Community Questions: Planning menus in advance

Question/Tip from Minal: I love to have people over but am daunted by trying to find a menu with great tasting food that I can make ahead at a reasonable pace. Managing young kids and doing too much at one time is unrealistic! How do I find recipes that I can make ahead? Ina Garten came out with a cookbook "Make It Ahead" but I've heard the recipes don't sound too appealing. Any guidance?

Answer: Hi Minal! Thanks for a great question! Menu planning can seem intimidating but needn't be. One thing I've done to better understand what can be made in advance and how is to cook favorite things repeatedly and study how they last in the fridge/freezer: do they get better (mujaddara improves, as do many stews)? are they just as good cold as they are room temp or just out of the oven (savory tarts and grain salads often fall into this category)? can some parts be prepared in advance (all veggies chopped the day before, for example)? what can be frozen and then thawed before serving (soups, many cakes and fruit pies, for example)?

Let me give you a specific example to break things down: Aged Goat Cheese and Leek Confit Tart.

  • The crust can be made up to four days in advance. Simply refrigerate and then cook just before you need it.
  • The leek confit can be made up to four days in advance too; simply store in the refrigerator and gently rewarm before using.
  • The goat cheese can be crumbled in advance.

This leaves nothing but assembly and cooking for day of.

Many recipes will provide tips about parts that can be made ahead and how those elements should be stored until they're used. The freezer is an underrated friend in any kitchen. For example, I'm hosting a luncheon in two weeks and already have my cake layers in the deep freeze. I will thaw them day before the lunch and then frost just before guests arrive. 

Does this help?