summer’s bounty

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Soups, Meat, Veggies and Sides, Desserts, Dinner Party, Posted on July 25, 2017 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (0)

My last cooking class at Dorothy Lane Marker’s Culinary Center was so much fun. We had a great group, plenty of farm fresh ingredients, and a lineup of recipes that could be done almost entirely ahead of time. Let’s face it- if you’re going to have people over you want to be out with your guests, not stuck in the kitchen.

The theme was “Summer’s Bounty”. What made this dinner party class a success was the series of courses that highlighted the best of the season. Now you might think serving up multiple courses makes for more work. The exact opposite is true.

Offering several smaller portions will actually save you time and money. The key is to choose recipes that have components that can be made hours before your guests arrive. Many courses that flank the main are usually vegetable based, such as soup or salad, that means you can serve smaller portions of protein for your main course, and that will really cut down on your costs.

When planning your menu let the season guide you. Then create an evening where the foods complement and support one another. Your guests will love when you say you picked up your key ingredients at the local farmer’s market (even if that was the farm stand inside your neighborhood grocery store). The point is to feature what is fresh, then choose easy recipes that you can make or prep in advance.

I adore my gazpacho recipe. This perfect starter is light and vibrant. The secret ingredient is Clamato juice, so be sure to ask if any of your guests have a shellfish allergy (if so you can substitute V8).

For the main course we grilled up flank steak. The evening I taught this class it was 99 degrees in the shade. There was no way I was going to have everyone melt around a raging grill while I cooked the steaks. So I thought like a caterer and right before my students arrived I grilled the steaks until they were just rare, transferred them to rimmed baking sheets and tented them with foil. Then right before serving I popped them back onto the hot grill for a minute or two. The result was perfectly cooked meat that was medium-rare. While some grill masters might find this technique sacrilegious, you’ll find doing this at your next party will keep you cool and collected.

For the sides I served fresh corn relish and sweet potato fries. Sweet corn is here, personally I serve it up at every turn. This salad features what fresh picked corn is all about.

The sweet potato fries are a fabulous accompaniment not only because they puff up like little clouds, the crème fraiche sriracha sauce is ideal not only with the fries, but sublime next to the flank steak.

What better way to end a summer meal than with shortcake parfaits. Season fresh berries are tossed with a little Grand Marnier, then spooned over crumbled bakery-fresh shortcakes, then topped with barely sweet lightly whipped cream. This dessert literally comes together in a minute. I love to serve my parfaits in martini glasses. It makes for a festive finish to a dinner that truly showcases the summer season.

And a big thank you to my fabulous helpers from DLM- Pam, Rita, Donna, Terry, and Susan. It was a super night all around!

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