Dinner Party Flow + Menu and Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Today’s post is about a party I’m hosting tonight, the Dinner Party Flow + Menu, and a scrumptious Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe!

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

When I find a poem, quote, or saying that I like, you may notice that I love to share it on my blog. Over the years, I have quite a few that I’ve shared, but never this one. Which I love, because tonight I’m hosting a sit-down dinner for 17 guests for my cousin’s 50th birthday! Who, I have to brag for a minute, has her gorgeous photography included in this fabulous book on Ashland, Oregon, by author Barbara Tricarico.

Dinner Party Flow + Menu

That’s right… the big 5-0, which is very young. But when I was a little girl, it seemed so old. 50 is the new 40, right, and 60 the new 50? That’s what our generation says, but either way, I like to think of hosting dinner parties as giving a big GIFT to my guests. There’s nothing quite like coming together for a long, drawn out evening with great friends, good food, fantastic conversation. (The table is where “life” happens, where we all “let down our hair” and talk about big-people stuff!)

Here’s the poem I found, A Prayer for the Mature Life, written by Dr. Margaret Rutherford:

LORD, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends in the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is growing sweeter as the days go by. I dare not ask for grace to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a saint — some of them are so hard to live with — but a sour person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. AMEN.

Dinner Party Flow.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall at tonight’s party.

Oh, wait … I’m hosting the party! It’s a lot of work to host, cook, serve, and make sure the flow of the evening is going just right. My husband is my greatest helper and inspiration (he’s awesome with keeping the conversation going), but tonight I asked two of my girlfriends to assist me.

Dinner Party Flow + Menu + Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Change it around.

We’ll follow the party plan that I’ve used for many years, but instead of changing the seating around for each course, we’ll only change it up right before dessert.

When guests come in, the table will be set, usually couples or dates sitting by each other. Water and wine glasses are all marked with names or initials, so the guests use the same glasses throughout the evening.

After appetizers (mingling with drinks and convo), we’ll seat the guests for salad and then the main entree.

Then it’s potty-break time and we transform the table.

Change the seating to the new plan (everyone sits by someone new, and not your date or spouse).

Following a written-out seating chart (yes, I put good thought into this!), we’ll change the seating around, remove any unneeded silverware, replace old with fresh napkins, and move the water/wine glasses to the “new” seating.

Dinner Party Flow + Menu + Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe.

My blogging friend, Aggie, I talk to almost every day. She lives in Florida and blogs at Aggie’s Kitchen. When we were chatting about my menu, she told me about her tried and true potato recipe that she loves, so I decided to make Ina Garten’s Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe. I’m so glad I did.

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Start with gorgeous fennel bulbs.

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Chopped and sauted with onion.

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Sliced potatoes using this amazing OXO mandoline.

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Mixing all ingredients together.

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Baked to perfection!

I made this dish up (2 pans) the day before, so when it’s time for dinner, I’ll warm them in the oven before serving tonight. Easy!

Dinner Party Flow + Menu + Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Dinner Party Menu.

-Plenty of wine, Pellegrini water, tap water, and miscellaneous drinks.
-3 appetizers – TBA
-Fresh green salad with crunchy bread & butter
-Broiled Salmon
Green beans with bacon, onion, shallots
-Potato-Fennel Gratin {recipe below}
-Chocolate cake & 2 flavors of Tillamook ice cream (the ultimate birthday party dessert, right? And Tillamook is from Oregon!)
-Storyville Coffee

Happy Friday, Friends. I hope you have a blessed weekend and possibly a special entertaining moment in your home!

What’s your favorite combination of potato gratin?

Potato-Fennel Gratin Recipe

Ina Garten's Potato-Fennel Gratin

Yield: 8-10

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes + 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Recipe from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I doubled the recipe and decreased the cooking time to 1 hour; heating them up later before the party.

Ingredients:

2 small fennel bulbs
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 pounds russet potatoes (4 large potatoes)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese (1/2 pound)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Butter the inside of a 10-by-15-by-2-inch (10-cup) baking dish.

Remove the stalks from the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the cores and thinly slice the bulbs crosswise, making approximately 4 cups of sliced fennel. Saute the fennel and onions in the olive oil and butter on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until tender.

Peel the potatoes, then thinly slice them by hand or with a mandoline. Mix the sliced potatoes in a large bowl with 2 cups of cream, 2 cups of Gruyère, salt, and pepper. Add the sauteed fennel and onion and mix well.

Pour the potatoes into the baking dish. Press down to smooth the potatoes. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream and 1/2 cup of Gruyère and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes and serve.

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9 comments

  1. Looks awesome, Sandy!! :)

  2. “keep me reasonably sweet”…
    I love this poem / prayer sandy!

    Your party sounds amazing!! I wish I could have a place to sit…enjoy those potatoes <3

  3. This dish looks amazing! I love fennel and I could probably eat an entire pan of this. Looks like a lovely party!

  4. Oh yum! Just pinned that one! I don’t think I have ever made a gratin. I’ve made scalloped potatoes but pretty typical recipe. This looks so rich and yummy! And with salmon and everything else….my tummy is growling…winner winner chicken dinner

  5. That looks so yummy, and the table is gorgeous! I love the pop of red. Have fun!

  6. That table setting is gorgeous, as is this gratin! I love adding fennel to dishes this time of year… especially ones that are on the heavier side to give it a little brightness. Gorgeous dish!

  7. That is one SEXY gratin. Deeeeeuuuum.

  8. Crispy outside, melty inside (it sounds like that), exactly the textures I love!

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