meals with courses

jasper_austinAugust 3, 2002

Okay, typical family dinner has everything on the table at once, with maybe a dessert course afterwards. (well, maybe not typical- eating "family style" is probably a rare event) But, does anyone serve a multiple course meal at home? What about when intertaining or a special occasion? And if you're the hostess/host, and you don't have a cook, maid, butler or any other wait staff, how can you pull off a dinner served in courses? By popping in and out of the room? Anyone?

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I usually serve appetisers in the living room with drinks, put soup on the table and invite all to be seated, Remove and replace with salad and rolls, then the main course. Takes planning and lots of counter space, but can be done.
Linda C

    Bookmark   August 3, 2002 at 7:00PM
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I did this once for a holiday meal (15 guests). It actually went quite well. As Linda did, we had appetisers in the living room with drinks. At the time I did not have a single table large enough to seat all, so we arranged 4 tables for 4 in my largest room (set festively). My in-laws are great and as I ladled soup into cups and garnished them, someone from each table came to me and collected the soup for their table. Everyone was able to sit and eat together. Salad went the same way, with someone collecting the prepared plates and distributing them. Everything was laid out in the kitchen, as soup prep area with cups and garnishes, another area was the salad prep, the main course was a third area. When clearing the course, the dirty plates were returned to the prep area and didn't interfere with the next course at all. Yes, my guest did help, but they all enjoyed it. I tend to be willing to be experimental and "try" different things, and they like to see "how" I "do it".

Since that time my DH gifted me with a table which can seat everyone, so we haven't recreated the "bistro". Now we do courses, but the soup is in a tureen and dishes are passed family style. (Some of the in-laws as when we are going to do the other style again -- DH doesn't miss it though -- I controlled serving size and he is a BIG eater!)
Preping plates in the kitchen does discourage seconds.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2002 at 11:12AM
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I haven't given it a try yet, but when we eat at our neighbors they always serve in courses...It makes me as the guest feel so special...Usually we have appetizers and drinks around the bar in the kitchen/family room then we go to the table.
She always has the table set with chargers...Her hubby then brings out the salads...and we all eat...and chat. Sometime she discretely slips out and finishes dinner...then hubby removes our salad plates and serves dinner...same thing for desert...
I think the key is that there are always 2 couples plus them at dinner....and they work together as a team

    Bookmark   August 5, 2002 at 3:07PM
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We typically have only one course during the weekday unless we're having a salad - that we eat first.

For company, we usually have hors d' oeurves and drinks followed by 3 courses. The menu is planned so we spend the least amount of time in the kitchen, with DH doing the clearing and me finishing and plating the food.

For an informal dinner, like we had this past Sunday, we serve the food family style. For a more formal dinner, we plate the food in the kitchen. I typically serve the sides family style, depending on what I am serving.

I plan my menus and prep all of the food as early in the day as possible (leaving the actual cooking to the last minute) so I can enjoy my company without pending a lot of time attending to the food. Of course, it is important to select the right foods/recipes to accomplish this.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2002 at 8:48AM
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I think it must just take practice. Like Sue our weekday meals are always served family style. I also serve all our "big event" meals family style...Christmas, Easter big birthdays etc.

Dinner parties for 4 to 12 people I serve in courses. It's all about being ready in advance and choosing the right menu. I usually serve a starter then a soup then a salad then the main event....dessert usually much later and away from the table. The real trick is to pick dishes that don't require too much real time kitchen time from you. Here is a very basic idea of what you might choose.

Cold shrimp cocktails......prepare them and refreigerate them already plated long before company arrives.

Any soup you enjoy that can be prepared early in the day, or even the day before and can simmer low on the stovetop for an hour or so before dinner (no cream soups!!!). All you need do is serve it at the table.

Lasagne......prepared before company arrives, all you need do is turn the oven on.....while it is resting after cooking is a good time to serve the soup. Once you have some experience with these types of dinners you can move to meat dishes with several sides...but keep it simple!

Salad prepared early along with a homemade salad dressing all you need do is toss it quickly and serve.

Tiramasu or cheescake prepared the day before and ready to serve

Anyhow you get the drift..........

Another important tip, set your table completley using a counter or sideboard for all the dishes, cutlery, condiments etc you will need for your entire meal. You don't ever want to be crashing through your cupboards looking for the right dishes just as the food is ready to be served.

Last but not least a spouse who will clean the whole damn mess up when your done!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2002 at 8:22PM
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I got turned onto multiple course meals when touring a historic home in Colorado Springs. They had a Christmas menu on the wall that featured 10 courses with not a salad among them.

I came home and made it my goal to attempt it. I have since done seven and eight course meals at special times. Last Christmas I served an eight course meal for the ladies from my wife's office. There were 17 of them. My dining room wouldn't hold them, so I cleared the space in the living room and brought the table in there. With all 4 leaves it is 10' long. Still a little tight, but doable.

