How To Cook For A Dinner Party

How To Cook For A Dinner Party

The key to success is delicious food that you are able to sit and enjoy with your guests.

My Dad turned 84 this week and I decided to host a small dinner for him at my apartment. We usually travel or go out to a restaurant for his birthday but given the times we decided it would be best to dine at home. My Dad loves his birthday so it was important to me to pick a special menu to serve for the occasion. Preparation and timing are the two most important factors in hosting a great dinner party. You want to be able to enjoy the dinner not only prepare it. It is also very uncomfortable for your guests if you keep getting up and look like you are working too hard. It is essential to choose a menu that can be prepped ahead of time. I chose to serve Fresh Perigord Black Truffles Shaved Over Pasta as the appetizer followed by Chorizo and Panko Crusted Black Cod with Beurre Blanc served with Individual Potato Gratin, Spinach Rounds and Blistered Tomatoes. The potato gratin was made 2 hours ahead of time and covered with foil so I could reheat them in the same oven as the fish. The spinach rounds were prepped in the morning and kept in the refrigerator. The Beurre Blanc was made an hour before guests arrived. The sauce was served room temperature.

So let’s sum this up: During the day, The fish was topped with the Panko and Chorizo and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator, the Spinach Rounds were prepped and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator and the Potato Gratin was fully cooked and left at room temperature covered with foil. The tomatoes were tossed in Olive Oil and sautéed for 5 minutes while I was making the pasta. The Black Cod, Spinach and Potatoes all required 12 minutes in a 400 oven. When the appetizer was served I put the Black Cod on the top shelf in the oven, the spinach on the middle shelf and the potatoes on the bottom shelf. I then went to sit down and eat my appetizer with my guests. After 10 minutes I returned to the kitchen to take everything out of the oven. The plates were all stacked and ready for me to place the food on. As my kids cleared the appetizer dishes, I plated the food and it was served to the guests. After that I was able to sit, have a glass of wine and enjoy my Dad’s birthday. Dessert was brought by my Step Mom so the rest was easy. I had the dessert plates and forks ready to go. The other nice thing about preparing in advance is that it makes clean up very easy. All that was needed to get done was place the plates and silverware into the dishwasher. No one wants to walk into a messy kitchen at the end of the night…


We started with Cacio e Pepe Ravioli in a Truffle Butter and Cream Sauce topped with Shaved Fresh Black Perigord Truffles. Black Perigord Truffles are found in the Winter months, November through March. In the next few days I will be posting more on Black Truffles. The appetizer pasta was very quick to make. The Cacio e Pepe Ravioli was fresh so it only took a few minutes to cook in boiling water. I had a big pot of salted water simmering on the stove when my guests arrived so all I had to do was turn up the heat and make a quick Truffle Cream Sauce when it was time for dinner. The sauce took 5 minutes to make, roughly the same amount of time it took the pasta. I quickly tossed the ravioli in the sauce, dished it into bowls and my daughter Olivia brought them to the table as people were sitting down. I then went around the table and shaved the fresh Black Perigord Truffle over the pasta. It makes a beautiful presentation to shave the Black Truffle at the table.


Try to pick a menu that is easy for you. The sides should definitely be made earlier in the day. Many vegetables are able to serve room temperature after being prepared. Try roasting zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes or sautéing string beans in shallots and serving them room temperature or give them a bit of heat in the oven before serving. Individual Potato Gratin can be made earlier in the day and quickly reheated. Fish is ready in no time which is why I love this Black Cod recipe. It is ready in 15 minutes and looks absolutely beautiful on a plate.

