18 Real-Life Supper Menus from My Dinner Party Journal

We get a lot of questions about menus from our readers. What goes with this chicken? How do I craft a menu for my spring cookout? What dessert should I serve with this meal? We all have different approaches to building a menu, especially one for a dinner with friends. Here's a peek inside my own dinner party journal, where I keep track of what meals I've served, and when, and with what and for whom. It's a look back at a list of real-life menus over the course of a year — now updated with recipe links!

The Dinner Party Journal
Like the cocktail journal Megan showed us a couple weeks ago, I find it really helpful to keep notes on dinner parties and weeknight dinners. I do this on my laptop — just jotting quick notes in a document.

We have a lot of dinner parties; we have friends over to dinner at least once a week, and it's one of the best times of the week. Building menus for these dinners that are cohesive, seasonal, and interesting is perhaps my favorite part. It gives scope for creativity and also allows me to express something of myself to my guests. I keep notes on most of the major meals I cook, to help jog my memory on things that worked and things that didn't, and to remind me of seasonal dishes to make again.

Here is a partial lookback at my own dinner parties from the last year — menus, dishes, and more. This list is practically straight from from my little notebook, so if it seems a little haphazard, then so be it! It's definitely missing a lot of meals, too. But it's at least partially representative of my own dinner parties from a couple years ago.

And of course these meals are indicative of my own particular preferences and tastes. I see where and how I repeat myself, and the dishes that pop up a lot (socca and fennel salad, anyone?). You can see where and when I was testing recipes from my casserole book too!

Looking back over a dinner journal is a good reminder to try something new, and a good reminder, too, of what I like and what works for me.

Hopefully a menu here will give you some ideas, or prompt you to start a meal journal of your own! I've included some recipe links as well.

SPRING SUPPERS

Tuesday Dinner in March
• Slow-cooked pork and cabbage, with tomatoes
• Cucumber salad (recipe here)
• Potato rolls (recipe here)
• Potato gratin (recipe here)
• Apple meringue cake (recipe review here)

Tuesday Dinner in March
• Roasted pork tenderloin with rosemary and garlic (recipe here)
• Angel biscuits (recipe here)
• TJ's Harvest Grain mix with lemon
• Sauteed asparagus
• Chocolate and vanilla icebox cake (recipe here)

Friday Dinner in March
• Hainanese chicken and rice (recipe review here)
• Cucumber salad (recipe here)
• Lemon icebox cake

Tuesday Dinner in April
• Crackers with brie and beets (recipe here)
• Shredded chicken with lemon and scallions
• Potato salad with olives and shallots (recipe here)
• Fennel salad (recipe here)
• Pasta with lemon
• Lemon focaccia (recipe here)
• Panna cotta with mango (recipe here)

Easter
• Roast leg of lamb
• Slow-braised Polish sausage
• Houska (recipe here)
• Krofi
• Sliced roasted beets with goat cheese (similar recipe here)
• Roasted new potatoes with lemon (recipe here)
• Fennel and celery salad with Parmesan
• Lemon cakelets with raspberry coulis

SUMMER SUPPERS

Welcome to town party for friends
• Cold rosé and socca (recipe here)
• Peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese (recipe here)
• Duck with black olives (recipe here)
• Olive risotto (recipe here)
• Roasted vegetables
• Peach and rosemary tart (recipe here)
• Salty caramel ice cream

Birthday Party for an 8-year-old
• Cheese straws (recipe review here)
• Spicy almonds
• Fizzy pink lemonade with strawberries
• Grilled chicken breast and spicy thighs (recipe here)
• Cucumber slices
• Cherry tomatoes
• Bowtie pasta with Parmesan cheese
• Small pink cake with strawberry jam
• Strawberry jello/pudding layered cups
• Vanilla and strawberry ice cream
• Chocolate elephant cookies (recipe here)

Dinner Party
• Baguette bites w/white bean, pesto, tomatoes
• Arugula with cherry vinegar, pine nuts
• Bread and butter
• New potato salad
• Slow-cooked pork belly with fennel
• Strawberry tart with mascarpone (recipe review here)
• Herbed lemon sorbet (recipe here)

Working Lunch with Friends
• Cheese
• No-knead bread and butter (recipe here)
• Roasted fingerling potatoes with chicken drippings and herbs
• Roast chicken (recipe here)
• Kale salad (recipe here)
• Plum tart and brown butter ice cream (recipe here and here)

Friday Night Dinner
• Homemade lasagna (recipe here)
• Baked ravioli (from my casserole book)
• Spicy ziti (from my casserole book)
• Micah's mac and cheese (from my casserole book)
• Pasta with greens (from my casserole book)
• Kale salad (recipe here)
• Katharine Hepburn's brownies (recipe here)
• Apple crumble

Dinner with Friends
• Mini eggplant pizzas (recipe here)
• Grilled pork chops
• Salad with green onions
• Smashed baby potatoes (similar recipe here)
• Peach crostata (recipe here)

Thursday Dinner
• Green salad with olive oil
• Butternut squash casserole (from my casserole book)
• Rosemary grilled potato skewers
• Roast Zuni chicken (recipe here)
• Bread and butter
• Plum crumble and brown butter ice cream (recipe here and here)

AUTUMN SUPPERS

Dinner with Friends in October
• Fennel slaw (recipe here)
• Mole
• Rice
• Chocolate cake with ice cream (recipe review here)

Tuesday Dinner in October
• Socca (recipe here)
• Polenta bar: Pulled pork, braised greens (recipes here)
• Chopped salad
• Peach crisp with brown butter ice cream (recipe here)

Tuesday Dinner in November
• Goat cheese with cranberry sauce
• Braised turkey (Bittman recipe) (recipe review here)
• Bread panade with spicy greens (recipe link here)
• Cranberries with port and figs (recipe review here)
• Custard with port sauce
• Cranberry cake (recipe here)

WINTER SUPPERS

Tuesday Dinner in December
• Easier cassoulet with white beans and duck leg (from my casserole book)
• Carnitas (recipe here)
• Baked coconut rice (from my casserole book)
• Brussel sprouts in cream
• Lemon bars

Tuesday Dinner
• Spaghetti squash casserole (from my casserole book)
• Potato and tomato casserole (from my casserole book)
• Baked chicken thighs (similar recipe here)
• Lemon rice pudding (recipe here)
• Gingersnaps (recipe here)

Dinner Party
• Lamb phyllo cigars (recipe here)
• Olives
• Pasta with caramelized onions and spicy sausage (recipe here)
• Cauliflower salad (recipe here)
• Creamed spinach and potatoes
• Mushroom casserole (recipe review here)
• Banana cake with cream cheese frosting (recipe here)

Related: Entertaining: Make-Ahead Tips for Dinner Parties

(Updated from post originally published April 19, 2010).

(Images: Faith Durand)

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