Thursday, July 5, 2007

My Cookbooks & Entertaining Secrets

Hope you had a great July 4th! While most people's minds are still on fireworks, the BBQ and the beach, I thought I'd take a different turn today and write about cooking and having friends over for dinner.

Entertaining at home is one of my favorite hobbies. I enjoy hosting dinners, brunches, and throwing parties-all of which involve copious amounts of food. Whether it's a simple dinner for four, a Sunday Brunch, or a more elaborate sit-down dinner, I like to prepare meals and see that my guests leave satisfied. Of course during these summer months the most we will do is cook out on the grill, or make a nice refreshing salad. At the heart of it all is my collection of cookbooks. I keep the core set of cookbooks in the kitchen (see photo above) and use these regularly. .

Sit Down Dinner for 32 is Easy!

The largest dinner party we have hosted at home was on New Year's Eve last year, for 32 dinner guests. While we did all of he cooking, I did hire several servers and a bartender. This kept me mostly out of the kitchen once the guests arrived. We cooked for two days preparing for that night, but it was a LOT of fun. I rented three round tables, chairs, linens and napkins (see below):

Atmosphere is very important when entertaining at home. Since this was a New Year's Eve dinner party, we made our own playlists of music, spliced a series of videos on the big screen TVs, floral centerpieces, and lots of candles.
How can you do all this too? Well, start with a plan:

1. Pick a date/time.

2. Decide on a theme or a reason

3. Develop a budget- decide how much you want to spend. This will help affect how many people you can invite.

4. Write the guest list. If it's more formal, send invitations.

5. Develop the menu (you'll need a few cookbooks). Be sure to ask guests if they have any allergies or preferences

6. Most important rule when entertaining: know yourself. Consider your cooking skills, the size of your kitchen, and what you are good at. Don't try to be something you are not, because it will be evident. It's OK to stretch and try something new, but have other elements that are reliable and tested before you make them for the first time with dinner guests.

The Right Cookbooks
When I plan a menu, I flip through a variety of cookbooks and browse the Internet for ideas as well. You can always go to Borders or Barnes and Noble and browse their cookbook section for other ideas also. Here are some of my favorite and most reliable cookbooks at the moment:
Below: Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining and Simple Classics:

Below: Neiman-Marcus and surprisingly, the Princess Cruises "Courses" cookbook

Below: The Essential Finger Food Cookbook (great for appetizers) and the classic Fannie Farmer Cookbook is GREAT for basics and learning how to cook.

More Williams-Sonoma: The New American Cooking and Entertaining

As a side note, a few other favorites include: anything by Martha Stewart, and others: Delia Smith, Julia Child, Ina Garten and I'm starting to learn more of Rachel Ray's stuff too.
Do you have any favorites? Leave a comment, there's no charge today!
-Rick Rockhill


Stephen Rader said...

What? No Paula Deen? She is my favorite.

Yes, it's because I'm white trash, but baby, it's all about the butter! Sticks and sticks of butter!

Sheila said...

As a new bride many years ago, my first cookbook was Betty Crocker's. A long time favorite is the Joy of Cooking, but these days I'm more apt to consult the Internet when considering new recipes.

Great topic.

Lewis said...

Maybe next time you can turn your 32 people into 34 (me and hubby). it sounds perfect. I love Rachel Ray's meals....for the simplicity and ease.

marlupe said...

I like the Joy of Cooking and one by Emerill also

DvS said...

I do the vast majority of cooking in my house but rarely use a cookbook. My favorite resources are How to Cook Without a Book and I print up my favorites, 3 hole punch them, and keep them in a binder.

Roses said...

Thanks for popping by and leaving such a lovely message on my blog. I hope to see you again soon.

Bettina said...

I love dinner parties and I'm quite obsessed with cook books too. I always try to stay away from the cook book section in book stores, but somehow they still get me... when I'm not watching.

snowelf said...


Thanks for stopping by the other day! I will be back to leave you a proper comment soon. :)


Mags said...

Great advice! You've got an impressive collection...I have more, but I'm a chef, so...that makes sense!

I also love What to Drink with What You helps people who are not very familiar with beverages pair them with every food imaginable.

And also, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child is a classic.

Caro said...

For basic cooking, my tried and true Betty Crocker is a favorite. For baking, anything by Bette-Hagman, the gluten-free gourmet, is wonderful. I do a lot of googling for new recipes too.

Snow White said...

You must check into "Beyond Parsley." The pictures are devine! My mom has made several of the recipes and they are great. Myself, I read 'em more than cook with 'em, but I have a slew of cookbooks. When I built my house I even had them build me a couple of shelves at the end of the bar to house my cookbooks. Now if I ever get around to unpacking the rest of them, I'm going to need more room!

Thanks for the comment on my blog. I will definitely be back to visit you again when I have more time!


Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

honey how does one manage to get on this particular guest list? ha ha ha

smiles, bee

Canadian flake said...

ok would it offend you if I told you that I got "The Joy of cooking" as a wedding present and told my friend that I would probably only use it to press flowers? LOL. Ok I admit that I have used it once or twice but I would never entertain...would be embarrassed to feed anyone the "food" I cook for my


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