Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Dinner Party Revisited: How to Make it Not Suck

The main purpose of my blog was, and still is, to show my friends that cooking is easy. That they should do it more. I think it worked. I'm not sure, however, because no one (sauce mang being the exception) ever invites me over for dinner. If i know you and you are reading this, invite me over for dinner. I will even give you a step by step on how to do a proper dinner party.

1. Lets start with the basics: Clean your house. No one wants to go to your dirty apartment. Its not Buckingham Palace, but be proud of your castle, no matter how small or shitty. No one wants to eat in a dirty house.

2. Don't over crowd: Don't be afraid to say "no" to people. If you don't have enough food or space they will understand. if they don't, they are kinda dicks anyway, so its also a good screening method.

3. Vet your guestlist: make sure you know the vast majority of your guests, gauge their personalities, and don't invite conflicting people types. this is important. if you are a lone entertainer like me, you wont be around the whole time to keep the conversation flowing, so make sure your guests are going to have enough in common to keep everything fun.

4. Plan your menu: Dinner parties revolve around food. Make sure your planning considers time and rate of success. This is one of the reasons I almost always do a roast. its easy to prepare, very tasty if made right, and requires little work while cooking. Make sure that you have a protein, 2 different colored veggies, a starch, and i always like to include a salad for after. its very European.

5. Cook what you know: The night of the big show is not the time to be mixing it up and trying new things. Make the stuff that you could make in your sleep, or learn how to make something really good and easy before you take a shot at cooking for 6 of your besties. The first thing i learned how to cook was chicken parm, and it was the only thing i cooked for people for around 4 years.

6. Make sure everything is tasty and works well together: I hate HATE potlucks. Everyone brings one thing and i bet they dont follow most of the pointers on this blawg. you might get 2 soups, 1 curry dish, one mac and cheese, one bean dip... your mouth is all like, WTF. Curry and mac and cheese were never meant to be eaten together. ever. So make sure your menu complements itself. Sweet, savory, sour, salt.... soy and maple syrup on the pork roast, mustard fingerling potato's, basalmic and sugar on the green beans, butter/salt/pepper on the carrots. nothing fancy, but it all works.

7. More is better than less: Make sure you cook enough food. Proteins and starches are always what people want more of, so make sure you have lots of both of those. you want your guests to "eat and be well" as they say, so give them the chance to do that. This ties in with rule 2 as well.

8. Family style: don't plate your food for your friends. You are not as good at is as you may think, anyway. Now, I'm not trying to be harsh, but unless you have some kind of fine dining training, its not going to look as good as it will in your head. Just put lots of food into serving dishes (make sure you have some decent serving dishes) and allow your guests to portion themselves. this brings a sense of family to the table. You want your party to be less formal. It loosens everyone up and creates a more casual atmosphere.

There are some basics i didnt cover like music, wine, and plates and glasses, so make sure that you dont neglect to think about that stuff as well. I hope this helps and that I get lots of invitations to come to your house!