It’s the holiday season and the most wonderful time of year to celebrate the joys of family tradition and merriment. Gathering over delicious eats and festive cocktails is what many of us look forward to (in addition to that whole gift giving thing). If you were selected host of this year’s Holiday party, you may be interested in testing out a few new tricks to simplify the process of menu planning. I’ll share some tips that I’ve learned in successfully planning a menu for any occasion.
1. Know your audience! Do any guests have specific food allergies or intolerances? Will there be children attending? How many people overall are coming? This information will provide the framework of your menu.
2. Plan each course in a methodical order. Here’s the correct sequence in menu planning. Begin with the main course or entrée. Make sure it includes a protein, a vegetable and a starch.
Note: Each item that which makes up the main dish should vary in color, texture, shape, flavor, and method of preparation.
Next, your menu should consist of two appetizers. For example, one might be a salad and the other a soup. Consequently, you can start thinking about side dishes. Last, but absolutely not least, comes dessert.
3. Maintain a consistent variety. This may sound contradictory, but it actually makes complete sense and foodies with a sharp palette know it well. Your whole menu should be balanced in the five qualities mentioned above: color, texture, shape, flavor, and method of preparation. Each menu item should be unique on its own but compliment the other dishes in a consistent manner.
4. Portion properly to prevent waste. Assume that each plate will consist of the following: 4 ounces meat or fish and 2-3 ounces of each side. If you are planning to serve twenty guests a roast, the minimum amount to serve is five pounds (4 ounces multiplied by 20 equals 80 ounces; divide that by 16 ounces to arrive at 5 pounds). Don’t forget to account for the weight of inedible parts of meat, like turkey.
Tip: If you are serving a meat and fish you might not need to prepare more than the minimum.
The standard serving size for soup is about one cup. As for dessert, I am sure you can count on each guest having one piece of Aunt Sally’s fruitcake!
5. On a budget? Plan ahead, make a list, and cost it out. Take advantage of coupons and store specials. This information can be found on store websites via the “shop online” service. Utilize the product and price listings to plan a detailed shopping list. This will make all the difference in preventing impulse buys and saving a few extra bucks. Use my Christmas Feast for Under One Hundred Dollars post as your guide!