The key to a good dinner party is delicious food, fun people, and a relaxed host. If you have those three covered the rest will come together pretty easily. I’ll let you handle #2, but for #1 and #3 I have some recipes and tips that will keep you not only sane, but actually enjoying yourself, the next time you invite a group over.
First, make sure at least two things you’re serving can be made ahead of time. In this case it’s a simple cheese board to keep guests busy as everyone arrives, and a quinoa salad that you can do the day before and keep in the fridge.
Second, choose something easy and not time sensitive for your main course. Here I chose to do a braised chicken dish that I can keep warm on the stove for as long as I need.
Third, don’t kill yourself over dessert. I know you’re dying to try out that new soufflé recipe, but save it for a more intimate night with people who don’t care if it’s flat or burnt. For entertaining a group, pick something bullet proof. My lazy/fancy go-to? Affogato. It sounds complicated but takes 30 seconds to make.
Also, candles, music, and dim lighting help everything.
BRAISED CHICKEN WITH GARLIC, FENNEL, THYME + WALNUTS
1 3 1/2-pound whole chicken, each cut into 8 pieces
1/2 head of garlic, cloves separated (about 10), peeled and sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 very large fresh thyme sprigs
salt and pepper
1 cup white wine
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup walnut halves
Trim excess fat off chicken. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly smash garlic cloves just to flatten slightly and remove the paper.
Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, add chicken and cook until brown on all sides, about 12 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to plate. Add fennel and onion to the pot. Stir until barely golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Add wine and thyme; bring to boil. Return chicken to pot and add the broth and walnuts (the broth should not quite cover the chicken). Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through. about 20-30 minutes. Remove the chicken, turn the heat up to medium high, and reduce the liquid by half. Season to taste with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer chicken to platter and drizzle sauce over.
QUINOA TABBOULEH SALAD
5 cups quinoa, cooked (1 cup uncooked)
1 cup medium red bell pepper, diced
1 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 limes, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup parsley
salt and pepper
In a pot, cover the quinoa with 4 cups of room temp water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until you can see the germ in the quinoa. In small bowl, combine the lime juice, garlic, red onion, oil, and some salt and pepper. Add all of the ingredients to thequinoa and dress with the red onion mixture. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH SALSA VERDE
2 large cauliflower heads
1 poblano chili
4 garlic cloves
a handful of cilantro
1/4 cup grated parm
salt and pepper
Pre heat oven to 425 F. Clean the cauliflower and slice into halves. Break off the florets, slicing the big ones in half. Coat with olive oil (2 tablespoons-1/4 cup, depending on how much cauliflower you have) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes, shake the pieces around, flipping them, and roast for another 10. You should think, “Oh crap I burnt it,” when you pull them out. But try it, the more caramelized and crispy the better. Meanwhile, peel and broil the tomatillos for about 5-10 minutes, or until charred and juicy. Char the poblano over an open flame, then scrape off the skin and deseed it. Chop it roughly and pop it, the tomatillos, the garlic, cilantro, and hot sauce in a food processor. Pulse it and taste for season. Drizzle it over the cauliflower and top off with grated parm. Enjoy!
CHEESE PLATTER: PLAYING WITH TEXTURE + FLAVOR COMBINATIONS
whole grain mustard
your favorite nuts
Plate your favorite combination and serve with plenty of bread and crackers.
The easiest of easy dinner party recipes.
4 espresso shots (use instant espresso if fresh espresso isn’t an option)
4 scoops of ice cream
4 tablespoons chopped bittersweet chocolate
Put a scoop of ice cream in a bowl, top with one shot of espresso and a tablespoon of chopped bittersweet chocolate. Enjoy before it melts!