Tomorrow's menu took a lot of thought and edits. I wanted something special, but not something I'd make for a regular dinner. I went back and forth for almost 3 weeks. In my brown-paper notebook, I wrote and scratched out many ideas - leek tart, honey and pink peppercorn carrots, and the list goes on.
The 5 things that I kept in mind while building this menu were:
What spices and sauces do I already have in the fridge? Starting a pantry for the first time, you start to realize how many different ingredients you need. You want to keep what you use fresh, so don't overbuy spices. A great trick is to buy what you ned in bulk. If you just need 2 pods of cardamom, why buy a whole jar?
Oven? Stove? Hot? Cold? Timing in the kitchen is crucial. Yes, obviously, you want to build a menu that is perfectly balanced, but what if they are all oven dishes? How many ovens do you have? Do you really want to bake fish and a cake in the same oven at the same time? When your reviewing your final menu, take a minutes to prioritize your items and decide if you need to switch something up.
What can you do early? If you're like me, you like to devote your day to cooking - nice and slow. Really! It's where I find peace of mind, but that means you look like crap at the party. Sometimes, you need to slave less and see your energy. Prep your "miss en place." I learned this phrase in France. It basically means to get everything ready and in its place. Pesto? Make it a day early. Peeling a pomegranate? Do it the day before. Being a quiche? Get the dough ready early.
What do my guests eat? I'm lucky enough to know what my parents, sister, and husband like. Don't be shy and just ask. Your guests will be grateful to have dishes they can eat and you'll be the hostess with the mostest. Bear in mind, if you ask, you must accommodate - especially allergies.
What's the big picture? Do a walk through of your meal. What will you serve the meal on? Buffet-style or family-style? Does your food go well together? Do you have a carb and a veggie? Something hot or crunchy? Is it cohesive? Do you have the right knives to serve a steak? There's always something you'll wish you though of, but that will get better with practice.