When entertaining, sometimes I enjoy spending lots of time in the kitchen preparing complicated recipes and other times I like to prepare a simple but equally delicious menu. This weeked it was all about keeping it simple, preparing everything in advance and having nothing to do once my guests arrive.
I always set the table the evening before, including setting out any platters or serving pieces I'll be using. Simple white dishes and a row of tea lights was all I needed.
Dessert was prepared the day before, individual sized chocolate ganache cakes. I remove them from the fridge at the same time I serve the entree so they'll be at room temperature for serving.
Just use your favorite chocolate cake recipe. From two 9" layers, I cut 8 little rounds with a biscuit cutter. You can stack them for four larger sized desserts, or keep them as single layers. The ganache takes only a few minutes to make and then I just spoon it over the top of the cakes. Ganache recipe can be found here. The little candied violets can be found at baking supply stores. I always keeps an assortment on hand for adding to cupcakes or desserts.
The left over pieces from the cake can be eaten straight away (chef's treat), or wrapped and placed in the freezer. In the future, when you're in need of a quick dessert you can whip up some vanilla pudding and use the saved cake pieces to make a trifle.
For the first course I served an iceberg wedge salad. The day before I clean and quarter the head of iceberg, fry some turkey bacon and dice it, and prepare the dressing. Everything goes in the fridge, ready to serve. While my guests are enjoying an appetizer, I quickly seed and dice a few tomatoes to place over the salad. Dressing recipe can be found here.
For the main course, I served a beef stew which is placed in the oven hours before your guests arrive. All you have to do is plate it and serve with a loaf of crunchy french bread. So comforting on a chilly fall evening. There are numerous recipes for the "no peek" slow cooking beef stew on the web. Just pick one with your favorite ingredients and spices. Couldn't be easier.