A Dinner Party in Three Acts

A Dinner Party in Three Acts

A Dinner Party in Three Acts 1920 2560 Daryl Duarte


Friends for Dinner  – Cocktail Hour, Plated Main Course, and a Warm Dessert

 Cocktail Hour

Charcuterie, Cheeses, Olives, Crackers, Nuts & Shrimp cocktail

 Main Course

Braised Lamb Shanks served on Creamed potatoes and Wilted spinach


Apple Crostata with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce

Party planning playbook

Shopping List

Pantry Review

Restocking the Bar

  • Charcuterie
  • Two cheese, one soft (brie for example) and one hard (Manchego or aged cheddar)
  • Olives (pitted are easier for guests to eat)
  • A nice assortment of crackers
  • 2 shrimp/guest (I buy frozen shrimp – sized at 11-15/lb.)
  • carrots
  • celery
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 1 lamb shank per guest (I typically shop for these ahead – as they are not always available – and freeze them if purchased too far ahead of the dinner).
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Fresh thyme
  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 2 lbs. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • Ice cream
  • 1 pound of butter
  • Sugar
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1-quart chicken stock
  • Garlic
  • Caramel sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Chili sauce
  • Bay leaves
  • Black peppercorns
  • Horseradish
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Bar fixings (i.e., cranberry juice, limes, lemons for zesting)
  • Orange flavored liqueur such as triple sec
  • Bourbon
  • Beer (if you must)
  • Olives
  • Cherries

Preparation Schedule



Prepare linens / wash and iron

Finish your shopping



  • Prepare the Braised Lamb Shanks
  • Remove shanks from braising liquid and refrigerate
  • Strain and store braising sauce
  • prepare the Creamed Potatoes and refrigerate
  • Set the table if that works for your family’s lifestyle – if not – Saturday morning
  • Make any cocktails which can be made ahead and place in quart containers in the freezer
  • Roll out pastry dough and cover with plastic film and refrigerate

Saturday – Day of the Event

Noon to 6 PM


  • Prepare Wilted Spinach
  • Peel and slice apples (toss in 1 tablespoon lemon juice to prevent browning) and place into a quart container and refrigerate
  • Poach Shrimp and refrigerate at least 3 hours prior to guests
  • Make Cocktail Sauce
  • Discard the fat layer on the refrigerated braising sauce
  • Set up the bar
  • Set up the appetizer platters with charcuterie, cheeses, crackers, nuts and olives

5:30 PM

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Take potatoes and wilted spinach out of the refrigerator
  • Turn on a plate warmer – if needed – and place dinner plates into the warmer

6 PM to 7:30 PM – Cocktail Hour

6 PM

  • Greet your guests.
  • Take drink orders, make drinks and make sure everyone has a glass in their hand.
  • Set up the Shrimp and Cocktail sauce (should be as cold as possible)
  • Invite your guests to wherever you are going to be enjoying your cocktail hour with appetizers and make sure to join everyone.

6:30 PM

  • Put the foil-covered lamb shanks into the oven.
  • Place the sauce on the lowest simmer setting on your stovetop

7:20 PM

  • Put potatoes into the microwave and heat for 3 minutes.
  • Stir
  • Heat again for 2 minutes.  Check the temperature.  They should be piping hot. If not, return to the microwave and continue heating until done.
  • Put the wilted spinach into the microwave and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, again – checking to make sure they are completely heated through.

7:30 PM – Main Course

  • Call guests to the table
  • Set out the plates
  • Spoon potatoes, then spinach, and top with a lamb shank.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, reduced balsamic, garnish with parsley and sea salt and serve – smallest portions to those that want to eat less, larger portions to the big eaters at the table.
  • Turn oven to 425 degrees before you take your place at the table (important to have the oven ready for the tart to avoid long pauses between courses).

8:00 PM – Finalize dessert prep and bake

  • Discretely slip into the kitchen, leaving the table for as few minutes as possible to do last minute assembly of the Rustic Apple Tart.
  • Place the apples onto the tart dough, dot with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and then fold up the edges to create the classic crostata shape and put in the oven with the timer set for 25 minutes.
  • Take the ice cream out of the refrigerator
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and then rejoin your guests at the table.

8:30 PM – Dessert

8:30 PM

  • Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool a bit.

8:45 PM

  • Cut into six pieces and serve one piece with ice cream, a drizzle of warm caramel sauce, or powdered sugar and caramelized crumbled pecans