prepares a sweets tray.

Here are a few points to remember, to keep things running smoothly when the house is full of guests:

  • Plan a menu with a minimal number of things that must be done at the last minute.
  • If possible, set the table a day ahead. If this isn’t an option, at least count out the tableware, from plates and placemats to napkins and water glasses.
  • Mark each job, according to when it can be done. Need to slice lemons? Why not do it a day ahead, and put them in a zip seal bag in the fridge?
  • As you develop your menu, note the serving platter and utensils you intend to use for each dish. Meat: large meat fork. Check. Roast Potatoes: large spoon or tongs. Check.

One of the last jobs is to assign seating around the table. Taking a few minutes to map this out ahead of time can help seating go smoothly. Be sure to space adults at regular intervals around the table, to make passing of dishes easier. Too many young ones together, and the heavier dishes will create an unwelcome bottleneck or breakage.

Don’t forget the grand finale of any great meal, the leftovers! It can be very helpful to set aside a few containers ahead of time, to take care of the leftovers. The kitchen is often awash with willing helpers at the clean-up stage. Do not hesitate to delegate the job of storing the leftovers to one of these volunteers.

With all that pre-planning, the host and hostess should be able to relax and enjoy their visitors. After a little practice, you’ll be back into the routine in no time, with your entertaining more streamlined than ever. Bon Appétit!

El Gusto Entertaining Planner

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