Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dinner Party 101: A guide to serving a elegant yet easy meal.

      Dinner Parties are a great way to get to know or to catch up with a group of people. The host prepares a meal and the food serves as a bonding experience. However they can be stressful and constricting to the host whom has to stay in the kitchen during cocktail hour while the guest are intermingling. The trick to overcoming this are easy simple make ahead meals that will impress. 

     A good dinner party starts with a light finger food appetizer, proceed to a salad, a hearty main dish, at least two sides, and end with a refreshing dessert. I have hosted several dinner parties with my family and they have all been a huge success. 

   The main points you need to focus on are the texture of the food, presentation, and the taste of course. Playing with sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavors along with soft, crisp textures will keep the guests wondering whats next.  Textures and flavors paring together are key! Here is a sample menu for a dinner party.


A great appetizer would be Cheese-Pepper Palmier. These French pastries are flaky, savory, with that bite of pepper that leaves the guest wanting more.

You will need:
1 1/4 cup finely grated sharp Cheddar
1/4 of a cup of good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
2 sheets of thawed puff pastry dough 

Toss the cheeses and the salt in pepper in a bowl together.
  • "Spread 1/4 cup  of the cheese mixture on your work one of the sheets of puff pastry over the cheese. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a 10-inch square, then sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese mixture all over top of pastry, and press lightly .Fold  the sides of 2 ends and meet them in the center then fold once more into center and press ends together. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour (or freeze for 15 to 30 minutes). Repeat with remaining cheese and second sheet of pastry.

  • While dough chills, preheat oven to 400 F with racks in upper and lower parts of oven. Line 2 large baking  sheets with parchment paper.

  • Working with 1 piece at a time (keep remaining chilled until ready to use), unwrap pastry and cut, seam side up, into 1/4-inch-thick slices, arranging them 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake, turning palmiers over and switching position of pans halfway through, until golden and pastry is cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes total. Transfer palmiers to rack to cool. Repeat cutting and baking remaining pastry on cooled sheets.

  • Make ahead: Dough can be assembled up to 3 days ahead. Palmiers can be baked 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature." 
  • This recipe can be found at 
 A good refreshing choice of a chicken will keep the crowds pleased. The acidic note of the lemon refreshed while the chicken is savory and yet still refreshing which will make your guests feel not too full.Make this recipe ahead in the day and keep it in the oven turned off until serving covered in aluminum foil

You will need:

"Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 16 pieces, patted dry

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Flour for dredging

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large onion, thinly sliced

Peel of a lemon, only the yellow not the white pith. cut into very thin strips

4 large garlic cloves, minced

3 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves

2 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned low-sodium

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour and pat off the excess. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken skin-side down and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and reserve.

Discard the oil and wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the lemon zest, garlic, and rosemary, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the honey, lemon juice, and broth, increase the heat and bring to a simmer.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions to a 9- by 13-inch ovenproof casserole, and spread them out. Arrange the chicken, skin-side up in a single layer on the onions. Pour the cooking liquid over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in the oven, basting every 15 minutes, until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve."

This recipe was doubled and can be found at
Include as a side dish your favorite salad, some pre-roasted asparagus that are in the fridge, and some boxed pine nut couscous.

To end the night make a quick and easy lemon sobet. This is a light and refreshing sweet note that is quick and easy and can be made ahead 3 days before. Serve this sorbet with a mint leaf on the top and serve in a empty lemon.
You can find the recipe here:

Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Cups
Good Luck and Have fun!

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