Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Host a Lavish Dinner Party at home with Precision and Perfection - The MONICA CHANDLER style!!

Okay so you are planning a party at home. The guest list is big…Like really big. For me any guest list for more than 12 adults is a big list to be cooked at home.  Say you want to really impress them with a lavish spread of entrée, Main and Desserts, then, that needs to be executed with a clear Project Plan with clearly defined Time driven Milestones and a bunch of Helpers. Oh Yes, you need to unleash the Monica Chandler of FRIENDS fame in you! Let me tell you how.

My Menu for a dinner Party for 15 adults was like this:

4 Starters – Cajun Potatoes, Hummus and Pita Bread, Tandoori Paneer Tikka and Nachos Chips with homemade cheese dip
2 Mains – South Indian Uthappam/Sambar/Chutneys and Spinach-Corn Pulao
2 Desserts – Bread Halwa and Ice cream
The entire event needs to be done in 3 stages.

So the first Part is about the Planning. 2 days before the day of the party, you need to finalize the menu and make a complete list of the food items that you will need. I made an excel with Columns Such as this. You know you get the idea. Take a print out of this and go stock up everything from a store that offers all this and also some Drinks a day before.

Cajun Potato

 Cheese DIP
 Nachos, Cheese
Hummus, Pita bread
Tandoori Paneer

Olive oil





 Skewer sticks
Dosa batter
Veg Pulao
Spring Onion

Butter, Bread


Cream Cheese


The second part of the plan is then to decide the number of people you need to help. Here in Bangalore, the maids show a really long face if you will make them work for long hours. So, I decided to time shift with 2 cooks – One for the first half of the cooking AND another one for the second half. This is also a good disaster management plan in case one does not show up. In fact, you will need to book 3 cooks and give them specific time-slots to act like a relay cooking.  The third one is just for contingency. And one helper to do the tables, plates etc.

Now when it comes to execution, my usual order of preparation goes like this – Desserts, Main, then starters.
If your party starts at 7, and if guests are punctual, then you need to start cooking from 3 p.m.  The first item that I cooked was the bread halwa, at which I am a pro and got it ready the first thing. Then comes the main – Since I am a south Indian, I play to my strengths – As a tambram [Tamil Brahmin], I don’t experiment so much with North Indian Punjabi OR Shahi Paneer style stuff. I stick to my zone.
So the next set started with making sambar, two chutneys and the Green pulao. This took about 1.5 hours of time for my cook who is an expert at this.
By now the time was 5:30. Time to look at the starters.
Now most starters have to be served hot and others started just about when the guests are ready to eat. Hence I divided my starters into two types. Ready to serve & Cook & Serve. The ready to serve were good to go to table as soon as the guests came. This for me were Hummus and Nachos. The long action ones were the paneer tikka and Cajun Potatoes. So I had to get the basic elements ready. By now my first cook was out of the house. Enter the second cook.
 Boil and fry the potatoes and get the Cajun mix done. Marinate paneer and keep them ready in fridge.
By now, the house needs to be clean and the tables/Plates/Napkins, Spoons and fork had to be set. The helper is needed now.

Dinner Time
As soon as considerable number of guests arrive, you need to get the food going. Especially long parties that roll up well into the night require a lot of food, drinks and games. Hence we started with making the cheese dip for the Nachos which is a 5-minute affair. Once this was done, Hummus and Nachos were out.  Then we started with the Paneer Tikka and Dressing up the Cajun mix. This sucked up enough time with guests around. And once all starters were out to the table, my cook made an exit too.
Once you make a great impression with starters, you need to keep the tempo up with your mains. People like Sambar to be hot so it had to be re-heated and served. Finally, when dessert was served, I had to congratulate myself on a project well executed.

But no it does not end here. The worst part of the party is the cleaning up to do post this. 

Now how to clean your house like a Martha Stewart is for my next blog! 

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