Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How to Host a Party Without Cooking Much

I really love to host parties. May it be for family or friends, I like to show off my kitchen skills. But sometimes, I'm much too tired to put out a big homemade spread. So instead, I just do one or two homemade dishes, and buy the rest. Now I'm not talking about Sandra Lee-ing anything here. I'm talking about buying high quality food and displaying it all as a beautiful spread. Trust me, your guests will be impressed with it even if you didn't even turn on the stove/oven.
So here's the spread that I provided for some good friends that I hosted recently. I made pork belly buns (recipe here) as the "main" dish. I always like to put out one dish that's more filling. But everything I put out that day is grazing food. So no utensils needed. Just your hands and the taste buds in your mouth to enjoy the food.

The crab crostini that I made a few weeks ago were so popular that I decided to make it again. Naturally this was for a different group of people. But everyone at this party seemed to enjoy it as well. This simple dish was made with sliced baguette (oiled and toasted), topped with homemade guacamole, lump crab meat, and smokey pimenton. I seasoned the crab meat with a bit of sea salt as I found it to be a bit bland. But otherwise, the flavors of each element in this dish worked really well together. Light, yet flavorful.
I also like to serve a good mix of vegetables at my parties. I've been to too many gatherings where the offerings just completely centered on meat and carbs. Umm, how about some variety people? Trust me, it'll get eaten. Here, I chopped and sliced up a bunch of vegetables from cucumbers (leftovers from the homemade pickles in the pork belly buns), carrots (skip the gross "baby" carrots and cut some up yourself; they're much more delicious that way), celery, and bell peppers (spring for the non-green peppers as they're sweeter). With the vegetables, I made a homemade ranch sauce (totally worth the extra work), and hummus. Normally, I would make my own hummus but I got some free hummus with my purchase at the farmer's market that morning.
And here's the bounty from the farmer's market. Pickled peppadew peppers, hot cherry peppers mix, kalamata olives, marinated mushrooms, marinated artichokes, and roasted red bell peppers. I also like to offer some non fresh vegetables for variety of taste and texture.
And a meat board is always very popular. Very popular.Here I served some soppresata, salami, and prosciutto. But to make the whole thing pretty, I added sweet grapes on the stem (for some reason, it's more impressive that way), and pistachios in the middle.
And one cannot have a meat board without a cheese board. I like to offer equal number of cheese to meats. And I also like to pair the two together making sure they meld well. Here, I served triple creme brie, English cheddar, and fresh mozzarella. In hindsight, I should have served the mozzarella in its own container because of the water that leached out. But that was an easy fix later on in the day. Oh and always provide a different knife for each cheese. Educate yourself on which cheese knife goes to which type of cheese. I also served both meats and cheeses with plenty of breads and crackers of different textures and flavors for variety.
And of course, I like to but a cooked dish was well. These are empanadas that we get locally from a stand at the farmer's market. Sure they're prefried but some time in the oven really crisps them up very well. Just put them out in one layer on a rack in a sheet pan. The rack is really important so that heat can circulate on top and bottom of the crusts making sure that it's crisp all around.
And of course, there's dessert. I wanted to try something new that day. And of course I used my friends as guinea pigs for my food experiements. I made mini nutella swirl pound cakes. They actually came out pretty delicious but were a bit labor intensive. The mixing of the cake batter was easy but the whole cake, then nutella, then cake and swirl for each mold took a while. In hindsight, if I used piping bags, it would have been a lot faster. I think next time, I'll do that. Mr. Peanut head also brought over some Halloween sugar cookies which were adorably iced as witches, spiders, and other ghouls.
So there's my party spread with just 2 dishes that were cooked by me. One main dish and one dessert. The rest took some chopping, slices, and arranging but overall very easy. But doesn't everything look wonderful? Honestly, none of my friends cared that I didn't cook much that day. They just gobbled every thing up in joy. Just the way I intended them to do so.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED the crab crostini! It was delish! Everything else was really good too! Pork belly buns, yum!! Thanks for hosting :) -MN

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