How to host a killer dinner party without having a panic attack

Posted by Cariset on

It's Memorial Day weekend, which means summer is FINALLY around the corner. And what better way to ring in summer than with dinner parties galore, am I right?! #adulting

It's been my dream to host dinner parties for the last 10 years. (What can I say--I'm a freak!) Even when I lived in New York City with a microscopic living room and a coffee table as my "dining room" table, I still loved having friends over for dinner. Dinner parties are intimidating, but they don't have to be! Check out my tips, tricks, and recipes below. Being a domestic goddess never felt so easy.

xx
Allison

Main Dishes


Mains are easily the most intimidating part of a dinner party. How do you make enough protein for 10 people without spending 15 hours in the kitchen?!

Answer: Make something big.

My two favorite mains for dinner parties are whole roasted chicken and flank steak. Both dishes feed a lot of people, and the best part is that they're easy to scale up (e.g. buy two whole chickens or a larger flank steak for a bigger crowd). 


Thomas Keller's Whole Roasted Chicken


This recipe is a godsend. SO simple and so delicious. One trick I've picked up: Line the bottom of your roasting pan with sliced onion, then top the onion with baguette slices before nestling the chicken on top. Voila: Chicken bread and caramelized onions! Don't worry if you burn a few pieces--it happens to the best of us.

Tip: Modify this recipe to feed more people by getting a larger chicken (or two chickens)!

Serves 4
Time: Around 1.5 hours 
Ingredients:
  • 4-lb whole chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)
  • Unsalted butter
  • Dijon mustard
  • Kitchen twine or unflavored dental floss (to truss the chicken)
Directions:
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Rinse the chicken in the sink, then thoroughly dry out both the outside and the inside cavity with paper towels. (This is the gross part that scares people away from making chicken, but I promise it will be over quickly!)
  3. Salt and pepper the interior cavity. You may need a buddy to help you hold the chicken on its head for this part!
  4. Truss the chicken. What is trussing, you ask? It's a way of making sure the wings stay close to the body to cook. See video here if you've never done it before!
  5. Salt the outside of the chicken. Thomas says he likes to "rain salt over the bird," which is okay by me. Season with a bit of pepper.
  6. Place the chicken on your roasting pan (if you've cut up veggies or bread to go under the chicken, lay those down first) and put your chicken in the oven. Leave it there for 50 or so minutes until it is done (chicken is cooked at 165 degrees F, if you have a meat thermometer).
  7. Once done, remove from the heat, add thyme to the pan, and baste the chicken with juice from the pan. Let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  8. Serve the bird! Thomas says he slathers the meat in butter and dips it into a side of Dijon, but you do you. 


My Mom's Flank Steak Recipe


This is a family favorite. The downside is that you have to marinate it for 3-6 hours, so make sure to plan ahead for this one. 

Serves 6-8 
Time: 4-7 hours
Ingredients:
  • 1.5-2 lbs flank steak
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Lowry's salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika
Directions:
  1. Combine soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add a few shakes each of Lowry's salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.
  3. Remove from heat. When cool, whisk in vegetable oil.
  4. Pour the marinade over the flank steak either in a large Ziploc bag or in a shallow baking tray. Pierce the meat with a fork and turn occasionally. Let marinate in the fridge for 3-6 hours.
  5. Cook! If you have a grill, grill for about 6 minutes on either side. If not, broil the steak for 4-6 minutes per side. Check the temperature to make sure steaks are cooked the way you like (120 degrees F for rare, 120-125 degrees for medium-rare, 130-135 degrees for medium).
  6. Let rest for 5 minutes and slice across the grain to serve.

Sides

My strategy for sides: Always roast. I love to roast asparagus, potatoes... you name it. You can buy a lot of whatever you're roasting (onions and potatoes are great together), and all you have to do is chop everything up, put it in the oven, and then proceed to drink wine with your friends while you wait for everything to cook. Helpful roasting tips here!

If you're feeling healthy, throw in a quick and easy salad right before everyone sits down to eat. Again - super easy to scale up. Avocado, pomegranate seeds, and chopped walnuts make any salad feel fancy!

Appetizers and Desserts 

When in doubt, go with a cheese plate. Is there any better place on Earth than the cheese counter at Whole Foods? Aside from Cheese Plus in SF, I'd argue not. Trader Joe's also has a great selection for those of us looking to save $$$.

I like to go with two soft cheeses and one hard. I LOVE blue cheese; Cambozola from Trader Joe's is a mild blue and a real crowd-pleaser (it has been known to convert even the biggest blue cheese haters). I love Raincoast Crisps crackers, but TJ's Raisin Rosemary Crisps taste just as good for half the price.

I usually skip desserts unless I'm throwing a birthday party. I'll typically set out some dark chocolate and let it roll. However, my favorite cake to make is hummingbird cake. It's like an elevated carrot cake. The best. Tip: Don't think about how you made the frosting while you're eating it!
Last tip: Make sure to drink lots of wine, take a breather, and enjoy!

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