As I’ve written about a number of times — and it bears repeating — entertaining is really about the desire to spend time with your friends and family, and pleasuring ourselves with good food and each other’s company.

To create the space for this to happen, it’s as much about the prior planning as anything else: Creating the menu and then a shopping list. Shopping to the list and then prepping ahead of time.

Preparing whole courses ahead of time so that on the actual day, you have time to set the table before guests arrive and putter a little in the kitchen, but not slave for hours so that when the doorbell rings, your hair is more sticking straight out than anything else, your shoulders up around your ears and your family all snippy at each other because the house isn’t perfect and you are the dictator that needs it so.

With the exception of the beef tenderloin, this entire menu can be made ahead of time, as it will keep in the refrigerator for two days. The soup can be frozen and reheated at the last minute. The butter can be frozen and removed just before using.


This soup is a gorgeous, brilliant green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything, up to adding the Swiss chard. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and then add the chard, and puree in the blender as per the directions.

11/2 cup diced onions (1 medium onion)

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

1 cup white wine

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

4 ounces Swiss chard leaves, de-stemmed and well washed, chopped coarsely

Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of creme fraiche

In a medium stockpot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute the onions until they become soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir for several minutes, being careful not to brown. Add the wine and stock, and whisk until smooth.

Add salt, pepper and heavy cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the Swiss chard leaves, and simmer for 1 minute. Puree in a blender or food processor, and serve hot or chilled.

Serves four or six as a small appetizer.


The mixed cracked peppercorns you can find in the spice isle at your grocery store or a specialty food store. You can substitute black peppercorns, but they don’t give as round a flavor.

One 5- to 6-pound beef tenderloin


6 tablespoons cracked black, white, red and green peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon port

With a boning knife, remove the silver skin or ask your butcher to do it for you. Tie the tenderloin with kitchen twine every 11/2 inches, tucking the tapered end under.

To crack the peppercorns, use a mortar and pestle or the bottom of a heavy skillet to get the correct consistency. A coffee grinder/spice grinder won’t work as well in this instance. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and rub onto the tenderloin.

Rub the tenderloin at least 1 hour and up to two days ahead of time. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drain the meat, and place on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Roast for 40 to 50 minutes or until an internal thermometer reads 125 degrees. This will be medium-rare to medium once the tenderloin is rested and sliced.

Rest for 10 minutes covered, and bring to the table on a platter to slice there. Place one or two slices of butter on top of each piece as soon as it is transferred to a plate.

Serves 10.


1/2 cup onions, diced

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

6 ounces Stilton cheese or other blue cheese

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick, softened slightly)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chives, minced

Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and add onions. Saute until translucent. Set aside to cool slightly.

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and mix. Remove from food processor onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log, twisting the ends closed. To serve, slice off 1/4-inch slices and place on top of each freshly cut slice of tenderloin or arrange on plates for folks to place on top of their hot beef tenderloin.

Makes 1 cup; serves eight to 10.


Molten cakes are something I don’t think should ever go out of favor. They’re simply underdone cakes, but they hook me every time!

10 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter (extra for the ramekins)

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

11/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup flour (extra for the ramekins)

1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter and flour five 12-ounce ramekins. Place on a baking sheet. Melt the butter over the stove or in the microwave, and pour it into a mixer. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, and while the paddle is moving slowly, add the eggs to the butter.

Turn off the mixer, sift the powdered sugar and flour into the mixing bowl, and then slowly incorporate the sugar and flour. Add the pistachios, and mix until just combined.

Divide evenly among the five ramekins. Bake for 18 minutes.

Makes five.


This is essentially Bananas Foster, and should you wish to serve it over ice cream, far be it from me to deter you. It’s easily increased or decreased depending on the number of folks you are serving.

4 bananas, peeled

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)

Juice from 1 lime

1 cup brown sugar

1 ounce creme de banana

2 ounces light rum

Vanilla ice cream

Cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg for garnish

Cut the bananas into 4 diagonal pieces each. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter. Add the sugar and cinnamon, and swirl the pan until the sugar is melted.

Add the bananas, and coat with the sugar. Add the lime, creme de banana and rum. Let it flame and then die out. Serve immediately over ice cream. Garnish with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Serves four (over ice cream), and is just right for five molten cakes.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of the recipe book “At Home, At Sea.” She can be reached at [email protected]