Most of us wish we could entertain at home more. One of the biggest obstacles is the notion that in order to throw dinner parties, you need to have a lot of time to prep and plan, and make something fancy.
A lot of people think that professional cooks must throw really elaborate dinner parties, and while that is true some of the time (I try to go all out for holiday occasions, for instance). it’s not how I plan most gatherings in fact. So consider throwing a casual dinner party. All you need are a few rules and a good plan. Take a look:
Many times, people get overly ambitious about what kinds of food to serve for a dinner party. Do NOT choose a dinner party to cook a dish for the first time. In the excitement and stress, you might not do it correctly. Consider not cooking on the day at all.
For appetizers/snacks/bar bites, consider putting together a meat and cheese board with store-bought bread, crackers, and spreads. All you need to do is lay it out on a cutting board, and let your guests help themselves.
Prep dishes ahead of time when you have no pressure and some time to spend getting it just right. Consider making a lasagna or enchiladas - something that’s a crowd pleaser, easy to make, and can be reheated on the day. Sides and condiments you picked up while shopping can be added just before serving.
Most grocery stores and delis have great side dishes. Some even make garlic smashed potatoes! If you choose to make them at home, prep a day or two in advance, and then bring them back to the heat in a crock pot or oven. Grill off some vegetables or roast them in the oven for an easy side that will wow the crowd.
If you’re hosting a sports-themed party, consider classics like chili and sausages on the grill. The chili can be prepped ahead of time, and the sausages can be par-cooked, and then finished on the flame.
Again, store-bought can be your friend. Consider buying a bunch of different craft beers for people to try, or doing a "wine tasting" with a few bottles you pick up at the store. If you want to add a personal touch, consider a punch, parts of which can be prepped ahead of time.
Table settings are less about how beautifully you can deck out a table, and more about how functional you can make it. If you’re hosting a party to watch the game, make up some cutlery rolls in napkins like you see in restaurants, and place them on the same table you’re serving from.
Almost no one says no to ice cream, so buy a few tubs and some syrups or dulce de leche, jam, and nuts, sprinkles, etc., and lay out a make-your-own-sundae bar. If you’re feeling adventurous, roast off some marshmallows and make some chocolate ganache instead. You can make whipped cream in about three minutes with a kitchen mixer. Want to take it up a notch? Add some booze to it if you like.
The most important thing to keep in mind when entertaining is the reason you’re doing it: to see friends and family. The second most important thing to remember is: try not to make things more difficult for yourself and just have fun.
Have a happy entertaining season!
- Chef Corbin