November 14th, 2008

Hosting a Party? Stay Sane

Try NOT to look like Pam from "The Office"

Try NOT to look like Pam from “The Office” at your own dinner party.

It’s holiday time! And that means parties — and, more importantly, hosting dinner parties.

Our resident expert in all things cooking, preparing and serving (a.k.a. my sister-in-law Sandy) shares with us her recipe for having a dinner party and keeping all your marbles.

She says . . .

Here’s how I’d do the Chateaubriand meal if I was having a dinner party, or just don’t want to spend a lot of last minute time in the kitchen:


1)      Make a menu and grocery list and do my shopping 2 days ahead.

2)      One day ahead, I peel potatoes, shallots and other vegetables as required by my menu.  Potatoes must be kept covered in water in the refrigerator to prevent oxidation, which is discoloration.  Feel free to enroll your husband or kids to peel and prep veggies.  Vegetables that don’t oxidize, like broccoli or green beans, carrots, etc. can be cleaned, dried on paper towels and stored in zip-top bags in the refrigerator.

3)      Make dessert as far ahead as possible (usually a day or two is fine).

4)      The morning of the party, begin with the dauphinoise potatoes. Prep and bake as directed until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.  Cool on the countertop, then cover with plastic and refrigerate until cold (several hours).  When the potatoes are very cold and totally set, run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn them out onto a cutting board, then flip onto another cutting board.  Cut into serving shapes (I like diamonds.)  We’ll be cutting them into neat serving size portions which will then be heated and crisped up with the meat before serving.  Put the portions onto a well buttered sheet pan, cover and refrigerate.

5)      Brown the meat and shallots early to get a head start on  the red wine sauce.  While the potatoes cook, season and sear the meat until nicely browned.  Remove from pan and add the peeled, roughly chopped (in ¾ to 1 in pieces) and slightly brown them – they will not be tender yet.  Both the meat and the shallots will finish in the oven before the party.  Place shallots as base in the roasting pan, place seared roast on top, Let meat cool slightly, cover with plastic and refrigerate until about 90 minutes before party time.  Deglaze the pan with the red wine and reduce the wine until syrupy.  Let cool slightly, cover and refrigerate.  Later, the meat juices from the roast and the butter will be added to finish the sauce.

6)      Shower, get your manicure done and do last minute party cleanup.

Now that last part is if you are a woman (or simply a man who cares about well-groomed nails).

Click here to see the recipe again for Dauphinoise Potatoes. And click here to go over the step-by-step instructions for preparing Chateaubriand. Remember, Sandy gave us a slight variation here in searing the meat and letting it rest. That’s to help in timing the preparation right for your guests.

Have fun . . . and happy hosting!

Photo courtesy of