The trick. obviously, is to make everything you can in advance, and work on it throughout the week.
You need an appetizer of some sort, or else everyone stands around staring hungrily and starts off on the wrong foot. Then your main dish needs to be balanced with the sides -- if you are having something cheesy and rush, you want thresh, crisp sides. If you are having something light as the centerpiece -- branzino stuffed with herbs and lemon and roasted -- you can afford a side of truffled mac & cheese.
Dessert also needs to bow to the main dish. If you've served something heavy, dessert should feature fruit prominently.
Here's what I am suggesting she makes.. I have three possible menus.
FALL MENU NUMERO UNO
- butternut squash soup (make a few days before) - grated or oven dried apple slices float on top right before serving. Maybe some croutons you make that day and toast right before?
- short ribs with maple coffee (make the day before, reheat the day of) -- see my post "Last Meal"
- cheddar grits -- make that day
- green salad, please oh please make you're own vinaigrette
- tarte tatin with pre made puff pastry -- make in the morning.
FALL MENU NUMBER 2
- refrigerator pickles: carrots and green beans (make a week ahead)
- radishes with buttered french bread and salt
- special lasagne with pesto sun dried tomato ricotta cheese, a light marinara, smoked ham, roasted red peppers (make and freeze)
- garlic bread (if you don't serve the radishes)
- caesar salad
- tarte tatin or baked apples finished of with a hit of bourbon. maybe a scoop of ice cream. If you want to be really ridiculous, you can scoop individual scoops out in advance and freeze them on parchment paper. Easy serving. But you can also offer freshly whipped cream on the side. No one ever complains about that.
- pork roast with fennel
- delicious oven potatoes.. perhaps cooked under the pork? or in a gratin? or scalloped? or you could make Giada's delicious gratineed cauliflower with capers and bacon.
- roasted brussels sprouts with bacon lardons (leave the bacon out if you make the cauliflower). Lots of salt ad olive oil will do it. maybe throw in a few cloves of garlic.
- fresh fennel and apple salad with celery and parmesan
- good bread
- great cheese tray for dessert with fixins like marconi almonds, dried apricots, walnuts, honey, fig loaf or fresh figs, dates, crystalized ginger. You need stilton, parano, some good drippy cheese like brie or camembert or other better ones, a cheddar, and something soft like St Andre or goat cheese. Snip fresh rosemary on your goat cheese and give it a little cracked pepper if it's mass produced
- dark chocolate