Resources for cooking ahead of time

Does anyone have any websites/books/resources for learning to cook ahead of time when entertaining? For example, i love making a risotto when we entertain but it's hard making it a a minute cause what if my guests are late? Even if they're not i spend the first 45 minutes of our dinner cooking instead of entertaining them... I'd like to learn how to parcook a risotto and then finish it when my guests are ready. Ditto for things like a do restaurants hold a roast for 6 hours of service? warming tray or in the fridge? Would love anyone's input on this topic. thanks!



Nancy July 13, 2016
Not specific to your risotto or roast examples, but Ina Garten has a cookbook out relatively recently (2014) called "Make it ahead: A Barefood Contessa cookbook"
I've only browsed it, but she's knowledgeable and gives variations. If you like her recipes and/or her style, have a look and see if it helps.
CanadaDan July 13, 2016
thanks for the suggestions, everyone. i have some serious life contemplating to do...
PHIL July 13, 2016
Thanks Antonia.
PHIL July 13, 2016
YGC- you tell the guests the dish is called risotto ala micro onde, they'll never know
Lindsay-Jean H. July 13, 2016
As for the broader question, you might want to check out our entertaining topic page ( for tips and recipes.
BerryBaby July 13, 2016
I have made Ina's oven risotto recipe which, surprisingly, turns out great. No stirring or standing over it. Not sure how long you can keep in the oven without it drying out. It was wonderful but made it for us, no pressure as to when to serve it.
702551 July 13, 2016
What restaurants do to parcook risotto is to take it about 80-90% of the way, then dump onto a parchment-lined sheet pan as a thin layer, quickly bring this to a walk-in refrigerator so it will cool immediately and halt further cooking. When it is cold, it can be portioned for individual servings. So when the servers fire a risotto ticket, the cooks grab however many portions they need. Finishing risotto does not scale well, works best for individuals or small groups. Because of the increased volume, it takes longer to reheat/finish risotto for 8-12 people rather than two. Often in restaurant, you might put 3-4 saucepans on the stove and do 3-4 portions in each pan, rather than try to use a larger pan for all the portions.

Even if you parcook risotto, it's still labor intensive. The last ten minutes before serving parcooked risotto are still as busy. Plus, you may now have four pans to clean instead of one and you've taken most/all of your stove's burners out of commission for those ten minutes.

Risotto's the one of the last starches I'd make for a dinner party. Rice pilaf on the other hand would be a prime alternative. It scales well, isn't as labor intensive and survives quite well if it needs to hold at a warm place due to timing issues.
dinner A. July 13, 2016
For risotto, it is fine to parcook it and finish the last ~15 minutes of cooking right before eating. This is what restaurants do in order to serve risotto, I'm pretty sure. My usual method for risotto is to do the rice-sautéing step, add a small volume of wine and simmer until adsorbed, then add about 1/2 the total volume of broth and simmer without stirring until adsorbed. At this point, you can hold the risotto indefinitely. When you're ready to cook it again, start adding the broth in smaller increments and stirring frequently until it's done.
I also really like making savory soufflés for guests. You can prepare the base in advance; when your guests arrive all you have to do is whip the egg whites (could probably whip these a little in advance also), fold together, and put it in the oven. This gives you a nice amount of time (30-40 min I think) to relax, pour some drinks, etc with your guests before the meal.
Also, in the summer, foods meant to be served at room temp of course work really well. This is very natural with meze-style meals. Ottolenghi's cookbooks of recent fame have lots of ideas for this, but there are lots of other good English language resources such as Paula Wolfert's cookbooks, and Spice by Ana Sortun (chef of the wonderful Oleana restaurant in Cambridge MA).
702551 July 13, 2016
For sure, risotto is not an optimal dish to serve for larger groups because it demands a lot of attention. Ultimately, you may wish to find a different dish for larger groups. Restaurants often do parcook risotto and finish on-demand for the individual guest or small groups.

For something like a roast in a restaurant, chances are they will cook multiple roasts and stagger the times so they finish over the course of some time. If the restaurant needs a total of six roasts for a six-hour service, they wouldn't have them all cooked for the opening (1st hour). Maybe they'd cook two staggered two hours apart, so you have two roasts covering hours 1-2, two more for hours 3-4, and the final pair covering hours 5-6.

In the same way, it's like grilling at a three-hour tailgate. If you're going to have 60 tailgaters, you wouldn't cook 30 burgers and 30 hot dogs right at the opening, you'd cook a few of each over time.

A professional cookbook geared toward restaurateurs and caterers might cover some of these topics. Luckily, I picked up a lot of tips as a kid when I helped my mom in the kitchen in preparation for dinner parties (Thanksgiving, etc.).

You need to be judicious in your menu selections about what dishes you choose to make relative to the effort making them and how much time you wish to spend with your guests. That cooking/hosting balance is different for every party host; some people would have the whole thing catered and only play host. Others would rather spend most of the time in the kitchen and have someone else be the primary host.

That's really your call, no one here can tell you what to do; they're your parties, not ours.

Good luck.
PHIL July 13, 2016
Unless you have a sous chef handy maybe try Susan's or my suggestion for the Risotto. ( my wife is my sous chef but it's a hostile work environment)
Susan W. July 13, 2016
Just on the risotto topic, it really is best served the minute it's ready, but I've also heard a pressure cooker does a wonderful job with risotto. I haven't tried it, but I've heard that from many different sources. I may have heard the same about slow cooker risotto.
PHIL July 13, 2016
I love Risotto but it is too much work when entertaining. At the risk of being banished from the hotline, I have made a microwave version, that's really good , there are also rice cooker versions I haven't tried yet. 0% effort and if you are using it for a side for meat well worth trying. As for the meat, you don't need to make it 6 hours ahead do you? Once it goes in the oven you are free to do other things You can time it to come out maybe 1/2 hour ahead and let it rest on a cutting board before carving. If you think about it meat never stays hot for long, it's the gravy or au jus and the sides that can be nice an hot when you serve. check our Sarah Jampel's article here for more tips: Any other specific questions just reply back
AntoniaJames July 13, 2016
PHIL, the day you're banished from the hotline is the day that I say "Good-bye" to Food52 and never come back. Seriously. Keep your good ideas, even ones that are not universally embraced, or that may otherwise be rejected for whatever reason, coming. ;o)
P.S. "Hostile work environment?" Priceless!
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