The menu looked like this...

Amuse Bouche
Parmigiano-Reggiano Horns with Asparagus mousse

First Course
Dual mini quiches - Broccoli & Cheddar; Bacon & Swiss

Second Course
Butternut Squash Bisque

Third Course
Tossed Salad with craisins and crusted pecans
Fresh butter rolls

Fourth Course
Fettucini Alfredo with Zuchinni & Carrots

Fifth Course
Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Sixth Course
Pink Grapefruit Sorbet with mint leaf

Seventh Course
Chicken Pomodoro
Zuchinni & Yellow Squash

Eight Course
Chocolate Raspberry Triffle

I've learned alot since my first attempt. Begin two or three days ahead. For instance, the quiches were made the day before and reheated in their pans. The soup was made the day before and I just reheated and added the cream. I garnished it with Creme Fraiche, which I made the day before. Salads depend on the greens. Some will break down if done too far ahead. Better stick with those you can crisp, like Romaine. The rolls had to be made that morning. I mixed them in the bread machine and then shaped them. The pasta was homemade and just needed to be reheated with the sauce. The vegetables were julienned and cooked ahead, too. The fish had to be done fresh, but I prepared it ahead and kept it in the refrigerator until it needed to go into the oven. The chicken was also made ahead and reheated in the sauce. Sorbet was done a few days ahead. I froze it in trays and then ran it through the food processor and refroze it. The dessert was made the day before with the garnish made two days before that. I just had to top each with whipped cream, a spinkle of cocoa and the chocolate garnish on top.

I don't have a terribly large kitchen, but taking out the table to go to the living room made room for an 8' table for plating. I also had a card table for cleaning dirty dishes. (We were told in Colorado Springs, that was the purpose of the butler's pantry. The dishes were left there until the dinner was completed. Then they did the dishes.)

I worked with two helpers. I oversaw the cooking and introduced the courses to the guests. That made them feel very special and loved the announcement of what was coming next. One helper cleaned, the other helped plate and they both helped serving. Dishes were done as we went along (we needed the plates for an upcoming course).

I also planned my dishes well ahead. They were pulled, washed and stacked in preparation. I used chargers, individual soup crocks, rarebit dishes for the pasta, champagne glasses for the sorbet, and wine goblets for the triffles.

The helpers were asked to wear black slacks and white blouses. We worked to make the evening as special as possible. I've done this for the last three years for my wife's office. They look forward to it each year and talk about it all year long.

One more thing... remember: very small portions. They will fill up along the way. Also, keep everything paced - not too fast and not dragging. But expect to take 2 to 3 hours for the meal.

Bon appetite!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 10:03PM
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Wow! hsdad, will you come talk to my husband? :-) That is incredibly nice (and ambitious) of you. I am glad it seems to be as much fun for your as for your lucky, lucky guests.

Back to the original poster's question (though I doubt s/he is still following the string): Most nights we have 1 or 2 courses, and on Friday nights always at least 2; 3 if we have company. For us, the "extra" course is a starter (usually soup), not a dessert; we only have dessert if there is company -- well, maybe some fruit sometimes. On Friday nights the starter is usually soup, but it is sometimes fish, watermelon cocktail, or something else. (Tonight it will be gazpacho -- in the high 90s, so too hot for hot soup, and like everyone else, we have LOTS of tomatoes on hand.)

It's not that hard to do. Yes, you pop in and out of the room once or twice, but it's not such a big deal. I try to avoid dishes that must be served within seconds of preparation, or else just let the quality suffer a little if I need to reheat a bit. The soup bowls/appetizer plates are on top of the dinner plates at the table (I don't have chargers and I doubt I'd bother with them for weeknight meals if I did). I clear the soup bowls (and give them a quick rinse if it is a starchy soup), then bring out the main course, which is usually 3-4 platters/bowls. My husband and kids help. For a Friday night or dinner party, where there will be dessert, we then clear everything off the table except the glasses and dessert silver (I know, I know, it's not supposed to be on there yet -- tough), then bring out dessert and coffee/tea.

I have a cart, which REALLY helps. I prefer guests not all start trooping into the kitchen to help clear or serve. It disrupts the conversation, and in truth it is usually more trouble than help. We all have our own systems of how we like to bring in and deal with dirty things, and it messes me up when helpful people plop down dirty dishes right where I was about to plate up dessert, organize leftovers, etc. Much easier to do it myself, or, with a very big group, with one or two designated helpers. But I have resigned myself to the fact that people simply insist, unless maybe there is a hired helper, so I just deal with it. I have learned NOT to insist on helping at others' homes, though -- I only help where I know the act as well as the offer is really appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 3:16PM
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WOW that original post was five years ago.....damn I'm getting old!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 5:11PM
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