I guess I must be getting older. I’m hosting a dinner party for some friends this Saturday.
Again, much like the cocktail party post I wrote ages ago, ambiance is critical. Keep the lights low, light a few candles (UNSCENTED. You don’t want your house to smell like a damn pine forest or an apple pie. Unless you’re serving apple pie. In which case, the pie itself will do.) and throw on a playlist from the good ole iPod. Again, make sure you don’t have anything too jarring or irritating. I thought about this today when Kenny Loggins was playing on the radio during my morning commute. After about 45 seconds of Danger Zone, I was contemplating driving off a cliff.
Anyway, where was I? Oh right, music. The bottom line is that you want the guests to come and relax and enjoy your company and food. Skip the workout playlist or anything that tends to inspire murder/suicide.
Now the most important part: the food. Wouldn’t be called a dinner party without dinner, would it?
I kind of follow the Barefoot Contessa’s school of thought when it comes to entertaining. No, I don’t mean living in a mansion in the Hamptons and having your friends bring yet another orange tulip floral arrangement to the “barn” I built that is nicer than 97% of the all of the homes in my neighbourhood. What I mean is that you want to serve something that you could do with your eyes closed for the main course, try to do dessert ahead of time and purchase something to throw together for an appetizer. And always have a cocktail and/or plenty of wine on hand. This is critical.
For example, a menu that would work would be:
Appetizer: Assorted cheese, olives and salami arranged on a large wooden cutting board. This would be served in the living room with wine/drinks.
Main Course: Osso Bucco with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus.
Dessert: Grilled stone fruit glazed with honey and sweet butter and served with vanilla ice cream.
This is actually a pretty easy menu to pull off and it looks pretty impressive. First of all, the appetizer could be assembled hours ahead of time, loosely wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge. The osso bucco is a pretty simple braise that you start hours before. You can roast the garlic in advance and store in the fridge for the potatoes (Bonus: you also won’t burn the shit out of your fingers when you squeeze it into the potatoes). You can quickly mash the potatoes and the asparagus takes all of 15 minutes to roast. Sprinkle on the gremolata that you quickly chop up and you’re done the main course.
Dessert is, again, fairly simple. I melt the honey and butter together and grill the stone fruit on an indoor griddle pan. Make sure that the fruit is a little under-ripe, or they’ll fall apart. Baste/glaze the fruit towards the end of cooking and arrange on a plate with a scoop of ice cream. I like to buy the vanilla ice cream with the flecks of vanilla seeds in them. Looks nicer for a few extra bucks and tastes pretty good, too. You can sprinkle the plates with mint or serve with fresh raspberries (great with peaches for a peach melba-inspired dessert). Done-zers.
Not sure what the menu will be for this weekend, but I’ll be sure to take pictures so you guys can see what I’m talking about. A dinner party doesn’t have to be formal, or have a theme or specific occasion. Just invite some friends over, make something yummy and have a good time!
Just keep the Kenny Loggins and Yankee Candles for lonely Saturday nights when you cry yourself to sleep after eating an entire pint of ice cream by yourself.