#302 Throw a Dinner Party

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A couple of years ago I threw a New Year’s Eve dinner party. It was a pretty extensive undertaking. About ten people showed up. It’s hard enough making food for that many people but I also got ambitious. I had just seen Ratatouille and learned that Thomas Keller actually created a real recipe for the Ratatouille in the movie. I thought shit, I want to make that.

I did. It took forever and though it was a big hit, I vowed never to throw another New Year’s Eve dinner party again.

But last week I was talking to friend Julie who mentioned that she wanted to have a mellow New Year’s Eve. I found myself casually suggesting to do another dinner party at my place. Then all of a sudden I was making a Facebook event and 8 people RSVP’d to show up.

Why did I do it? I knew that it would be a pain, a lot of work and cost money. Scariest of all was the food had to be good. I had a reputation for being a good cook but you’re only as good as your last meal. I didn’t want to fuck it up. I needed to make good food and make enough of it. That’s a lot of pressure. But continuing with the theme of celebrating what makes the holidays what they are, I wanted to be with my friends on New Year’s Eve and give them the gift of this dinner party.

I had a vague idea of the menu I was going to create. A salad, some sort of brussel sprout/root vegetable roast and a protein (possibly salmon or beef). As the week went on, I started to wonder if that was enough food. I decided to add on a batch of Mac and Cheese since it’s pretty easy to make and very filling.

One thing I wanted to do was not stress about it too much. I didn’t want to overplan. I bought a few things the day before the party, but I left most of the shopping for that morning. I ended up getting salmon AND a flank steak since they were on sale at Gelson’s. I also grabbed a big bottle of vodka and some mixers when I started to worry there wouldn’t be enough alcohol for everyone. At the last minute, I added Asian-style turkey meatballs to the menu because I was still worried there wouldn’t be enough food. I blame my mother for that. She used to make enough food to feed an army for even the smallest of dinner parties.

When I got home I realized I had to get ice so I made another trip out for that. One of the problems of trying to be more casual about throwing a dinner party is stuff like that. Making extra trips because you haven’t thought everything through in advance.

I started cooking around 4pm. The party was at 8pm. I felt fine but as I started cooking, I realized how much work there was to do. I got the brussel sprouts out of the way first. I wanted to prepare the proteins last since the sprouts would be easy to heat up if I needed.

I did the mac and cheese next. I used a pretty basic recipe except I added some nutmeg and use a half cup of blue cheese to liven it up.

I hit the turkey meatballs up next. The recipe I used was a “healthy” one. I made it a bit unhealthier by using whole eggs instead of egg whites and a little more salt. They turned out pretty delicious.

All the while I was cooking, I was also cleaning my apartment. I hadn’t planned on doing anything more but I remembered I had a bunch of christmas lights I never put up. I strung them along the walls in my living room and bathroom to give my place a more festive feel.

Next I prepped the salad (goat cheese, arugula, walnut and beets) and when I looked up at the clock it was suddenly 7pm. The next hour was like an episode of Iron Chef. I was running around, putting the finish touches on the dishes I started already as well as trying to cook the salmon AND flank steak. It didn’t help matters that a couple arrived early at 7:30pm.

Somehow I got everything done by 8pm. Everyone, including myself was really happy with the food. I learned a few tricks from working in the kitchen at Sunny Spot like giving a bit of seasoning before putting a plate out. It gives it some extra flavor. It made a subtle but noticeable difference in the taste of my food.

There was plenty of food and booze. Everybody had a good time so I considered it a success. I was happy to give this gift to my friends and not to spend the last holiday of the year alone like I might have.

But as God as my witness, this is the last dinner party I ever throw again.

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