I’m not sure how we all got started cooking. I don’t know if it was Richard, or me or Hank or Patrick or Chris or one of our wives who got us all going. But for some time we’ve been getting together at semi-regular intervals for cooking parties. When we have these each one of us takes a course or a piece of a course and we bring our own ingredients and we cook. I don’t know if our group of friends is odd or not but in our case the guys do almost all of the cooking. The women just hang around and chat and look pretty. Um .. well. They ARE pretty and they hang around and chat and eat our food. We ALL actually like it this way. You should call up some friends and try it. Here are some tips.
1). Pick a night when there is time for prep. Don’t try this on a day when there is a ton going on. Cooking with lots of people is slower than cooking by yourself.
2). If lots of people are going to be using the oven make sure you either have more than one or that everyone is going to be ok with a temperature.
3). Resist the urge to start drinking right away. Everything slows down and you are prone to forgetting whole courses.
4). For multi-course meals plan very small courses. This is harder than you might think.
5). Go to China Town or the nearest equivalent and buy a ton of little plates. Or – use dessert sized plastic plates. (the first option is more fun).
6). Consider wine pairings and stage your meal from light to heavy. We do this in real time once everyone shows up.
7). Have the cooks share the essentials ahead of time. You don’t want three people making scallops. This happened at my house once.
8). Plan your prep so that your course can be finished quickly. You don’t want people waiting for an hour while something bakes in the oven.
9). Have someone plan dessert. People will say they don’t want it but they will eat it.
10) Plate all of the courses and spend an extra few seconds making them look nice. It makes a huge difference.
The big trick is to have fun and be flexible. The first time we did this it took forever and we had to roll everyone out the side gate when it was over. They didn’t fit through the doors. Your guests will want to try to eat everything you put in front of them. And if you’re pairing wines they’ll try and drink everything you pour. On these evenings I enforce a time limit and everything not eaten is thrown out and everything not drunk (drank?) is poured in the bucket. Even these things can be fun.
Go for it. Come back and tell me how you did…