Tip 1: Use dinner parties to build relationships
Food is the ultimate connector, everyone loves it and it's a great way to bring people together, or to get to know new people! So use dinner parties to get a bunch of people together and get started on making some new friends and relationships! Check out who I invited to my party here!
Tip 2: Pick a cuisine to help you organize the menu
Sometimes organizing a full menu can be difficult so one way to tackle that is picking a specific style of cooking. For example, you can choose mexican, asian, american, french. Having a specific type of cuisine can make it easier for you to get ideas. It’s also going to make for a better food experience for your guest because the flavors will all match up.
Tip 3: Don’t make the menu to complex so you can still entertain your guest
It's important to enjoy your dinner party and not just be cooking and running around like a chicken with its head so don't make your dinner menu too complex. Making things like buffet style, tapas style, or family style makes that very easy. It's the kind of food that can be prepared beforehand and you don't have to feel like you are running a restaurant.
For my dinner party I decided to choose an asian theme! So the first thing I wanted to do was to get the bread going. I made a sesame pancake because the recipe is super easy to double and it serves a crowd easily.
4 cup all purpose flour
2 cup of warm water
2 tablespoon of yeast
2 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoon of oil
2 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of raw untoasted sesame
In a mixer with the dough attachment on, combine all the ingredients (flour, water, yeast, sugar, oil, and salt) and mix until the dough is soft and supple. This will take about 5 -7 minutes.
Shape the dough into a nice uniform ball and place the dough in a greased bowl. Let it rise overnight.
After your dough has risen overnight, take out the dough and knock the air out.
Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece into a tight ball.
Roll the ball out into a large circle and place oil onto the bottom of the pan you will be cooking it in.
Liberally cover with dough with sesame seeds and place in the pan to rise for 1 - 1 ½ hours.
Once the dough has puffed up, place your pan onto the stove top on medium heat and let get a golden crust on your bread. This step should take about 7-8 minutes per side.
Flip it over and repeat so that both sides have a beautiful golden brown color.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and bake for 10 minutes to finish it off!
Tip 4: Create dishes that you can adjust the portion size
Sometimes when throwing a dinner party, some people don't show up or extra people show up. You never really know what is going to happen. One of the pro catering tips I've learned over the years is that you are in control and it’s much easier to control the amount of meat you put into a taco compared to serving up individual steak dinners. If more people show up, you can always shift the portion sizes a bit to accommodate.
So to fill the sesame pancakes I decided to make some short ribs in a pressure cooker. Its super simple to do and can be made the day before!
Chinese 5 Spiced Short Ribs
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon szechuan peppercorns
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
2 star anise
1 teaspoon allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole nutmeg, cracked
1 teaspoon of salt
3 pounds of short ribs
Grapeseed oil, just enough to sear
¼ cup of cooking wine, just to deglaze
1 piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half
1 Orange, peeled and cut into quarters
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
3 garlic cloves, smashed & peeled
1 quart of water
In a pan, toast all the spices (cumin, szechuan peppercorns, caraway seeds, star anise, all spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg) for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.
Transfer the toasted spices into a spice blender and grind until the whole spice turn to a powder.
Add the spice blend to a container. Pour over 2 tablespoon of the blend over the short ribs along with the salt. Rub everything into the short ribs.
Add some grapeseed oil to a pan on medium high heat. You want to see little wisps of smoke before adding the short ribs.
Once your pan is hot enough, add in the short ribs and let them sear for about 5 minutes before you give it a flip to sear the other side.
Once the other 5 minutes are up, add in some cooking wine to deglaze the pan. Be sure to scrap any of the bits that are stuck to the pan because that stuff has all the flavor!
Take your pressure cooker out and add in all the short ribs and the juices along with ginger, orange, onion, garlic cloves, and water.
Pressure cook your short ribs on the slow cooking option for 16 hours.
Once your short ribs are done, remove the meat and bone and pour the rest of the liquid and ingredients into a blender to make a sauce. Blend for about 1 minute or until everything has been combined into a gravy.
Pour gravy into a pot and bring to a boil.
Tip 5: Making the menu customizable
Take into consideration that more people nowadays have different tastes, allergies, and restrictions. Lots of people now have gluten intolerance, are vegan, have a dairy intolerance, or have all three. So make sure you do have options for those guests.
For my dinner party, I decided to make a vegan filling. I made a bbq pulled mushroom which was a real hit with my party goers.
2 - 3 pounds of an assortment of mushrooms
1 tablespoon of oil
2 tablespoon of hoisin
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of ginger, finely grates
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Squeeze of lime
¼ cup of water
Cornstarch to thicken
On a baking tray, add all your mushroom and break up some of the bigger mushrooms. Cut the trumpet mushrooms in half and smash the portobellos.
Roast the mushrooms at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Once the mushrooms are done, break up the trumpet mushrooms into nice long strands with two forks and cut up the large portobellos into nice lengthwise pieces.
Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, finely grated ginger, smoked paprika, lime juice, cornstarch and water to a mason jar. Shake to combine.
Pour into the bbq sauce into the pan and cook until the sauce has thickened into a nice looking bbq sauce.
Add in all your mushrooms and stir to combine.
Tip 6: Prep as much as you can beforehand
If you can make things before the day of your party, I would recommend that you do so! The day of you party you don't want to be stressed out and worrying about the food. It helps knocking things off your to do list before the party even begins.
I decided to make the sesame pancakes, the short ribs, pickled carrots, and spicy mayo!
½ cup of mayo
1 ½ tablespoons of sambal sauce
Squeeze of lime
Pinch of salt
In a squeeze bottle add in the mayo, sambal sauce, a squeeze of lime, and a pinch of salt.
