Saturday, May 17, 2014

Menu for 30

I told you in my last post that I would tell you about the food for our Mathematics Majors/Alumni dinner party. I don't know if anyone is really interested, but here we go.

I decided to go with a Mexican-inspired menu. One reason for this was the date--May 4, the day before Cinco de Mayo. It's also a meal that can feed a crowd. This is what we served:

  • Tortilla Chips and Salsa. I'm picky about the brand in this case; I love Rick Bayless's Frontera products. My favorite salsa is the Tomatillo, but that's not what I served this time. I went with one hot and one medium salsa. We chose the Taqueria-style chips, because they're sturdy and don't break easily when scooping the salsa.
  • Green Salad with Grape Tomatoes, Queso Fresco, and Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette.
  • Vegetable Tamale Pie
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Homemade Black Beans
  • Cilantro-Lime Rice
  • Bowls of Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, and Jalapenos
  • Tres Leches Cake
  • Bowl of Miscellaneous Candies (for people who don't like Tres Leches Cake)
  • Miscellaneous Beverages including Mexican Hot Chocolate
I labeled everything with a list of ingredients, because I didn't think everyone would get the message if I just announced what was in everything. I also labeled the bowls of salsa "hot" and "medium." No mild salsa at this gathering.

I'd like you to notice a few things about this menu. First, this is a menu that can accommodate specialized diets. I usually ask my guest ahead of time if they have any dietary concerns, but I was worried that I wouldn't get all the information I needed with all those people. I can't let anyone come to my house and not eat, so I tried to make an adaptable meal. Vegans will find something to eat; vegetarians will find something to eat; lactose-intolerant guests will be able to eat; gluten-free guests will be able to eat. This is where my labels came in handy--guests could easily see what they could and could not eat.

The second thing I should point out is that I specifically chose entrees and a dessert that I could make the day ahead. I often do this when I entertain, because it minimizes my stress and makes me a happier hostess. Both the Chicken Enchiladas and the Vegetable Tamale Pie recipes came from America's Test Kitchen The Best Make-Ahead Recipe cookbook. They are delicious, and making them ahead means that I don't have to clean up the mess right before the guests arrive.I blogged about that book here. Alton Brown's Tres Leches Cake really must be made ahead so that it can soak up all the leches. This cake is super easy to make and is out of this world!

All the other menu items were simple and didn't demand a lot from me. The black bean simmered the the crock pot all day. The rice went in the rice cooker. I took help from the grocery store by buying washed lettuce and pre-shredded cheese. It was really just a matter of keeping the serving bowls filled.

I think it went pretty well. I'll probably make this menu again someday.

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