Dinner Party Menu

Mixed Grill with Chimichurri Sauce

20 shrimp, peeled
1 flank steak
chicken sausage, available uncooked at local meat markets
salt and pepper, to taste
salad oil
seasoning blend of your choice

For shrimp, toss with salt, pepper and a small amount of salad oil, to keep from sticking to the grill.

For flank steak, cover with your favorite seasoning blend, then grill to medium rare, about 5 minutes on each side. Let sit propped up for 30 minutes at room temperature, then slice thin across the grain on a bias. Best at medium rare to medium.

For chicken sausage, cook in oven until outside appears to be cooked, then finish on the grill.

Chimichurri Sauce

1 cup fresh parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped spring onions
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Texas Pete hot sauce
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Place parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, spring onions, cumin, salt, garlic and hot sauce in blender. Blend for 10 seconds on medium speed, or until ingredients are evenly blended. Serve with mixed grill.

Grilled Corn

corn, number of ears desired; ears can be cut into smaller pieces

Set corn on the grill and cook on indirect heat, turning to cook on all sides with brown grill marks. Finish cooking on the grill with indirect heat, or place in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.


4 cups sweet wine, such as Manischewitz grape or blackberry
2 cups apple cider
2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice
splashes of lemon and lime
lime slices for garnish
club soda or Spanish table wine, optional

Mix wine, apple cider and orange juice. Add splashes of lemon and lime. Garnish individual glasses with lime slices.

To decrease the sangria’s sweetness, you may add club soda to taste, or use a
Spanish table wine.  

Caesar Salad

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus garnish
1 tablespoon half and half
romaine lettuce
fresh croutons

Mix first eight ingredients together, flavor to taste, and refrigerate until ready to use. Prepare romaine lettuce by washing and drying. Toss with dressing and top salad with fresh croutons and grated Parmesan cheese.


  • Theme: Go beyond a meal, to create an event
  • Party no-no: Saucy dishes, too-crunchy breads
  • Best friend: Non-stick pan! Good flavor + less oil = confidence
  • Drink up: Offer a specialty beverage or two
  • No peeking: Oven door opening costs 150 degrees, takes 7 minutes to recover
  • Meats: Grill for flavor, but finish in oven
  • YouTube: Good resource for learning how to cook

Executive Chef Bruce Kaplan demonstrates how to cut a flank steak on the bias.

The more options, the more fun when it comes to group gatherings, believes Executive Chef Bruce Kaplan of Kaplan Catering. And the more helpers, the merrier.

While he recommends a pre-planned and varied menu to take advantage of seasonal food options and to keep costs down, Kaplan otherwise enjoys letting the party roll.

“You don’t have to make everything ahead. Let others help, then you’re all sharing in the whole process,” Kaplan said. “Everybody gravitates to the kitchen anyway; it’s hard to keep them out!”

With more than 25 years in the business, and some 20,000 catering jobs completed, Kaplan said, “I like things that are fun, where people can participate and there’s enough variety to make it interesting.

“You can have friends over to make pizza with great ingredients. And themed is good, like Italian, or Around the World. Then you’re not just having a meal — it’s on the way to being an event.”

Taking guests’ preferences into account, Kaplan chose a mixed grill, or three smaller meat options rather than one large, for this dinner party, to offer variety.

Kaplan explains his techniques as he cooks (see link to more tips below), from grilling the flank steak before finishing it in the oven, to sharing why he never places raw sausage on the grill, or his preference for vegetable oil over olive oil: “You get too much of the olive flavor. Vegetable oil seasoned with olive oil works too.”

There are a couple of no-nos for a dinner party, Kaplan says: Avoid serving saucy dishes or too-crunchy breads and crackers, to avoid “spill and crumb issues” that make guests uncomfortable. His grilled bread, for example, is just partially toasted to reserve its chewiness; always cut breads long, on the bias, he says.

The final touch to a meal, Kaplan notes, is visual appeal.

“Fill the plate by balancing your colors and textures,” he said while spooning out his own take on Chimichurri Sauce. And let the party begin!

Kaplan Catering, Raleigh
(919) 846-9808

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