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Timing is everything

I've been writing up the wonderful successes which have been the cooking classes and boasting of dishes I've cooked which turned out perfectly. I don't often write about how things go wrong, because, frankly, it's less flattering to me, and I like having my hair and makeup just right for LJ, so to speak.

Last night, I held a dinner party of sorts, and had a handful of lovely people, just enough so that we wouldn't be too crowded if we sat around the dinner table. The company was good, there was plenty of food, and nothing went disastrously wrong - but that doesn't mean I don't have a great deal left to learn and practice about having guests over.

  • There was plenty of food. In fact, because I am bad at estimating quantities, there was entirely too much food. I could live off of the raw ingredients for weeks. The only real consolation to this problem is that I prepared about the right amount of food. The raw ingredients are what are filling up my storage spaces. I also have an enormous selection of cheese currently, due to a weak will, and every cheese having a specific purpose when I bought it.
  • I cook frittata about twice a month. It's always come out perfect, a reliable, tasty dish, good for guests and good for leftovers. Usually, a frittata takes five to ten minutes to set, even if it's on the large size. After 20 or 30 minutes, this one still hadn't set. It never did. I threw it out in the end. I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong, and the only thing I can think of thus far is that I think I usually use cream instead of milk. The recipe, however, calls for milk.
  • I forgot to put out two of the three parts to dessert. I made fruit salad earlier in the day, and had a nice bag of chocolates. Also, there was the option of mascarpone to have with the muffins, from back when I thought I'd bought mostarda, not marmelata. I forgot to put out the mascarpone as well.
  • I'd been hoping to have the six of us have a nice sit-down meal with real plates and silverware at the table. This would have been more realistic if I'd thought more about the fact that I only have six of everything, and that I was already using many of the regular plates as serving plates. Fortunately, I have an enormous supply of paper plates and plastic silverware. But it's not the same.
  • I set off the smoke detector twice while my guests were around. The alarm is sensitive - nothing was burning, just browning.
  • Timing is everything. I carefully chose dishes for dinner which I could prepare largely in advance, and thus spend plenty of time with my guests. Theoretically, my logic was sound. In practice, I was an hour behind, and thus missed out on quite a bit of time I could have spent with them. This also makes me a poor host. Usually, it wouldn't be a problem if I needed to do one more hour of cooking, because C. would be here and could make sure everyone had drinks. Also, he could help me do the dishes today.


Many of these problems could be solved by making up a more rigorous timetable in advance. The rest, I suspect, only experience will mend. There will be more on quince in a different post.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
chickenfeet2003
Mar. 9th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC)
* Timing is everything. I carefully chose dishes for dinner which I could prepare largely in advance, and thus spend plenty of time with my guests. Theoretically, my logic was sound. In practice, I was an hour behind, and thus missed out on quite a bit of time I could have spent with them. This also makes me a poor host. Usually, it wouldn't be a problem if I needed to do one more out of cooking, because C. would be here and could make sure everyone had drinks. Also, he could help me do the dishes today.



Many of these problems could be solved by making up a more rigorous timetable in advance.


I think you are spot on with that on all points. When entertaining, I try to have, at most two things in the main course that need finishing at the last minute with firsts and desserts that can be prepared at least a couple of hours in advance. I also find writing out a schedule to be a huge help.
doctor_mama
Mar. 9th, 2005 08:14 pm (UTC)
This weekend we were having friends over. Menu was very simple; main dish was precooked bbq ribs from Trader Joe's which just had to be heated up on the grill. 15 min before they came, Spouse went down to the freezer to get something. And found the ribs which I'd forgotten to take out. Microwave saved the day.

What was your menu? The hints you've given sound wonderful.
owlfish
Mar. 9th, 2005 08:47 pm (UTC)
The appetizers provided the bulk of the meal in the end, because this was the quince-product tasting I've been planning for a while. We had three kinds of quince paste with aged manchego cheese, quince jam and jelly with baguette, grapes, and spinach/feta philo pastries with cumin-yoghurt dipping sauce (the last being a recipe picked up at the Moroccan class I did last week). The frittata was meant to be the main dish, so it's just as well there was so much other food. I served the side dishes instead, a green salad and a bean salad. There were apple cupcakes for dessert. (which were meant to be a replacement for pan d'oro - which is out of season - and go well with mostarda and mascarpone, but then it turns out I hadn't bought mostarda and forgot the mascarpone. But the cupcakes are good on their own. And it meant I could use my lovely brand-new silicone mini-muffin baking tray.)

Microwaves seem so useful - especially for predicaments like yours. We have one at our apartment in London (not that I've seen it yet), but not here.
of_remedye
Mar. 10th, 2005 04:26 am (UTC)
I like having my hair and makeup just right for LJ,

one of many things that I admire about you.

I've found (like you seem to have) that I've gotten much better both at timing (having things ready) and gauging quantity than I used to be. There is some kind of a moment when everything snaps, and I think it might be just a little bit like speaking a language, having all the parts in place in one's head and ready to go. It really is the greatest thing in the world. And your meal (or the echoes of it) sounds lovely!
square_egg
Mar. 10th, 2005 03:14 pm (UTC)
Frittata's a fool-proof favourite of mine too. Entertaining-wise, though, I'm still perfecting that balance between being marooned in the kitchen and cooking while guests are here, and doing everything in advance and having it all get cold. I must start training my husband, the untapped resource.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )