It is very simple to prepare a dinner served à la Russe, as it matters little how many courses there may be. If it were necessary to prepare many dishes, and to have them all hot, and in perfection at the same minute, and then be obliged to serve them nearly all together, the task might be considered rather formidable and confusing. But with one or two assistants, and with time between each course to prepare the suc-ceeding one, after a very little practice it becomes a mere amusement.
A bill of fare should be written, and pinned up in the kitch-en. Every thing should be prepared that is possible in the early part, of the day; then, after the fish, chickens, birds, etc., are dressed and larded (if necessary), they should be put aside, near the ice. If sweet-breads are to be served, they should be larded, parboiled, and put.away also. The salad (if lettuce) should be sprinkled with water (not placed in water), and put in a cool, dark place in a basket, not to be touched until the last three minutes.
The plates and platters for each course should be counted, examined, and placed on a table by themselves. However, the arrangement of the dishes was explained in the chapter on setting the table.
After this, the kitchen should be put in order, and the tables cleared of all unnecessary things. Then every thing needed for the courses to be cooked should be placed in separate groups at the back of a large table, so that there may be no confusion or loss of any thing at the last minute. If there are sweet-breads, have them egged and bread-crumbed; if pease are to be served with them, place them in a basin at their side, properly seasoned. If there is macaroni with cheese, have the proper quantity desired already broken on a dish, with a plate of grated cheese and a tin cup, with the necessary amount of butter to be melted, side by side. If there is a fillet of beef to be baked and served with a mushroom-sauce, have the fillet in the baking-pan already larded, the mushrooms in the basin in which they are to be cooked, at the side; also the piece of lemon and the spoonful of flour ready. The stock will be in the kettle at the back of the stove. By-the-way, in giving a fine dinner, there should always be an extra stock-pot, separate from the soup, at the back of the stove, as it is excellent for boiling the sweet-breads or the macaroni, and making the sauces, etc.
If a simple salad of lettuce is to be served, have the oil, vinegar, pepper and salt, and the spoonful of finely chopped onion, in a group all ready. If a Mayonnaise dressing is to be served, that should be made in the morning.
Look at the clock in the kitchen, and calculate the time it will take each dish to cook, and put it to the fire, so that it will be finished "to a turn" just at the proper minute.
During dinner, one person should attend to placing out of the way all the dishes brought from the dining-room, and, if necessary, should wash any spoons, platters, etc., which may be needed a second time. She should know beforehand, however, just what she is to wash, as every one must know exactly her own business, so that no questions need be asked at the last moment. The cook can attend to nothing but the cooking, at the risk of neglecting this most important part.
As the course just before the salad is sent into the dining-room, begin to make the salad, having every thing all ready. First, pick over the lettuce-leaves, wash and leave them to drain, while you prepare the dressing. It should just be ready when its turn comes to be sent to table.
If the dinner company is very large, and there are many dishes, the cooking of them may be distributed between two persons, and perhaps the second cook may use the laundry stove; but with a little practice and the one or two assistants, one cook can easily prepare the most elaborate dinner, if it is only properly managed before the time of cooking. She should, of course, never attempt any dish she has not made before. A bain-marie is very convenient for preserving cooked dishes, if there is some delay in serving the dinner.
Of all things, never on any occasion serve a large joint or large article of any kind on a little platter, as nothing looks so awkward. Let the platter always be at least a third larger than the size of its contents.
I give several bills of fare. They are long enough and good enough for any dinner party. Guests do not care for better or more, if these are only properly cooked. They can be easily prepared in one's own house, and this is always more elegant than to have a list of a hundred dishes from a restaurant.