How Ina Garten avoids a 'total kitchen meltdown' when cooking for crowds

Want to plan an impressive dinner party? Don't stress. The Barefoot Contessa has your back.
by Erica Chayes Wida / / Source: TODAY

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Ina Garten certainly knows a thing or two about throwing a great party. But even the Barefoot Contessa knows it's pretty easy to mess up a meal when you're cooking for crowds.

The well-natured cook everyone wants to roast a chicken with recently shared a few tips on her blog for throwing a perfectly executed spring dinner party — and they're as easy as one, two, three.

1. Find fresh ingredients.

Now that it's spring, grocery stores and farmers markets are starting to blossom with plenty of great seasonal produce. You can use a guide to discover what's fresh and healthy, or go with some of Garten's favorites: "This time of year, I start with a list of Spring ingredients that are popping up in stores everywhere — little radishes, baby lettuces, asparagus, and rhubarb."

Garten advises choosing what's in-season first and then plan plates around what you have.

Roasted Asparagus with Almonds

2. Make the menu.

Once you have your seasonal goodies on hand, craft a menu that makes everyone feel like spring has arrived. Fresh flavors lend themselves to eating al fresco and wonderful warm-weather wine. Time to bring out the rosé!

Garten posted a spring dinner menu that's making us salivate: a crisp salad with warm goat cheese, a whole roast chicken with radishes, garlic mashed potatoes and parmesan roasted asparagus. But going for different dishes, depending on what you bought or grew in the garden, is the way to go.

3. Plan out meal prep.

Losing your cool in the kitchen can happen faster than the time it takes to locate some oven mitts. If dishes are not well-timed, suddenly the sauce is burning and home cooks throw in the towel even before the guests arrive.

Garten stresses planning dishes that utilize different areas of the kitchen at different times. "I’ll prepare a game plan to make sure I can actually pull it off," Garten posted, "something served at room temperature, some things in the oven, some on top of the stove, and hopefully a few dishes that I can assemble in advance so I’m not in a full sweat when my friends arrive!"

The salad, for example, can be made ahead with the dressing set aside, while chicken can be prepped earlier in the day and then roasted in the oven while you potatoes boil on the stove and then tackle other dishes.

Once again, the Barefoot Contessa has transformed a trying task into a pleasant day of preparations. How easy is that?

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