Let's face it, food bloggers can be a bit pretentious about food. We love to cook, we want to showcase out mad skills, and most of all, we want to share it with out loyal readers on our blogs the next day. But, here's the thing. My 'real' friends could care less about any of that and making them wait so I can take pictures for my blog is kind of the most self centered thing a host could do. So when I throw a dinner party, I test new recipes, but I make it a point to not get all 'food blogger' while hosting dinner.
- Keep it simple. Seriously. I have a tendency to over think it. Or at least I did. But last year I hit my stride and now I can throw a dinner party for 4 or 14 without breaking a sweat. I stopped over thinking it. Stopped trying to be Julia Child and June Cleaver all in one and realized that my dinner parties were pretty awesome without any pomp or circumstance.
- Short and sweet menus are best. No need to be in the kitchen all day. A quick appetizer, a salad, a main dish and a side. Boom. Even better, have ice cream on the ready for dessert. No baking required.
- A stocked pantry of chips and crackers is a life saver. Nothing stinks more than running out of chips when the dip is only half gone. Same goes for drinks, make sure that you have a few selections of beer, wine, and drinks for all guests always on hand. Come over any day and I can whip you up a quick aperitif.
- Always have an appetizer and a drink ready to go when people arrive. It helps buy you time if you are still finishing up in the kitchen and it makes hungry guests happy. I keep a few bottles of wine in our (overly stocked) liquor cabinet at all times. One red, one white (well, you are probably going to need more than just one bottle of each...). Have fun just adding new ones to the collection to have on the ready. Plus, after a long work week, it might be a good thing to have on stand by... just in case.
- That being said, don't stop cooking because your friends have arrived. I often find myself finishing up chopping something or taking dinner out of the oven as friends arrive. It gets people into our dining room (and terribly cramped kitchen) where the action is going to be happening anyway, and makes them feel more at home that you aren't immediately waiting on them hand and foot. See, two part plan, they have an appetizer, and you are prepping fresh food.
- Music is a must. Somewhere in the house there should be an ipod on shuffle creating a soft background noise. It doesn't have to be loud but when there is a pause, it's nice to have the white noise. (What ever you do, make sure it's a good selection of 'normal' music. No one needs your death metal or wild rebellious Celtic celebration mid awkward pause.
- Don't take pictures of the food. At least, not in the way that you normally do. Setting up your plate while your friends eat and running off to a corner for the right light is not ok. Your friends could care less if you made a stuffed trout that you hand filleted yourself, or if they are eating a bowl of KFC. They are there for you. You're cooking is an add on bonus. Let them enjoy your company, and you enjoy theirs. The blog really doesn't matter. Action shots of your friends, memories that you will look back on and smile - that is perfectly ok. And if you can quickly sneak a zoomed in shot of a hands on plate, then yes, you are a rock star. The first time your father has to wait for a slice of roast beef, you will totally be done with the whole camera at the dinner table thing. Promise.
- No matter how small, how ghetto, how 4 walls and a shack you may be in at the moment - it is your home. Be proud of it and never be embarrassed to have company. This is a tip my step mother taught me and I have thanked her for countless times. One of my first out of the next homes was a tiny shack - but it was mine. And I always kept it clean - that way if anyone ever stopped by I wasn't throwing blankets over piles of laundry to hide from anyone. Clean counters, vacuumed/swept floors, and a clean toilet go a long way. Live by it.
- Make it clear the party is over. I have learned as an adult, all nighters are not needed. Sure, some friends will still end up sleeping on the sofa, but at a certain point a party is over. People are yawning and conversation has sort of dwindled I let the food dictate the time. After dessert, if I need people to start heading out, I start casually doing the dishes. It's kind of my little flag to let people know I'm done and that it's time for me to clean up so my house is not a hot mess of curious cat disaster in the morning.
- Take time to clean up. You will thank me in the morning. Unless you had too much wine, then it can wait.
Simple Roasted Salmon with Dill
*Hot tip: Its usually cheaper to buy a whole large salmon filet and have your fish monger divide it into portions for you - or portion it yourself - than to buy the pre-sized portions in the cold case.
- 4 to 6 4oz salmon portions*
- 1 - 2 tbs mayo
- 1 fresh lemon
- handful fresh dill, minced
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminium foil (if using aluminum foil, lightly spray with non stick cooking spray).
Place salmon portions on prepared baking sheet and spread a very thin layer of mayo over each. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle dill over all portions and then squeeze a dash of lemon juice over each. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until salmon is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. Serve with skin on if desired.
Creamy Chevre and Herb Orzo
- 4 oz orzo
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- ¼ cup white wine
- 8 oz chevre cheese with herbs
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ½ cup sour cream
- handful fresh dill, parsley, or chives, minced
- ½ cup frozen peas
Prepare orzo according to directions on box. Drain, reserving a cup of cooking water for later.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, until mushrooms are softened. Stir in the wine and scrape up any brown bits. Add the chevre cheese and melt. Stir in the chicken stock and sour cream. Add sauce to cooked orzo and stir to coat. If needed, add a bit of the cooking liquid to loosen. Add frozen peas and stir into hot pasta. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and gently toss.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a cheese plate, salad, and simple desert - you are golden. Party hard my friend.