Soz- I love giving dinner parties. But there are definitely easy ways to do it and hard ways to do it. I find the meat, potato, vegetable option involves a lot of last minute preparation, heating gravy, warming rolls, etc. so that and unless you have a double oven and a great six burner stove-top with a warmer, it's hard to coordinate everything and keep everything hot.
Here's a menu I use in the winter, which has really been popular, because it's warm and filling. It's also easy to do when you're entertaining, because the two main dishes actually taste better if you cook them the day before and then reheat, as it gives the spices a chance to really set.
- I've included the link for a recipe that I really like. I make it with sausage instead of ham, because that's just what we prefer. I have had it with ham though, and that's also very nice. I don't put the rice in the "soup", as the recipe calls for though. I cook the rice separately and then place the jambalaya over the rice, or not, as people prefer- it's less gloppy that way - and really attractive with all the colors ( I use green, red, and yellow peppers).
I always make a double recipe, as as I said, it just tastes better and better the longer the spices set.
Then I also make a vegetarian quiche
, in case there are vegetarians present. I like the classic quiche lorraine, (you can find that recipe in any cookbook) but I omit the bacon, unless I know for sure there are no vegetarians. You can add mushrooms or spinach that you've sauteed in olive oil with garlic or spring onions chopped and sauteed in butter if you want to make it pretty and add color. I also use a little more cheese than the recipe calls for and sometimes all cream - this just makes it taste a lot richer. Again, this is something you can make the day before and reheat and it just tastes even better. I like it cold as well.
I usually go with a green salad instead of vegetables, as that seems more universally well-liked. I 've gotten positive comments on a spinach salad with cherry tomatoes and sliced mushrooms with a kind of sweet vinagrette dressing. You can add or omit bacon, depending on what you know about the eating habits of your guests.
Then I fill in with rolls, etc. If there are a lot of people I don't know and I want to make sure I have enough - I barbecue chicken legs. I like to do this in a pan in the oven, as I think it makes them moister and less dry. If there are kids present, I also make a big pan of macaroni and cheese - again I use cream and two or three different types of cheese (Mozerella, mild cheddar and grated parmesan) and top with bread crumbs and then bake.
As an appetizer, I always have a vegetable platter with hummous. Here's a great recipe for a brie appetizer: Somerset Brie Salad
5 tbsp olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 tbsp white wine vinegar,
2 tbsp french mustard
6 medium sliced plum tomatoes,
12 oz brie
fresh basil or oregano to garnish
Make dressing by whisking the oil, garlic, vinegar and mustard together. Put the slices tomatoes and brie into ovenproof dish sitting upright against each other. Pour half the dressing over the tomatoes. Place under a preheated grill for three minutes or until the brie starts to melt. Add the remaining dressing and garnish with herbs.
This looks impressive, and tastes heavenly. I serve it with either crusty bread or crackers. (I also add a little sugar to the dressing, as it can taste bitter depending on what type of vinegar you use).
Here's a simple recipe for a sour cream pound cake:
3 sticks butter
1 cup sour cream
6 large eggs
3 cups sugar
have all ingredients at room temperature and cream together.
Add 1 tsp vanilla extract
mix in 3 cups flour- sift it in a little at a time.
You can make this in two loaf pans or one tube pan- make sure to heavily grease the pan - I use butter as it makes the outside kind of crusty and nice tasting. Bake at 275 for 2 hours.
This is an awesome cake. It's very dense and you can use it almost as a short cake if you want to add strawberries and whipped cream.
I do all the stuff like setting my table in the morning. I do my baking the day before. I set out glasses and drinks and ice so people can help themselves or assign one of the kids to do the drinks while I'm finishing up the last minute stuff. It does get easier with practice.