Cooking for a large group of people
I often cater for larger groups of guests, and although I always wish for them to eat well, I also believe that spending time with them – rather than the stove – is equally important.
This is why choosing the right dishes to serve is the first step to an enjoyable meal for all. This is not only because I want every one to enjoy the food, but because I often make sure there is a mixture of dishes that can be partially prepared or cooked in advance, as well as dishes that will need my attention on the day. Like that, I know I have enough time to make everything and not be too overwhelmed on the day. It means we have time to make sure the table is inviting too.
My two biggest principles:
* Let the oven do most of the work when you can. The oven is an excellent sous-chef and produces tasty roasts without you getting involved too much. I often choose a piece of meat that can be slow roasted (like a shoulder of lamb). It requires minimal attention, timings don’t matter that much and it never fails to deliver on flavour. The oven is great at roasting vegetables too and will get on with it so you can get on with more enjoyable matters like making dessert…
* Anything that does not suffer from being made in advance, should be made in advance. Vegetables in particular take so much preping time that I always do as much as I can the day before.
Dishes to make in advance:
I always try to make sure that one of the dishes, be it starter or dessert, is completely made the day before.
In terms of starters, patés (fish or meat), loaves (fish or vegetables) and soups for example, many are even tastier if made the day before and will sit happily in the fridge, ready to be served with some lovely home made condiment.
For the main course, I often prepare most of my side dishes a day ahead such as carrot purée and pea purée or the Caulichamel for a gratin dish.
In terms of desserts, panna cotta style desserts, jellies, charlottes and mousses are equally co-operative.
Other prep that can be done the day before:
* Plain roasted roots. I often roast root vegetables in their own skin such as beetroot for example, so that on the day, all I need to do is warm them up in a frying pan with a little butter and herbs (beetroot goes particularly well with thyme).
* Steaming: leeks, chicory and cauliflower, can be steamed the day before so you can finish them off on the day the way you choose (see Poireaux a la Caulichamel for example or Endives au beurre recipes).
* Making condiments and sauces: some of them like yogurt, custard, curd, Caulichamel etc…can all be made the day before (see Basics section).
On the day:
There are things that I absolutely make on the day because they would not taste as good otherwise:
* Roasted meat, fish or vegetables (even if I have par-boiled the vegetables the day before).
* Cakes. Most cakes are better on the day they are made and this is particularly true of Paleo cakes because of the ingredients used.