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Chorizo and Panko Crusted Black Cod

Served with Make Ahead Beurre Blanc
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Total Time22 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: sausage, fish
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 325kcal


  • lb Black Cod or Halibut
  • ¾ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Smoked Chorizo
  • salt and pepper
  • Lemon slices for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 400
  • remove casing from Chorizo and chop finely
  • mix with Panko
  • spinkle fish with salt and pepper
  • top with Panko mixure
  • Bake at 400 for 12 minutes
  • serve with make ahead beurre blanc and lemon slices


Serving: 1person | Calories: 325kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 104mg | Sodium: 766mg | Potassium: 725mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 2mg
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5 from 2 votes
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Make Ahead Beurre Blanc

An easy white sauce with a hint of mustard
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Sauces and Dips
Cuisine: French
Servings: 6 people


  • 1 shallot peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup white wine sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp dijon mustard


  • sautee shallots in butter until translucent
  • add white wine and reduce by half
  • slowly whisk in heavy cream to emulsify and thicken
  • add mustard and pepper
  • strain through a sieve and set aside

Halibut with Pearl Couscous Baked in Parchment

Halibut with Pearl Couscous Baked in Parchment

Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach and Fresh Herbs

Baking fish in parchment paper is a great way to seal in flavor using very little oil or butter. This closed cooking method intensifies the flavors because they are captured inside the parchment paper. This Halibut recipe is bursting with flavor from the sun-dried-tomatoes, spinach, fresh herbs and lemon. The scent of flavor is immediately released when the parchment is opened after baking. Pearl couscous is also referred to as Israeli couscous. Pearl Couscous is not a grain but is actually a pasta. It is made with wheat and semolina flour that is rolled in wet hands until tiny pearls are formed. The pearls are then toasted which gives it a nutty flavor that stands out in recipes.

Can I make this ahead of time?

The couscous can be made ahead of time so all you have to do is wrap the ingredients in the parchment paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes before serving. It is a one dish meal because the recipe includes a protein, starch and vegetable. There is very little clean up as well because everything is baked together in the parchment paper. I like to serve the fish with the paper slightly open on the plate so you can see all the beautiful colors inside.

Can I use a different fish?

Yes, you can substitute another fish. Any firm white fish would work well such as cod or fluke. It’s best to choose a mild flavor fish that won’t overpower the couscous.

Halibut in Parchment Paper
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Halibut with Pearl Couscous Baked in Parchment Paper

Halibut with spinach, couscous and fresh herbs
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword: Spiked Cupcakes, fish, healthy recipe, seafood
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 549kcal


Pearl Couscous

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup shallot minced
  • cups pearl couscous
  • ½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • ¼ tsp black pepper


  • 2 lb halibut fillet cut into 4 serving
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • cups baby spinach



  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in pan and add minced shallots
  • sautee until soft and then add couscous and stir contantly for 2 minutes
  • stir in sun-dried tomatoes
  • add vegetable broth and pepper
  • bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover until broth is absorbed. 10-15 min.
  • Fluff with fork and set aside


  • preheat oven to 375
  • rub each Halibut fillet with a little olive oil
  • Season Halibut with Salt and pepper
  • cut 4 12 inch pieces of parchment paper
  • spoon some couscous in the middle of each piece of parchment paper
  • top couscous with spinach, a piece of halibut, 2 sprigs of thyme and a slice of lemon
  • Join edges of parchement together and then fold the paper down. Tuck ends of paper under.
  • place on baking sheet and bake on middle rack for 15 minutes
  • remove from oven place on serving plate and slightly open paper before serving


You can substitute chicken broth instead of vegetable broth in this recipe. I decided to use vegetable because I wanted to keep the recipe vegetarian. 


Serving: 1person | Calories: 549kcal | Carbohydrates: 52g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 203mg | Potassium: 1609mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1375IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 3mg

Surf Fishing

It is incredible to walk on the beach and watch people surf fish. It requires a lot of patience and skill to catch and reel in a fish while standing in the ocean surf. My daughter Olivia and I took a long walk on the beach yesterday and we were delighted to find some of our familiar friends fishing for bass. When fish is freshly caught a simple recipe works best because it lets the flavor of the the fish shine through. I prefer a whole roasted fish but my family prefers it to be filleted first because they really do not like any bones. I suggest using a good olive oil, mediterranean oregano, fresh lemon, capers and some salt and pepper. Put the fish in a baking dish, add the ingredients and put it in a 375 oven for 8-10 minutes. Thats it! Serve with a simple salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese tossed with some olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper and you have a delicious, healthy meal.