It’s time to drop a cold hard truth on you: dinner parties are hard. I admit it. Cue the wave of relief felt by all hostesses around the globe. I felt your sigh all the way over here.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE having people over, but I am so focused on making the best possible dinner for my guests, that I sort of forget that I have to entertain them in order to make it memorable! I am naturally extroverted, but when the pressure is on in the kitchen, my social skills shut down.
Do you ever notice how every time you have a dinner party, the “party” ultimately winds up in the kitchen? It never fails. And sometimes this can be a little overwhelming. I mean, that’s where all the work is going down. My husband jokes about staying “out of the fast lane,” which is clearly the path between my kitchen island and the stove.
I don’t know about your house, but ours is completely open concept, so entertaining while cooking for guests is a given. Instead of getting stressed out about having to talk and cook at the same time, I embrace it. Two things ultimately happen when you allow your guests in the kitchen:
1) They ask you questions about dinner. Letting them drive the conversation is great! You don’t have to dream up something to talk about while you work. You can talk about the dishes you’re preparing, kitchen techniques – anything food-related, really. (Have you ever tried to talk about something while doing something completely different? It’s practically impossible.) This keeps you focused on the task at hand, and engages your guests in your beautiful meal.
2) They offer to help! Talk about a bonus. Extra hands make all the difference in getting dinner on the table quickly. I have yet to meet a guest who came into my kitchen and didn’t ask “What can I do to help?”
Entertaining the crowd in my kitchen turns the space into my own little cooking show, where we are all laughing and talking about our favorite recipes. It also keeps me from feeling like I am missing out on the party.
Today I thought I’d put together a menu to make your next dinner party easier and more fun. These dishes come together easily and have great dinner party impact. They’re all easy to make ahead of time, which keeps the complications of your kitchen prep to a minimum so you’re able to keep track of the conversation. Your guests can still participate in the final flourishes, with less mess and complication. It also doesn’t hurt that they are all end of summer favorites.
Appetizer: Chipotle BL Stuffed T’s.
These guys are easily made ahead of time and pulled from the fridge right when your guests arrive.
Salad: Fried Yellow Tomato Salad
This visually stunning salad actually only has a few ingredients and is easy to put together quickly. It also packs a flavorful punch!
Main Dish: Tenderloin and Roasted Tomato Salsa
This is a pretty hands-off main course. The oven does most of the work, allowing you more time with your guests. The salsa works well for beef or pork, or even chicken if you prefer.
Side dish: Butternut Squash Spiced Rice
The dressing and squash can be done ahead of time, leaving only the cook-time for the rice. This is a crowd favorite!
Dessert: Chocolate Mousse
This is another make-ahead favorite. These can be made up to 24 hours in advance and will keep fresh and beautiful in the fridge. Talk about an easy, yet memorable, dessert!
I am always glad when we have people over, but even more so when I know they’ve had a good time. Sharing the heart of my home with my friends and family is what makes lasting memories together.
How do you keep your guests engaged at a dinner party where you are the chef? Are you naturally extroverted, or is it hard work for you to entertain?
This post is part of BlogHer’s Kitchen Entertaining editorial series, made possible by KitchenAid.