Have you ever offered to host a cocktail party for a big group and thought to yourself while menu planning “Now, how the heck am I going to accomplish this with one oven?”
Well, in our small condo, CBH and I love having friends and family over, and I run into this dilemma quite often. It only takes one or two mishaps with “dinner’s being served at midnight and half of the dishes are cold” to learn to menu plan ahead of time with a strong sense of “where and when do I cook everything”.
and yes, the cocktails flow quicker than we imagine…
Ok, let’s examine the heat sources in my kitchen:
- one oven
- one microwave (which is only good for reheating things, so let’s nix this for now)
- 5 stovetop burners (I have a grill pan too, so this is a great option)
Where else can I obtain heat from? My crock pot.
When planning your menu with limited sources of heat, divide and conquer – serve things raw, chilled, room, warm and hot temperatures. Plan accordingly, and you don’t have to scrambling while waiting for one dish to come out of the oven to toss the next one in, spending the entire evening in the kitchen – away from your guests. Also, adding dishes that you can make/prep the night can really cut down your time in the kitchen the next day.
Recently, a few of us were planning a Baby Shower co-ed cocktail party for 20-25 guests . I volunteered to tackle the food. The party was at my friend’s house, therefore I had to get creative and think of her kitchen’s heat sources and what I could cook/prep the night before.
Our menu consisted of a snack, 3 light appetizers, 3 heavier appetizers and a dessert – all bite-size.
rule of thumb: Food & Wine advises us to count 8 hors d’oeuvres per person per hour if you aren’t serving a plated dinner. this is a great starting point, although I always buffer in a little extra when cocktails are being served… I’d rather have a little extra food in case one of the guests needs to soak up a little alcohol…
Here is what we served at the Baby Shower:
- homemade chex mix which I was able to make two days prior to the party.
- lighter appetizers
- spinach and artichoke dip with garlic crostini – I was able to prep the dip the night before. All I had to do the day of was pop it in the oven and serve hot. I also had to toast the garlic crostini, but I did that first thing in the morning. Those didn’t need to served hot. (generally, dips are easy to make the night before, and since I didn’t use any raw ingredients, this was an easy dish to get prepped early and out of the way.)
- crudite with hummus – again, hummus is something you can make the evening prior. you can also cut your vegetables up the evening prior, store them in a ziplock bag in your fridge – all you have to do the next day is plate and you’re set!
- shrimp cocktail – served cold and always a crowd pleaser
- heavier appetizers
- pulled pork sliders with coleslaw served on hawaiian rolls – my crockpot! Toss the pork in and leave it alone for 8 hours. This couldn’t get any simpler. (I know sliders aren’t too glamorous, but since this was a co-ed shower, I figured the men would like these.)
- gourmet cocktail wienies with a variety of dipping sauces – no, these are not just pulled straight out of the freezer. they are wrapped with crescent rolls and baked on a cookie sheet. Having these be homemade is a nice touch.
- chicken satay with a peanut dipping sauce – grilled on either an outdoor grill or a stovetop grill pan just before guests arrive. the peanut sauce can be made the morning of and set aside
- bite-size mini cupcakes – made the evening before (i’ll soon share my homemade decadent buttercream frosting recipe with you all 😉 )
the 4 guests of honor… 😉
a few of my favorite serving platters & linen place settings: