A few months back I had the pleasure of interviewing my dear friend, Mr. Lee Knaz (of Master Chef fame) for a post on his secrets to being a great home cook. Well, fast forward to present day, and Lee is back for round two. This time, it is all about hosting your own dinner party. This is always one of my favorite topics, because getting together with friends and family for a meal and conversation is one of my edifying activities. I mean, who doesn’t love to laugh, tell old stories and of course have a great meal?! And I can tell you from experience: Lee throws a GREAT dinner party.
May I present, “Lee Knaz’s Keys To A Successful Dinner Party”:
The “Menu” For Success
Choosing the right menu is the first step to success. As a rule of thumb, the larger the party, the simpler the menu. Keep it within your comfort zone, create dishes you’re familiar with and are confident in their execution. Also, it is smart to avoid “last-minute” cooking. Pre-cook as much as you can and deal with reheating at the last minute. That will actually allow for more flavor development. So, roasting braising and slow-cooking are all recommended. Get food started and let it get happy in the pot/oven. These methods take a while to cook, freeing up time for you to do other things.
Time Is A Cook’s BFF
Do as much prepping as possible ahead of time, even the night before. Just get anything that can be shopped for, chopped, pre-cooked and marked off of your checklist (without compromising quality) done and out of the way. To know when to start cooking, I start at serving time and mentally work my way through the recipe, only backwards. For example, if a roast is to be served at 8pm, I figure resting time, roasting time, marinating, prepping etc. and deduct the time it takes me to do all those things including time for distractions.
Food Is Always The Supporting Cast
I see the food part of a dinner party to be an accompaniment to the social experience of the night. Meaning, food provides the excuse for your guests to get together. So, there’s no need to overwork yourself to impress with the most extravagant meal of a lifetime. Simply make sure there’s enough for everyone and that you answer any special requests (vegetarian, gluten-free, mac-n-cheese fanatics etc.) made by your guests.
My Top-Secret Seasoning…
This is your ultimate lifesaver! But you didn’t hear it from me. You’re running out of time, guests are at your doorstep and you’re still not ready! No need to barricade the doors and go hide behind the sofa. Welcome them in, give them a cocktail and keep on working your magic in the kitchen. Take your time to make things right. A top-secret key ingredient that works on any dish I’ve ever come across is… Ready for this one? It’s… HUNGER! The hungrier your guests are, the better cook you instantaneously become! They can smell it, and their taste buds are sending signals to all the right places. By the time dinner is served, even a PB&J would work!
Don’t Forget – You’re Invited To The Party Too!
All of these steps are here to make sure that you, the host, are relaxed and in a great mood once your house is filled with your favorite people. After all, you are there to enjoy their company as much as they are to enjoy yours. You don’t want to put on your zombie face once everyone has sat down and you finally have a moment to relax and beg for an oxygen mask. So, choose the right menu, shop ahead of time, start prepping early, get some music going and please, have a glass of wine while you cook. Relax. It’s only food.
THANK YOU, LEE!!!!!! As always, we loving having you visit NoH!!!