A Make-Ahead Spring Dinner Party Menu for a Crowd

Spring is the perfect time for a dinner party. And celebrating the season does not have to be difficult. Here, two chefs share how you can serve a five-course meal using the freshest and best ingredients of the season, with make-ahead menu items that will make your life easier.

Photo: Make-ahead dinner party ideas (photo: knape/Getty Images)

First Course: Canapés

"Spring introduces fresh feelings and new energy, and canapés are a great way to start a meal because guests can enjoy them while walking around during cocktail time," explains Taylor Hall, chef of Apis Restaurant & Apiary in Spicewood, Texas. Canapé toppings can be made the day before a dinner, then portioned out on baguette slices. This pesto and brie canapé recipe comes together in just two simple steps. Or use seasonal fava beans with a hint of lemon and mozzarella—as in this bruschetta recipe—to really showcase spring.

Second Course: Soup

Made a day—or days—before a dinner party, soup can simply be reheated for the event, or better yet, served cold. Hall suggests an English pea soup, like this one, which can be made up to two days ahead and served chilled. "English peas are the picture of spring’s arrival," he says, and adds that "if harvested at the perfect time, the peas are sweet and delicious."

Green minestrone soup is also sure to delight dinner guests with its "richness, depth, and accessibility," says Tae Strain, Momofuku CCDC's executive chef. "Something special that happens when you marry so many different varieties of vegetables in one pot to produce this soup." This green minestrone soup uses celery, spinach, and Swiss chard to display a veritable sea of greens.

Third Course: Fish

Crudo and ceviche celebrate spring with light, citrus flavors—especially when garnished with fresh spring fruit, says Hall. And most crudo and ceviche recipes require raw fish to be refrigerated for several hours before serving, making them the perfect make-ahead menu item. Here are five crudo and ceviche recipes using fresh fish and various accompaniments.

Fourth Course: Lamb

"Although a bit cliché," admits Strain, "spring lamb is actually prized for its sweetness and

tenderness." Strain recommends adding a young lamb—which can be more mild than older lamb—paired with seasonal asparagus to your dinner party menu. "Asparagus really is the quintessential spring vegetable and pairs very well as a grilled counterpart to roasted lamb," Strain explains. These herb-and-spice lamb chops with minted asparagus—which incorporates several signature spring herbs, like mint—are sure to please guests, while this lemony lamb chops with asparagus recipe takes just 30 minutes and three steps to prepare.

Fifth Course: Dessert

Any spring dessert should incorporate strawberries, both Hall and Strain agree. Strawberry shortcake—such as this strawberry shortcake with Meyer lemon cream—is a classic spring treat. But Strain recommends roasting strawberries. "There is such a short window when strawberries are perfect," he says, "so you have to take advantage while you can. And I love the notion of really fruit-forward desserts that don’t need cake or baked items to shine."

You can roast strawberries in the oven with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar the night before your dinner party, then serve them alongside raw strawberries and a store-bought crème fraîche. "This dessert is all about highlighting the jam-like flavor of slow-roasted strawberries with the more textured, slightly acidic punch of raw strawberries," he says.

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