Secrets to a Perfect Dinner Party

crostini, bruschetta, eggplant, olives, dinner party, entertain

BACON WEEK

So you want to throw a dinner party…

I had been wanting to gather friends for dinner parties for a few years. You can only post recipes and pictures of your creations for so long before a hangry mob requests samples. Tackling the Mealsharing dinner party with Leann taught several lessons. It also prepped me for the eventual showdown on Food Network. You may think it’s easy to just scale your recipes for more people. That works for some dishes. Others require increased planning and maybe even writing things down–something I have an extreme aversion to. For larger dinners it’s imperative to make checklists and think out the approach.

The Appetizers

Make anything that can be made in advance. This time around we had an electric knife to slice the bread evenly. We also had time to prep the bread and rub each slice with a clove of garlic before guests arrived. While I sliced the bread, my sous chef to the stars prepped the four different toppings. (I found the grilled eggplant superior to its oven-roasted counterpart). All the recipes for the toppings came from my grandma’s cousin in Sicily.

Having appetizers ready to go when people arrive buys you time to chat with your friends.

The Main Event

In the span of a few months I have gone from never making carbonara to making it on a weekly basis. It’s a simple and crowd-pleasing dish, especially for carb lovers. To offset the decadence of the dish, we had a salad to put something that won’t add 50 points to your LDL. In a rare moment I failed to photograph the salad.

While it is very fast to make carbonara, the downside is you can’t make it ahead. You can prep the cheese and eggs (best ratio for one pound of pasta is 3 egg yolks & 1 whole egg to 1/2 pound shredded parm), but that’s about all you can make ahead of time. You’ll need 10 minutes to devote to properly marry the piping hot pasta with the creamy egg/cheese/pepper combo.

During those 10 minutes you have to focus. It’s a simple process–drain the noodles, add to egg/cheese/pepper, toss–but you need to do it immediately after draining the pasta to use the heat to cook the raw eggs. After that it’s go time.

Dessert

dessert, tiramisu, espressoAfter buttons were undone and sighs of surrender, we had some limoncello and moved to more accommodating seating to stretch out. If anyone is still awake, feed them this closer to make sure they get home safely. Leann took charge of dessert and crushed it again with her homemade tiramisu.

Recap

  1. Make a list and attack it.
  2. Make anything ahead that can be.
  3. Share the responsibilities. Ask friends to bring wine, salad or a dessert.
  4. Wine and limoncello make everything better.
  5. Find a helper. I lucked out with my sous chef.
  6. Don’t forget to play some music.
  7. Keep it simple and have fun. The dinner party is more about spending time with friends than perfectly executed dishes.

My Fat Weekend (and assorted tales)

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In my defense, I went to the gym Friday after work, successfully bookend-ing the week with visits to the meathead factory. That may have been the last healthy life choice in the decadence that was Saturday and Sunday. The weekend included a visit to my aunt’s, Walmart, Taco Bell and the un-mapped region known as Aurora.

The culinary highlights were numerous. After driving to pickup our ceramic creations at Terra Incognito, Leann and I wandered the street (yes, singular) of Forest Park. Not in the mood to day drink or buy antiques, we ventured to Taco Bell. After uttering “I don’t know the last time i’ve been to Taco Bell,” I educated Leann on the many wonders of their menu. The lesson concluded with the dictum “You can’t go wrong.”

What did I have you ask? Those that know me, know my order when ringing the bell. But this particular Saturday I deviated from my standard order to try the quesarito. I had read numerous descriptions but had to see how they repackaged their core ingredients into a new package. The only real difference from any other items on the menu is the black foil wrapper. The contents are beef, beans, rice, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream and a spicy sauce. It’s essentially a grilled beefy five-layer burrito.

We rolled to Aurora to sample Leann’s first attempt at making tiramisu. I had my reservations, not for her ability to bake, which has yet to be matched, but for the effect of the espresso granules and coffee-soaked lady fingers on my fickle body clock. I don’t drink coffee. Bold statement. I know. But I just pass out occasionally at my desk and blame our nation’s reliance on carbs. So when I was spooned a small portion at 7PM, I hoped the morsel wouldn’t impact me the same way that the coffee-laced desserts in Roma had. Fast forward a few hours when I kept waking up every 45 minutes and we can give this victory to caffeine.

Today started with making my favorite breakfast: french toast. We added a splash of Kahlua to the batter for a little extra coffee zip. I snagged a recipe from All Recipes.

  • 6 thick slices bread

  • 2 eggs

  • 2/3 cup milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

nachos, fat
Giving up on life

The weekend wrapped up meeting mi amigo at the driving range to hit a bucket. The weather was ideal. After spraying balls in every possible direction, we grabbed lunch at the course’s restaurant. Then I made another stellar decision: BBQ Chicken Nachos.

If you’re giving up on your life, why stop at french toast?

After everything I ate this weekend, I fear this may be the only tent that fits me.IMG_4464