Close up your bottle and give everything a good shake to combine everything.
Give it a taste to see if it needs any more salt, lime, or sambal sauce!
4 large carrots
2 tablespoon of cane sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
Start prepping your carrots by peeling the skin off and topping and tailing the ends of the carrots.
The best way to get thin pieces of carrots is to peel them!! Continue peeling the carrots into nice long and thin pieces. Stuff as many carrot strands as you can into a jar.
Next add in the vinegar until about ⅓ of the jar has been filled. Then fill up the jar the rest of the way with water.
Pour the liquid back out into a pot, making sure that none of the carrots went in.
Add in the sugar and salt and heat up until they both dissolve. You don't want it to boil, you just want everything to dissolve.
Pour your pickling liquid back over the carrots and place them in the fridge overnight.
Tip 7: Create a balanced menu
This might seem obvious but it’s important to create a menu that is well balanced between, savory, fresh, hot, cold, crunchy, soft. You want to give your guests the complete mouthgasm experience and it’s your job to create a well balanced menu.
In order to balance out my sesame pancakes, I thought adding some refreshing veggies would be a good idea. I made some cold marinated cucumber and some wok fried shisito peppers.
4 large cucumbers
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
2 stalks of scallions, cut
1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
Start by prepping your cucumber by peeling off the skin, cut them in half lengthwise, and then give them a rough chop so that they are different sizes.
Toss them together with a sprinkle of salt and let them sit for 10 minutes. This pulls out some of their moisture.
So because the water was taken out of cucumbers, we are going to add in some soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, scallions, and sesame seeds.
Wok Fried Shisito Peppers
Little bit of oil
Pinch of salt
Add some oil to a pan and get it screaming hot.
Add in your shisito pepper and sear them on one side for two minutes before giving them a toss.
Sprinkle them with a little bit of salt and then cook for another 2 minutes.
Tip 8: Make sure to have snacks when your guests arrive
Generally you’re not going to serve your dinner right when your guests arrive so it's always good to have some snacks to munch on. It could be anything like a cheese board, chips and dips, or even some bread. However, you should keep it within your food theme.
I thought it would be cool to make a candied cashews covered in sesame seeds!
Appetizer: Honey Roasted Sesame Cashews
1 ½ cup cashews
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
Sprinkle of salt
In a pot on medium flame, combine the cashews, sugar, salt, honey, and water until all the sugar has dissolved.
Continue cooking and occasionally stirring the cashews until the sugars have melted and create a syrup.
Continue cooking and stirring more frequently until syrup turns into a dark golden brown caramel and cashews have roasted.
Once your caramel has achieved the color you are looking for, sprinkle in the sesame seeds. Stir to combine and distribute everything evenly.
Dump out your honey sesame roasted cashews onto a silicone lined mat to cool.
Once they are cool to the touch, you can break them up if they have stuck to each other, pour them into a bowl, and enjoy!
Tip 9: See if any of your friends wants to bring over a snack or dessert
Naturally, I prefer to control the menu so unless your doing more of a potluck style dinner, there’s always room to get a little help. For me, the easiest way to give up a little control is to ask someone else to bring dessert! I asked one of my studiomates if she'd like to bake some sweets and she pulled through! We had a ton of options from palmiers to cookies to mini tarts!!
Tip 10: Stay Organized when Cooking by
Cooking a dinner party for even a few people can be very overwhelming, and the best way to stay in charge is to stay organized. Prepping things beforehand is a great way to stay on top of things but organizing is a different ball game.
Organizing a grocery/recipe list that you can check off as I cook each element of the dinner is a great way to stay organized. This always makes me feel better with time management so I know exactly what needs to be prepped and how much time I have to do it.
Tip 11: Set the right mood in your space
Getting your space right is super important. You don't want a huge pile of trash or even dirty clothes on the side just stinking up the place. So just be sure to tidy up your event space/house, lit some candles, get a good dinner playlist and get ready for guest to come in!
Tip 12: Make a signature drink
Most of your guest will bring wine which is always a very nice gesture but it's also really great to have a house drink. Making something that doesn't have alcohol but goes well with alcohol is a great touch. Plus, anyone can drink it if they want to!
Handful of Mint Leaves
Seeds of 1 Pomegranate
Half Seltzer Water
In a large container juice the limes and the oranges and instead of throwing out the peels just throw them into the container as well.
Then add in the seeds of 1 pomegrate, handful of mint, and Ice.
Fill the container up with half water and half sparkling water.
Tip 13 Don’t sweat it if your guest show up fashionably late
This tip might just be a good reminder for myself but I do think this is very helpful to many of you out there. When you’re cooking for people, scheduling is even more crucial. But your friends probably don't care about that so you gotta just chill out. This is why it's great to have those snacks and drinks, so when people start to trickle in, you don't have to come in strong with your full dinner just yet. You can wait until everyone, or most of the people have arrived.
Tip 14: Stay ahead of the cleaning during the party so they don’t build up on you
Most likely you will be the chef and cleaner at your dinner party, that's just the way it goes. Cooking for a bunch of people will mean that dish will add up so make sure to keep things tidy so that you can cook, clean, and entertain your guests. It sounds like a lot but don't worry. You got this. I believe in you!
Tip 15. Always remember to have a good time at your own dinner party!
The last tip and the most important of all is to remember to have a good time at your dinner party. Cooking for people can certainly be stressful but it’s also the best! Just remember that your guest are happy to just be with you getting fed, no matter what your cooking or how it turns out. But they will feed off your energy, you’re hosting the dinner, you’re setting the mood and the more loose and fun you’re having the more fun they will have!