Friday, February 19, 2010

More Dinner Party Ideas

I love that friends -- near and far -- are getting into the spirit of my first-ever dinner party and are suggesting possible menus.

Hinda Bodinger, along with her husband and two kids, bought my childhood home when my parents retired more than a decade ago. Since then she and her family have welcomed me and my family to come and visit whenever we're in the neighborhood. She's also been a big supporter of my book and this blog.

This morning Hinda e-mailed with some dinner party ideas:

Your friend Pamela had excellent advice – do whatever you can in advance so you can actually ENJOY your guests. That is what makes Ina Garten’s recipes so good (and they are usually reliable too!)

My advice too is to make lists – and then once you have your menu set, type it up, print it out and tape it to a kitchen cabinet. For one thing, it makes it much less overwhelming to see what you are doing, and what you have done and to get a good mental picture of it all. And for me, it insures that I remember to put everything out! I have had the experience of forgetting to serve an entire side dish.

I have a friend who, on the day of the party, puts out all of the serving dishes she is planning to use with little notes in each one of what goes it what. It saves her from searching for that perfect bowl at the last minute, or needing to WASH that perfect bowl at the last minute. I always thought that was a good idea. She also pairs them with serving utensils.

I recommend making Chicken Marbella, an impressive EASY recipe from back when The Silver Palate cookbooks were all the rage – you MUST prepare it in advance, and it is fine to serve at room temperature. Huge hit always. You could serve it with a nice rice dish.

Italian pasta dishes are also a great way to go – with a big salad and some crusty bread, usually everyone is quite happy. (unless they don’t eat cheese, in which case you would need to have something with just a red sauce to go along with it).

Good luck – have fun planning!

I also recently heard from my college friend Heidi, who has been living in Paris for years. Heidi has been watching my culinary progress with amazement since she remembers not so long ago when I told her I didn't know how to cut vegetables (for real!)

Eggplant parmigiana sounds like a good idea. The breading the eggplant probably needs some practice, but you could try a couple of times to get it down. Then when it's good, you know that you can prepare it in advance and just put it in the oven and be fresh and pretty for your guests. You could serve it with some great fresh Italian ingredients - simple food but excellent and full of love for your guests.

My mom is also pushing for an Italian meal.

She sent me an e-mail yesterday:

Maybe you should serve Lasagna with a salad, Italian bread and Tiramisu and make it an Italian night. You can even serve Chianti.

Have fun with the planning. That's the hard part. After that, it's a piece of cake.

Yum. A piece of cake sounds good about now. Meanwhile, keep the ideas coming!


Bernie Bernstein said...

It's Me, Mom - I love that Hinda is following your blog and using my previous kitchen. Hinda, I used to tack notes up on the cabinets also. I knew you would fit into the house as soon as I met you. I also set out serving pieces and utensils in advance so I know what goes where although I haven't had a dinner party in quite some time. But I even do that when I'm expecting my mah jongg ladies for dessert.

I agree that a do-ahead meal is essential, especially for a first timer. I'm not sure about eggplant though. I don't think I've ever made eggplant myself. I think I tasted it once and didn't like it. (Sounds like you as a kid, Paula).

I think you're getting yourself together nicely. I'm sure your party will be a big success. I have confidence in you. Good Luck!

Alma Schneider said...

I am so excited for your dinner party! I agree about the fabulous, always delicious, Chicken Marbella. There is also a great honey ginger chicken that I just posted on Basically, any marinated dish is great because you just pop it in the oven before your guests come.
Asian dishes are also good because you can do all the prep before hand and then combine at dinner time. Thai curries are easy an just need to be heated up before hand. GET A RICE COOKER SO YOUR RICE WILL BE READY AND HOT WHENEVER YOU NEED IT!!
Also, make sure your dishwasher is empty when you begin your dinner party so you can have easy clean up after the party. Good luck!!

Heather said...

Chicken Marbella is one of my mom's favorite recipes. She has made it for company many times. It's delicious. If you're interested - I have the recipe.
Good luck!

Beau said...

Howdy Paula! How about beef bourguignon? I've got a *terrific* and novel recipe (from Thomas Keller!) that's completely doable by a rank beginner with just a few hints and suggestions. Guaranteed oohs and aahs, and it has the virtue of being done several days ahead of time. You could do it a week ahead of time and freeze it. Be in touch if you want the recipe and suggestions.

Also sure-to-please if a couple simple things are done right (got to track down some savory...), and also best done a day ahead of time, but simpler than the above, is fish chowder. I can give you a recipe that everyone will swear is the best they've ever had....

Folks above are *right* about the eggplant. Call me (or someone else) if you do this, and make a practice run. (This is *not* an endorsement of the idea: I like eggplant but think the whole parmigiana thing is muddied and dull. Never liked it.) The only tricky bit here is frying the eggplant, and the only trick to that is oil temperature. It's an important (but easy!) thing to get right.

I have a chocolate mousse recipe that is easy as pie (you do it in a blender) and very good.

That scallop ceviche we make is a good starter that folks always like and, if they've had ceviche before, find novel.

You set on any part of your menu yet? I'm always around if you want to call-- Sorry we missed Jessie yesterday. We missed my dad, too. We'll try to call tonight. xo

Undomesticated Me said...

Beef Bourguignon is a definite possibility. Thanks for your input guys. I appreciate the support! Still haven't settled on a menu, but I guess I need to decide soon. I'll keep you posted!