Here's what my house does:
Dad decides he wants a gumbo night. We invite between 2 and 20 people. Mom makes a gumbo of appropriate size. I make salad and rice and bake dessert, which is usually bread pudding, but tonight was the aforementioned apple tart. Guests bring wine.
There was a camera, so here's a picture!
Before I continue, a word about my mother's gumbo: Mom's gumbo is unmatched. I have had restaurant gumbo that is supposedly The Real Stuff that didn't even come close to matching up. She could cook her way to Iron Chef status with just this gumbo. She made a mistake this time around and oversalted it after using bouillon--she usually uses broth--but I taught her the potato trick (peel a couple potatoes and throw them in, whole or halved, and they'll absorb the excess salt), and that fixed it right up.
Anyway, tart! These French-style tarts are time-consuming, but I think they're worth it. I used my trusty ol' Good Housekeeping recipe for the apple parts and Mark Bittman's flaky pie crust recipe, doubled and with one egg yolk added, for the crust. While I like this Good Housekeeping book because it's so comprehensive, I find that its recipes often need adjustment. I haven't made this in ages, so I forgot that in this case, the amount of lemon juice for the apple puree was too high; I compensated by adding a little brown sugar on top of the white sugar, which made it a little sweeter than I usually make it but also took care of the lemony overload. I also took the immersion blender to the puree, since the Granny Smith apples impart lovely flavor but don't break down when cooked as easily as the recipe would have you believe; the Golden Delicious (well, the GDs looked gross so I got Braeburn in this case; I'm not always too strict about apple selection and hey, look, a semicolon within a parenthetical insertion into a post-semicolon sentence!) break down just fine. Other than that, it's all about having a steady hand when slicing the Granny Smiths to go on top! And also about making the crust absolutely perfect. And about having good ingredients; there's only a smidgen of nutmeg in the puree, so the ingredients, especially the apples, have to hold up without spice.
We also had the rest of the St. Louis cake, which one of the guests in particular demolished, and a guest-provided cranberry Nantucket pie, which is sort of an upside-down cake baked in a springiform pan.
The salad dressing I also have to mention. My Aunt Helen is famous for this, because it's so simple and so extraordinarily good: Take some romaine with chopped cucumbers and maybe tomatoes or onions if you like, squeeze in some lemon juice, glop in some olive oil, shake in some salt and pepper, and sprinkle in some chopped mint if you have it. Toss. Eat. Sometimes I use sage instead of mint (dried, but I guess fresh would be tasty, too!).
All in all, it was an excellent food night, and an excellent company night! We had some lovely people over (including one who had great things to tell me about art, which is always a joy), and I am pleasantly full.