Karin Eastham may have just cracked the code on fun and collaborative cooking for you and any group of friends with her recently released book, "Cook the Part". Have you experienced the stress, hard work and, sometimes, lackluster results while being the host preparing a four course meal while still attempting to enjoy some fun time with your guests? We all know the chaos that can happen when you ask a guest to help without preparing yourself or them for the part you want them to play. "Cook the Part" is the answer to that conundrum and the solution is fun and well organized. Even better, the eight planned meals in the book are excellent additions to your favorite dinner recipe collections.
Karin is not a professional chef, cookbook or recipe writer. She is a leader in bio-technology who has honed her skills through gourmet groups. Karin has hosted her share of home dinner parties. She has searched for ways of engaging her guests while leading them through one of her personal passions, cooking. This passion is likely a gift from her German mother, who actually cooked all the food for 150 guests at Karin's wedding.
Reflecting the organizational skills she has used to excel in her professional career, "Cook the Part" is detailed and exceptionally well organized. Most importantly, it is also very easy to use. "Cook the Part" is equally a dinner party planner and a cook book. It begins with what the host has to do to prepare in advance including guests lists, invitations, menu planning, shopping, advance food prep, guest arrival and guest orientation. An army deploying for battle does not get this much advanced planning and preparation.
The planning and preparation are organized for 4 teams (A-D) but the book also addresses how to accommodate smaller or larger groups. The 'template' she has created can be used for your own recipes and themed parties beyond the eight (8) four course diners in the book. One other thoughtful consideration is that the 8 menus range in level of difficulty from easy to more complex. The book can be helpful and fun for the novice or the experienced dinner planner looking for new ideas and tips.
The Tuscan Farmhouse Dinner was selected for this review. The courses are so appealing with several appetizers including Grilled Bruschetta, Tomato and Basil, Prosciutto and Melon and Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper. All classic Tuscan appetizers prepared in advance by the host (days or hours before guests arrive) to get the partying going as soon as your guests arrive.
While enjoying a glass of wine and the appetizers, the host provides an explanation to the menu and forms the team taking into account skills and preferences of your guests. Karin, suggests you 'always' split up couples to get people to become better acquainted through the prep and dinner. A side benefit of that is that any competitiveness becomes more friendly and fun.
The plan for this menu allowed up to an hour for various parts of the preparation for all four courses. The Insalata Caprese (Bibb and Red Leaf Salad was an alternative) was completed and ready to eat after the first hour of gnoshing and preparation. A very relaxed pace. The salad was enjoyed by all before moving to the next 30 minutes of prep during which the teams grilled the entree (Chicken under a brick) and completed the sides (Tuscan White Beans and Grilled Zucchini). Of course, wine and other beverages were available. When the chicken and the sides were ready, again, everyone relaxed and enjoyed this course together. An hour was allowed for a relaxed entree course but we moved a little faster, about 45 minutes. The final course prep required about 15 minutes, whipping cream and baking the Fallen Chocolate Cake which were served in individual ramekins. Delightful!
Cooking in teams could be a challenge but the planning, organization and teaming techniques painstakingly described in "Cooking the Part" ensured a fun and fabulous outcome. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed themselves, the preparation time and the food. Cooking the Part looks to be a recurring theme for our group of culinary friends.
You can download "Cook the Part" in PDF version for $7.99 or purchase a hard copy for $24.95 or $29.95 for both at the Cook the Part book shelf. It can also be found on Amazon.com. We recommend the book for ease of use and to keep on the shelf with your other cookbooks. By the way, You can also get $5 off the book if you use the Code Wine14 at the Cook the Part bookshelf.