I love to entertain. Over time, I’ve found the more gatherings you host, the better you get in terms of time management. Like the best known entertainers will tell you, you host events to spend time with your guests…and how much time are you spending with them if you are constantly in the kitchen?
St. Patrick’s Day gatherings at our house have become a yearly thing. Luckily, the food is so easy to prepare, and so naturally flavorful and good that getting an algorithm down for preparation isn’t half bad. It is a meal that is a good place to start if you are just getting into entertaining.
My usual menu goes a little something like this:
- Cheese plate with crackers/fruit
- Pretzels with a fun mustard
- Crudites with some type of dip
*I always try to stick with a theme when entertaining. For St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll typically pick up an Irish Cheddar, a stout infused cheese and something like an English Cotswold or an Apricot Stilton or some other fun variety. For veggies and fruit, I choose what I serve using yellow, green and white as my color palette.
- Corned beef and cabbage (and carrots and red potatoes)
- Irish Soda Bread
- Salad of mache, crisp green beans and tomatoes with a white wine-whole grain mustard dressing
*I find that the traditional corned beef in a bag that you get from your grocer is sufficiently delicious for this meal. It is so easy to not have to worry about brining and seasoning…it always comes out great! So, to amp up the foodie factor, I spend time making my own bread and a nice salad.
- Rich chocolate stout cake with a ganache drizzle and french vanilla ice cream
- Coffee and Bailey’s
* This meal is so rustic and simple, it almost demands a decadent dessert for a strong finish! A great way to round out a fabulous meal.
The key to a smooth evening is prep earlier in the week. Cut your veggies (cabbage into quarters, red potatoes halved or quartered , depending on size and carrots peeled and chunked for your CB&C and slice your crudites for appetizers) 1-2 days ahead of time and put them in easy to grab ziploc bags or reusable containers.
I love to add blanched green beans to a simple mache and heirloom tomato salad with mustard dressing – blanch your green beans ahead of time, slice your tomatoes and make your salad dressing early.
One thing I love to do, since a cheese plate is always a staple, is cut the label from a cheese wrapper and affix it with scotch tape to a simple toothpick. Trader Joe’s has a great cheese selection and particularly cute labels, so it is identification and cute decoration, all-in-one! Place unwrapped cheeses in a reusable container, ready to plate!
If making Irish soda bread the day of (which should definitely be eaten right out of the oven!), get your wet/dry ingredients portioned out in mixing bowls and cover in plastic wrap so they are ready to go. I typically pop my unbaked loaf into the oven just after guests arrive as it takes a little over an hour to bake. Nothing better than the smell of fresh baking bread! And don’t forget to take some butter out of the fridge the morning of to allow to soften for serving.
Clear out one shelf in your fridge and stick everything for that day there, so you don’t have to search for things.
Plan out what servingware you’ll use, pre-wash them, and set them out how you want them arranged the night before.
Iron your fabric napkins and polish your silverware and glassware with a clean cloth.
And most importantly, have a great time and enjoy your guests the day of! Happy Entertaining!