From a Thanksgiving thread from Sarnie:
"Never having hosted (or eaten) a meal more than 6 or so courses, I'd be very interested in the whole process. What were the courses? How were they served? Is there a time lapse between courses? How did you get everything ready/hot/cold/whatever on time? Maybe this calls for a new thread... whoever (or is that whomever??) answers this first gets to start it. ;-)"
Lots-o-questions here... So I will undoubtedly ramble on extensively. My first multi-course meal was almost five years ago (gee, I was green then). It was a 10-course meal based on the out of print cookbook by Salvador Dali. The courses were:
Quail Egg Tartlets with Caviar (the tartlets were made the day before and filled and served upon guests' arrival -- a room-temperature dish).
Crayfish Consomme (easy soup made two days before and heated for service).
Truffles Cinderella in Flaky Pastry (sauteed truffles wrapped in ham and foie gras, wrapped in puff pastry and baked -- served warm, immediately).
Oysters a la Brolatta -- Oysters on the half shellf with a cream sherry sauce. (requiring immediate service).
Escalope of Foie Gras wrapped in Chicken breasts. (A complicated ballotine of chicken breast, wrapped around sauteed foie gras, and served with a cream morel sauce).
Champagne sorbet (made the day before).
Potted Duck with Olives - (A duck terrine made almost five days before - cut and served with a salad).
Vegetable Pie - (Pastry-wrapped eggplant, carrots, mushrooms, and more. Complicated).
Roast Leg of Lamb - (cooking while everything else is happening).
Assorted Cheese - (easy; cut and serve)
Timbales Elysee - (edible chocolate cups filled with kirsch-soaked goise, vanilla ice cream, kirsh-soaked fruit, and chantilly cream, crowned with a golden cage).
Now this whole dinner was weeks in preparation because I didn't know how to cook yet. Each course was pre-tested with friends so that I would know the outcome. The first course was served at 2:00 and each course was roughly 45 minutes later. Dessert was served around 10:00 in the evening.
Now -- jump ahead five years...
This year, I served four or five 10- and 14-course meals. Just two weeks ago, a 10-course meal where each course was every 20 minutes:
Truffle-infused mushroom salade
Twice-baked purple potatoes
Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce
Steamed King Crab Legs
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Spicy Couscous
Duo of Chilled Olive Soups
Blini with Caviar
White Asparagus with Creamy Leek Sauce
White Chocolate Genoise with Dark Chocolate, Truffle-Infused Molten Center.
A lot of the tricks are knowing the dishes. A lot of dishes can be pre-prepared and held until cooking and/or service. I and my boyfriend do all the service (I don't hire anyone to help). Another smart thing is to plan a menu that revolves around multiple dishes of cold and hot things so that while one dish is being cooked, another cold dish is being eaten.
This last August, I served a 10-course taster luncheon to 40 people (with help, this time):
Oysters on the Half Shell (cold course - could be pre-set).
Game Consomme (Hot course - but made several days in advance and re-heated)
Blini with Caviar (the blini were made three days in advance and they were assembled just before service with sour cream and caviar)
Salad a la Proust (a simple green salad with a Sauterne vinaigrette and fresh truffle slices. Vinaigrette made in advance and the whole thing assembled just before service).
Duck Terrine (again, can be made almost a week in advance, served at room temperature).
Champagne Sorbet (to clean the palate - made days ahead of time)
Blanquette de Veau (a simple veal stew with cognac, made the day before and re-heated)
Truffled Pate de Foie Gras (like the terrine, a pate can be made a week in advance -- simple service is to spread on baguette slices)
Assorted Cheese - (a classic European thing to do. Great with port and sauterne)
Dessert - (for this, it varied with little petit fours that were all pre-made).
Lastly, I do a Moroccan feast that can be 10 to 16 courses. The joy of Moroccan food is that 80% of vegetable salads that are served at room temperature. Things like humous and flat bread, marinated olives, grated radish with orange syrup... I made 8 to 10 of these "salads" and then only cook a leg of lamb and a roasted chicken. Granted, I start preparing the salads several days in advance and I am only really preparing two or three main dishes the day of service.
Hope that helps...