We cooked up a tasty spring menu for eight happy people—and included the tips and game plan to pull it all together in 60 minutes.
Before you decide that preparing an elegant three-course dinner, plus signature cocktail, from start to finish in 60 minutes
is too good to be true, consider this: Many home cooks make an entire meal in that amount of time most weeknights, deftly
and intuitively moving from side dish to entrée and back again, from oven to stovetop to salad spinner. I simply decided to
extend those skills to the challenge of the classic dinner for eight.
This isn't to say that a lot of fiddling and retesting didn't go into this menu. It did. We tested the whole game plan three times, tweaking recipes and choreographing to make sure it all came in at less than an hour. I rearranged the order of tasks; I gussied up a few smart convenience products (bagged salad greens, precut potatoes, frozen lemonade); and I introduced bold flavors from pickled Vidalia onions, white truffle oil, and fresh tarragon. The hour zips by, but it's more fun than frantic. The payoff will make your guests linger with delight.
To make the 60-minute menu, you'll want to study and follow this detailed time line. (Two do-ahead tasks: Thaw lemonade concentrate
and chill Champagne and gin.)
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Pickle onions (for salad).
3. Bring water to a boil (for blanching asparagus).
4. Prep berries for dessert—combine with macerating liquid.
5. Prep roast; sear and get in oven.
6. Prep potatoes; place potatoes in oven with beef.
7. Blanch asparagus; drain and rinse with cold water.
8. Combine gin and lemonade in pitcher; chill.
9. Make horseradish sauce for beef; chill.
10. Make vinaigrette for salad; pile greens on top (do not toss).
11. Whip cream for dessert; place in fridge.
12. Remove beef from oven; let rest.
13. Brown the butter; heat asparagus.
14. Add Champagne to cocktails.
15. Toss salad; top with cheese, onions, and berries.
16. Enjoy the meal, and soak in the praise from your guests.
Loosely based on the French 75, a classic cocktail of gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar, this welcoming beverage uses
lemonade concentrate as a shortcut. Be sure to allow the concentrate to thaw ahead of time. You'll use almost a whole bottle
of Champagne; the rest goes into the dessert. If time allows, you can use a quick simple syrup with lemon juice: Combine 3
tablespoons each of sugar, lemon juice, and water; microwave for 1 minute, and cool.
View Recipe: Lemon-Gin Sparkling Cocktails
You can whip up the pickled onions this recipe calls for a few days before the party—one less thing to do the day of.
View Recipe: Pickled Onion, Blue Cheese, and Berry Salad
Lots of black pepper and a good bit of horseradish add zest to lean beef tenderloin.
View Recipe: Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish-Chive Sauce
White truffle oil delivers a powerful flavor punch, more so than black truffle oil. To save money, purchase a small bottle.
Use leftover oil for finishing other dishes—drizzle on pizza, risotto, or potato hash.
View Recipe: Truffle Roasted Potatoes
A hint of tarragon adds unique, fresh flavor to the dish, but you can use any herb you like.
View Recipe: Browned Butter Asparagus
Agave nectar is great for dishes like this, where it dissolves instantly. A chilled bowl and beaters will help the cream whip
View Recipe: Champagne-Soaked Berries with Whipped Cream
This menu comes together in an hour. But if you want to get a head start, do a few things a day or two ahead: