The whole dinner party thing is pretty new to me. Some of you are naturals at it, but for me, hosting and cooking for people is kind of a big deal and therefore something that I haven’t done too often. But I think I can also blame the busyness of residency and med school and not having time to clean up the house, go grocery shopping or anything like that. Another reason is that I used to be really insecure about my cooking and preferred not to cook for anyone except family.
Now, I have no excuse since I have the time and the best husband ever who does the major cleaning (and even the decorating!) whenever we have people over. Plus, I get so much positive feedback from him about the food that I make that my cooking self-esteem has gotten a serious boost since we’ve been married 🙂
So a couple weekends ago, we had some people over for dinner and board games. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and there was lots of trash-talking over Wits & Wagers, which is always a fun time.
What makes hosting easier for an introverted perfectionist such as myself?
1. Planning an easy menu.
This helps because then you don’t have to stress out about things turning out well. I stuck with really easy but delicious things – miso salmon, baked pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage, roasted asparagus, a nice fresh colorful salad, and apple crisp with ice cream. The hardest part was actually timing the use of the oven.
2. Planning the menu well in advance.
One of the most tiring, annoying, and time consuming things for me is grocery shopping. Having an idea of what I was making meant that grocery shopping could be organized and spread out, which made it much more bearable. Miso paste from the Asian grocery store. Trader Joe’s for munchies and dip. “Ghetto grocery store” for meat and produce. Big Y for salmon. TJ Maxx for awesome deals on baking and serving dishes (since much of what we used to have somehow disappeared in the move).
3. Prepping everything that I could possibly prep in advance.
I seriously had a list of things that needed to be prepped, both the day before and the day of. I know, it’s kind of crazy. But to me, being organized was helpful and made the whole thing completely stress-free. So when it came time to actually bake or cook things, all I had to do was throw it together and put it in the oven or on the stove. So easy!
4. Keeping the numbers small.
Since large numbers of strangers can be overwhelming to me, we stuck to inviting just a few people – one couple that we hang out with often, and another couple that I had never met before. This was much more manageable for our small apartment and also for me :). I accidentally made WAY too much food for so few people, but that’s okay…now we have yummy leftovers for a week.
So yeah, every time is a bit easier and definitely more fun 🙂 I’m already thinking about our next dinner party which is coming up this weekend!
The pasta recipe (baked pasta with fresh mozzarella, broccoli rabe and sausage in a bechamel sauce) must be shared because it is easy, economical, and really delicious. I followed this recipe exactly and it turned out perfectly — cheesy but not too much so, a little bit creamy but not heavy, plenty of broccoli rabe to make you feel like it could be healthy, big chunks of sausage, brown crunchy bits of pasta and cheese. There was definitely some subtle fighting over the leftovers:
Me: Do you want fried rice and salmon for dinner? (Me trying to push it on husband so that I could have more pasta for myself)
Husby: Nah, I would rather have pasta.
Me: OK do you want fried rice and salmon for lunch tomorrow? (Pushing the non-pasta dish again)
Husby: Maybe pasta and salmon
Gah, I’m so passive aggressive! We ended up finishing the leftovers so quickly that I made another batch using spicy italian sausage, which was probably even tastier.